Friday Hoyden: Rayyan Hamoudi from Little Mosque on the Prairie


It’s hard not to have a soft spot for Canadian television.

Little Mosque on the Prairie, now in its third season, is a half-hour Canadian sitcom created by Zarqa Nawaz. The Little Mosque of the title stands in a fictional Saskatchewan small town with a large Muslim population. Much of the humour, along with fairly standard-issue but well-executed family situation comedy, rotates around the frictions between the Christian and Muslim population of Mercy, and between conservative and liberal interpretations of Islam.

These culture clashes are contrasted with the amiable, mutually supportive relationship between the Anglican minister Reverend Magee and the new Imam Amaar, who share a worship space – the Little Mosque is held in the local church hall. The priest and imam consult each other’s wisdom on their more difficult counselling dilemmas.

Today’s Friday Hoyden highlights a couple of moments featuring my favourite character, Rayyan Hamoudi. Played by Sitara Hewitt, Rayyan works as the local doctor. Her mother Sarah Hamoudi (Sheila McCarthy) is an convert to Islam who works in PR for the local mayor, also a woman. Other female characters Layla and Fatima are also three-dimensional and well fleshed-out. While never high politics, Little Mosque has a gentle humour, sharp everyday observations, and plenty to offer many feminist viewers.

Rayyan is unapologetically a Muslim feminist, and her local feminist agitations, depicted positively, have been a recurrent thread throughout the series.

Here’s the very beginning of the series. Rayyan is in red, and the blonde woman she is speaking with at the mosque is her mother Sarah. (You can see more of the episode here.)

And here’s a moment from the very latest episode. Background: Amaar’s shoes have been stolen from the mosque shelf during the service.

Further reading:

An interview with Sitara Hewitt at Muslimah Media Watch.

Little Experiences, a blog with video and discussions about the show.

Hijab Chique, a blog inspired by Rayyan’s outfits.


Clip one:

[shot of Christian church spire, pans down to the entrance (marked “Parish Hall”) where a line of people in Islamic dress are entering, being greeted by Yasir. Baber enthuses to Yasir about finally having their own mosque and no longer having to worship in rotating basements.]

[Baber, a conservative Muslim (played in the show as largely obsolete and irrelevant), is leading the service. A cross is visible in the background.]

Baber: As Muslims, we must realise the enemy is not only out there, the enemy is much closer than you think. The enemy is in your kitchen.

[Yasir and Rayyan are entering the building and removing their shoes. We see the sign on the door of Yasir’s contractor office, also within the church hall building.]

Rayyan, to Yasir: Maybe while the enemy’s in there, he could do the dishes.

Yasir: He may have a point.

Rayyan: Dad, Baber never has a point.

Baber: My point is this. Wine gums. Rye bread. Liquor-ish. Western traps designed to seduce Muslims to drink alcohol.

Rayyan: His sermons are going to drive me to drink.

Yasir: Patience, daughter. This is his last sermon. The new Imam will be on his way very soon.

Baber: …American Idol. Canadian Idol. I say all idols must be smashed.

[Rayyan sits down by her mother, Sarah.]

Baber: Desperate Housewives. Why should they be desperate when they’re only performing their natural womanly duties?

Rayyan to Sarah: Hey, did you tape last night’s episode?

Sarah: It was so good!

Rayyan: Yeah?

Yasir, turning: Shhh!

Clip two:

Rayyan: Can’t you just get a new pair?

Amaar: I can, but it’s just that –

Rayyan: I know, I know, they’re your Mecca shoes.

Amaae: Well that’s only part of it. I bought them when I was in Mercy, and when I was in Mecca, they were the only things that reminded me of home.

Rayyan: Come on, I’ll help you track them down.

Amaar: Really?

Rayyan: Sure. It’ll be like a mystery. “Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Brown Slip-On”. But where do we begin?

Amaar: [smugly] Elementary, my dear Watson.

Rayyan: Yeah. I’m not being Watson.

Categories: arts & entertainment, culture wars, gender & feminism, media, religion


24 replies

  1. Oh dear. The Canadians are so earnest and lovable in their politics.

  2. Hang on a tick, am I supposed to believe that Islam isn’t a monolithic hivemind? HAS FOX NEWS BEEN LYING TO ME ALL THIS TIME?
    I kid, we don’t get Fox in NZ (proof of God’s existence if ever there were any).

