Saturday, January 27, 2007

Little Mosque on the Prairie

- Season 1 Episode 1

A small prairie Muslim community butts heads with locals when their new spiritual leader arrives.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Muslims laud 'Little Mosque on the Prairie'

By Rebecca Cook Dube, Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor

TORONTO - When Alaa Elsayed speaks to churches and civic groups about Islam, he plays a word-association game.

"What's the first thing you think of when you hear the word 'Islamic'?" he asks. "How about 'Muslim'?"

Sometimes, the Calgary imam says, one of the audience members will hesitantly say what many are thinking: "terrorist."

But now, Mr. Elsayed hopes a different word might pop into their minds: "funny."

He - along with millions of other Canadians - has been watching a new show called "Little Mosque on the Prairie," North America's first sitcom about Muslims. Elsayed gave rave reviews to the premiere of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's show about a Muslim community in a small, midwestern town, and he's eagerly awaiting the second episode Wednesday.

"A lighthearted comedy that portrays the Muslim community in a manner that is evenhanded is definitely a welcome change from hearing about Muslims as terrorists, as jihadists," Elsayed says. "This is a great tool for people to learn about Islam in a language they can understand, which is comedy. Also, it's a great indicator that Muslims are an integral part of this community - this is who we are, so accept our differences, not just tolerate them."

Though the show isn't airing in the US except in a few border states, hopes are high there, too.

"We need something to show that Muslims are human," says Kamal Nawash, founder of the Free Muslims Coalition, an anti-extremist group based in Washington, D.C. "I'm hoping it ends up being something like 'Seinfeld' - a show made up by Jews where the whole show is based on humor. It puts life in perspective; it shows people that we're all the same at the end of the day."

Rather lofty expectations for a 30-minute show described by its creator, Zarqa Nawaz, as "a very standard character sitcom."

Ms. Nawaz, a respected Muslim filmmaker who lives in the prairie town of Regina, says her main goal in writing "Little Mosque" was to create a funny, hit show. She seems to have succeeded, at least in the early going. The 8 p.m. pilot episode garnered nearly 2.1 million viewers last week, big ratings for Canada. The top-ranked home-grown sitcom, "Corner Gas" - which coincidentally is also set in a small prairie town - regularly draws 1.6 million viewers.

The first episode introduced viewers to the close-knit Muslim community, in the fictional small town of Mercy, and to the local non-Muslims who regard their neighbors with a mixture of trepidation and tolerance. In the second episode, the new imam, a handsome young man newly arrived from Toronto, sparks a battle of the sexes when he decides to erect a barrier between men and women in the mosque.

"I hope it will open up a door to another community, so people can realize this community has the same foibles and quirks as any community does," Nawaz says, acknowledging that her show is, perhaps, not just another sitcom. "Laughter is a universal language."

The show's producer, Mary Darling, is pitching it to US networks. "We actually think it can do something in the world," she said.

"Little Mosque" certainly represents a change from how Canada's 600,000 Muslims usually see themselves in the media since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. In Canada, tensions were heightened by the arrest last summer of 17 Toronto-area men charged with planning a terrorist attack.

But show doesn't shrink from portraying the realities of a post 9/11 world.

In the first episode, a young Toronto lawyer gives up his practice to become Mercy's new imam, but gets into hot water at the airport.

"Don't put Dad on the phone," he tells his mother on his cellphone as he waits in line. "I've been planning this for months, it's not like I dropped a bomb on him. If Dad thinks it's suicide, then so be it. This is Allah's plan for me."

He's promptly whisked off by security, who don't believe his protestations of innocence.

"If my story doesn't check out, you can deport me to Syria," he says, a sly reference to the plight of Maher Arar - a Syrian-born Canadian citizen who was arrested during a stopover in the US and deported to Syria, where he was tortured. The US acted on Canadian intelligence that Canadian officials recently admitted was inaccurate.

Asad Rahman, a Toronto photographer, says he didn't buy the airport scene: "I don't think any Muslim would really joke about terrorism in an airport."

But he's hopeful that the show will have a positive influence, both on how non-Muslims view his religion and on how Muslims see themselves. "At least somebody is brave enough to bring some humor to this sensitive religion," says Mr. Rahman, a coordinator for a gay Muslim group.

Not every Muslim is a fan, of course.

Tarek Fatah, spokesman for the progressive, Toronto-based Muslim Canadian Congress, says he thought the jokes fell flat.

"It was a tremendous lost opportunity," he says. "I can imagine non-Muslims watching this and saying, 'my God, these people are bizarre.' "

In my humble opinion, I think this show is great. I've seen parts of it and I think it's an excellent way to show truly how Muslims are. The creator, Zarqa Nawaz, before she got the show published she definitely consulted a known prominent Shaykh. It's not like she went through this just because she thought it was ok. That's a good move on her part. Of course there will always be other opinions out there that are against the show but that is what makes us humans. We differ.

I'll be posting the video later, just to keep things more excited.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


What is actually meant by globalization? The word is related to Global that according to Merriam-Webster dictionary means of, relating to, or involving the entire world. What about globalization exactly? This is what it had to say, the act or process of globalizing : the state of being globalized; especially : the development of an increasingly integrated global economy marked especially by free trade, free flow of capital, and the tapping of cheaper foreign labor markets.

The idea of globalization is great when it brings cultures closer but not if kills the identity of your own society or culture completely. That makes me neither 100% against it or 100% with it. I believe it depends on the which aspect of globalization we're talking about.

I grew up in the East and spent a good portion of my adult life in the West. I see good and bad things in both cultures and I all I can say is if we take the best of both worlds, it'll be utopian. I think I'm against the idea of forced globalization, the same idea of forced "American" democracy in the Middle East. I'm sincerely against that. We'd rather work on a true democracy that really benefits the citizens of the Middle East rather than the Bush's Administration and Israel's ethnic cleansing policy ...

When it comes to economic and social aspects, I think when we can search for similarities instead of differences, that's when the world would be a happier place.

As Allah (SWT) says:

"O mankind! Behold, We have created you all out of a male and a female, and have made you into nations and tribes, so that you might come to know one another. Verily, the noblest of you in the sight of God is the one who is most deeply conscious of Him. Behold, God is all knowing, all aware"
(Al Qur'an, Al Hujurat 49:13)

With this said, I believe we should get closer and learn more about one another without disregarding our own identity. Another thing I seriously disagree with is ridiculous man made traditions. I'm against holding on to that with our life and souls. Yes we, Muslims, should stick to we are told by the Qur'an (from God) and Sunnah (from the Prophet(PBUH)). I believe our Creator knows best of how we should live and that's the identity we should stick with. Same goes for Christians and people of other faiths. If people of all faiths truly got to learn, understand and follow what their Holy Books have to say to and about humanity, globalization wouldn't be an issue. It'll be a peaceful and eye opening experience.

The reason I didn't say much about the business aspect of it, because I still haven't decided what I truly feel about it. I need to learn more about that.