The Legacy of CBC’s ‘Little Mosque on the Prairie’

Toronto.com – March 24, 2012

 

Before Little Mosque on the Prairie premiered on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in 2007, there were strategic meetings to discuss marketing and promotion. Confusion about how to promote the show was soon eclipsed by unhinged fears about what might happen after it aired. It is now in more than 80 foreign markets, including Algeria, Australia, Belgium, Finland, France, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, South Africa and Spain.

The show premiered on January 9, 2007. Soon after, jitters over any mass protest — every media outlet from CNN to the New York Times dispatched reporters to do advance stories — vanished inside the fictional town of Mercy, Sask. Little Mosque was a lighthearted comedy. The first episode, like every one that would follow, was neither inflammatory nor uproarious. Unlike some American dramas that arrived after 9/11 — The Unit, Threat Matrix, E-Ring, Sleeper Cell, and most conspicuously, Fox’s 24 — the characters in Mercy were mercifully benign. They were just struggling to get through the day. They were, in a word, “normal.”

Minoo Derayeh, a professor in the department of humanities at York University, uses Little Mosque in class to draw attention to social issues inside modern-day Islam.  Ozlem Sensoy, an associate professor at Simon Fraser University, says The Cosby Show arrived during the Reagan era, during a time when heated rhetoric about brutish young black men and a dangerous ghetto culture was widespread.  “I think Little Mosque on the Prairie has a similar place. It also grew out of a particular social moment, 9/11, and had these pedagogical goals — teaching white folks about a different kind of Muslim person in the context in which Muslim men had become the new brute, the new group to be feared.”

Minelle Mahtani, a professor in the department of geography and program in journalism at the University of Toronto, has mixed feelings about Little Mosque. “The show has gone a long way in helping Western audiences see beyond the tired stereotype of Muslims as barbaric, exotic, dangerous and primitive,” she says. “But I think we have to be really careful about the ways we commodify Muslim identity through popular representations. Whose Muslim voice is showcased here?”

“I think it was a terrible comedy,” says broadcaster and author Tarek Fatah. “And I think it survived purely because of what I call ‘white man’s guilt.’ If this were any other group of people, it would have been shut down in a month. Most people watched it with the fear that if they didn’t laugh, they’d be considered racist. It was a massive fraud.”

In 2007, Little Mosque received an award from the Search for Common Ground, a human rights organization that had previously bestowed honours on Desmond Tutu and Jimmy Carter. That same year, the show was snubbed for a best comedy Gemini.

Popular TV program, Little Mosque on the Prairie, cancelled

News Agencies – January 6, 2012

Little Mosque on the Prairie, the gentle CBC satire about a Muslim community in the fictional small town of Mercy, Sask., that will be entering its sixth and final season on Monday.

“We all know, in this industry, that every show has a life span,” says Manoj Sood who plays Baber Siddiqui. “For a show to last six seasons in the current business of television, that’s a really great thing. Not to mention that the show, depending on the time of year, is airing in about 70 different countries.” “It’s popular around the world for two reasons,” says Sood. “The first was its timing. It was the first show of its kind, ever. More important, it grew out of the post-9/11 environment.”

Star of Little Mosque on the Prairie Zaib Shaikh has a bright future

The Toronto Star – January 6, 2012

When Little Mosque on the Prairie starts its sixth (and final) season this week on the CBC (Canadian Broadcast Corporation), it will close the most important chapter to date in the rapidly rising career of its leading man, Zaib Shaikh.

The 37-year-old Pakistani-Canadian actor, director and producer has spoken at Harvard University, is starring in the forthcoming adaptation of Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children and is busy with his own production company, Governor Films. He’s also attracted a certain amount of gossip for his marriage to CBC’s Head of English Language Services, Kirstine Stewart.

Creator of “Little Mosque on the Prairie” Describes Canadian Post 9/11 Context

The Toronto Star – August 6, 2011

 

Zarqa Nawaz, creator of the television hit Little Mosque on the Prairie, reflects on the situation of Canadian Muslims in this feature article about her family during the month of Ramadan. The freelance filmmaker and TV comedy writer worries when the extended family comes home about the “way things look.” “You can’t make a mistake — you will be judged.”

As for Muslims in Canada, life is not perfect, says Abdul-Basit Khan, a Toronto lawyer and past chair of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Canada. But, adds Khan, if you look at the experience of co-religionists in Europe and some parts of the U.S., “there isn’t a better country in which to be a Muslim.” Nawaz says 9/11 forced Muslims, and other religious minorities, out of their “bubble” world and to engage the greater community as never before. In charity work, for example, they moved beyond supporting only Muslim causes. “Never was there a time in history when it was so important to be active and prove to the world that we care,” says Nawaz. She also pays tribute to Canadian tolerance. “I believe that Little Mosque on the Prairie could not have been made in any other country,” says Nawaz, 43.

The Third Season of “Little Mosque on the Prairie” begins

The third season of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s (CBC) Little Mosque on the Prairie has begun, picking up the storyline from the end of the second season as to whether the character of Rayann will accept or reject a marriage proposal. This National Post reviewer, Robert Cushman, is critical of the program and its comedy of “culture clash,” which while seeking to create humor leaves in its wake “generic storylines in which the women just happen to have their heads covered.” He adds that this version of the challenges of Muslims in small town Canada is not very inventive. Assimilation, Cushman concludes, is almost the opposite of funny.

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‘Little Mosque on the Prairie’ comedy to debut in the Netherlands, Belgium, and Switzerland

The Canadian Broadcasting Company’s sitcom Little Mosque on the Prairie will begin airing in the Netherlands, Belgium, and Switzerland later this year. Netherlands Public Broadcasting has acquired the first two seasons of the program, which will either be dubbed or subtitled, and the first two seasons are also set to air in Belgium with French subtitles. The Swiss broadcaster Schweizer Fernsehen will broadcast the show with German subtitles. “The demand for ‘Little Mosque on the Prairie’ from the European broadcasting community has been incredible… “We continue to receive numerous serious inquiries from top broadcasters throughout Europe who are interested in acquiring the show in various formats” said executive producer Mary Darling.