Whirling Dervishes in the Mosh Pit: Islam and Punk Rock

It is a fact that in a world with 9 billion people, there are many who do not agree.

Communities as a whole can be in conflict over their world views. However, I have noticed that in general (or at least in my circles), Muslims really like punks. And why is this true? Because we share many important values with punks, and if you ask most Muslims they will immediately agree that certain core values of the punk rock community are essential sunnahs of our beloved Prophet, peace and blessings upon him. Some of these shared values are listed here.

We Are Committed to Animal Rights

“Hooray, hooray/The bullfighter dies/Hooray, hooray/The bullfighter dies/And nobody cries/ Nobody cries/Because we all want the bull to survive” – Morrissey, “The Bullfighter Dies.”

Allah’s Apostle (SAW) said, “A woman was tortured and was put in (Hell) fire because of a cat which she had kept locked till it died of hunger.”

The concept that animals need to be treated with love and respect is a core teaching of our Prophet, SAW. He (SAW) was well-known for talking to animals, including a lizard and a gazelle. The Prophet SAW was a huge advocate of animal rights, and basically, you will never find a Muslim who doesn’t respect that about punks, even if we’re not fully there with the “meat is murder” dogma.

We Are Against Corporate Fascism

“No war/No KKK/No fascist USA” – MDC, “Born to Die.”

A man asked the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, “What is the best jihad?” The Prophet said, “A word of truth in front of a tyrannical ruler.”

The idea that resistance to tyranny is obligatory and a duty for every human person is a central pillar of both punk rock and the teachings of the Prophet (SAW).

From Rage Against the Machine’s “Take the Power Back” to Public Enemy’s call to “Fight the Power,” it is a central value of the punk rock community, as well as the Muslim community, to fight against racism, classism, and the oppression of the many in the interest of the few.  The famous chant, “No war/No KKK/No fascist USA” is actually a punk rock lyric, chanted by Green Day at an anti-Trump rally, and originated with the punk band MDC’s song, “Born to Die,” released in 1982.

The idea that resistance to tyranny is obligatory and a duty for every human person is a central pillar of both punk rock and the teachings of the Prophet (SAW).

We Share Straight-Edge, Drug-Free Values

“I’m a person just like you/But I’ve got better things to do/ Than sit around and smoke dope/’Cause I know that I can cope/Laugh at the thought at eating ludes/Laugh at the the thought of sniffing glue/Always gonna keep in touch/Never gonna use a crutch.” – Minor Threat, “Straight Edge.”

The Messenger of Allah (SAW) said, “Let there be no harm and no harming.”

The idea that people need to face life without dependency on anything but Allah is a core value of Muslims. The straight-edge dogma of freedom from being enslaved by drug addiction, or rejecting the cultural value of tuning out life and being numb and asleep is also a punk rock value. Also, Muslims are against hurting ourselves with drugs, just as straight-edge doctrine preaches.

We Have a Tendency to Be Conformist

“She just couldn’t stay, she had to break away/Well New York City really has it all, oh yeah, oh yeah/Sheena is a punk rocker, Sheena is a punk rocker/Sheena is a punk rocker now” –Ramones, “Sheena is a Punk Rocker.”

“Knowledge is the conformity of the object and the intellect” – Ibn Rushd, Decisive Treatise and Epistle Dedicatory.

Ok, so some of us try to pretend that we’re counter-cultural and really, we’re thinking for ourselves. Maybe to a point that is true, but the reality is that beyond that, our tendency towards cultural conformity is extreme. Punks have the punk rock bucket list: dogs, tattoos, a vegan diet, a record collection with bands no one can name but them, and bicycles. We do beards and hijabs, and we are serious about conformity to standards as well, with our collective obsession with fiqh and doing things the correct way.

There is potentially an additional reason for this because, sometimes, for example, when you see a niqabi sister on the street with her mahram, maybe, some people think “that’s extreme,” but at a halal food fest she fits right in and has status. Likewise, a punk rocker with a red, 5-inch mohawk looks extreme until you see her at a Green Day concert with 100,000 other people with studded belts and leather jackets. Our intense obsession with conformity gives us a sense of identity in the face of the cold world and our existential crisis as human beings.

Finally, a comment about one thing. In my experience, many punks unfortunately are brainwashed by the media into being very Islamophobic. It’s a sad truth that many punks don’t understand our views, or our diversity of views on gender and sexuality. The homonationalist punks exist, with their obsession that their definitions of gender and sexuality are the only viable way to understand and frame sexuality and gender.

It continues to upset me, especially because I have been really aggressively attacked by punks who don’t care to understand what we have in common. The idea among many people that everyone in hijab is a homophobe or a transphobe, and their complete lack of interest in having an open mind is really frustrating and oppressive. So to the punk rock community, we really have a lot in common. Can you please let go of your Islamophobia, and your homonationalist tendencies towards being colonizers?

To end with a punk rock thought, let’s all practice unity. It’s important for our collective goals and we have so much in common.

Images courtesy of PETA and Fatherly.com

You can also follow Sarah Huxtable Mohr on Twitter and Instagram!

Sarah is a social worker in the San Francisco Bay Area with at-risk and homeless youth. She likes to paint, drum, sing, and spend quality time with her family and God.