  3. I stumbled on this show on YouTube during its first season, and I love it to death. (No Canadian broadcasts on this side of Michigan, alas.)
    Apart from Rayyan, who is the closest thing I have to a media “hero,” I love the few episodes about Layla’s struggles to be both a teenager like her friends and to be Muslim in her own way while dealing with a very conservative Muslim father.

  4. The trouble is those clips are so dull and preachy.

  5. Fine, it’s impossible to adequately represent three seasons of a character-driven show in two minutes. Either way, it won’t be to everyone’s taste; you’re welcome to move on.

  6. Western traps designed to seduce Muslims to drink alcohol

    Heh. The best trick I ever pulled was convincing people that the appeal of being drunk per se didn’t exist.

  7. Only three seasons? Good. That means I should be done assimilating the rest fairly quickly.

    (That is one charming ensemble cast they put together, there.)

  8. I am a bit confused how come it is said of the character… “Rayyan is unapologetically a Muslim feminist, and her local feminist agitations, depicted positively, have been a recurrent thread throughout the series.”
    And yet Sarah Palin a Christian conservative couldnot possibly be a feminist and is described as being imbued with anti-woman policies. From a feminist perspective as far as i can see both religious women seek to involve their daughters in sometimes questionable practices, but that doesn’t help the daughters of the world to hear a voice, a woman’s voice, the feminist voice, of matter over mind – when it is taking sides – when it ought to be adopting a program that sets both previously mentioned mind-sets aflame and is being seen as an opposition to both. The rest of us are portrayed as per ADworkin as being unaware self-haters and patriarchal chimps!? You do not seem to be evenly applying the blow torch of your criticism across the social spectrum.
    I do not have a fast enough email connection to see the clips mentioned but i’ll look out for the series when i do. So far i’ve not been very impressed with the shows i’ve seen on MSM that ‘deal’ with Muslim issues. I’ve definitely found it infuriatingly directed at children (We wear the veil to protect ourselves from ‘uncontrollable’ boys [male sexuality] as per the ‘Proud Family’ episode.) Also, after seeing Jihad Sheilas – think i also object to glorification of the western convert character. So dull and preachy? Seems as though there is every likelihood it is also described as dangerous and offensive.
    Lauredhel – on your comment to Fine that she is ‘welcome to move on’ if she doesn’t like what she sees i thought that wasn’t in the spirit of encouraging lively discussion.

  9. {Mods pls feel free to cut and paste this to an elsewhere/not publish/what have you as it addresses IY’s issues and not Rayyan’s Hoydenicity}
    Hi IY.
    First up Rayyan does not *have* a daughter
    Therefore she does not have a daughter to involve in “questionable practises” (such as what, being a doctor? Having a giggle when religion doesn’t make sense).
    Re your link b/w Rayyan (fictional character in comedy sit-com whose world view alters the world not a whit beyond making tv viewers happy/sad/what have you) and Palin (potential VP and let’s face it potential President whose world view has the potential to shape American domestic and foreign policy and have enourmous impact on the lives of Americans and, well, COUNTLESS numbers of people):
    First, Rayyan’s ‘feminist agitations’ (as in to agitate for reform, to be actively calling for feminist changes) are mentioned. What ‘feminist agitating’ has Palin done, other than to agitate feminists (as in to annoy)? Please consult her track record and her stated policy before replying.
    Second, no one is ‘imbuing’ Palin with ‘anti woman policies’ or with anything else. (Defintion of imbue:
    Third, people are looking at Palin’s track record in government and raising concerns over many issues such as (but not exclusively)allegations of corruption and nepotism, enquiries into book banning, and oh so many other things you will surely have read by now. If not:,8599,1837918,00.html. She is anti-choice, which if this were HER body she was choosing for would be fine, but when she’s running for VP and potentially Pres, becomes a major issue.
    Um, I’m not sure what you mean by:
    that doesn’t help the daughters of the world to hear a voice, a woman’s voice, the feminist voice, of matter over mind – when it is taking sides – when it ought to be adopting a program that sets both previously mentioned mind-sets aflame and is being seen as an opposition to both.
    Particularly I’m not sure what it means that you think that there is such a thing as *the* feminist voice, or that what that is, is ‘matter over mind’. I’m kinda curious to know if you are a feminist or not, since if you’re not then perhaps you might want to not tell feminists what they ‘ought’ to be doing.
    Re Fine, don’t presume all commentors are female, Fine’s pretty regular around here and I think probably ok with being told to either contribute to the thread which is a discussion of Rayyan’s “Hoydenicity” or you know, perhaps move on as the point that Fine thinks the clips were dull/preachy had been made?

