Ration Reality

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I said Mosque, not Mosh

with 40 comments

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”!

Sources: Kansas City StarThe GuardianMSNBC/Newsweek


Written by Soylent Ape

May 29, 2008 at 9:39 am

Posted in islam, music, news, religion, world

40 Responses

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  1. Holy fucking shit! I actually know something about this. Do you know who was a huge figure in this scene? Formerly Vegan Reich, hardline sXers who converted to Islam, and and released an album entitled Jihad while still keeping to the Hardline Manifesto.

    Don’t believe me? http://www.amazon.com/Jihad-Vegan-Reich/dp/B00002NDC3

    Love Bites

    May 29, 2008 at 10:32 am

  2. Yeah, Taqwacore’s roots are very much in Hardline/Straightedge. Vegan Reichwere at the forefront of that movement 20 years ago.

    While I didn’t much agree with the band’s stances on things like decrying the existence of Israel or homosexuals’ rights, I enjoyed VR, because they were the closest I’d ever get to hearing Bad Brains jamming with Iron Maiden

    Soylent Ape

    May 29, 2008 at 9:05 pm

  3. from what you’re describing, sounds like their tunes would be right at home in klan house party? message-wise?


    May 30, 2008 at 10:40 am

  4. How do they get the towel wrapped around their fauxhawks?

  5. Yea.
    When the Taliban kills you for humming a tune under your breath theres a definate contradiction going on here.
    They probably justify it by reversing the implications and say that they are using the tolls of the west against themselves.
    Kinda like the 911 highjackers that spent months previous to the attack in strip clubs so as to “assimilate” into western society.
    There may be subliminal messages in the music that make you wanna strap a bomb to your ass and jump into the mosh pit


    May 30, 2008 at 12:37 pm

  6. i’d love to see their cover of “Spanish Bombs”.


    May 30, 2008 at 2:53 pm

  7. @ seo: Yeah, many of these bands are in line with some of the more extremist views in the way of Israel and gay rights. “Spanish Bombs” would be a great song for them to cover.

    @ Micky: All joking aside, you do have a valid point. The 9/11 highjackers wore western clothing, drank and went to strip clubs. Know what else they did? Listened to western music. I wouldn’t go so far as to condemn all Muslims, especially a movement like this. Still, you have to wonder…


    May 30, 2008 at 7:42 pm

    • In line with some of the more extremist views? You couldn’t be more off base. While the Taqwacore scene incorporates a very wide range of views and opinion, I have yet to meet or hear of a taqx who embraces extremism. Taqwacore is the ultimate expression of tolerance, even including many non Muslims. Read the book The Taqwacores by Michael Muhhamad Knight, the book that gave the scene it’s name and brought us all together.


      January 20, 2010 at 3:14 am

  8. Soy

    “and it makes you wonder”

    It makes you wonder if their stairway to heaven has some virgins at the top


    May 30, 2008 at 7:58 pm

  9. Fuck!
    as old as I am I should know whether its “makes me wonderr” or makes you wonder”


    May 30, 2008 at 7:59 pm

  10. @ Micky: The bustle in your hedgerow was a suicide bomber?


    May 31, 2008 at 7:17 am

  11. Actually, I really like middle eastern music being fused with other contemporary sounds of today. I think its pretty fucking cool.
    Does anyone remember the chase scene in “The Fifth Element? where Bruce Willis has the cops chasing him in his cab after Jovovich falls through the roof ?
    I especially like the vocal styles involved. Its kind of a warbling.
    Here it is
    “Alech Taadi” by (Cheb) Khaled.

    The language works real well with what seems much like a latin, almost calypso type music


    May 31, 2008 at 11:11 am

  12. Led Zep used a lot of Middle Eastern melodies, as well. Musically, Arab/Persian music is very percussion-oriented and there are lots of interesting rhythms there.


    June 1, 2008 at 6:06 am

  13. Dis you ever check out the Plant live disc “No Quarter “?
    He has a few middle eastern musicians in the concert. Kashmere and a few other songs have a totally middle eastern rendition as opposed to mostly metal like the originals


    June 1, 2008 at 5:58 pm

  14. @ Micky: In the last 15 or so years, Plant has been immersing himself in Middle Eastern music on one hand and folk/country music on the other. His latesst recording was a country/bluegrass CD with Allison Krauss.


