The Taqwacore: An Alternative Genre of Art Or a Scream of Suppressed Identity??!!

A cult, new culture, or just a new trend capturing the attention of Muslim Youths in the West?!

Regardless of the many issues and controversies this question may arise, Al Taqwacore is a “phenomenon” that has deeply penetrated through and rapidly  spread among Muslims living in Western societies in recent years that worth an accurate stopover to measure its impact and real magnitude. Their controversy arouses from the fact that they tend to infiltrate those foreign societies, wherein many Muslims feel they live as outcasts, arguing they represent their communities beyond the radical thinking of some modern thinkers and scholars.

From a novel authored by American convert Michael Muhammad Knight, who embraced Islam at the age of 16 after reading Malcolm X’s biography, to a new genre of music with its own styles and stars, and on a later stage a movie directed by Omar Majid,  and very soon a documentary, the Taqwacore, has evolved as a new culture, or as some like to refer to it a new cult that sprout and quickly spread among Western Muslims who seek a culture of art that speaks out against all biased interpretations spoken of by the mainstream medias and “radicals”.

Like the novel, the Taqwacore bands aim to break stereotypes their own way, always raising questions related to the identity of Muslims living in the West, and placing  Orthodox Islam in confrontation with contemporary life and hip-hop lifestyles and music.

One cannot help but appreciate the bands’stars’ attempt to invade the realm of music leaving an Islamic influence that cannot be overlooked, whether for its controversy or strong impact.

First let me explain for those who don’t have the scarce knowledge about the Arabic culture and language, what the term Taqwacore relates to. The word comprises of two sections, the first, Taqwa, is an Arabic noun meaning fear of Allah and piety, while the second half, core, is derived from the English word Hardcore, a sub-genre of punk rock music.

The Taqwacore music however scored the furthest outreach to Muslim Youths. Inspired by and tackling one dominating theme addressing challenges facing the Muslims, specifically Muslim Youth living in the U.S. and the West on a more general level.

Some critics, who closely followed up on the evolvement of AL Taqwacore musical bands and their momentum development, see this movement as a cry of anguish reflecting the suppression the Muslims living in the West struggle against.

Earlier this year, the novel was made into a movie starring Noureen DeWulf, Rasika Mathur, and Bobby Naderi. The movie is set to be released in a few months time.

It’s noteworthy that the novel was censored in the UK for limited period of time due to the sensitive issues it touches on, also to contain the backfire triggered by the blasphemous cartoons and published by Jylland Posten nearly three years ago ridiculing Prophet Muhammad (PBH).

Whether Taqwacore and similar initiative will reap their intended results I know not, but it seems to me that Muslims living in the West positively insist on engaging themselves in the convoy of modern achievements. This strong will power to create convenient alternatives that represents them, worth attention and consideration.

On the whole, I find continuous attempts by Muslims, regardless of all challenges and difficulties they face in their endless pursuit to integrate to the Western societies, and actually managing to score positive initiatives credited for relative understanding of the Westerners, quite remarkable.  Many attempts have succeeded in reaching out to the Western communities, calling on them to understand their needs and traditions, traditions of a minority section that rejects staying outcast or treated as an observing group of foreigners the presence of whom is not very much welcomed by the original citizens of those countries.

Taqwacores, this subculture, as they chose to refer to themselves, do not seek domination in the Music arena, they only seek being heard and accepted, by some Muslims who adopt “radical thinking” as they consider it on one hand, and Westerners, who do not welcome their wish to integrate into their home communities, on the other. It’s kind of a scream of resentment and rejection of much of what the Muslims have to face at those foreign nations.

This article is not intended to be a review of the Taqwacore, as a new school of art comprising several branches ranging from literature, music, movies, or documentaries, but rather to provide a glimpse of what this new culture or trend, entails and promotes, raising a set of simple questions with the aim of understanding the impact, conceptual ethics and controversy aroused by this phenomenon that infiltrated Muslim Americans, and is being sharply watched by rejecters from both sides, Muslims and Westerners across the world.

Whether The Taqwacore has fulfilled that efficiently or not I wish not to impose my own interpretation, leaving that question to your taste and to more informed scholars to answer.

Also where this trend or subculture is heading for, only time will tell.

Maha Youssuf

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9 thoughts on “The Taqwacore: An Alternative Genre of Art Or a Scream of Suppressed Identity??!!

  1. I just wanted to know of any other valid websites that expalin what taqwacore is. I met the photographer for the book just this past weekend and he wanted to include me but I wasn’t entirely sure what I would be repesenting and I wanted to do some research. I also didn’t feel as if I would really belong, I am not Muslim or of Muslim descent; I am Black and even post invitation I feel as if I would not have a place in the taqwacore movement.

    1. Dear Price,

      Well I just learned about the Taqwacore and their activities through some documentary and TV program aired recently on Al Jazeera International. It provoked my curiosity and encouraged me to run some researching. Will try to search for the episode on YouTube, it gave me a good glimpse of its concept and core values, but an efficient one I must say that’s why I went to explore it on my own.

      Eventhough I cannot provide you with much advice regarding whether you should join them or not, from the very brief shots I saw of their videos I can assure you that they dont seem like people who’d stick to only Muslims to represent what they’re promoting, i.e. speaking of Muslim challenges and concerns. If you believe in their message, then go ahead, if you’re not really interested, then dont join them based on your general thrive for music…

      Will send you an email with some of the links I used in my researching that speak about AL Taqwacore, hope they can help you…

      Maha

  2. Why is everyone so hung on ‘classiying’ Taqwacore or its bands?

    Its like you people have such a problem with something different that you cant actually fit into a genre or a stereotype box.

    I’ll bet Jazz was seen this way.

    Guitar music was supposed to be a ‘fad’.

    You are the type of people that are always late to the set.

    But Im sure in 10 years when everyone knows who the Sagg Syndicate or Secret Trail Five are, you’ll pretend like you were a part of it.

    It just happens to be artists (most are of Arab backgrounds, but not all), that seem to identify with each other in concept and message.
    Instead of sound.

    The way it should be.

    so just hush up…and Im sure you will catch up to Taqwacore someday

  3. As you’ve just stated Denius,

    At the time Jazz was introduced as a new genre of Art is faced similar scrutiny. That’s normal, and it just means that people want and are interested to know more of that newly introduced type or class of art.

    It’s not making a big deal out of nothing as you see it.

    Hope I made that point clear…

  4. The photographer working on the book about Taqwacore is Kim Badawi. There is an interview of him answering some of the questions above on his publishers website.
    I believe he purposely avoids to define what Taqwacore really is, as the phenomenon is still young..
    For more please follow this link :
    http://www.powerhousebooks.com/book/1015

    1. Hello John,

      I think all elements working in this band, or , if some wish to call it cult, are themselves confused how to classify it, which is okay, may be they’re just waiting for the idea to get mature a little bit, even if they’re thoughts are communicated through a book, documentaries, music band, and I don’t know what else…
      Thanks anyway for your contribution…

  5. If you ever want to read a reader’s feedback :) , I rate this post for 4/5. Decent info, but I have to go to that damn msn to find the missed pieces. Thanks, anyway!

  6. I don’t know If I said it already but …Excellent site, keep up the good work. I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say I’m glad I found your blog. Thanks, :)

    A definite great read….

    1. Hello BloggerDude,

      Thanks for your kind words, I really appreciate them …
      Please stay tuned to my site and let me always updated with your valued feedback.

      Maha

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