I said Mosque, not Mosh
Giving a New Meaning to the Term “Bombtrack”
In recent years, a new subculture has begun to use the medium of punk rock to share its views with like-minded music fans and the world at large. Anarchists? Well, if you paid any attention to punk rock over the last 25 years or so, you’d know that anarchists are already making ideological punk music. Luddites? Well, there is a sizeable acoustic punk scene, but they still use modern means of recording, distribution and conveyance to shows. Washed up, trashy, talentless twenty-something rehab urchins with astoundingly poor judgement? No, but good guess!
The subculture in question is (drumroll, please): “progressive Muslims”! On the surface, the overall historical punk culture might seem at odds with Shari’a Law, the Qur’anical code of muslim conduct, what with all the alcohol and drug consumption, the Anarchic and nihilistic philosophies, casual sex and skepticism of conventions like religion. However, there is a history of movements like “Straightedge” within punk that encourage clean living and virtuous thought (and thinking you’re better than everyone else), while there has been a burgeoning Christian scene in nearly every subgenre of punk music, so perhaps it isn’t such a stretch to see Muslims carving out a musical and philosophical refuge inside punk rock.
In fact, the real opposition often comes not from fellow punks, but from the rigid social and religious institutions within the Islamic community. In recent years, Islamic states like Monaco and Egypt have waged the equivalent of an artistic Jihad against metal and heavy rock music, with fans and artists being censored, imprisoned and/or being attacked by civilians on the street. The contention is that such music is Haram (prohibited by Islam),much like eating pork or committing adultery. Indeed, the Qur’an can be interpreted to say that all melodic or tonal music (music made with instruments other than drums) is Haraam.
Taqwacore (/taqwa/ approximating “piety” or “fear (of God)” in English) is now a worldwide movement from Pakistan to the U. K. to the American heartland, with thousands of adherents and dozens of bands representing it. Often, the rock music is peppered with traditional Middle Eastern and Asian styles. It’s not out of the ordinary to see a taqwacore punk wear a radical hairstyle or mosh, even though there are admonishments about personal adornments and causing “harm” to others, unprovoked. The scene is often characterized by questioning the war in Iraq, the Qur’an’s justification of terrorism, and the narrow interpretation of Shari’a law.
Recently, some of the best-known bands in Islamic punk, embarked on a U. S. summer tour. Led by Boston’s The Kominas, whose shock value song titles include “Rumi was a Homo, but Wahhaj is a Fag” and “I want a Handjob” and Virginia’s Diacritical, the tour was the new style’s first major introduction for much of the country. Now, when can I see some Hare Krishnas starting up a “Wall of Death”!