Canadian documentary on Islamic punk opens in theaters

Canadian documentary filmmaker Omar Majeed recently released his newest film, Taqwacore: The Birth of Punk Islam. Taking its name from “Taqwa,” the Arabic word for “higher consciousness,” Taqwacore is a nascent music scene that both celebrates Islam while rebelling, in typical punk fashion, against the social and political constraints of the religion. “Drunk imams, punk ayatollahs and masochistic muftis” — all seek comfort in Taqwacore’s blend of anarchy and faith, even if those who belong admit to being part of a “minority of a minority of a minority.”

The film follows Michael Muhammad Knight, an American convert who wrote The Taqwacores (2003), a fictional account of Islamic punk rockers. Even though the novel had no basis in reality, it sparked a devoted following, inspiring many to create the world Knight imagined. One of the bands to take quickly to the movement were The Kominas (Punjabi for “bastards”), a Boston-based outfit fronted by Basim Usmani and Shahjehan Khan.

Majeed follows Knight, The Kominas and the Vancouver-based band Secret Trial Five as they tour the United States, singing songs such as “Shari’a Law in the U.S.A.”. The film also captures a performance for the Islamic Society of North America’s convention in Chicago. While a good number of Muslims walk out and security is eventually called, some hijab-clad women bop their heads along.