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. shahnaz says:


    I feel Zarqa has USED the non-muslim actors in compromising situations. How often do ya’ll see couples kissing freely in front of their kids. I can say, it is great to exploit your situation, but it is disheartening to see that it has not been done tastefully.

    I am finding yet again the sterotype that muslims are stupid and can not fight their own battles is STILL emphasized……go figure, you have a minority writing this, and STILL the same issues. Ironic really.

    The whole concept that something on tv is better than nothing, is a mindset that shows our insecurities in society. We should be MORE careful and critical of what is to be shown before it is aired. Thus, more caution is necessary to ensure the right message is going to occur. Hey, if Zarqa just stated that she is doing to enhance her career, I have no problem with it, but to sit there and state she is helping the “divide” that is a load of crap. I am sure that is what she is thinking while she rolls down to the bank with her bling bling cheque.

    Let’s face it, she missed the mark.

  2. AR says:

    What she want to show in movie is not good. It looks like she is playing with the values of Islam

  3. The Pakistanian says:

    [quote comment=”30112″]

    As to whether a Hindu can play a Muslim; there used to be the same question, in this country, about whether a Black could play a white role. It’s called “acting” for a reason.

    Michael Barker[/quote]

    Dear Michael

    Tell this to the people who still have to come to grips with the fact that role of Hamza (Prophet Muhammad’s uncle and close companion) was played by Anthony Quinn in The Message and also Christopher Lee who played the character of Count Dracula many times played the role of Jinnah (the founder of Pakistan) in Jinnah :)

    Also I agree with you regarding the cultural differences within Islam and to me that is a beautiful thing, but then again there are those holier than thou types who give the likes of CNN and Fox News the fodder for their creative news specials the very reason this particular sitcom was created.

  4. Michael Barker says:

    I am a Black American who comes from Detroit and I have Muslims in my family converted by Malcolm X. There are cultural differences in Islam. What you are seeing in some way is a North American Islam and that should be understood about this TV show. What North Americans are seeing is that Islam is nothing to fear and in fact should be embraced. Okay, it’s TV. The Black images on it, for the most part, don’t represent my daily life but any chance to go up against the sea of negativity that comes out of the media here should be applauded.

    As to whether a Hindu can play a Muslim; there used to be the same question, in this country, about whether a Black could play a white role. It’s called “acting” for a reason.

    Michael Barker

  5. imtiaz says:

    [quote comment=”28536″]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……[/quote]

    well if u think so, then i guess i will leave u as you are.
    If u dont have a problem with this being a muslim, then I cant say anything. Al Hamd O Lillah I am living in a place where we do not have such things and thank Allah for that.
    May Allah help you in your progress and modernization

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