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. Musalmaan says:

    Imtiaz, I think YOU are the insult to the Muslim community. I have a feeling that this shar-pasandi is deliberate to get an argument going. Now, let me think, who does that……

  2. imtiaz says:

    the first imam……hmm how can a hindu play a role of a muslim imam???? does that not strike you guys at all. did any one notice the way he is leading the prayers? the words he utters…… come on guys, where on earth you find an imam like him. its an insult to the entire muslim community. At least they could have had a muslim playing the role of the imam, if not anything else he would say the ” verses in a better way, or are you telling me that this is the way all the imams are in the US and Canada?
    and by the way when did u learn that it is ok or it is practised while praying that u move and look back and run after some one. Comedy aside, I think this is an insult to the religion itself. Being a moderate mulsim is ok but not knowing anything about a religion and making others believe thats the way it is, thats unacceptable.

  3. TURAB says:

    its more of a Canadian Comedy, especially the kind of comedy moreso found in the WESTern Canada…
    which obviously is not more in your face kind..

    Moreover, the small stuff was missed out by a lot of people, specifically that mosques usually have lil or no money ALWAYS! heheheh (for smaller communities)

  4. Akif Nizam says:

    I found it reasonably funny; it’s no Sienfeld, but then what is ! I think the attempt is to make the characters relatable to first generation muslims in the West. I find the characters believable (except for the Imam); yes, we already knew all the jokes but it’s still good to see someone else do it on screen. I’ll give it a chance to develop.

  5. HJ says:

    [quote comment=”27622″]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. [/quote]

    Err, I am sure many pious Muslims will be very pleased to know their daughter has a crush on a yuppie Imam than a white alcoholic :-)

    Overall, I thought the first episode was a bit thin in developing characters and the *jokes* felt stale. However, humor/wit is a good way of dealing with “sensitive” subjects with a large audience which may be either insentitive to your views or down right hostile. Lets see how it progresses.


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