The Muslims: "Being a person of colour in America is such a gaslighting experience"

The Muslims 2021
(Image credit: Chris Charles)

The Muslims are pissed off. Punk in the truest sense of the word, the three-piece's very conception came as a response to a surging tide of inequality and discrimination, as manifested in the festering pile of bilious waste that was the 45th President of The United States. Drawing on the acerbic wit of punk rockers like Death and the Dead Kennedys, the forthright ire of hardcore punks like MDC and Bad Brains and over a century of Black and brown protest music stretching from blues to rock'n'roll, soul, funk and hip hop, The Muslims aren't playing when they put out records with titles like Fuck These Fuckin' Fascists.

Four years and four albums in, The Muslims have converted this anger into a sense of solidarity and community that has in turn made them one of punk's most refreshing voices. Album #4, Fuck These Fuckin' Fascists is a vocal stand against everything from racism, sexism and ableism to homophobia, transphobia and xenophobia. It might sound radical on the surface, but only until you remember it's a radical viewpoint only to those who don't already believe all people should be treated with respect and care. 

Speaking to Louder – with the help of many jokes, impromptu sing-alongs and Vogue-worthy poses – we find out who The Muslims actually are: good people who want the world to be a better place, using their music to help achieve just that. 

Metal Hammer line break

Let's start with the basics - how did you all first meet?

QADR [Guitars/Vocals]: “Ba7Ba7 and I both played in this samba-inspired radical street drum corps called Cakalak Thunder. We eventually moved away, but would still see each other at protests when we’d show up with our drums, so I talked to him and said ‘I’m thinking of starting a Muslim punk band’. He was really excited, but I’m sure he’ll jump in soon to say I was playing with his emotions because I told him about the project but then mentioned there was another drummer I was talking to…”

Ba7Ba7 [Drums]: “Not only was it another drummer, but it was my ex… who doesn’t even play drums!”

Abu Shea [Bass]: “I joined when they found my ass on Facebook – thanks Mark Fuckerberg!”

What artists most inspired The Muslims’ approach? 

Ba7Ba7: “Most of the band grew up in the 90s, listening to the punk that was around then – pop-punk, hardcore.” 

"My family were like 'stop trying to be white'".


Shea: “Honestly? I don’t listen to a lot of punk. Find me bands that have interesting bass players and I’ll listen to them; my relationship with listening to music is sitting on my own figuring it all out. I spent a whole summer locked in a cabin listening to [unsung bass hero on numerous Motown records] James Jamerson, [Sly and The Family Stone bassist] Larry Graham and Jaco Pastorius.”

QADR: “My influences are Nina Simone, Jimi Hendrix, Death, Blink-182, Alanis Morissette, National Wake. There’s a lot of R&B and classic hip-hop in my house, as well as traditional Islamic music. I started listening to classical when I was 11 or so and my family were like ‘stop trying to be white’ and I was just like ‘I’m just different!’ then got into bands like Nine Inch Nails and Hoobastank. I was inspired by all of that, by artists like Biz Markie – everything I’ve ever loved and played on repeat. I’ve been playing a lot of Jeff Rosenstock lately.”

It's crazy that people still try to stick ethnic labels on music genres in 2021

QADR: “We jumped on some drama recently where a guy had gone on Twitter complaining about people of colour playing punk because it was a ‘white’ genre. There was also a supreme court judge recently gave an interview and was asked if he was worried about how he’d be portrayed in history because his voting record is complete shit. The way he said this stuck with me – he chuckled and seemed totally unbothered and just said ‘history is written by the winners’. That’s the tea! It's why my siblings and friends when I was growing up thought I was into ‘white shit’ and why I didn’t know the Black and brown roots of punk.

"You’ve got to right the wrong – you can’t just think your thoughts and prayers will change anything."


It’s a race and the history books are being written by people who don’t want to share that history; it’s always going to be distorted if the only voice you hear is from the people doing the colonising. If Elvis Presley didn’t give credit to Black musicians and culture for making his whole identity, nobody would ever know. It makes no sense that the genre of the oppressed is made solely by white guys. Black and brown artists have been doing this for a long time, working-class white artists have been doing it for a long time but they prop up these mushroom-cut bitches to represent the whole culture.”

Do you see much of a reclamation happening for Black and brown artists who lost their voices in rock/alternative history? 

QADR: “I’d be lying if I thought ‘oh yes, finally justice is going to be served’ for these artists. I think people are riding a wave, but I wonder how many people will still care once that initial excitement fades away. It’s not just paying respect to the artists who died alone and starved to death or whatever, it’s a question of what reparations for something like that are. Where are their families? Who is making money from that music now? You’ve got to right the wrong – you can’t just speak it and think your thoughts and prayers will change anything.”

The Muslims

(Image credit: Chris Charles)

How much of an inciting factor was the 2016 election in The Muslims' formation? 

QADR: “It played a huge role. The idea of forming a Muslim punk band was something I’d sat on for a while, but the tipping point was Trump winning the election. It was a realisation that this country is as fucked up, as racist and committed to white supremacy as I’d always feared it was. It was deeply enraging and deeply disappointing. Like a lot of people, we were pissed off and trying to figure out what we could do.”

"I asked [Trump supporters] what Trump winning meant to them because for me it was soul-crushing; all of this racist shit was going to come to a head

Abu Shea

Ba7Ba7: “That whole period [after the 2016 election] I remember feeling this sense of powerlessness, feeling like we would need to fight for any of the things we already had because those feelings of marginalisation were really intensifying. But whenever we played, it was catharsis and truth to power; it felt like therapy. Then people came to the shows and started telling us they were getting that exact same thing from our music.” 

