I first met Basim Usmani of the Taqwacore band the Kominas in person at a deathrock festival in New York. Although he had come to see my band, we sat in a hallway at the Knitting Factory ardently discussing his. I was curious about this marriage of Islam and punk, but I was equally skeptical. But wherever you find disenfranchised youth, you’ll find punk rock.

The novel of the same name by Michael Muhammad Knight was a fictional account of an Islamic punk scene, which quickly birthed a reality as the book inspired young people like Usmani. Now the Kominas have come full circle, providing their tongue-in-cheek brand of Taqwacore to the soundtrack of the screen version.

For youth growing up Muslim in America, our culture can be alienating enough. Now imagine that you’re a Muslim punk, or a gay Muslim or maybe even a radical-feminist Muslim, not only alienated by a U.S. culture that constantly paints you as the bad guy but also rejected by other followers of Islam. The Taqwarcores speaks to these, the ultimate outcasts.

Yusef (Bobby Naderi) is a college student who, seeking to escape dorm life, moves to what he imagines to be a quiet, devout household full of fellow Muslims. In reality, his new home is run by a group of punks unlike any Muslims you’ve likely ever met. Jehangir (Dominic Rains), who lives at the complex, draws other outcasts together, calling upon those who are rejected by the mosques to pray at their home by day and hosting punk rock parties by night. His dream to host a Taqwacore festival would have life-changing implications for everyone involved.

The film’s best performance is given by Noureen DeWulf who as the radical-feminist Rabeya paradoxically dons a burqa littered with punk rock patches throughout the entire film but still manages to be engaging. Both she and Tony Yalda as gay goth Muzzamil offer up some of the most memorable moments.  

Unfortunately, most characters here prove one-dimensional while others like the Amazing Ayyub are downright obnoxious. OK, fine. I’ll stop acting like I’ve never met an obnoxious punk.

The film is markedly low budget, occasionally cheesy and awkward. It pushes boundaries of what the average American moviegoer, especially in this Islamophobic climate, is comfortable with. It definitely speaks to an outsider element that not everyone is going to latch on to. And if this isn’t the hallmark of a decent cult film, I don’t know that is.

Grade: B-

The Taqwacores releases in select theaters Nov. 12.