February 12, 2007
"This is worse than my son's high school play," gasped a Muslim playwright known for his wit and cutting humour. "How could CBC put this farce on air in the name of Muslims."
After giving the series the benefit of the doubt and going through the first four episodes, we feel we must expose this travesty being committed in the name of serving Canada's Muslim communities. Nothing could be further from the truth.
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.
After watching the fourth episode of Little Mosque, we 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.
Depicting recent immigrants as clumsy buffoons while portraying their children as sophisticated and savvy yuppies is a reflection of the writer's own complexes, not reality. Going on a sex strike and then debating its conclusion inside a mosque? Who are CBC and Nawaz kidding? Lawyers giving up Toronto law practices to become Prairie imams? Fat chance.
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.
If CBC was sincerely trying to be inclusive in bringing Canada's Muslims into the picture, then we suggest they include Muslim characters in their regular sitcoms or shows, not make a farce of our community and present it as an act of generosity.
After this series, what is CBC going to promote, "Little Gurdwara on the East Coast" or "Little Mandir on the Oil Sands"?
Farzana Hassan is author of Islam, Women and the Challenge of Today, Tarek Fatah is author of Chasing a Mirage: An Islamic state or a state of Islam to be published in 2008
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