    June 2, 2008 at 6:16 am

  15. Yea, the concert I’m talking about is probably about 15 years old. I had some of the visual on tape, dont know what happened to the audio disc. Probably lost it in a garage sale.
    Bluegrass ? Oh god.
    Is it any good ?
    Whenever I hear blugrass I think of “Deliverance” and squeeling pigs


    June 2, 2008 at 10:13 am

  16. @ Micky: You know, I’m not a big fan of bluegrass, either. The CD is called “Raising Sand”. Calling it “bluegrass” is perhaps a bit too narrow of me. A better way to describe it is 20th century American folk music with some North African rhythms here and some bluesy choruses there and some rock-a-billy elsewhere. It’s definitely eclectic. You can get a feel for it here or here.


    June 2, 2008 at 6:10 pm

  17. Deliverance. Heh-heh. “You shore do got a purty mouth.”

    I hate to admit it, but that movie is fairly accurate. My family lived in North Georgia for a while and if we traveled an hour out of Atlanta…well, we’d still be in Atlanta; Okay, if we travelled two hours out of Atlanta we’d see some seriously scary people.

    Every few years, some city guy would go canoeing down the Chattahoochee River and never be heard from again. I just know that Donnie Ray and Billy Bob from Forsyth County had ’em up on the river bank, makin’ ’em squeal…


    June 2, 2008 at 6:21 pm

  18. Reminds me of Loggins and Messina.
    Oh well, try again Robert.

    Yea, when the veins in his forehead started bulging I knew exactly what was happening.


    June 2, 2008 at 6:33 pm

  19. the responses on this site are hilarious. it seems like no one gets what taqwacore is… and the funniest thing is the people who are talking like they know what the fuck they’re talking about…

    1. there are no taqwacore bands in existence that ever talk about being straight edge or being against alcohol, sex, etc. in fact, most of the people on the first taqwacore tour last summer drank (except for a pair of recovering alcoholics).

    2. there are no taqwacore bands that are anti-homosexual. in fact, the kominas’ song, “rumi was a homo” directly challenges conservative imam siraj wahhaj’s homophobic views. they have since been sued for contents by a member of muslims for bush concerning some lyrics in the song that make fun of her. ALSO, all but ONE member of secret trial five are lesbians.

    3. vegan reich? what the fuck? that band was terrible. and while we’re on the hardline note, i’d like to further this by saying that earth crisis also sucks… i know that sean muttaqi converted to islam and became a fucking wierdo (well he always was…), but he’s hardly influenced anyone with that taliyah al mahdi shit. if you would have said fearless iranians from hell, i would have at least seen where you could have gotten that from…. but vegan reich? i’m fucking offended.

    4. almost none of the taqwacores are religious at all… in fact, taqwacore is just as much about challenging the shitty, racist, stereotypes that people have of muslims/south asians/arabs/etc., the policies of the us government, as it is about challenging muslim clerics. it’s more about taking the identity crisis of being caught in the middle of this false dichotomy of a “clash of civilizations” and putting it in full-view.

    please, before you write an article on something, you might want to do a little research.



    June 10, 2008 at 4:27 am

    • THANKYOU! These guys are a bunch of fucking ignorant douche bags!


      January 20, 2010 at 3:21 am

  20. @ Althawra: Sure, you have bands like the Kominas who drink and mention sex in their lyrics, but there are other bands that stay in-line with the more fundamental tenets of Islam. “Taqwa”, after all, loosely translates into “piety”. “Rumi” is a challenge to homophobia within certain circles of their audience. When I commented that taqwacore had roots in sXe/hardline, I meant it in the sense that those bands were some of the first within the scene to espouse an ideology of their own–a subculture. IMO, Vegan Reich were a great band if you zeroed out the vocal track. I agree with ou about Earth Crisis, though.

    Sean Muttaqi doesn’t identify with Taqwacore and I didn’t identify him as such. With regard to research, I tried to contact some bands for interviews, but I got tired of waiting for a response (I started to write this article months ago when the tour was going on), so what I wrote was based on dozens of articles in reputable media outlets, as well as the bands’ own websites and MySpace profiles. I am a music journalist outside of RR and I pride myself in being thorough in my research.

