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Taqwacore: Muslim Punk in America

By
March 13, 2008

Taqwacore. This name comes from a novel about a fictitious Muslim punk scene in New York, The Taqwacores, written in 2005 by an America convert to Islam, Michael Muhammad Knight. By linking the Arabic word taqwa, meaning “god consciousness,” to hardcore, the fast paced evolution of punk rock that emerged in North America in the 1970s, Knight seems to have unintentionally birthed a movement.

Knight’s work inspired the formation of several bands, some of whom chose provocative names—Vote Hezbollah (taken from a band in the book itself) or song titles—“Suicide Bomb The Gap.” But though many of the people in these bands are Arab-American, not all of them are, and just what makes a group “Taqwacore” is hard to define. Like all labels, Taqwacore obscures as much as it reveals, in this case masking the fact that some of the bands lumped into the movement by the media (or even those who claim membership themselves) are not overtly political, some are not even Muslim, and there are more musical influences at work than just hardcore. Other artists – playwrights, graphic artists, even puppeteers – have joined the movement too, making it seem as if Taqwacore is not so much a style of music but the expression of overlapping cultural worlds, created by a specific, complex, layered moment in history.

Photographer Kim Badawi says: “In an attempt to illustrate this politically charged and contradictory subject matter accurately, my images remain purposely ambiguous. The subjects I have met so far, while working on this story, are not anti-American, but rather progressive free thinkers. If anything, they are against the American-Islamic establishment.”

Kim Badawi is a 27 year old American freelance photo-journalist of Egyptian, French and Slovenian background.

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