allah save the punk

[Audio: music; Subtitles: English]

This is a good article Muslim Feminist Punk: Helping Destroy Stereotypes of Gender, Religion and Race, but remember what I said a while back about erasure? Reading this, you’d almost never realize that Sabina England is deaf. Her self description is at the top of the article (“Through the Muslim punk movement taqwacore, a self-described ‘deaf punk playwright’ found her voice.”) which I nearly missed because nowhere else in the article does it even mention the fact that she is deaf. The article should have been titled “Muslim Feminist Punk: Helping Destroy Stereotypes of Gender, Religion, Race, and Disability” and should have discussed the format of her video performances, for example. And yet even a thoroughly progressive media source like Alternet chose not to cover that. As I’ve said before, erasure. That all aside, the article is a very nice write up:

England first read The Taqwacores in 2003, while it was still the product of photocopying and free distribution. England says taqwacore taught her to stay faithful to her visions and opinions. She describes it as giving “a platform for Muslims to be able to criticize Islam or Muslims to other Muslims and feel secure about it, and not worry about being called sell-out traitors.” The primary appeal of taqwacore is as a space for those who exist on the fringe of the Muslim community. Safe from the “conservative attitude that’s somewhat common with older Muslim Americans,” she saw taqwacore become a safe space for “liberals, feminists, queers, and outcasts.”

In addition to writing plays and maintaining a blog, the most popular aspect of her work is her Youtube channel. One video in particular, titled “Allah Save the Punk,” is set in Pakistan. The main character, Zeena, is the daughter of a mullah who regularly warns against the evils of sinners, drugs and whores. Zeena rebels against her father with punk rock, and this character appealed to many of England’s fans.

“I’ve gotten so many messages about it from Muslims all over the world who said they totally related to Zeena,” England says. Social networking and other online spaces allow her to express her views and share her work as an “alt Desi Muslim punk feminist.” At the same time, her work helps other Muslim women feel that they are not alone.

In particular, I thought this comment was one that we westerners should really stop and think about

England believes the notion of being a Muslim “has been turned into a racial, political and cultural identity.” Thus, while one may no longer have faith in Islam as a religion, it remains part of one’s identity — which, in turn, makes the taqwacore scene “a safe space for Muslim punks who could express themselves and their dissatisfaction through music and art.”

since we make so many stereotyped assumptions when we think “Muslim,” “Arab,” especially with respect to assumed religion.

Anyway, after spotting that bit of erasure, I went digging to find out more. Here’s her official website, her blog The American Dream is Dead, and her YouTube Channel.

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