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.
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.
[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!
Yasir, turning: Shhh!
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.
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.