By Don Simpson | April 3, 2011
Director: Eyad Zahra
Writers: Eyad Zahra (screenplay), Michael Muhammad Knight (novel)
Starring: Bobby Naderi, Noureen DeWulf, Dominic Rains, Nav Mann, Tony Yalda, Volkan Eryaman
For a brief period of time, during high school, my love for punk rock and my Christian upbringing were brought together with Christian punk. From the moment I discovered the Christian punk movement, it seemed like a rocking contradiction in terms. There was little or no common ground between the two cultures, and in my ears it just sounded like the Christians were co-opting the punk subculture in order to become hip. It was not long before I went back to happily listening to the Dead Kennedys, leaving Christian music behind.
Before Michael Muhammad Knight’s novel The Taqwacores was published in 2004, there was not much of a Muslim punk scene in the United States; but soon thereafter, a Muslim punk scene began to grow. Eyad Zahra’s film, The Taqwacores, is adapted from Knight’s sub-culture defining novel. In it we follow a Pakistani Muslim named Yusef (Bobby Naderi) as he moves into a group house filled with young Muslim punks including: Umar (Nav Mann), a straightedge Sunni; skateboarder, Amazing Ayyub (Volkan Eryaman); pink-mohawked guitarist, Jehangir (Dominic Rains); Rabeya (Noureen Dewulf), a riot grrl who wears a patched burqa; and a flamboyantly gay Muslim, Muzzamil (Tony Yalda). Some of them drink or take drugs, others tear pages out of the Koran if they disagree with the doctrine, and they all listen to punk rock.
Yusef’s new “unorthodox” housemates immerse him into the Taqwacore scene. Their living room evolves into a mosque during the day and a punk club at night. Eventually their west coast comrades come to party with them and all hell breaks loose.
Like his Taqwacore cohorts, Yusef begins to challenge his own faith and thus The Taqwacores is about the discovery of oneself within the confines of religion and traditions. Muslims say that Taqwacores are not really Muslims, and the punks say that Taqwacores are not really punks. And that brings me full circle to where I began. Taqwacores see their movement as a mishmashing of disenfranchised subcultures, but is it truly possible to identify yourself as both punk and Muslim (or Christian)?
Different people have different definitions of punk, just as different Muslims (or Christians) have different perspectives on what it means to be Muslim (or Christian). As far as I can surmise from The Taqwacores, though, these young Muslims seem to have adopted a clichéd notion of punk. In my humble opinion, there is much more to punk than hairstyles, clothing and music — and that is really all these Taqwacore kids seem to have. It probably does not help matters that Zahra portrays all of his characters as one-dimensional caricatures of specific “types” of people in the Taqwacore subculture, and they all wear their personality traits on their sleeves. So I am not saying that Taqwacore is not punk rock; I am saying that Zahra’s cinematic representation of Taqwacore is not punk rock.
The Taqwacores is currently available on DVD. For more information go to Strand Releasing.