Kourosh Poursalehi Sarwat Husain, who chairs the Council for American-Islamic Relations in San Antonio and collects data on hate crimes in the area, said discrimination against Muslims reached its peak immediately following September 11. Four Muslimowned gas stations were torched, women donning burqa were physically attacked on the streets, and children were beaten up at school. While hate crimes against Muslims still occur, Husain said the community now has more support from city leaders. As a Sufi, Poursalehi faced double discrimination. Narjis Pierre, a Sufi and author living in San Antonio, said that Muslim immigrants sometimes bring misconceptions about Sufis from their homelands. Often described as a mystical tradition within Islam, Sufism began in resistance to corrupt Islamic rulers. Sufis have continued to resist oppressive regimes in the modern era \(for example, the predominantly Sufi Kurds in As a response to their resistance, Pierre said, rulers have marginalized Sufis, deeming their faith heretical. “In many countries, Sufis have been seen as innovators and heretics, and this ‘ignorance’ may be carried over to Europe-America and given on to their [Muslim immigrant] children:’ she said. Poursalehi never shared his Sufi upbringing with his peers. He continues to be reluctant to discuss his Sufi background. He says the religion bothers him because it’s too closely tied to money. In spite of his resistance to Sufism, Poursalehi admits it influenced him. He even credits religion with piquing his musical interest through the Sufi practice of dhikr, which involves remembering God through chanting divine names. Often Sufis achieve an ecstatic state with dhikr. Poursalehi describes music as a similarly mystical experience. “Music is like another world for me:’ he said. “It’s like when you’re a little kid and you think of a fairytale land. That’s how strong music is for me.” Poursalehi found punk music at age 14. He started listening to The Fearless Iranians from Hell, a San Antonio punk group that has striking similarities to many taqwacore bands. The Fearless Iranians would perform with ski masks to make fun of stereotypes about Muslims being terrorists. Around the time Poursalehi discovered punk, San Antonio had a lively punk-rock scene. Poursalehi supported local bands and regularly attended concerts at venues such as Sin 13 and Sanctuary. He said he found a connection between punk shows and religion. “In both areas, there’s a strong sense of energy going around and unity almost:’ he said. “It’s about people coming together for the same cause and the same concerns. It was crazy hearing a live show. It put chills through your body, and I decided I wanted to do that:’ It’s been three years since Poursalehi made the first taqwacore song. Since then, he has created a punk band called Kominas have established a cultlike following, and numerous other taqwacore bands have sprung up across the country. The Muslim punks have established relationships online. Last summer they all met on the first-ever Muslim punk-rock tour. Knight bought a bus for $2,000 on eBay, painted it green with small red camels, and wrote “taqwa” on the front. Five bands, including the Kominas and Vote Hezbollah, toured for 10 days from Boston to Chicago. During the trip, the Muslim punks encountered the same issues they have struggled with separately. The Islamic Society of North America invited them to perform at its conference in Toledo, Ohio. For the first 10 minutes, the concert was a successyoung Muslims packed the conference, cheering the taqwacore bands from their respective male and female sections. But when a female group, Secret Trial Five, took the stage, conference leaders called the police and had the taqwacore bands kicked outMuslim women are forbid 24 THE TEXAS OBSERVER DECEMBER 14, 2007
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