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
33 Comments
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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. PakParsi says:

    This show is what is needed more than anything right now (and it is hilarious). BTW, you can watch it on YouTube.

    This show is about alleviating fears of Islam. It lets western audiences know that Muslims can make fun of themselves and fit in with western society. Its sad that a couple of the commenters refuse the premise, but I am so happy that most of the commenters here do.

    The character is of Baber is a hilarious stereotype, but I think it is good for people to recognize these stereotypes within their own communities and change them.

  2. Umair says:

    Akif,

    I can take care of my family inshAllah but what I wrote was in general for ALL Muslim parents would NOT have control over what their kids watch or do not watch. NOT EVERYONE has control over that. Especially in North America. That was the point.

    Ofcourse, ghetto streets = ghetto kid behaviour but that’s not the point. The point is as I have already indicated and given examples of. Let’s be realistic and not ignore what’s really happening. Come on, you cannot tell your kids these days to do what you want them to do? Maybe some parents can? not all, right? So, with shows like these, doesn’t help our situation. How can you tell an already spolied child what to watch and not to watch. You would atleast expect to get help for that child. If I “turn off the tv..” would there be a guarantee that it will remain that way forever? I didn’t think so!

    Plus, you cannot imagine what would happen if our Muslim women start acting like western women and turn to western culture. Do you want that, forget the kids, but do you really want this?

    And, if you are a parent yourself and you still fail to comprehend my point, then I suggest you research a bit about Islam and religion in general because I don’t know what can convince you that “little house on the prairie” is way way way out of line to what Muslims do and what our religion teaches us. If ypu are not a parent, then you should understand that one day you would be one inshAllah, then what will happen? Typically, you would be like a spoiled child of the parents I described in my other post – someone who would be disrespectful of their parents, someone who would violate Islamic law and not know about it etc. Take your pick, we are all going to destruction and the time to take the action is now, not 10-15 yrs from now and not by turning tvs off…

    KH

  3. Akif Nizam says:

    Umair, it’s a simple solution for you. Turn off the TV, don’t watch it, don’t let your children watch it. I’m not sure if your children are going to be more screwed up if they watch the show or if they live in the cultural ghetto that you prescribe for them.

    It’s a TV show, forgodssake….or is it forGodsssake ?
    It’s not a documentary about muslim life, neither is it a news show; it’s entertainment. A sitcom is not supposed to be the portrayal of reality. Seinfeld was not based upon Orthrodox Jewish values, it only had a somewhat Jewish sensibility. What happens on this show is not a mockery of muslim, what happens in the streets of muslim countries is a mockery of muslims.

  4. Umair says:

    Assalamo Alaikum to my Muslim friends,

    Here is the deal…We say we are “Muslims” then we end up making shows that mock Muslims all across the world.

    We can not say what Zarqa Nawaz’s intentions in this respect but what we can observe is that this show is NOT BY ANY MEANS near our Muslim values/traditions.

    We have mothers and sisters in our families watching these shows and to make a mockery of Muslims where Muslim women are shown in bikinis for fun is unacceptable. If we were to read the Holy Quran, yeah did we forget we have a great book called the Holy Quran?, it is clearly and I say clearly indicated that Islam doesn’t allow such encounters. If we do not accept that, then maybe we should try to come up with the book against the Holy Quran and prescribe that as our book…hey, it hasn’t been done for over 1400 years, how can we do it now? You accept this challenge? Please come forward.

    No, I am not saying Muslim men are angels. They are at equal fault here too. We see this young individual representing a Muslim in the show who stares at the woman’s behind. This is sending wrong messages of our community, nothing else. Example: my colleague at work, who is an American saw this and the first thing that came to his mind was “hey, look at that girl’s behind…I thought Muslims don’t do this kind of stuff but I guess it’s cool!” — is this the message that this show was supposed to be sending? How does that improve Muslim image in North America/US?

    Let’s come back to our Muslim folks themselves…lot of folks “like” the show as if it were just another comedy show/stage drama. Ever read/studied/researched what Islam really prescribes for Muslim men and women? Are we supposed to be enjoying ourselves with shows like this or improving ourselves?

    Your kids, my kids, our kids, will grow up in this society and what would they think by watching these shows? Ever thought of that? I have seen lots of elders in our community who complain about how their kids do not respect them, do drugs, drink and get involved with outside relationships and yet, they cannot figure out why…well if we produce shows like these it doesn’t help the situation does it now? So much for mere enjoyment…will you enjoy when your kids will throw you out of your OWN house one day because they wanted to share it with their extra marital partner? Yeah, I know folks who have been through that too…

    Again, Zarqa Nawaz might have whatever intentions that we may never know of but from watching such mockery of Muslims it doesn’t look like intentions/ideas were really thought out in the true light of Islam.

    KH

  5. Hussein A. says:

    I actually think it was funny and very well done, specially for Western audiences. The ‘exagerated’ view of Muslims is teh one that the extremists want all of us to adopt.

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