Documentary follows Muslim Punk scene

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December 1st, 2010

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Taqwacore follows the birth and progression of the Muslim Punk scene (Photo courtesy taqwacore.com)

Omaha,  NE – Islam and Punk. Not two words you usually see together. But a documentary on the Muslim Punk scene shows neither group is as monolithic as they’re often portrayed.

The documentary follows the birth and progression of the Muslim Punk scene, one that grew largely out of a novel by a Muslim American convert: Michael Muhammed Knight. Beth Katz is the founder and executive director of Project Interfaith, which is hosting the screening.

Knight’s father “was a white supremacist,” she said. “He was raised Catholic and ultimately converted to Islam when he was 16 after reading Malcolm X’s biography.” Katz said Knight “went to Pakistan, spent some time there and… delved into a more fundamentalist interpretation of Islam.” He ultimately got “disillusioned” with that, she said, “returned to the United States and got very involved with the punk rock scene.”

The novel, Taqwacore: The Birth of Punk Islam, became an underground hit, Katz said, inspiring punk bands that wanted to embody the themes of the book. She said what the book and movement are really about is the complexity of identity – and how we all negotiate that, Muslim, Punk or other. Neither group is monolithic, she said, giving the example of a story told by a musician featured in the film.

“He felt like he there was this part of him… what he called his Muslim part, which was connected to the traditions and the religion that he’d been raised in, that  his parents had been part of, as well as the culture that he’d come out of.” “Then there was this other part of him,” she said, “that he felt like was just this typical American teenager.”

Katz said it was hard for him to figure out how these different parts of him fit together. “And I think that’s something that… a lot of people struggle with, just having different parts of them that don’t always neatly fit together.”

The screening of Taqwacore will be held tonight at Filmstreams, followed by a panel discussion and audience conversation. Katz says she hopes the discussion will address the complexities of identity, the diversity within groups and the limitations of labels.

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