Shea: “In the first few years I really noticed it when we weren’t playing shows or rehearsing too much. I could feel my energy getting pent up, but when COVID hit it felt like a true reflection of how much I needed this band and the music.”

Do you remember where you were, when the election result came in?

QADR: “I was at home, watching the results and pacing. Part of me wanted to believe there was no chance in hell he’d win. After all the conversations we’d had and bullshit we’d been through as a country, the islamophobia after 9/11, Barack Obama getting elected twice, there was no way people would vote in a white supremacist who looks sus as fuck! I went to pee and while I was washing my hands I heard them announce the results and I ended up just staring at myself in the mirror for… I don’t even know how long. Being a person of colour in America is such a gaslighting experience; you’ll experience all these horrible things but people will straight-up say to your face ‘everything’s fine’ even as your people are being killed.”

"We’ve got this idea of this average, all-American guy, but that same guy also probably says the n-word when he gets drunk.”


Shea: “I went to a bar that night, they were showing the results on the TV. They had two signature drinks – one for Hilary and one for Trump. I was like, ‘am I going to change the cosmos by picking a drink right now?’ and dismissed it… but then picked the Trump one! It was called the Orange Man; I had a few then went home to sleep and my partner woke me up to tell me he’d won and I was just like ‘no he didn’t’. I got up the next morning to commute and as I was driving down the interstate there were people lined up on the overpasses waving flags, signs and huge pictures of Trump. On the way home after work there were still people there on the overpass so I stopped and talked to some of them for a long time. I asked what they thought all of this accomplished right now, what did Trump winning mean to them because for me it was soul-crushing; all of this racist shit was going to come to a head. I told them – I drove under them earlier and actually felt afraid. It was so fucked up.”

Do you see Trump as being a sickness the nation developed, or just the manifestation of underlying issues? 

Ba7Ba7: “The reason he was so successful – and still is – is that he spoke to something we all knew existed. It was literally people giving over and saying ‘we are ready for a racist, sexist, misogynist leader who is going to get up there and make fun of people with disabilities and people of colour.'”

QADR: “All Trump did was take the political strategy of the right, of conservatives and Republicans, and he put it in layman terms. He wasn’t using sophisticated, beat-around-the-bush terminology: he just said things outright. ‘The Mexicans are sending their rapists here!’ – Republicans have always been saying that kind of stuff, but he just got straight to the point and people saw him as an average Joe because of it. But you know, the average Joe is a racist piece of shit! Can we talk about the fact we’ve got this idea of this average, all-American guy who works in a coal mine and drives a truck and is what America should 'be', but that same guy also probably says the n-word when he gets drunk.” 

As a band, you've never shied away from being direct – songs like Punch A Nazi, Blink 9-11 (What's My Race Again) and Crotch Pop A Cop are up-front with where you stand. Have you experienced much pushback for the content of your lyrics?

QADR: “Only from basement-dwellers who come online with like 45 digits after their name! Otherwise, the reception has been super sweet – it's reassuring, but also surprising. People are down for us as people and as artists. We feel like we’ve been connecting really well with the wider punk scene from the East Coast, which is also why we’ve played a lot in those areas from Florida to Maine, with punk, pop-punk, hardcore, screamo – you name it kinds of bands.” 

How is your sense of faith and identity represented in The Muslims’ lyrical content?

"Biden's win just reminds us of what it's like to be gaslit in a different way."


Ba7Ba7: “I’m a Muslim, so naturally part of my identity is shaped by that, but at the same time it’s not a big fuckin’ deal because the whole culture we’re embedded within is Christian. The hotdog joint on the corner is Christian, TV shows are Christian, my fucking Honda is Christian. Politically, I think part of it is that I was in high school when 9/11 happened, so it’s been shaped by that. Being in The Muslims is exciting in a way because it shines a light on how absurd the compartments white supremacists will try to draw around Muslims are. Even though I’m a Muslim that doesn’t stop me playing a song about John McCain’s balls [John McCain's Ghost Sneaks Into The White House And Tea Bags The President].”

QADR: “I grew up super Muslim, like Muslim squared. It's weird as shit because I think growing up, my identity was rooted in our community. But especially as a Black Muslim, I was born and raised here, my folks are born and raised here and we’ve got history here going over hundreds of years but still we’re treated like an outsider. It's weird as fuck – people would go ‘oh your English is good, where are you from?’ and it’s like ‘bitch, down the street!’ It's weird as shit though, knowing that the only place you’ve ever called home is also somewhere where your very existence invites hostility. The lyrics are 100% owned by that – it comes up in different songs, but I try to keep it politically broad and hard-hitting. There are certain songs that glimpse into that upbringing and experience, like Faggot on our first album, Shirtjerk or Fruit Of The Loom from the new record… it’s all sprinkled in there, glimpses into this contradiction of being Muslim, but also Black-American and that already being a thing, then also queer. It’s a pressure from every corner of culture I was raised into; that’s why I’m weird. Thank you America – land of beer, God and guns.”

With Trump being gone from office, how important is it that records like Fuck These Fuckin’ Fascists continue to fight the good fight?

Ba7Ba7: “It doesn’t feel like much has changed. Even before he took office, we lived in a State run by Confederates. Biden’s election win just reminds us of what it's like to be gaslit in a different way.”

Fuck These Fuckin' Fascists is out now digitally via Epitaph. Physical CDs and LPs are released November 5

The Muslims

(Image credit: Chris Charles)
Rich Hobson

Staff writer for Metal Hammer, Rich has never met a feature he didn't fancy, which is just as well when it comes to covering everything rock, punk and metal for both print and online, be it legendary events like Rock In Rio or Clash Of The Titans or seeking out exciting new bands like Nine Treasures, Jinjer and Sleep Token.