In his recent documentary “Muezzin,” Austrian filmmaker Sebastian Brameshuber follows a number of Turkish muezzins during their participation in a yearly-held competition to find the best muezzin in Turkey. He interviews them on their roles as fathers and teachers, while pursuing the main question of the relationship between music and speech.
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.
Documentary filmmaker Bernard Debord’s “Voile Sur la République” (Veil on the Republic) (2009) examines the challenges and lives of Muslims living in the North of France. Debord’s film includes an interview with sociologist Leïla Babès who expresses concern for the rise of fundamentalists in northern France and that “a little bit of Islam everyday will ensure that eventually [French] society will become entirely Muslim.”
Debord includes interviews with a broad base of Muslims, some devout practitioners and others who consider themselves secular.
The film “A Jihad for Love” by American Muslim director Parvez Sharma following gay Muslim men and women in twelve countries, gas won numerous awards, and most recently received the ‘Best Documentary’ award in the GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance against Defamation) awards in March. Sharma traveled through Iran, Egypt, Turkey, India, South Africa, and others – to examine the experiences of being gay and lesbian in an “intensely Muslim community.” He consciously decided against pursuing his project in America or a Western country in which homosexuality has a markedly different experience of acceptability, but cautioned against wanting to save gays and lesbians in predominantly Muslim countries. Sharma found that many are happy where they are, and do not desire asylum, displacement, or change to a different paradigm. “We tend to assume the Western model of this GLBTQ identity. Unless there’s a pride parade you’re not really free. These ideas are way more complicated than that. Sexuality is so complex in Eastern and Islamic cultures,” he says.”