Set in a Muslim punk-house in Buffalo, New York, this novel explores the twin identities of punk and Islam in their many varieties and degrees of orthodoxy. The story here is primarily with the characters — Umar, the straight-edge Sunni; Rabeya, the burqa-clad riot grrl; Jehangir, the dope-smoking mohawked Sufi (who plays rooftop calls-to-prayer on his electric guitar) — and their collective articulation of a heresy-friendly, pluralist Islam. Full of punk references (real and invented) and enough Arabic phrases to fully deck out your skateboard, The Taqwacores is a great introduction to the cracks in the surface of mainstream Islam with a peculiarly American face.
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Michael Muhammed Knight converted to Islam at sixteen after reading Malcolm X's biography, and spent two months at Faisal Mosque in Islamabad, Pakistan. He later left orthodox Islam. His writing regularly appears in progressive Islamic venues. He lives in Western New York State.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Jehangir Tabari came from California and often spoke of the Muslim punk scene out there’ ‘taqwacore’ as he called it. Taqwacore bands ran the gamut in attitude and ideology; there were groups like the Bin Qarmats and the Zaqqums whose lyrics and behavior lurked somewhere between social protest and juvenile disesteem, but also bands such as Bilal’s Boulder that wouldn’t even allow girls in their shows. Some bands had high political content and others veered more toward the aloof Sufi end of the spectrum. Jehangir seemed equally proud of them all, as though nothing in the world could pin him down to an intellectual commitment. ‘You should see it, yakee,’ he told me once, sitting on the back of his car in a parking lot while we waited for Fasiq to buy rolling papers. ‘I was at this fuckin’ Mutaweens show in Sacramento and I’m in the pit, getting tossed around and whatever, and then the music just stops‘bam, just like that, it stops and we stop slamming into each other, everything just freezes and all you hear is the singer up there reciting ar-Rahman as beautiful as I’d ever heard, and he just keeps going with it’the whole sura, you know, all the fabi-ayyi ala irabbikuma tukazibans and shit, and all these hard-ass punks just stand there listening and by the time he’s done, half of us are in fuckin’ tears, bro.’ ‘Mash’Allah,’ I replied gravely. Yeah, yakee. It’s an amazing scene of people out there.’
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