Lesson From The Taqwacores – Being Accepting and All That Good Stuff

I caught the movie The Taqwacores this past Friday as part of the SF Asian Film Festival at the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley. The film, interestingly enough, is about a group of Muslim punks.

I’m not into punk at all. I’m more of a post-rock Explosions in the Sky type of girl, and yet, there I was, sitting in a theater, waiting for a movie about Muslim punk rockers to start.

I wrote previously about how sometimes people automatically think I’m judging them and their level of Islam because I wear a hijab. Truth is, I’m worried enough about keeping myself in check that I can’t imagine passing judgment on someone else. This movie reinforces that for me -you can never judge someone just by how they look and the stuff they do. You don’t know what’s going on in their hearts.

The people in the movie are Muslim in their own way and it wouldn’t be up to someone like me to tell them that I’m better just because they practice differently. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to abandon the principles in which I abide because of the movie’s influence, but that doesn’t mean I should write off someone’s way of life because it doesn’t reflect mine.

Although some of those scenes… wow. I’m not ashamed to say I averted my eyes. There was some crazy mixed up stuff in there, I have to say.

Yusef and Jehangir in The Taqwacores-

I put my review up on another site but I put it below if anyone’s interested.

My review on The Taqwacores

“Is everyone here Muslim?” Yusef asks.

“From a certain point of view,” Umar replies.

So begins the movie The Taqwacores. A sophomore in college in Buffalo, New York, Yusef moves out of the dorms to live with Muslim roommates. His search for a new place to stay leads him to this one particular house where Umar, a burly guy with tattoos of “X”s on his hands, answers the door. Eventually, Yusef meets the rest of the rather diverse group of Muslims he now lives with – red-mohawked Jehangir, fully burqa’d Rabeya (you can’t even see her eyes), the seemingly always shirtless Ayyub, and Fasiq, a stoner. Yusef realizes rather quickly that his way of life is much different than that of his new housemates as they have all reconciled their practice of Islam with their punk way of life. As a result, Yusef ends up broadening his own definition of religion which at times, has him questioning his own practices.

The Taqwacores is based on the 2003 novel of the same name by Michael Muhammand Knight. “Taqwacore” is the name given by Knight to reflect the Muslim punk rock scene. I’m going to go ahead and admit it – I’m not into punk. I don’t know anything about it and when I’ve tried to listen to it, I quickly come to the conclusion that it’s not my thing. Also, unlike most of the characters in this movie, I don’t drink, smoke, do drugs (coffee is NOT a drug!), have tattoos, or curse.

But I like good movies. And The Taqwacores? Good movie.

The movie is unexpectedly funny at times, awkward at others (intentionally I believe) and has some great dialogue and acting. As Yusef, Bobby Naderi plays the out-of-his-element Muslim well while Dominic Rains stole the show as Jehangir. While I did feel that a couple of scenes were controversial for controversy-sake, this movie is important for one simple reason – The Taqwacores is going to inspire conversations. What does it mean to be Muslim (or if you’re not Muslim, religious)? Can you really ever have the right to judge someone else because maybe their lifestyle doesn’t conform to what you know? And also, if you are the subject of being judged does that give you the right to do the same to others?

Case in point – As Jehangir organized a Taqwacores concert, he invited a band whose viewpoints differed from those of his and most of his housemates. He explained to Yusef that he still felt the need to invite them because if were to exclude this group, how would that make him different from all of those other people who exclude him for who he is?

Major caveat – this movie is not for everyone. The Taqwacores can be (more than) a bit crude and ever so slightly blasphemous. Ultimately, I’m glad I watched the film though. If a movie sparks an intense debate with a friend after you watch it, then you know you have come upon something that made you think. That’s never a bad thing.

The Taqwacores is directed by Eyad Zahra and stars Bobby Naderi, Dominic Rains, and Noureen DeWulf and will be out on DVD on April 5th.

6 thoughts

  1. Bushra, Excellent review! I’m curious to know two things: Have you also read the book in addition to watching the movie? And what did you think of the cameo appearance by Michael Muhammad Knight in this movie?

  2. Thanks for the comment! I haven’t read the book but I am now interested to maybe check out some of Michael Muhammad Knight’s other books. As for his cameo… I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it to be honest. I almost think he was telling Yusef to get himself away from all that he was surrounded by but that’s just my interpretation. It could be anything I suppose :)

  3. Sounds interesting. Reminds me of this article on real-life muslim punk bands. I remember one of the guys just felt like praying, so he prayed on the dirty bathroom floor of the club he was playing in. I guess even if you disagree with a few things that they do, you have to recognize that they have heart.

  4. I remember reading that article. I think it was about the punk rock band The Kominas (?). I believe they got their start after reading this book and are also the subject of the documentary Taqwacores in which they go around with the author of the book. Very interesting. By the way, I agree with you on your sentiment! A lot of us may disagree with something someone else does but you can’t call into question what they have in their hearts.

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