Taqwacores, The: Muslim Punk in the USA

By Kim Badawi

$ 35

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ISBN: 9781576875001

By Kim Badawi
Foreword by Michael Muhammad Knight

Music / Islamic-American Youth Studies
Hardcover
11.5 x 9.5 inches
112 pages
105 four-color photographs
ISBN: 978-1-57687-500-1
By Kim Badawi
Foreword by Michael Muhammad Knight

Music / Islamic-American Youth Studies
Hardcover
11.5 x 9.5 inches
112 pages
105 four-color photographs
ISBN: 978-1-57687-500-1

Writer Michael Muhammad Knight coined the term “taqwacore” for his novel about a Muslim punk house in Buffalo, NY, which Knight initially distributed from the back of his car as a DIY photocopied zine. In time, the book found widespread publication through Autonomedia and garnered supporters, even inspiring the first woman-led prayer of a mixed-gender Muslim congregation in the United States in 2005. But something far grander was in the works; unbeknownst to Knight, a real Muslim punk scene was starting to emerge, based on the one he had imagined for the book.

Photographer Kim Badawi first met Knight around this time, and bore witness as the taqwacore phenomenon began to take hold. Beginning in 2006, Badawi traveled across the U.S., chronicling the burgeoning subculture and the musicians who had been spurred to action by Knight’s creative vision. In 2007 he was invited to accompany the TaqwaTour, traveling to major cities across North America alongside bands including The Kominas and Secret Trial Five. As the genre continues to take shape and influence a rising generation of artists and intellectuals, Badawi’s The Taqwacores stands as a photographic companion to the original text and an indispensable document of the making of a movement.

Born in Paris in 1980, Kim Badawi is American photojournalist and documentarian of French, Egyptian, and Slovenian background. He began his photographic career photographing the plight of refugee families from Mississippi to Texas in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, while still interning for Contact Press Images and Magnum Photos in New York. Selected for publication by the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University, Badawi’s work appears in 25 Under 25: Up-and-Coming American Photographers (powerHouse Books, 2008).

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BEHIND THE SCENES

INTERVIEW WITH KIM BADAWI

Photographer Kim Badawi began documenting nascent Muslim punk movement, which began in 2005 with Muslim youth forming bands and organizing events based on characters from Knight’s book of fiction. It quickly flourished into a full-blown scene across the United States, which is captured for the first time in Badawi’s book of the same name, The Taqwacores, set for release in June 2009. Badawi sat down with powerHouse Books to discuss the revolutionary Taqwacore scene

powerHouse Books: How did you first come to know the Taqwacore phenomenon?
Kim Badawi: I first met Mike Knight in 2005. We spoke on the phone several times about wrestling and other things. At this time, Mike’s book had not yet been published let alone become a reality. Let me explain. Mike had spent much of the summer before traveling the US, and handing out Xerox copies of The Taqwacores from the back of his car. Little did he know that his writings struck a chord amongst young Americans across the United States. Knowing very little about what to expect, in the summer of 2006 I began documenting this emerging genre traveling across the US and somehow retracing Mike Knight’s steps.

pHB: How would you define the Taqwacores?
KB: Many times I have been asked how to define what Taqwacore really is and my response has always been vague in nature. If anything, I still don’t know. It has yet to grow. What I found was a movement in the making. Musicians, writers and artists from across the continent, who had found Mike’s writings to be a source of inspiration and by consequence, began emitting the same creative force.

pHB: What did that creative force result in?
KB: By the summer of 2007, by means of the world wide web and websites such as MySpace or Facebook, a network of actual Taqwacore musicians joined to form the first ever TaqwaTour. Five bands—Vote Hezbollah, The Kominas, Al Tharwa, Secret Trial Five, and Omar of Dia Critical, collectively known as Box Cutter Surprise- would tour major cities in the North American continent spreading the Taqwacore literature, styles, trend and fashion culture. Having acted as an active thread and constant link amongst these pioneers, I was kindly invited to bring my camera along. I gladly accepted, and the rest remains history.


The Taqwacores Author Michael Muhammad Knight (at the powerHouse Arena)

Michael Muhammad Knight is a novelist, essayist, and journalist. His work has been censored, boycotted, confiscated, and threatened with legal action. He converted to Islam at 16, after reading the Autobiography of Malcolm X, and traveled to Islamabad at age 17 to study at a madrassa. His books have been taught at numerous universities, and he is a frequent speaker at colleges and academic conferences. Knight is also the subject of a forthcoming documentary, directed by Omar Majeed, on the “Taqwacore” movement spawned by his first novel.

Soft Skull Press is publishing no fewer than five books by Knight in 2009. His first novel, The Taqwacores (January) told the story of a fictitious scene of Islamic punk-rockers, and inspired the real-life Muslim punk movement which currently shares their name and was profiled in The New York Times. Osama Van Halen is the fantastical, satirical follow-up to The Taqwacores. With his deeply personal memoir Impossible Man (April), chronicling his bizarre and traumatic boyhood, and conversion to Islam and American road odyssey Blue Eyed Devil (May), Knight explores through his own private experience the unique realities of being an American Muslim. In the forthcoming Journey to the End of Islam (December) Knight goes international, visiting holy sites in Pakistan, Syria, Egypt, and Ethiopia and his travels culminate at Islam’s spiritual center, in the holy city of Mecca, where he performs the hajj.

Check out author Michael Muhammad Knight’s feature video on CBC!

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