In 2002 Michael Muhammad Knight published a remarkable novel called The Taqwacores, which portrayed a fictitious scene inhabited by Islamic punk rockers. The two groups aren’t so different, he writes.
“Both began in tremendous bursts of truth a vitality but seem to have lost something along the way – the energy, perhaps, that seems to come with knowing the world has never seen such positive force and fury and never would again. Both have suffered from sell-outs and hypocrites, bur also from true believers whose devotion had crippled their creative drive. Both are viewed by outsiders as unified, cohesive communities, when nothing could be further from the truth.”
Shortly after The Taqwacores was published, a 16-year-old Texas Muslim named Kourosh Poursalehi, part of a band called Vote Hezbollah, wrote Knight. He wondered how he could get in touch with those spiky-haired Shi’ites and veiled riot grrrls. Although they only existed in Knight’s imagination, the writer and rocker began contacting Muslim bands and booked a national tour. Vote Hezbollah, the Kominas, and Secret Trial Five (whose songs include “Middle Eastern Zombies”) began crossing the country in a spray-painted school bus. The tour emulated a scene from Knight’s book, in which it is suggested that
“We should go out west sometime. Get a van. Make like an interstate jam’aat. And along the way we’d round up all the queer alims, drunk imams, punk ayatolahs, masochistic muftis, junkie shaykhs, retarded mullahs, and guttermouthed maulanas as we could find.”
Islamic punks have been thrown out of an Islamic Society of North America convention’s open-mike night, smashed guitars, and raised middle fingers in opposition to conservative Muslims and infidel punks alike. The tour and subsequent high jinks have been captured in Taqwacore: The Birth of Punk Islam, a new documentary by Pakistani-Canadian director Omar Majeed. “This one’s called ‘Sharia Law in the USA!'” begins the doc’s trailer, below.