Little Mosque Begins Again

So the new season of Little Mosque on the Prairie began in Canada tonight on CBC and as a Canadian Muslim I felt I should watch. Also, as someone who watched every episode last season I felt the need to catch the first episode of the second season. It began quite funny. I was very impressed with what seemed to be an improvement in humour and jokes. However, very soon my satisfaction became a cringing discomfort.

In this episode we see Rayyan, the young, beautiful, opinionated, feminist, Muslim doctor, trying to convince Amaar, the young, progressive, beardless (and might I add handsome) Imam to let her announce community events. He opposes it only because he believes it will be too controversial. The men in the congregation will never accept a woman standing in front of the congregation, talking to them! What horror! She insists, as she should, that this is precisely the reason that a woman MUST make the announcements – to bring the men into the 21st century. After some argument Amaar gives in and agrees to give it a try. However, he appoints Rayyan’s mother, Sarah, to present the announcements. She however is very hesitant. Rayyan, disappointed, decides to write the announcements for her mother.

Now when Sarah first presents the announcements is when I begin to cringe. She skims through them like a flaky, stereotypical blond, not really caring what appears in the announcements. The most critical men like her only because she is quick. Rayyan, being the strong feminist (who by the way wears the hijab as opposed to her flaky mother who does not) becomes increasingly irritated and annoyed. This annoyance results in an argument between mother and daughter leading them to part ways on announcement work. Sarah states she will do all the work herself. However, at the next announcement Sarah decides to tell a story about a pet turtle she had as a child, boring everyone in the congregation. Again, a very flaky move. At the behest of Amaar Rayyan agrees to come to the rescue only if Amaar lets her be the Muslim representative on the inter-faith council. He all too willingly lets her. One does not realize why until we see the inter-faith council – a group of women who are more interested in baking cookies than discussing matters of faith and community work. Again, the hijab-wearing Muslim woman is very disappointed at the stereotypical, flakiness of these women.

It seems that the show is going the extra mile, and then some, to show that women who wear the hijab are not subjugated, powerless beings. And that is a wonderful initiative as the stereotypes of hijabi women need to be shattered. But the fact that they do at the expense of all other female characters (the flaky mother, the rebellious teenager, the egotistical mayor, and the “Stepford Wives” non-Muslim council women) in the show is something which seriously needs to be re-evaluated.

  • Zeynab

    OOH! How could I forget?! I’ll be watching this on YouTube soon!LMOTP is so popular that it’s going to be shown in Turkey and England. Why can’t American get on the bandwagon instead of showing stupid Islamophobic shows like 24 and Aliens in America?

  • Melinda

    Reading the analysis beats watching the show! That said, I, like Zeynab, live in America and they don’t have it here, except on sites like YouTube and tv-links. Keep up the great commentary!

  • nadia n

    I thought Fatima and Laila and the mayor were all decent, strong female characters in their own way. Really hardly any on the show are all that three dimensional.

  • The Funky Ghetto Hijabi

    I feel obligate to watch Little Mosque but I really actually don’t like the show. I do appreciate that it is a breath of fresh air compared to Aliens in America or 24 or Sleeper Cell but it’s just not funny for me. Also, I still don’t understand why there isn’t an Aboriginal character in the show. This is supposed to be the Prairies. I asked the creater of the show if this situation would be changed but she just said there will be an upcoming episode in which one of the characters will find an arrowhead in his backyard and this will eventually lead to the appearance of some Aboriginal people. But there really should be a regular character. Canada isn’t just white people.

  • Sadat, London, UK

    I watched the season 1 online. None of the actors except the (shaved) imam is a Muslim in real life. The show claims to break old stereotypes but tries to create new ones in the process.All characters in the show go to coffee shop x times daily (like the pub equivalent). One elderly character is shown as yelling “infidel” multiple times just for fun.Some Muslimahs are shown as trying to fight and win rights constantly from male elders. Martyrs are reduced to practical jokes. Real issues are ignored while fake ones are highlighted keeping the lucrative North American market in mind.The Muslim director would probably become a millionaire but is it worth it Munafiqun?

  • Michelle

    Thanks so much for your insightful commentary. I agree with your statements.

    I just wanted to add something from my own experience. As a white female Muslim convert, I feel very frustrated by the way the episodes of the show have presented converts. Sarah as demonstrated over and over is the most insincere Muslim convert I’ve ever even imagined – someone who doesn’t even know how to pray and takes very little interest in Islam. And in one episode, a white male convert was shown who was very extreme and who quickly divided the community.

    I would love to see a change in the portrayal of women in the show, and it would be wonderful to see a more realistic portrayal of a convert – someone who is working hard to bridge their own background, family and experiences with their new life as a Muslim.

  • http://muslimlookout.org Krista

    @ Michelle: I hear you! Totally share those frustrations.

    I don’t know if you’ve looked through our other Little Mosque posts (there are a few of them!), but in case you haven’t seen it yet, you might be interested in the post I wrote about Sarah from last fall: http://muslimahmediawatch.org/2008/10/20/looking-at-sarah-from-little-mosque/