    Soylent Ape

    June 10, 2008 at 6:25 am

  21. You have to play an instrument to qualify in this debate, genitals dont count


    June 10, 2008 at 10:34 am

  22. While I didn’t much agree with the band’s stances on things like decrying the existence of Israel or homosexuals’ rights, I enjoyed VR, because they were the closest I’d ever get to hearing Bad Brains jamming with Iron Maiden

    So fucking true. I saw Bad Brains last summer at the Virgin Festival. They were THE BOMB. Pardon the thread pun.

    Love Bites

    June 10, 2008 at 11:05 am

  23. @ Love Bites: There are few musical entities out there with the talent and mystique that Bad Brains posess. H.R. and Dr Know are just dumbfounding to watch on stage and Darryl Jennifer is an amazing bass player.

    @ Micky: This may make me sound like a snob, but I’ll say it, anyway. I believe that playing and knowing an instrument can give one a special insight into understanding music. That’s not to say it automatically does. I think playing also gives you insight into life, sometimes. I remember how you compared mincing vegetables with striking a drum head–both require a certain rhythm that comes from inside in order to accomplish what needs to be done. I love playing bass or drums with other musicians and just responding to where the jam is going. It’s like being in control and not in control at the same time.

    …that being said, I can play a mean genital, solo or ensemble.

    Soylent Ape

    June 10, 2008 at 5:20 pm

  24. @ Love bites: You have photos?

    Soylent Ape

    June 10, 2008 at 5:20 pm

  25. What can I say ?
    Tube steak boogie ?

    I shouldnt say that you have to play in order to participate, I was just being a smart ass.
    Peoples ability to listen and discern differences and subtleties should always be respected.
    But those who play certainly get it more often and are able to reckognize remarkable riffs, ranges and beats that most people just take for grantite.
    But you do have to maintain some control when flying around a 12 inch french knife.
    I learned.
    At the end of my apprenticeship in 77 I could peel and slice julienne a 50 lb bag of onions blindfolded, blood free.
    Seems wheb you’re blood is at stake you seem to pick things up real fast. As opposed to the length of time it took me to learn a paradiddle


    June 10, 2008 at 6:45 pm

  26. i was on the taqwacore tour. i can assure you that no one was straight edge.

    also, a lot of those articles were written before the journalists even spoke to us. in fact, many of them were some wierd manifestation of neo-orientalism…which may have been due to editors. in a lot of ways, some were tokenizing and portrayed little more than caricatures. in other words, they were saying “how quirky? muslim punks?! OMG! i can’t believe muslims can think for themselves to LYK 4rlz!!” and not a lot of time doing justice to what taqwacore is. this may have been due to space/time constraints. some articles were decent, others were not. among the best in telling the taqwacore story were nox magazine (jordan), texas observer (even though i got quoted out of context), the bbc newsnight video piece wasn’t all that terrible, and there were a few others.

    anyways, check out mother jones magazine soon for some more taqwacore stuff. and if you didn’t already know, there’s a feature-length documentary of the tour due out next year. plus, there’s a film version of the book being filmed this fall….


    June 11, 2008 at 4:50 am

  27. also, the canadian globe and mail piece was pretty good. for some reason the band “vitals” have been cut from the online version of the article, though. their review of al-thawra was hilarious (in a good way): “…[sounds like] a death metal band crashing through a beirut speakeasy”


    June 11, 2008 at 4:57 am

  28. @ althawra: It’s frustrating to be misunderstood and/or misrepresented. We all understand that and I appreciate your perspective. Please understand that I’m not trying to put taqwacore into some straightedge envelope. My comment about it having roots in straightedge/hardline was made insofar as sXe was the first real movement within hardcore music that was identifiable as a subculture unto itself. (You could make the case that Oi or haterock were first, but I prefer not to dignify them that way.)

    I’m big enough to admit that I might have gotten the wrong impression about the adherence of taqwacore musicians from some of the press I’d read and I thank you for setting me straight. I really enjoyed the songs you have up on MySpace. Being a huge disciple of Carcass, I dug the grind feel of “Al Alwan Al Dunya” and the violin in “…Sandstorm” was a nice touch. How do you get all that crunch from a semi-hollow guitar?? Just sick!

    Anyway, thanx for visiting RR. Taqwacore will continue to grow in prominence, as evidenced by the live doc. and the movie. Come back any time…

    Soylent Ape

    June 12, 2008 at 12:15 am

  29. yeah dude. i just re-read your post….and uh, i feel like an idiot for misreading it. sorry…. :)

    it’s ok. we’re friends now.


