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Taqwacore: The Birth of Punk Islam screens this weekend in Toronto, Montreal

Graham F. Scott

I love the idea of willing a new subculture into existence, and that’s the story of Taqwacore, a documentary that opens in Toronto and Montreal this weekend about the birth of “Punk Islam.” Kick-started by Michael Muhammad Knight’s book of the same name (actually, “The Taqwacores”), the new documentary chronicles the fledgling scene. It seems kind of awesome:

The Islamic punk music scene would never have existed if it weren’t for his 2003 novel, The Taqwacores. Melding the Arabic word for god-consciousness with the edge of hardcore punk, Michael imagined a community of Muslim radicals: Mohawked Sufis, riot grrrls in burqas with band patches, skinhead Shi’as. These characters were entirely fictional.

But the movement they inspired is very real.

Taqwacore: The Birth of Punk Islam follows Michael and his real-life kindred spirits on their first U.S. tour, where they incite a riot of young hijabi girls at the largest Muslim gathering in North America after Sena takes the stage. The film then travels with them to Pakistan, where members of the first Taqwacore band, The Kominas, bring punk to the streets of Lahore and Michael begins to reconcile his fundamentalist past with the rebel he has now become.

By stoking the revolution—against traditionalists in their own communities and against the clichés forced upon them from the outside—“we’re giving the finger to both sides,” says one Taqwacore. “Fuck you and fuck you.”

Sounds to me like a much-needed retort to the kind of reductive, ridiculous, or racist (or all three!) portrayals of Muslims in Western pop culture. Can’t wait to see it. Taqwacore plays this weekend in Toronto, and opens in Montreal on Monday.

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