New Internationalist

The Taqwacores

June 2007

This is a very unusual novel with a peculiar history. Written in 2003 by Michael Muhammad Knight, who converted from Catholicism to Islam aged 16, it first appeared as a photocopied edition, given away by the author in mosque car parks. This ‘mainstream’ publication – albeit in a bowdlerized form (about which more later) – should bring his unique voice to a wide and appreciative audience.

Knight’s novel is set in Buffalo, New York, where a group of Muslim punks – Taqwacores – share a commune-cum-mosque. The call to prayer is blasted out on electric guitar and debates rage about Qur’anic influences on Iggy Pop’s lyrics, fuelled by copious quantities of booze, pot and pizzas. The book’s narrator, Yusuf Ali, is a ‘straightedge’ Muslim, shunning his compatriots’ excesses and attempting, amidst the chaos of the household, to live a life of prayer and abstinence. Knight’s plot is rudimentary, consisting primarily of earnest discussions about what it means to be a young Muslim in the US. The climax of the novel is a riotous punk rock concert in which mayhem and Sufism, feminism and patriarchal bigotry share the stage with predictably calamitous results. Knight’s fictional Taqwacore scene is wonderfully inventive, with some splendid band names such as Burning Books for Cat Stevens, and Osama bin Laden’s Tunnel Diggers. It is therefore mystifying and regrettable that the publisher has chosen to censor the book, removing sections that could be seen as blasphemous. Perhaps this is marginally defensible in the light of recent events but it is, nevertheless, a craven abandonment of free speech and weakens the book’s feisty defence of open-mindedness and untrammelled inquiry.

The censored passages can be read at:

This column was published in the June 2007 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

Comments on The Taqwacores

Leave your comment


  • Maximum characters allowed: 5000
  • Simple HTML allowed: bold, italic, and links

Registration is quick and easy. Plus you won’t have to re-type the blurry words to comment!
Register | Login

...And all is quiet.

Subscribe to Comments for this articleArticle Comment Feed RSS 2.0

Guidelines: Please be respectful of others when posting your reply.

The Taqwacores Fact File
Product information by Michael Muhammad Knight
Star rating3
Product link
Product number ISBN 978 1 84859 017 7
Publisher Telegram

Get our free fortnightly eNews


Videos from visionOntv’s globalviews channel.

Related articles

Recently in Books

All Books

Popular tags

All tags

This article was originally published in issue 401

New Internationalist Magazine issue 401
Issue 401

More articles from this issue

  • Darfur – a history

    June 1, 2007

    A history of Darfur

  • Darfur: sick of promises

    June 1, 2007

    Jess Worth encounters a community that’s demanding answers.

  • What next?

    June 1, 2007

    The future for the world can look bleak, dominated by technological and corporate power. But what if resistance to it won through? Pat Mooney tells a story illustrating how things might unfold differently between now and 2035.

New Internationalist Magazine Issue 436

If you would like to know something about what's actually going on, rather than what people would like you to think was going on, then read the New Internationalist.

– Emma Thompson –

A subscription to suit you

Save money with a digital subscription. Give a gift subscription that will last all year. Or get yourself a free trial to New Internationalist. See our choice of offers.