  10. #8- Was that Philip Travers? I didn’t understand a word of it.

  11. All of the comments so far say more about the commenter than my comment. 10 ad hominem attempted assassination.
    Fuckpoliteness; Re: discouraging lively debate, and the explanation given by you of the probable meaning of Fine being told s/he is welcome to move on, as being because they’d be OK with being told to keep on track is convenient justification only, i saw no evidence that Fine had repeatedly emphasised the point and so my comment stands that it appears as discouraging lively debate.
    MOOving on.

  12. Well the first 7 say nothing about your comment, so fair call on those. But I raised a number of points in relation to your comment, so I’m interested to see in what way they say more about me than about your comment. Hard not to see your latching onto the minor point at the end of my comment re Fine who appears to be…well…Fine with how things are…is that not a convenient justification not to engage with all the serious issues raised re your initial comment?

  13. Beg pardon re disjointed final sentence…anyhoo…went to download LMotP and no joy…hard disk too full. 😦
    I liked her refusal to be Watson too! 🙂

  14. [comment removed and reposted in an on-topic thread ~ tigtog]

  15. P.S. informally yours – if you wish to discuss Palin, could you do it on the current Palin thread instead of hijacking this one?
    I’m actually going to remove my comment above and repost it over there.

  16. I really, really don’t like “Little Mosque On The Prairie”. I was rather excited when it came out – after all, it was a progressive comedy show! About Muslims! In Canada! I was all “OMFG my country IS H4x0r 1337!” Plus, I try to throw the CBC a bone every once in a while, sometimes they have good stuff.
    Alas, stilted dialogue, poor acting, and transparent plots switched me off. It’s not a well-done show, it really isn’t…but then again, CBC has this tendency to: a) create shows nobody wants to watch (Sophie), b) create shows people theoretically want to watch, but prove painfully hokey and/or stale (Little Mosque), or c) hang on for dear life to shows that once were fabulous, and are now curling their fetid, gnarled fingers around the last ribbons of existence (Royal Canadian Air Farce, anything involving George Stroumboulopoulos).
    I just don’t think Little Mosque is fresh or funny enough to stand as a good show. It’s definitely a landmark show, and plenty of other television series could learn from its strong female protagonists, tolerance for those who are different, and ability to confront difficult topics in a light-hearted manner; in turn, Little Mosque needs to attend Writing and Acting 101, ASAP.

  17. Just thought I should come back to say I wasn’t offended to be told to move on.
    Also, I highly recommend ‘Salam Cafe’ a comedy made that I thikn realy works and pokes fun at Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
    And I guess the point I was making earlier is akin to the one made by mystery-bouffe.

  18. went to download LMotP and no joy…hard disk too full. 😦

    FP, try the Little Experiences blog, maybe? They have small-sized videos there.
    Thanks for the Salam Cafe pointer, Fine – I’ll check it out. And yes, I love the dorky earnestness of Canadian TV. It’s why Canadian Idol is my favourite Idol, too.
    Rest of the conversation… will go to the Palin thread!

  19. I think we Australians imbibe a certain comfortable familiarity with Canadian TV cos the ABC imports so many childrens programs from there.

  20. Seconding Fine’s recommendation. I only caught Salam Cafe a couple of times but it was the best australian comedy I have seen in a long time.

  21. I will try the blog…I just like my tele to be all stored and ready on demand. 🙂

  22. Canadian TV may produce some stodge, I couldn’t say – but I really, really love Trailer Park Boys – one of my favourite shows ever.

  23. Why do the Canadians produce so many children’s television shows anyway? Is it something to do with government funding (Canadian children television units get comparatively more than in the States/England?) It’s always been a bit of a mystery to me, albeit a pleasant one (I’ve always enjoyed some of their children’s tv shows).


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