Is it a cult, new culture, or just a new trend capturing the attention of Muslim Youths in the West?!

Regardless of the many issues and controversies this question may arise, Al Taqwacore is a “phenomenon” that has deeply penetrated through and rapidly spread among Muslims living in Western societies in recent years and worths an accurate stopover to measure its impact and real magnitude. The controversy arouses from the fact that the Taqwacore tends to infiltrate those foreign societies, wherein many Muslims feel they live as outcasts. Some say it represents their communities beyond the radical thinking of some modern thinkers and scholars.

From a novel authored by American convert Michael Muhammad Knight, who embraced Islam at the age of 16 after reading Malcolm X’s biography, to a new genre of music with its unique styles and celebs, and on a later stage, a film directed by Omar Majid, the Taqwacore has evolved as a new culture, or as some like to refer to it a new “Cult” that sprout and quickly spread among Western Muslims who seek a culture of art that speaks out against all biased interpretations offered by the mainstream medias and “radicals”.

Like the novel, the Taqwacore bands aim to break stereotypes their own way, always raising questions related to the identity of Muslims living in the West, and placing  Orthodox Islam in confrontation with contemporary life and hip-hop lifestyles and music.

One cannot help but appreciate the bands’ stars’ attempt to invade the realm of music leaving an Islamic influence that cannot be overlooked, whether for its controversy or strong impact.

First let me explain for those who don’t have the scarce knowledge about the Arabic culture and language, what the term Taqwacore relates to. The word comprises of two sections, the first, Taqwa, is an Arabic noun meaning fear of Allah and piety, while the second half, core, is derived from the English word Hardcore, a sub-genre of punk rock music.

The Taqwacore music however scored the furthest outreach to Muslim Youths. Inspired by and tackling one dominating theme addressing challenges facing the Muslims, specifically Muslim Youth living in the U.S. and the West on a more general level.

Some critics, who closely followed up on the evolvement of Al Taqwacore musical bands and their momentum development, see this movement as a cry of anguish reflecting the suppression Muslims living in the West happen to face.

The novel was made into a film starring Noureen DeWulf, Rasika Mathur, and Bobby Naderi. The film hit movie screens last year.

It’s noteworthy that the novel was censored in the UK for limited period of time due to the sensitive issues it touches on, also to contain the backfire triggered by the blasphemous cartoons ridiculing Prophet Muhammad (PBH) that were published by Jylland Posten nearly five years ago.

Whether Taqwacore and similar initiatives will reap their intended results remains uncertain, but it seems to me that Muslims living in the West positively insist on engaging themselves in the marathon of modern achievements. This strong will-power to create convenient alternatives that represent them, worth attention and consideration.

On the whole, I find continuous attempts by Muslims, regardless of all challenges and difficulties they face in their endless pursuit to integrate into the Western societies, and actually managing to score positive initiatives credited for relative understanding of the Westerners, quite remarkable.  Many attempts have succeeded in reaching out to the Western communities, calling on them to understand their needs and traditions, traditions of a minority section that rejects staying outcast or treated as an observing group of foreigners, the presence of whom is not very much welcomed by the original citizens of those countries.

Taqwacores, this subculture, as they chose to refer to themselves, do not seek domination in the Music arena, they only seek being heard and accepted, by some Muslims who adopt “radical thinking” as they consider it on one hand, and Westerners, who do not welcome their wish to integrate into their home communities, on the other. It’s kind of a scream of resentment and rejection of much of what the Muslims have to face in those foreign nations.

This article is not intended to be a review of the Taqwacore, as a new genre of art comprising several branches ranging from literature, music, movies, or documentaries, but rather to provide a glimpse of what this culture or trend entails and promotes, raising a set of simple questions with the aim of understanding the impact, conceptual ethics and controversy aroused by this phenomenon that infiltrated Muslim American communities, and is being sharply watched by rejecters from both sides, Muslims and Westerners across the world.

Wassalaam

Maha Youssuf