    June 12, 2008 at 3:42 am

  30. oh, also, that semi-hollow was borrowed from the kominas. i wish that were mine! it’s a niceeeeeeeeeeeeee guitar. i’ve got a few different guitars, but mine aren’t as beautiful.. that sound is a lot of distortion and reverb…

    as for carcass, great band.


    June 12, 2008 at 3:46 am

  31. I have a friend in a band called The Dead 50s who uses a Hamer Newport to play these big, clean, crunchy punk rock riffs. I bought a semi-hollow, but I couldn’t get any crunch out of it at all, even with the mids dialed down to 2.

    But, yeah, great tone and great tunes, guys. I really dug the Kominas and Vote Hezzbullah, also. Let me know if you hit the road, again. I’d like to See Al-Thawra live.

    Soylent Ape

    June 12, 2008 at 6:29 am

  32. The thought of fusing punk rock with Islam is a joke. If any of these people were really and truly rebellious they would leave Islam. Instead they serve a up a salad of Sufi-istic hyperbole and talk each other into thinking that their message is about “breaking stereotypes” when in fact, it is about perpetuating conformity. That’s definitely not what punk rock was about and forget about trying to get people to think that highlighting the “straight edge” phenomena is going to work when all that is is an appeal to authority.

    I was heavily involved in the early hardcore punk scene of the late Seventies and early Eighties and believe me this is the lowest that anybody can go to. The momentum of that era died in a haze of drug overdoses and pathological twists of a thousand ways and trying to tell me that Tawqacore has legitimate roots from the ideals of that time is amazingly stupid.

    The Fearless Iranians from Hell had a lead singer who was Iranian but he soon left and the next singer was a skinhead who started up a cult following that was based on mindless violence. They were from San Antonio and were intentionally a joke band and not meant to go much further than that. Like most bands of that time they died a whimpering death and it’s fitting that they came from San Antonio which really didn’t have a punk scene to speak of. Making mention of them might work with wide eyed kids now but in reality it’s a sham when someone like me lived through those times and was acquainted with them first-hand.

    Ansar al-Zindiqi

    May 7, 2009 at 1:17 am

    • Wow. You are so fucking punk rock. I bow to your mighty and superior punk rock nature. I make sujud to your 1977 cool. In the Imomrtal words of Steve Ignorant, people like you can “…stuff their punk credentials” Who are you to define for me what punk is?


      January 20, 2010 at 3:35 am

      • Yassin M: Wow. You are so fucking punk rock. I bow to your mighty and superior punk rock nature. I make sujud to your 1977 cool.

        Ansar al-Zindiqi: Wow. You are so willfully ignorant of what punk was ever about since you disguise this reply of your with rhetorical blathering about my supposed “authority” in all this. If anything punk music was, is, and should be about questioning the claims of authorities and that happens to include those who live the hypocritical lie in their lives of pseudo-conformity.

        Yassin M: In the Immortal words of Steve Ignorant, people like you can “…stuff their punk credentials” Who are you to define for me what punk is?

        Ansar al-Zindiqi: Steve ignorant has lived up to his name and then receded into the background by following classical music and sculpture. Of all people, he is one who needs to stuff his “punk credential” since he hasn’t said a damn word critical of Islam (he’s so happily critical of Christianity so isn’t he brave?) nor does he have the courage to criticize this Tawqacore bullshit.

        Ansar al-Zindiqi

        July 11, 2010 at 7:20 pm

  33. @ Ansar Al-Zindiqi: First, thanks for stopping by. This site hasn’t been very active of late, so I’m always happy to see someone come by for the first time.

    Secondly, consider me impressed that you were part of that iconic movement. I was still in elementary school when hardcore was in its infancy. I’d love to hear some of your stories. Still, I stand by my assertion that Tacqwacore is as legitimate as Queercore, Crossover or any other movement within hardcore music. How does the fact that there is a quasi-religious overtone to this movement make a difference. I say “quasi-religous” because my friends in the brilliant band Al-Thawra (Who were on the above-mentioned tour) have since set me straight about how most of the bands in this scene are not adherent to Islam or, at least, are extremely liberal in their faith. The over the top lyrics and song titles are intended to be tongue-in-cheek.

