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. ronin533 says:

    Is there a way if we can watch this show in USA specifically NY.

  2. Arifa says:

    I found it very funny too… I think the purpose is not to make the characters believable to us – Muslims – but to western audiences… so they have to be a little exagerated since it is a sitcom. I found it very good.

  3. Amra says:

    I watched the show over the weekend and tend to agree with Saadia, it was too bland and predictable. The jokes might make you smile but nothing original. I think the characters did not seem ‘real’. They did not seem comfortable in their roles. Good intentions but needs better writing.

  4. Saadia Khan says:

    Fareed whole joke on airport security people has been told several times in much better muslim made comedy TV shows in Western media. Anyway I must say everyone has different level and type of sense of humor, probably for me this program needs much development while other thinks its the best.

  5. The Pakistanian says:

    I think it was pretty funny over all, although the idea of a yuppie Imam and a pretty girl having a crush on him is not gonna score a whole lot of points in many circles within muslims. The airport scene was really funny, some other scenes were over exaggarated, but thats how you get the point across. Not quiet in the same league as MASH or Cheers, but funny nonetheless, lets see if it survives beyond the first season.

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