Docs That Rock

Those Muslim Punks (Literally)

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Rare is the book that inspires a social movement or even a musical genre. But that’s what happened with Michael Muhammad Knight’s 2005 book The Taqwacores. An invented work, it tells the tale of a Pakistani-American student living in a house with Muslim punk rockers. When groups of readers couldn’t find the music (because it was a work of fiction) they started to write their own songs. That birthed Muslim punk bands like Vote Hezbollah and Secret Trial Five, which are followed in Omar Majeed’s new film Taqwacore: The Birth of Punk Islam.

Majeed followed bands with Knight in 2007 to document this unseen community that shows the diversity within Islam. Like traditional punk (if there is such a conceit!), Muslim punk seems to blast both U.S. government and rigid Islamist ideology. He follows a tour bus through the U.S. with the ultimate goal of playing a show in Pakistan. One of the film’s highlights is when some bands are shut down at an Islamic Society of North America convention in Chicago for playing with women on stage, which violated the so-called dictat against women singing and dancing in public. It’s unlikley that Muslim punk could become a mass movement but as a microcosm of tensions within Islam, it encapsulates pretty fascinating stuff.

Funniest line comes from an interview with Majeed who says there are few mohawks in Muslim punk (save for the guy on the front of the above trailer.) The director told the Canadian Press that one musician told him, “‘if you want to go out in the streets and shock The Man in this day and age, a Mohawk isn’t going to do anything. You want to shock The Man, I’ll go outside and wear traditional Pakistani dress and grow my beard.'”

The film just opened in theatres in Montreal and Toronto this week after film festival showings Vancouver and Montreal and hits the Sheffield Doc/Fest in early November. No U.S. dates yet.


October 20, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized | ,


  1. […] 2009 music docs from around the world. Some films like Taqwacore: The Birth of Punk Islam have been covered on this site; others, like RIP! A Remix Manifesto should have been (and may yet be if I ever get around to it.) […]

    Pingback by Top World Music Docs of 2009 « Docs That Rock | December 22, 2009 | Reply

  2. […] docs of any fest (in my opinion.) I’ve already written about the world premiere of Lemmy and Taqwacore but here are the other music docs and music infused docs that will be showing in Texas in March […]

    Pingback by SXSW ‘10 Films Announced « Docs That Rock | February 5, 2010 | Reply

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