Taqwacores: Anarchy in the Mehrab

I came across a blog post on Michael Muhammad Knight’s Taqwacores a while back and remember being mildly interested. This was around the time (adolescent folly) when post 9/11 existential confusion had started to set in. Not that I ever seriously considered reading the book; I was, however, equally interested in locating “alternatives” to the riley, bearded image projected in the media and Knight’s book seemed to do that with its “burqa-clad riot girl”, “mowhawked Sufi” and “boozing Sunni” characters.

Since then Taqwacores has become a sort of manifesto (though Knight is reluctant to admit that) for an eponymous global Muslim punk movement taking root. The disapprobation hosted by American and British Muslim youth–afire at both ends: towards the West for misrepresenting Islam and the Islamic orthodoxy for their bigotry–the taqwacores claim has finds expression in their movement (in conjunction with a larger Progressive Islam movement of which Knight is a part) posed in adversity to the burgeoning fundamentalism among the same Muslim youth. Unsurprisingly, the Muslim orthodoxy has dismissed the Progressive Muslims as being a misguided bunch, regressing into the jahilliyah (age of ignorace).

9/11 shook the foundations of Muslim identity in the West without a doubt. The “otherizing” (for lack of a better word) of Muslims, of identifying them as Western society’s perennial foes, spawned a number of reconciliatory movements, some noticeably taking precedence from the Sufis critical position vis-a-vis Islamic orthodoxy. Arguably, underpinning these projects was the idea of a greater Islamic Reformation; to rid Islam of its purportedly cumbersome 14th century garbage. As a result there was some brouhaha over Muslim Refuseniks and Reform in Islam (as if no such impulse existed until now).

I cannot stress how valueless I find such taxonomy to be. Neither am I amused by contrived, inordinately ironical characters such as “burqa-clad dominatrices”, “hafiz pornstars” or Muslim punks for that matter. What I fail to understand is why such deviance has to be named so flagrantly in conjunction with Islam; the rationale that this exposes the variety of Islamic belief is moot: why should the quality of being Muslim be provenancial and determinant of all of an individual’s actions? Incidentally I have another bone to pick; this one with Eteraz.org, purveyors of Islamic Humanism and Islamic Existentialism. Pronouncing humanist, postmodern, existential or any other-ism elements in Islam is a different thing; I suppose that releaves the integrity of one system for its loss at the other’s expense and ultimately contributes to discernment of wortwhile, enduring streams in human thought….but Islamic Existentialism…now what in the name of Sheba’s breasts is that?

A quote from CM is in order, for it explains very clearly and concisely what I am struggling with here:

I will say it again. Islam is not a religion of peace. Islam is not a religion of war. Islam is not this or that and here or there. Islam is a living tradition with a complex history of fourteen centuries. Islam did not stop evolving in the 7th century. It actually has a history of transformations – grave transformations. It has a history of secessions and renewals and new modalities. Start here and work back.

My apologies for the vagrant post. I am in expedient need of Islamic psychoanalysis.

 (btw; Eteraz.org is indeed a wonderful blog; they just get carried away sometimes)


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