A brief extract from ‘The Taqwacores’

The following is a conversation between Yusef and Jehangir, drawn from around the middle of the novel. If you’ve not yet read my review, I’d suggest you go and do so before reading on. Or just do what you want: it’s your call. Anyway, I hope you enjoy this extract from what is quite possibly my favourite novel of 2007.

‘I still don’t get the whole vinyl thing,’ I said. ‘It makes no sense.’

‘Technology versus Ideology,’ Jehangir replied. ‘It’s a punk thing.’

‘Is punk an ideology?’ I asked.

‘Who knows anymore? Maybe it’s just wearing a wallet-chain.’

‘To some people, I guess.’

‘Some people would say punk is all about disseminating your own culture, shunning mass media conglomerates and never selling out; but the bands we look to as spiritual forebears – the Sex Pistols, the Clash, the Ramones and so forth – were all on major labels. And some people would say punk is only about loud, aggressive music; but death metal’s loud and aggressive. Is that punk? What about loud, aggressive rap? Or is punk supposed to be destroying social mores and manners and taboos? If so, where are the bands doing that today?’

‘So what do you think it is?’ I asked.

‘I think it’s about being ugly.’ I laughed and then realized he wasn’t joking. ‘That’s why you can’t be punk,’ he continued. ‘You look good and you dress good and you’ll make a great engineer someday.’ I thought Jehangir Tabari was an inherently handsome young man, though he deliberately rendered himself ugly with the Mohawk and gear. He had the face if he wanted to sing in emo pop Newfound Glory bands but he snarled too much and never had his teeth fixed – to spot the real punks, he used to say, examine their teeth. ‘But yeah, man … I think that’s where it’s at … ugly …’

‘What’s taqwacore then? Ugly Muslims?’

‘Kind of.’

I stayed plopped on the porch, Jehangir stayed stretched out on the sidewalk and we went a while without speaking. In the silence I lost myself daydreaming of an Ugly Muslim Parade marching single-file down our street with every Ugly Muslim included: the woman who travelled without their walis, the painters who painted people, beardless qazis, the dog owners in their angel-free houses, hashishiyyuns like Fasiq Abasa, liwats and sihaqs, Ahmadiyyas, believers who stopped reading in Arabic because they didn’t know what it said, the left-handers, the beer swillers, the Kuwaiti sentenced to death for singing Quran, the guys who snuck off with girls to make out and undo generations of cerebral clitorectomy, the girls who stopped blaming themselves every time a man had dirty thoughts, the mu’mins who stopped their clock-punching, the kids who had pepperoni on their pizzas, on and on down the line.

So many failed believers, I nearly suspected they were the majority.

‘Taqwacore,’ I said for no reason.

‘The irresistible force against the immovable object,’ Jehangir replied.

‘What?’

‘The irresistible force against the immovable object. That’s what they always used to say on the Saturday-morning wrestling shows.’

‘Oh.’

‘So who wins it, Captain Physics?’

‘I don’t know.’

‘It’s like a NASCAR driver going three hundred miles an hour and just crashing head-on into the Kaaba.’

‘Okay.’

‘Irresistible force against immovable object.’

‘Well in that case,’ I replied, ‘before the NASCAR driver hit the Bayt, birds would come and drop clay on him.’ We both laughed.

Buy ‘The Taqwacores’: US | UK | Italy

Via Mark: you can find the censored passages from the UK edition here.

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