Muslims have taken Canada by storm. Surely not a terrorist attack? This new event, which features Muslims, is completely non-violent, but comes in the form of entertainment in “Little Mosque on the Prairie a sitcom which first aired on CBC on Jan. 9, 2007.
The sitcom, created and produced by Canadian Muslim writer Zarqa Nawaz of Pakistani descent, takes a light-hearted look at life in the prairies for Muslims and the townsfolk living with them. It is well-written and deals with issues like relationships, family, ignorance and fear, as well as the struggle to balance Muslim traditions within a Western small-town framework.
I sat down and braced myself for what was to come. Would the show feature something that offended Muslims? Would Muslims take to the streets angry the next day? Would a small group swear vengeance?
Would burka-clad women be shown on the front page the following day – even though they have nothing to do with it?
In fact, the show was not offensive to Muslims at all. If anything, it was quite insulting to non-Muslims, who were portrayed as ignorant and paranoid most of the time.
The Toronto immigration officials were shown to be tremendously uninformed, incompetent, and blood-thirsty for an arrest. (Hmmm) The host of the local town s radio show was featured as a hate-inciting bigot. (What, seriously?)
The people in the town were generally portrayed as ignorant of Muslims and of their practices and customs. (Come on, no way!)
The sitcom is actually a fairly realistic look at some of the challenges that Muslims face in Canada and the Western world. It also shows that Muslims are not always the typical stereotypes that people see in the media. There are Muslims from various countries and cultures, each arguing typically about what food would be best to serve for iftar and how the moon should be best sighted for the start of Ramadan.
There are Muslims that had converted and were fairly secular in their approach, and Muslims that were what one might describe as straight off the boat . Yes, the script was exaggerated. But good humor usually is.
We were to see scenes that displayed paranoia. For instance, we hear a young Muslim male argue with his mother about taking a job in the prairies not being suicide. Before he gets on a plane, a fellow passenger reports him. We witness scenes of assumption when immigration officials assume a man has terrorist tendencies because he spent a year in Afghanistan. We see scenes of discomfort and misunderstanding when a man finds people praying in congregation while bowing their heads down to the ground. Does this all sound ridiculous? It is. Is it funny? It is amusing for sure.
Perhaps that is where the show will prove its worth. If we do not take a look at what is happening in the world, and stop to take a laugh at ourselves, we are in grave danger of taking ourselves far too seriously. Besides, inadvertently, we will look at ourselves and reflect a little on how we need to reach out to one another and where we are going wrong.
There are perhaps two take-home messages from the show. For non-Muslims, the lesson is educate yourselves about Muslims. For Muslims came the perhaps harder message – we do not communicate ourselves well enough to educate others about ourselves. Hmmm, I think there is a vicious circle emerging here.
Of course, being politically correct, non-Muslims will not complain about their unfair portrayal in the sitcom. And Muslims can be expected to have mixed views. No doubt there may be some that say they did not like the camera filming women as they prayed from behind.
But there will be some that will smile and say, Hey, Allahu Akbar Canada! Go CBC, eh? Whatever the views are, I see nothing wrong in smiling a little and trying to make the world a better place in the process.
This article is reprinted by permission. It first appeared on Islamonline.net