Moshpit Muslim

Last year, KtB published a piece about the power of a lapel pin by Michael Muhammad Knight. This month, in The National, Bidoun editor Michael C. Vazquez explores Knight’s work, as novelist, essayist, pilgrim, master’s student at Harvard Divinity School, ex-wrestler, and — as the title of the article states — godfather of Muslim punk rock. In a classic does art-imitate-reality-or… moment, Knight didn’t mean to start Tawqacore, a Muslim punk movement. He just wrote a novel and then a kid from San Antonio, and soon many others, turned it into reality. But Vazquez through Knight, dives into what it means to be a Muslim in America, or — really — anywhere in 2010.

Among the many things that Michael Muhammad Knight did not set out to do in 2003, the year he self-published his scabrous novel about a Muslim punk scene in upstate New York, was to lay the foundation for a new South Asian punk underground. Knight, an Irish Catholic from Rochester who converted to Islam as a teenager after reading The Autobiography of Malcolm X, had followed a classic convert’s course: extreme, self-righteous devotion followed by extreme self-flagellating dejection. “My standard of what it meant to be Muslim became so unreachable that when I fell short, I gave up,” he says.

It is a story of last and found and lost again, with Knight evading  inquiries about whether he is Shi’a, or a Five Percenter, or any specific type of Muslim. Vazquez concludes:

Perhaps he is simply an American Muslim. In The End of Islam, Knight reflects on the destiny of religions in America; how, “under a constitution that defined religion as a personal choice… every religion had the chance to become American – if it was willing to negotiate.”

Read the whole piece here.