As I was researching about punk rock in the Middle East, I came across the Taqwacore subculture which I had no idea existed. Taqwacore is punk rock movement that has emerged following the publication of Muhammad Michael Knight’s 2003 novel, The Taqwacores, depicting a fictitious Islamic punk rock scene. The word has been derived by combining two words – “taqwa”, an Islamic concept of love and fear for Allah, and “hardcore”, the punk rock subgenre. In other words, Taqwacore can be viewed as a punk music with a Muslim connotation.
According to Hebdige, “spectacular subcultures express forbidden contents in forbidden forms. They are profane articulations and they are often and significantly defined as unnatural…” This can be applied to the Taqwacore subculture where express ion of forbidden content in forbidden forms is regular (e.g. expressing frustration of 9/11 attacks in their lyrics; women-led prayers). The basis of the subculture that is the merging of two seemingly incongruous identities contributes to the spectacular nature of the subculture. Punk rock, as a subculture and musical style actively resists mainstream society and embraces a marginalized identity and role in society. Punk rock blurs traditional boundaries between audience and performer and questions traditional or accepted norms and values. In stark contrast, Islam is a structured religion founded on a deeply personal and individual belief in God and is characterized by selflessness, devotion, and devout sense of social responsibility. From this we can call Taqwacore as a bricolage where the combination of various objects and ideas (in this case punk rock and Islam) appears nonsensical but makes perfect sense to the people involved in the subculture. For the Muslim punks, Taqwacore serves as a platform where they can embrace their own interpretations of Islam via punk rock and use internet to build communities and spread the message.Some of the popular Taqwacore bands are The Kominas, Al - Thawra and Vote Hezbollah.
For this blog article I will be examining the dressing styles and choices by the Muslim punks by viewing it from the two forms of incorporating a subculture – (a) the commodity form & (b) the ideological form. In the Subcultures Reader, Hebdige refers to the commodity form by mentioning that the subculture is communicated through commodities even if the meanings attached to those commodities are purposefully distorted. For the punk rock scene, this commodity form is represented in through the use of spikes, chains, mohawks and dyed hair. Interestingly enough, the Muslim punks combine both the usual punk rock associated styles (use of mohawk and spikes) and Arab traditional wear such as hijabs and the traditional Palestinian checkered scarves which can be seen in the below pictures.
The ideological form occurs when the subcultural style becomes more accepted through the labeling and re-defining of deviant behavior by dominant groups such as the media or the police, through various forms of communication technology. Before the use of pins and spikes on clothing was unheard of and would probably be labeled as fashion disasters. But now, it has become a part of mainstream media and hence has become acceptable. Even in the Qatari society, you can see young females wearing abayas with spikes and pins.