As far as subcultures go, none have captured the imagination the way the punk movement has, and arguably that of Islam. I know what you’re thinking, Muslims and Punks? What are you smoking? And I can show you with the whites of my sober eyes that I’m not that far off. Dissatisfaction with the mainstream scene is the beating, throbbing heart of the punk movement, and in the same vein the juice that keeps the Muslim consciousness soaring. Check this, garage bands and gurus hide out in man-caves and have experiences they can only express through the complexity of the spoken word. They inspire people to break the Baconian Four Idols with attitude and through the fourth wall with critical expression. Under their umbrella ignites extremes (Skinheads vs Jihadi Joes) but also fosters an unspoken unity that transcends borders and bands that inspires a current of peace and resistance worthy of praise. The Muslim Punk movement never died.
The Four Idols Smashed
DIY, do it yourself. The vein of submitting oneself to something greater than the self is rooted in destruction of the perceptions one holds. In Islam, it denounces the conjecture of forefathers (Quran, 6:116) and embraces the acceptance of ultimate reality despite worldly pleasures. In Punk circles, it’s all about pissing off the tops of bridges and denouncing the mainstream to your core. Francis Bacon wrote in the time of Shakespeare on the idols that govern our intrinsic thoughts, the idol of the Tribe, Cave, Marketplace, and Theatre. The ethos of the tribe, the worldview you are born into is shaken by erasing your sense of moral superiority governed by in-group nationalism. The cave is the sense of self that is reborn through re-branding and rethinking one’s place in the world. The Marketplace, the era of click-bait, distortion and advertisement, you rebel and scoff at the corporate overlords (sic Quraysh) and their treatment of those who are told to eat cake. The Theatre serves as the backdrop of One Direction, and powerhouse sites of fake news and the whole damn system every cell in the body ought to reject to. A Muslim girl wearing hijab says she’s a punk rocker and all the Muslims raise their hand-horns to the heavy metal moon and star.
Muslims and Punks?
During 7th century Arabia The Prophet, sallalahu aleyhi wasallam, brought the cruel capitalism and barbarism of the infamous time of ignorance to a halt and innovated a socialist system built on charity and common dignity in humanity. The Clash also combated nihilism and profit over people with their music, message and payout practices. Punk and Islam destroyed the idols but never became idols in the way constrictive idols do, even when they go sort of mainstream. When a movement reflects life on the horseshoe of reality akin to a rainbow with strong central principles it’s hard to go out of style.
The Punk Prophet
The Prophet was punk. Punk is meant to shock, maim and offend you to your core until you denounce your old ignorant ways. People loved the Prophet, they wrote stories about him and then fake stories about him and wrote how he brushed his teeth, ate and bathed. The Prophet was punk in the way that he kills you with kindness and even if you don’t love him, you respect him but love or hate, it’s still an obsession. It was reported a drunk Bedouin pissed in front of the Prophet and crew and while freaked out, the Prophet calmly said to wash the spot with water. The Quraysh called him an atheist because he didn’t believe in their gods and the sacred ways of his forefathers. They threw thorns where he walked and even in his pained passing – he smiled at them. In a time that baby girls perished under the sifting sand alive, he introduced the idea of humanity based outside of gender, class and race. He believed in people and the love for one another being the salvation of the human condition; “In everybody there is a piece of flesh, if it is healthy, the whole body is healthy, and if it is sick, the whole body is sick. Beware! It is the heart!” [Bukhari, Iman (Faith), 39; Muslim, Musaqah, 107]. He also was no pacifist and that’s what makes him the Prophet of Punk; “Whoever sees something evil should change it with his hands (unless by doing this it creates a bigger evil). If he cannot, then with his tongue; and if he cannot do even that, then in his heart,” he taught that activism and intention transcend the layers of mainstream oppression.
The Taqwacores; a brief overview
I watched a movie and then read a book, it happens when imperial power pigeonhole the media bubble, and that it’s easier to access a movie than a book in America where bookstores are scarce and on the decline. Taqwacore is my second meeting with Muslim and punk as blended ideologies, the first was the infamous image of the hijabi with a Mohawk pictures in the early 2000s on Tumblr. Taqwa in its Arabic form, means god-fearing and core is a degree of heart or heavy you possess. The 2003 novel blended the yearning for connected-ness and belonging with the heavy subjects of breaking down tradition while honoring that tradition. It highlighted a major truth that I myself can condone; time moves forward and so does Islam and those who follow it, Islam is too big for only a slither of believers to be true believers. Taqwacore is a story about college-age Muslim kids with different backgrounds, beliefs, and tastes in punk rock, or in the case of the protagonist, no taste whatsoever. The house is a hub for both halal and haram and the antics are pretty much things your parents are afraid of. But outside the shock, and offense one can take about the subject matter probed by the characters, the book really captures the fragile sense of Ummah Muslims are trying to invoke when they say “but the Ummah,” and paints a true picture of reality; Muslims are people, they are not perfect. When I watched the movie I got the sense that maybe I was just as Muslim as anyone and when I read the book I felt that to be true. If you’re wondering about the Authors intentions, he was kind enough to give this quote: “I wrote The Taqwacores out of a real loneliness and hope that I could find peace in confusion, peace without magical answers. I didn’t know if I could be a Muslim, but I knew that I could never be anything other than Muslim, and I hoped for some sense of community in which that was OK.”
The Kominas; “Life that imitates art”
The garage band borne of subversion to respectability politics and submission to the self. What does Post-Colonial Punk sound like? The answer is “Brown” as the band members self-described themselves in an interview. The Kominas are funky, punk, raw, fun, clever and unapologetic in the ways in which they express themselves through their music. Their music is entrenched in the political while being playful circa 2005. With album titles like; “Wild Nights in Guantanamo Bay” and songs like “Pigs are Haram,” “Sharia Law,” “I want a handjob,” and “Suicide bomb the Gap,” They embrace the Taqwacore label but are not confined to it or by it. They embody the sound of the Muslim American dream, to be mainstream while not being mainstream, being part of a collective but also an individual with their own identity and dream. To me, the Kominas sound a lot like living in two systems that seem at odds with each other, but come to find out they’re not at odds at all, because how could something so lively and real exist so beautifully? Music you can sheikh yer booti 2.