Muslim Punk Rock

Once you read about it, the only question is: why did it take so long? Check this out:

The Prophet Muhammad was punk, according to Knight, because he was a nonconformist who fought for what he believed. A growing number of young Muslims who resist their parents’ orthodox views, but also struggle with the values of their non-Muslim friends, are embracing punk. Muslim punk provides a place to forge a new identity for young Muslims confused about religion and their role in American society, particularly as they are bombarded by negative stereotypes of Muslims in a post-9/11 America. At the same time, Muslim punk offers a palpable way to express anger toward the orthodoxies of fundamentalist Islam.

We need to be vigilant and aware of Islamism's appeal. But I think it's also important for those of us opposed to it to remember that in a direct contest with the West's freedom, Islamic theocracy will lose. There's an embrace of contradiction among the Taqwacores, a quintessentially American support of rebelliousness (fueled in part by Sufism), and a sensibility that is perhaps best described as South Park Islam:

The Kominas performed songs with provocative lyrics such as “suicide bomb the gap,” and “Rumi was a homo” (a stab at an anti-gay imam in Brooklyn). The musicians started a joke band named Box Cutter Surprise, after the knives used to hijack planes on September 11th.

Marwan Kamel, from a band on tour called Al-Thawra, Arabic for “revolution,” said members created the group to shock audiences.

“The sole purpose was to light a fire under people’s asses,” Kamel said. “We were totally exploiting Americans’ fear of terrorism, but maybe that’s what everyone needs right now.”

On tour, the taqwacore bands allowed each other to embrace their contradictions as young Muslim Americans confused about their religion, identity, and place in the world. They prayed together, philosophized about Allah, visited mosques in Harlem and Ohio, shouted their grievances about President Bush, and generally thought for themselves.

“I began to feel a balance between my identity as a Muslim and an American,” Khan said. “It was literally the most amazing experience of my life.”

The great promise of America in this new war is not, I'd argue, as a fortress against Islam, but as an incubator of those trends within Islam that can ultimately defeat Islamism. That means more openness, not less. More modernity, not less. More confidence, less fear, and a sense of, yes, humor.

2006-2011 archives for The Daily Dish, featuring Andrew Sullivan

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