Originally posted 11/15/11…
Religion is always a hot button issue and in today’s social climate Islam is oft the religion most under fire (at least by the Western world). As far as this film buff sees, anyone can attempt to criticize what they don’t know, but it’s the insider critiques,like The Taqwacores, that actually hold weight.
Like comedies Saved and Dogma have done in recent years with Christianity, The Taqwacores uses a fictional account to hold a mirror up to a group of people with faith. However, unlike Saved and Dogma. Any shroud of safety that comedic elements provide are completely null and void in The Taqwacores; instead, the film holds a broken bottle to the neck of Islam and forces the entirety of the faith to look into that mirror intently.
One need not be Muslim to look into this mirror provided by the film. As a member of the Christian faith, this reviewer was no less forced to look deeply into that mirror. The same issues, perhaps to differing degrees, are evident in Christianity: inequality, oppressions, dogma, hypocrisy, judgment, and internal strife. Is not the Christian church the most divided faith group in the world? How can American Christians not relate in some way to this film?
As synopsis, a group of young Muslims live in a home near Syracuse University in Buffalo, NY. The group of young Muslims ranges from a Straight-Edger with militant fundamental leanings to a pot-smoking spiritual leader to a foul mouthed heretic in a full burqa. The newest resident moves in, a clean cut young man entering University and practicing Islam devoutly (he is the least “punk rock” character in the story, at least in appearance – though punk rock ideals, notably true nonconformity, are very evident in his evolved character). Through this new student’s eyes, the viewer experiences the dogma of fundamental Islam clashing with the new paradigms presented by the punks.
These clashes between a progressive faith and a classical faith present sharp critiques of how people of faith tailor their personal Allah to what they want Him to be. It’s obvious in the film that no side is without blame. While they challenge putting God in a box, some of the punks used scripture to prove their own agendas and others even rip pages from their Quran because of what the verses say. The fundamentalists, especially the group presented towards the end, are obviously furthering bigotry in how they clash with the others. All of these clashes are eye opening and worth more than a moment to ponder on.
An incredible film, The Taqwacores is a must watch for church leader of any faith. The ideas presented through the vehicles of the characters and their ideas are not to be dismissed. This film is a breath of fresh air and a kick to the groin. Open up you eyes, your heart, and your mind, because faith is not black and white.
Second blog below, originally posted 11/16/11…
Yesterday, I posted my review of The Taqwacores, a powerful film about the clash of old time religion and the younger generation’s progressive paradigms, namely classical Islam vs. progressive ideas of a young Muslim punk movement. If you read my review, you’ll see that I was quite inspired by the film and the ideas it presents. The book by Michael Muhammad Knight that the film is based on (which I have yet to read :cough: birthday present :cough:) was originally supposed to his final divorce with the faith, but instead launched a new subgenre of music and a personal rediscovery for Knight (check back for an interview in the next month or so). Here are some of the thought I have had since screening the movie.
My faith and ideas about faith are routinely challenged. Sometimes a great Bible study (like the Beer Snob Bible Club meeting this past Saturday) challenges me and recharges my battery. Other times, a challenge may be presented by a book, an article, or some other piece or art or media… my afternoon viewing a Netflix double feature of The Taqwacores and Taqwacore: The Birth of Punk Islam (a documentary about Michael Muhammad Knight’s first journey back to Pakistan after his writing The Taqwacores) was one such example in my recent life.
Since that day, I can’t stop focusing on the l sermon given by Jehangir Tabari, a central figure in the film who serves are a leader in the Muslim punk scene in the film. The sermon is below… irreverent and yet, very reverent all at once, it is a challenge to all persons of faith, not just Jehangir’s faith group:
Allah’s arranging things beyond all our grasps. The earth isn’t spinning because you told it to. Your intestines aren’t digesting by your command. You’re made up of a trillion cells that don’t ask your permission before offering their rakats [daily prayers]. And we think submission’s about applying a strict discipline to our worship? We think surrender’s about not eating a pig? It’s not that small to me. I can’t fit my deen [religion] in a little box because to me, everything comes from Allah… Allah’s too big and open for my deen to be small and closed. Does that make me a kafr [disbeliever/blasphemer]? I say Allahu Akbar [God is Great/God is Bigger]. If that’s not good enough, then fuck Islam, you can have it…
I don’t think than Jehangir’s primary message is that discipline is a bad thing, but rather than Allah/God is much much bigger than any box we can try to put Him into. We all know what extreme fundamental zealots have done in this world… 9/11, the Crusades, holy wars, etc. etc. But, in a much more frequent forum, we use our own versions of God to explain away our decisions, support our actions, and crucify others… don’t we? I know damn well that Pat Robertson’s version of Jesus and George W. Bush’s version of God are not the same as mine… and, of course, I believe that my “progressive” understanding of Jesus is more correct. But this message in the film is as much to me as it is to Dubya or Mr. 700 Club!
There is a spiritual leader type in the film who smokes pot and even goes as far as to support it scripturally. There are views presented by both sides of the fence, the fundamental Muslims and the progressive-minded punks, in The Taqwacores, that put Allah in a box. Understanding that God is in everything and everyone sometimes feels very “Eastern religion” yet it is, in fact, very important to any persons of faith, Christianity certainly included.
Reflect on this sermon and tell me what you think it means “surrender” is. Tell me what it means to say that “God is Bigger”. How do we avoid putting God in a box? How do we keep our deens “big and open” trather than “small and closed”?