Michael Muhammad Knight’s 2004 novel Taqwacores, about the residents of a fictional Islamic punk house in Buffalo, NY, has inspired—or coincided with—an actual Taqwacore scene: punk bands with Muslim backgrounds. In 2007, a group boarded a green bus and traveled across the country to play shows. Along for the ride was photographer Kim Badawi. His charming, candid photos tell the story of their travels.
Kim Badawi is an American photographer of French, Egyptian, and Slovenian background currently based in New York City. Badawi’s work appears in the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University’s 25 Under 25: Up-and-Coming American Photographers (powerHouse Books, 2008). His book The Taqwacores: Muslim Punk in the U.S.A. was recently released (powerHouse Books, 2009). Kim has worked actively as a journalist since documenting the plight of refugee families from Mississippi to Texas in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
What was the Taqwatour? How did you get involved?
The term Taqwatour arose naturally as bands drawn together by Mike Mohammad Knight’s novel Taqwacores decided to tour the North American continent in a big green school bus baptized the “taqwa-bus.” Resulting in the first ever TaqwaTour in summer of 2007.
Having traveled to photograph all the bands in person in their respective communities and environments years prior to the tour, I was invited to join for the tour.
How did the tour go? Any favorite stories?
The tour was amazing, full of ups, downs, and surprises. I have many stories ranging from the first time we pulled up to that mosque in Ohio, or were chased down by the police, or [ended up] face-to-face with white supremacists.
Is the draw of punk rock for young Muslim kids in North America the same as it is for kids anywhere, or do you feel like the Taqwacore appreciation for loud, aggressive, anti-establishment music is unique?
The phenomenon known today as Taqwacore encompasses a wide variety of musical styles, orientations, and individuals from different religious and cultural backgrounds. It would be unfair for me to try to package this genre stylistically all under one banner.
That said, I don’t believe that any of the Taqwacore artists make particularly “loud, aggressive, anti-establishment music” in any way, but for the most part many do identify with “punk” as a genre or attitude.
What does seem interestingly unique to me is that in some of lyrics, some Taqwacore bands have a lighthearted approach to different interpretations of Islam both in the world and in the U.S., and if anything wish to use their music as a platform for open discussion, revision, and in some instances humor.
What can images communicate or accomplish that the written word can’t?
I see photos as a testimony. Proof, if you will. When I press the shutter on a camera I feel as though I somehow bottled up that instant. By consequence, I do not really believe in altering, editing, or Photoshopping the results in post-production. I hope that this rawness translates to my audience and somehow conveys something about this precise subject matter to the image-reader.