Mosque Pit

Rocking out with Muslim punks.

Photo: Christopher Dilts

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In a back room at Ronny’s, a bar on the west side of Chicago, Marwan Kamel stands onstage, leans back, and sings at the top of his lungs in Arabic, “Long live Palestine!” Twenty-three-year-old Kamel is the front man for Al-Thawra, one of the most active bands in the Muslim punk subculture known as “Taqwacore.” Tonight’s small crowd is composed of twentysomething white punks and a bunch of young American Muslims, including a couple of Palestinian kids dressed in black and Indian and Afghan girls wearing hijabs.

The eclectic scene was inspired by The Taqwacores, a 2003 novel set in a house full of Muslim hipsters who reject their parents’ and secular society’s rules and interpret their religion on their own terms. (Taqwa is Arabic for “consciousness of God.”) “There is a cool Islam out there,” says one of the characters. “You just have to find it.” The sense of longing captured in the book hit a nerve, and real-life kids soon began to emulate the book’s hybrid of faith and underground culture.

“Taqwacore is like a middle finger in both directions,” says Michael Muhammad Knight, the 31-year-old author of The Taqwacores, a white, blue-eyed convert from upstate New York who discovered Islam while reading The Autobiography of Malcolm X as a teen. “It’s, like, rebelling against Islam and America at the same time.” One band, the Kominas (“bastards” in Punjabi), writes acerbic songs that sound like grounds for inclusion on the no-fly list (“Suicide Bomb the Gap”; “Blow Shit Up”). But the music’s not all about defiance, says Al-Thawra’s Kamel after the gig at Ronny’s. “We’re just showing the human side of it,” he says. “Most people don’t have exposure to real Muslims, who happen to be fucked-up people, too.”

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Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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