Identity and belonging are funny things. They never mean the same thing to everyone. Growing up as a Muslim American, I was exposed to a myriad of experiences, but I definitely cannot say I was exposed to every kind of Muslim or every interpretation of Islam. We are talking about over 1.3 billion people! What I have learned is that there are Muslims everywhere who have grown up claiming more than one identity marker and they are finding numerous ways to think about their faith, question, negotiate, and locate a space within it that they feel as their own.
A group of Muslim-American youth play punk music and live together in The Taqwacores, by Michael Muhammad Knight. The book has inspired Muslim youth to rethink their faith in terms of their individual experiences, much as the author himself did. According to Guardian UK reporter Brian Whitaker in “Punk Muslims,” Knight wrote The Taqwacores at the age of 19, after converting to Islam and studying in Pakistan for a year. When he returned to America, he started writing in a local mosque and even stayed through the night so he could be there alone. When the novel was complete, he made xerox copies and sold them out of the trunk of a car. The book caught on and created a community and popular following in the US.