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Michael Muhammad Knight’s The Taqwacores //

01.08.10
byabigailjohnson

knightWhat is religion and what is culture? What is family and what is society? What is truth and what is communal? What is right and what is wrong? In The Taqwacores, Michael Muhammad Knight explores the answers to these questions and tries his hardest to be against nothing in Islam except for sects — Muslims that are against other Muslims.  Hypocrisy has no place in religion according to Knight, yet in a story that brings out the freedom of American youth at its best, he tries to make that ideal understood through punk culture.

This book has recently been adapted into a film directed by Eyad Zahra. “The value of this this story is that it tackles American-Muslim issues in a very sincere and genuine manner. It’s honestly the most straightforward American-Muslim work that I have ever come across,” Zahra said.

“The cool thing with The Taqwacores is that actually translates to many people outside of Islam as well.  The story of disenfranchised youth is universal to all peoples. I got involved with the film because I felt very drawn to it for this very reason.” Zahra’s film is the official selection for the 2010 Sundance Film Festival.

Punk is the best understood counter-culture in America today. And to contrast that with Islam in order to bring out hidden truths behind social tendencies is the reason why Michael Muhammad Knight put the two together. If he had written a story of a kid growing up with questions and philosophical anomalies about himself, who would listen? Instead he uses a group of radically different Muslim punks, and with these characters Knight paints a setting for all things Islam to be questioned, and that is exactly what happens.

These ideologically charged young vagabonds are as drastically varied as their belief systems, all living under one roof with the narrator: Umar, the straightedge hardliner with tattoos, who is morally opposed to the drinking and partying that happens in the house; Fasiq the hashishiyyun, who could always be found chillin on the roof, Qur’an in hand, blazing; Jehangir, the idol of our narrator and a philosophical-intellectual who drinks and smokes too much; and Rabeya, a burqa-wearing feminist.

The narrator, a Pakistani student named Yusef, the least punk of all the kids in the house, sits mainly as an outsider, observing and listening to all the ideas and seemingly far-flung beliefs these counter-culture individuals seem to expound. Fatima, one of the feminist Muslim friends of the house, tells Yusef the hidden truth that lives through the novel: “There is a cool Islam out there, Yusef. You just have to find it. You have to sift through all the other stuff, but it’s there.”

Support The Taqwacores film at Sundance >>

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About the Author: Abigail Johnson lives in New York City where she is currently working on her graduate degree in economics at The New School University. She lived in Cairo, Egypt for three years where she studied at the American University in Cairo. She enjoys those terrible crime shows on television, and innovating new ways to avoid doing her homework.



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