    Texas Hardcore: In my humble opinion, the strongest and most interesting scene within that genre. Houston and Austin, specifically, retched forth MDC, Big Boys and DRI. It was a scene that had fresh perspectives on subjects like gay rights and incorporating new musical influences like funk and metal. Honestly, I’m not that familiar with San Antonio’s scene apart from some awesome metal (Slayer SA, Hammerwhore, etc…)

    Soylent Affe

    May 14, 2009 at 11:45 pm

    • Soylent Affe: Still, I stand by my assertion that Tacqwacore is as legitimate as Queercore, Crossover or any other movement within hardcore music.

      Ansar al-Zindiqi: By skirting the true and ugly facts about Islam with quaint references to AL-Rumi or whatever quasi-mystical billygoat sayings are to be had? Does Queercore ignore the abusive gays and lesbians in their midst? Hell no! Does Crossover or any other sub-genre with what is commonly called “hardcore” punk music just go ahead and drape Christianity with apologetics and stupid references to the likes of Aquinas or even mystics like Meister Eckhardt? Even Christian fundamentalist punk bands don’t go that far as to absolutely ignore the atrocities done on the name of Christianity. Tawqacore does exactly that.

      Alienation is a double-edged sword and playing up the Muslim victim card is endemic in conversations with people involved in Tawqacore. It’s generally understood amongst punk rockers that Muslims in the Tawqacore crowd use ingratiation to influence others to view Islam as some sort of “peaceful” religion. There are so many ways to do this but in the end it is only too apparent that leaving Islam and recognizing the traps (such as atmospherics) that Muslims have entangled themselves into over the course of 1400 years is the only way to go.

      Soylent Affe: How does the fact that there is a quasi-religious overtone to this movement make a difference? I say “quasi-religous” because my friends in the brilliant band Al-Thawra (Who were on the above-mentioned tour) have since set me straight about how most of the bands in this scene are not adherent to Islam or, at least, are extremely liberal in their faith.

      Ansar al-Zindiqi: That there is a “quasi-religious” overtone should tell any critical observer that those who promote Tawqacore are using the same bells and whistles as any other cheap marketing scheme that has come along to promote religion Whether that be done overtly or (as in the case of Tawqacore) covertly.

      That any person in any kind of punk band should refer to themselves as “Muslim” tells so many other people that they are basically chickenshit when it comes to taking on Islam. Just listen to how your friends talk about other Tawqacore bands. Is that sort of medieval backbiting have a place in this day and age? Geez, at least they could have complained about each other’s cool hairdos.

      Do any other kind of punk rockers make comments about the religious affiliations or how adherent they are to any sort of fuckin’ religion? If they do it sure isn’t in the spirit of the aqeeda police where there is fear and concern about being judged as a “bad Muslim” when they are already “bad Muslims” in terms of following the so-called “true deen” and in the eyes of most Muslims.

      Soylent Affe: The over the top lyrics and song titles are intended to be tongue-in-cheek.

      Ansar al-Zindiqi: The lyrics are only “over the top” if one gets to understanding that the vast majority of Tawqacore lyrics ultimately serve to play up the victim card. Have we heard anything from a Tawqacore band about Beslan or how about the genocide of the Hindus in India or honor killings (please try to re-label that) or how about the depraved behaviors of so many Muslims who go around gangbanging in the West and engage in so many rapes and assaults against non-Muslim women? How about it?

      Who needs the “tongue-in-cheek” lyrics of Tawqacore bands when the ugly truth is so apparent out there in public schools where Muslim kids bully and intimidate non-Muslims on such a regular basis that even punk rockers can no ignore the depraved natures of Muslims in their midst. Are the “tongue-in-cheek lyrics designed to make Islam more pleasant for those who are not Muslims? Are these lyrics supposed to accommodate hypocrites just because they are too chickenshit to take on Islam and reflect upon what the horrific results really are? In fact, they are.

      Ansar al-Zindiqi

      July 11, 2010 at 8:05 pm

  34. That, my primate pal, is the understatement of the year.

    ghost of keywork

    June 11, 2009 at 11:54 am

  35. Delicious recipe! :). I love reading your blog. Where did you get this grateful web logs template from? Compliments from london.

    Ossetra Kaviar

    January 18, 2010 at 8:41 am

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