by Kanupriya Kapoor
“Prophet Mohammad forever,” chant the young Indonesian Muslim musicians. But instead of a mosque, the men are singing at an outdoor concert with a mosh pit full of followers of the country’s first Islamic punk movement.
The movement is the first of its kind in the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation, and has hundreds of members in three of the country’s biggest cities – Jakarta, Surabaya, and Bandung.
Sporting mohawks, leather jackets and baggy jeans, members of the “Punk Muslim” group claim that they, like the original British punk rockers, are still defined by rebellion and an anti-establishment ideology. But they express it by singing about Islamic values, freedom for Palestine, and other social issues facing the global Muslim community.
Ahmad Zaki, one of the movement’s founders, believes the genre of punk is often associated with a “tendency towards misbehavior” but he wants to change that.
“We can redirect ourselves to better, more positive things,” he said.
Many of the group’s members used to be street performers, and say they have changed drastically since joining the movement. They are now encouraged to form their own bands and write their own songs.
Reza Purnama, a member and a former alcoholic, says others like him are slowly quitting alcohol and their lyrics are becoming more positive.
“People aren’t looking down on us anymore,” he said, referring to a stigma against punks in Indonesia’s largely conservative society.
After every concert, the head-banging audience bow their heads in prayer and listen to sermons – something the movement’s founders hope will redirect their fans on to a more pious path.
This article was originally published in Reuters