Little masquerade on the prairie

Tarek Fatah and Farzana Hassan don’t think much of the CBC’s new sitcom ‘Little Mosque on the Prairie.’

To begin with, a completely false picture of the Muslim community has been forced into the homes of non-Muslim Canadians. CBC has validated the image painted by Islamist groups that Muslim lives revolve around mosques – nothing else. We don’t play hockey, none of us have 9-to-5 day jobs, love affairs, play poker or, dare we say, cheat on our taxes or our spouses…[W]e question the motives of the writer, producers, and directors of the show for focusing singularly on the most conservative segments of the Muslim community. Although the characters are meant to reflect the diversity of Muslim society, a closer examination reveals the show is not about liberal or progressive Muslims competing with conservatives. Rather, the writer has created a false dichotomy of “conservative” Muslims vs. “ultra-conservative” Muslims; the former being disingenuously passed on as feminist and progressive. Muslims who do not pay homage to their Imams; the liberal, secular or progressive segments of the community, are conspicuous by their complete absence from the Little Mosque narrative. Writer Zarqa Nawaz has played a deft hand in attempting to sanitize what really goes on in the typical Canadian mosque. The hijacking of our religion, Islam, by politicized clerics affiliated with Saudi Arabia or Iran, finds no resonance in the sitcom.

Very interesting and very familiar. Muslims who do not pay homage to their Imams; the liberal, secular or progressive segments of the community, so often are conspicuous for their absence. On the one hand, all people of Muslim background, with Muslim parents or grandparents or from majority-Muslim countries or (often) just kind of vaguely Arab or South Asian-looking, are called ‘Muslims,’ and on the other hand, all Muslims are assumed to be highly conservative and ‘devout’ and religious and anti-secular. The two mistakes flow together to create a mighty river of stupidity and distortion in which secular and progressive Muslims are drowned out. It’s pathetic that the CBC is apparently helping with that process.

Indeed all of the depictions point to an Islamist agenda that seeks to justify inequities that pervade Muslim communities under the pretext of progress. Orthodox Islam is presented as the only authentic belief system that is in consonance with progress. While the Muslim characters are fake, fellow non-Muslim Canadians, who have shown tremendous generosity in embracing peoples of different cultures and religions are continually and unfairly portrayed as paranoid bigots. What has raised eyebrows about the show among Muslims is that such distortion may be deliberate in order to exaggerate the incidence of racism and bigotry against Muslims in Canada to foster the culture of victim-hood and accentuate the chasm between Muslims and non-Muslims in Canada.

Well done Muslim Canadian Congress for pushing back. Good luck to you.

16 Responses to “Little masquerade on the prairie”