Little Mosque on the Prairie Enters Second Season
By Ras H. Siddiqui

Cast of Little Mosque

“Little Mosque on the Prairie”, a cutting edge Muslim-Canadian TV sitcom, has not only successfully survived its first season and the religion-culture divide but in actuality it has thrived with it. It enters a brand new season on the Canadian Broadcast Corporation (CBC) and its media promoters were kind enough to share its success and newest episode called “Grave Concern” with this writer via DVD.
Since this “Little Mosque” is the brainchild of Liverpool-born and Toronto-raised Zarqa Nawaz (of Pakistani origin), it remained to be seen how the western and eastern values concurrently present within the originator would seep onto the screen. It also remained somewhat up in the air as to how viewers in Canada would receive the show, and that includes not just the mainstream but the Muslim-Canadian population as well.
The original cast of this WestWind Pictures/CBC production seems to remain pretty much unchanged. Zaib Shaikh (Amaar), Carlo Rota (Yasir), Manoj Sood (Baber), Sheila McCarthy (Sarah), Derek McGrath (Reverend Magee), Debra McGrath (Mayor Popowicz ), Sitara Hewitt (Rayyan), Neil Crone (Fred) and Arlene Duncan (Fatima) make quite a team. Comic talent from across faiths is the secret ingredient that makes this show work. There is some great chemistry between Yasir and Sarah within their cross-cultural marriage. But there is also that slowly developing “relationship” between Amaar and Rayyan that is of interest along with Baber’s conservative clashes with just about everyone, especially his daughter.
Little Mosque on the Prairie and the town of Mercy in this series appear to have successfully overcome many pre-conceived notions and prejudices that may have existed within some North American viewers. And now this show has entered the international television market with even greater ambitions. It is soon to air in Gaza , the West Bank , Finland and Turkey and will begin airing in Israel on October 23, 2007 on the Star 3 satellite channel.

Zarqa Nawaz

One can argue on the lack of humor between the Muslim-West relationships in North America after the terrorist attacks of 9/11/2001 . But a more complete picture could take quite some time. The fact of the matter is that this relationship predates terrorism by centuries and is as old as the beginning of slavery in this part of the world. Millions of followers of the Islamic faith are resident in Canada and the United States , and many comfortably so. Since 9/11 some problems have arisen but solutions are not impossible if lines of communication between people are maintained. One way of maintaining this communication is through humor and that is where this TV series comes in.
Thus far “Little Mosque on the Prairie” has tackled many interesting issues. The perennial one has been the relationships between men and women inside the Mosque.
The constant tug of war between conservative and liberal Muslims has also found a permanent place on the show. The “Us and Them” between the rural Canadian mainstream and Muslims is highlighted in this comedy too. Issues such as dating, barriers inside Mosques and polygamy have also been hilariously presented.
Muslim comedy in North America is already gaining some ground. I was recently at a performance by British-Pakistani comedian Shazia Mirza which received quite a bit of attention. The “Allah Made Me Funny” comedy act here is going to be made into a movie soon (by Dave Chappelle along with Unity Productions Foundation’s Michael Wolfe and Alex Kronemer). It will focus on the work of Preacher Moss, Azhar Usman and Mohammed Amer, the comedy trio who continue to gain prominence here. And now “Aliens in America, ” an American comedy TV show, has succeeded in inviting a practicing Muslim kid from Pakistan into our living rooms. “Little Mosque on the Prairie” is no longer alone in promoting interfaith understanding today. Its successful launch and execution offer some hope for “Aliens in America ” and its future too. Little Mosque creator Zarqa Nawaz certainly deserves credit for being amongst the pioneers of this comic communication.
This clever “Little Mosque” title was inspired by Laura Ingalls Wilder's “Little House on the Prairie” American TV series which was very popular during the late 70’s or the early 80’s. Now “Little Mosque” is following the legacy of new (Muslim) pioneers in the West. Its wagon train can already boast of 1 million weekly viewers. It has won the MAXIMO Award for best TV Product, won for Best screenplay and Best TV Series at the Roma (Italy) FilmFest and Best Comedy Award at the Yorkton Short Film and Video Festival.
During this new season, 20 new episodes of Little Mosque on the Prairie will address such diverse issues as Muslim burial grounds (which I have already seen), Burkas/Veils, “No Fly” lists and competing Imams, along with some more Muslim “dating” rituals. Some special guests will appear on the program this season including Samantha Bee, correspondent for the Daily Show with Jon Stewart (who hosted General Musharraf during his book launch here in the US).

This is a series which is best described by its Press Kit: “The sitcom reveals that, although different, we are all surprisingly similar when it comes to family, love, the generation gap and attempts to balance our secular and religious lives.” One can only try to add something to that. Muslims in the West live in dual worlds. The “adjustments” that we make are often seriously comical. But while we are making our sacrifices, so are our new friends, co-workers and society in general here. Take the example of our Eid holiday festivities. The major problem one can encounter is explaining to our boss or co-workers that we may or my not be taking time off from work tomorrow depending on the sighting of the moon. One could elaborate, but that could too easily be a huge hint for a future Little Mosque episode!
(The second season of “Little Mosque on the Prairie” premiered on October3, 2007 on CBC Television)
Photos courtesy of: Little Mosque Productions/WestWind Pictures




Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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