Zarqa Nawaz and ‘Little Mosque on the Prairie’

Posted on January 13, 2007
Filed Under >Adil Najam, Humor, Pakistanis Abroad, People, Religion, TV, Movies & Theatre, Women
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Adil Najam

The Pakistani community here in USA is abuzz with talk of Canadian Broadcasting Service’s (CBS’s) new comedy series Little Mosque on the Prairie.

Everyone seems to have an opinion, but few seem to have actually seen it yet (since it appears on Canadian TV and the first episode was aired this week). We at ATP wanted to change that and give you all a chance to view the first episode of the comedy program and comment on it. The show – for its subject matter as much as anything else – is causing ripples across the world’s media and has generally, but not always, generated good reviews.

The program’s website describes the program:

Little Mosque on the Prairie, an unabashedly comedic look at a small Muslim community living side by side with the residents of a little [Canadian] prairie town. At its heart, Little Mosque on the Pararie is a humorous look at relationships, family, love, the generation gap and balancing Muslim beliefs and traditions in a pararie setting.

The show and its humor is decidedly post 9/11. At its roots it is as much about the West’s paranoia as it is about the foibles of Muslim communities in the West. More generally it is about the immigrant experience, especially the Muslim immigrant experience. And all of this is done through the lens of humor. Laughing at – so that we can think about – where we are and where we have come to.

The show is written by Liverpool-born, Canada-settled, Pakistani-origin writer Zarqa Nawaz, who according to one write-up:

…has acquired a cult status with her films, which examine and demolish stereotypes associated with Muslims as terrorists, wife abusers and religious extremists. And that too with loads of wit. The name of her production company “FUNdamentalist Films” reflects her satirical bent of mind, and this streak is evident in her film trilogy – ‘BBQ Muslims’, ‘Death Threat’ and her first feature ‘Real Terrorists Don’t Belly Dance.’

While the motto of FUNdamentalist Films is to put “fun back into fundamentalism” the trilogy is what she calls “terrordies”, or comedies about terrorism. The films have been widely acclaimed, and requests have been pouring in for copies. So much so that Nawaz quips, “I could spend my lifetime at the post office, mailing them (the cassettes) out.”

There are plenty of Pakistani connections to the show, including the lead character – a clean cut Toronto lawyer played by Zaib Shaikh who comes to the little town to be the Imam of a makeshift mosque.

Indeed, post 9/11 there is a real thrust of young Muslims in general, including young Pakistanis in the performing arts trying to build inroads into their host communities that earlier generations of Muslim, and Pakistanis, had so neglected to build (see ATP write-ups on Pakistanis abroad doing so in the theatre, in music (also here), in documentary film-making).

So, here is the first episode. What you think of it:

P.S. Thanks to Azmi and the blog Qiyas for directing us to the video.

33 responses to “Zarqa Nawaz and ‘Little Mosque on the Prairie’”

  1. Kaleem says:

    Reminded me of the show ‘Perfect Strangers’. Which I think was a big success.

  2. Priyana/Fabiha says:

    Hi! I haven’t seen any other sitcoms about Muslims to compare this to… but I love it! It’s hilarious, although the humor kind of went down towards episode 8 but maybe that’s because I was watching all the episodes so far in one day… Also, maybe it’s because I’m from the U.S.(I watch it on youtube) but the community seems MUCH more hateful towards Muslims. I don’t know, I live in L.A. and not straight in downtown (it’s 15 minutes away) but in the valley, and I’d think that stereotypes would be worse down here, but I guess not. Actually, many of my friends are very respectful and interested in my culture and religion.

    Another thing is that the wife and general sitcom mother, who is a convert, seems very uninterested in Islam. She treats Islam like a hassle (and I’m not sure how the dad and mom can even call themselves Muslims if they don’t even pray regularly), in contrast to the converts I know. But it’s realistic for the dad to be that way because he would think like that having to pray and do his Islamic duties growing up when he wanted to do otherwise. Maybe you’d think that converts wouldn’t be as religious because they converted and weren’t born Muslim, but they’re more religious than those who were born Muslims. You’d think that the mom would be more into Islam and that’s why she converted but that’s not the case. It could be possible that the dad forced her into it or something when they married but I don’t think that she would actually stand for that. Overall, the writer didn’t seem to put much thought into the characters and how their roles would be with all the factors in their lives, environment, and community.

  3. rubab says:

    hi there,
    main ne ye parha or khushi hui ke sharati logon ke liye saza ka maqool intizam hy …..wysy agar un ko saza mil hi gayee to wo sharati na huy is saza se bach niklen tab to shararti kaha ja sakta hy………………………………………..

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