Little Mosque on the Prairie
|Little Mosque on the Prairie|
Logo for Little Mosque on the Prairie in early seasons.
|Created by||Zarqa Nawaz|
|Ending theme||Music/singing by Maryem Tollar|
|No. of seasons||6|
|No. of episodes||90 (List of episodes)|
|Executive producer(s)||Mary Darling
|Location(s)||Ontario and Saskatchewan, Canada|
|Running time||22 mins. (approx)|
|Production company(s)||WestWind Pictures|
|Original channel||CBC Television|
|Original run||January 9, 2007 – April 2, 2012|
Little Mosque on the Prairie is a Canadian sitcom that aired on CBC, created by Zarqa Nawaz and produced by WestWind Pictures. It was filmed in Toronto, Ontario and Indian Head, Saskatchewan. The series was selected and showcased at the 2009 Dawn Breakers International Film Festival in Zurich.
On April 2, 2012, the series finale to Little Mosque on the Prairie aired on the CBC. In May 2012, Hulu announced it would begin airing the series under the name Little Mosque in summer 2012. The series made its U.S. syndication debut on Pivot in August 2013.
The series focuses on the Muslim community in the fictional prairie town of Mercy, Saskatchewan (population 14,000). The primary institutions of the community are the local mosque, presided over by imam Amaar Rashid and located in the rented parish hall of the town's Anglican church, and Fatima's Café, a downtown diner run by Fatima Dinssa. The community patriarchs are Yasir Hamoudi, a construction contractor who originally fronted the money to establish the mosque under the pretense that he was renting office space for his business, and Baber Siddiqui, a college economics professor who served as the mosque's temporary imam until Amaar was hired.
The town of Mercy is governed by Mayor Ann Popowicz. Sarah Hamoudi, Yasir's wife, works as a public relations officer in Popowicz's office. However, after Yasir had to leave Mercy and go to Lebanon in season 4 episode 10, Sarah managed his contracting company.
The title is a play on the name of the classic American book and TV drama series, Little House on the Prairie. The two series are not related aside from the modified version of the title logo which was used for early seasons.
- Amaar Rashid (Zaib Shaikh) – A Toronto lawyer who answers an ad to become the imam at Mercy's mosque, much to the dismay of his family. He tends to support liberal movements within Islam, sometimes putting him in conflict with the more conservative Muslims in the community. Amaar tends to be sarcastic, which he blames on his work as a lawyer. His wealthy parents (Hrant Alianak and Veena Sood) are not religious at all, and continue to pressure Amaar to return to his much more lucrative law career. He tends to say "I am the imam!" to prove his point or to show that despite his age, he has authority. He usually uses this when other characters (particularly Rayyan and Baber) are fighting and won't listen to reason. Amaar has also been known to be petty and hold a grudge but is generally a good man and a good man of faith. Amaar married Rayyan at the end of Season 5. They have returned from their honeymoon to Mercy after Sarah and Yasir divorced. In season 6, Amaar does not start out as the Imam despite pressure from some congregation members to do so.
- Yasir Hamoudi (Carlo Rota) – A contractor who runs his business out of an office at the mosque, he is a practical man who seeks compromise. He is committed to Islam but is also an opportunist and not, as his daughter might put it, "a good Muslim." For instance, one of the main reasons he helps out with the mosque is because he does not want to lose his free office space, but he lost that privilege when the church's bishop learned of the arrangement and ordered Rev. Magee to pay appropriate rent to the Church organization for it which was passed on to Yasir. Yasir is a card-carrying member of the Conservative Party of Canada, although more for the networking opportunities than out of any particular interest in being politically active. His role was reduced in seasons four and five, due to Rota's other acting commitments; within the show, his absence was explained as a temporary return to Lebanon to care for his ailing mother. Yasir is said to have left to stay in Lebanon, in the process separating with his wife, Sarah, after a 31-year long marriage.
- Sarah Hamoudi (Sheila McCarthy) – A former Anglican who works as a public relations agent in the mayor's office, Sarah converted to Islam when she married Yasir. Like her husband, she struggles with Muslim customs and regulations and is often shown up by their more pious daughter, Rayyan. She wears the hijab when attending services at the mosque, but not day-to-day. After her divorce with Yasir, she returned to her original name Sarah Cunningham at the insistence of Ann Popowicz. Ann wanted Sarah to have "Danger" as her new middle name but it ended up being Dangler. Sarah is now Sarah Dangler Cunningham. Baber and Rev. Thorne are now competing for her soul or which religion she may become part of. Sarah was revealed to also lack a wild side and her memories of a wild past were actually her living through her friend Ann Popowicz. Sarah does try to let herself go wild when she kisses a stranger named Lou and gets into a bar fight with his girlfriend Svetlana. She later goes through a spiritual crisis, leaving Islam to return to the Anglican church but eventually finds she does indeed want to be Muslim and so renews her shahadah.
- Rayyan Hamoudi (Sitara Hewitt) – Yasir and Sarah's daughter, a doctor. She follows Islamic feminism, keeps the sartorial hijab, and takes her religion very seriously. Her Western medical treatments are met with disapproval by Fatima, who uses traditional Nigerian remedies. She is occasionally foiled by her own ambition; in one episode, she insists on being named as the mosque's representative to the local Interfaith Council as her price for letting go of an argument with Amaar, only to discover at her first meeting that the council is really little more than an interfaith bake sale committee. Rayyan has long had feelings for Amaar and they are currently married. Rayyan pushed her mother to join a divorce group but later on has discovered her own insecurities regarding her marriage. Her fear is that her parents' divorce may lead to problems between her and Amaar. In this fear, she gives up her habits of drinking milk out of the carton and forcing Amaar to place the dishes a certain way in the dishwaster.
- Baber Siddiqui (Manoj Sood) – A divorced college economics professor and the most conservative member of the Muslim community in Mercy, he acted as the imam prior to Amaar's arrival in the pilot episode; when Amaar briefly quits his job in Season 3, Baber again takes over as imam, and proves to be one of the reasons the community is so determined to get Amaar back. His conservatism often conflicts with the wishes of his teenage daughter Layla, although he loves her dearly (in fact the main reason he has custody of her is that when his ex-wife came to visit him after he moved to Mercy she saw that the only thing he had bothered to unpack was his daughter's picture on the wall). He wears a taqiyah and a shalwar kameez and constantly rants and raves and complains about everything, to the point that most of his acquaintances consider him obnoxious. He once falsely claimed that he was on the American no-fly list to cover up his own fear of flying, resulting in Rayyan and Amaar taking him to the American consulate in Regina three separate times to help him clear his name. He calls most non-Muslims "imbeciles" and "infidels", although it is rather obvious that he is not any sort of dangerous fanatic but just a harmless crank. In the episode "The Letter", Baber takes an interest in a female motivational speaker (played by Andrea Martin) who is stranded in Mercy, who in turn becomes interested in him. Everything goes well until Baber utters some anti-Semitic remarks. The motivational speaker takes offense, and reveals to Baber that she is Jewish. Baber comes to Amaar for guidance. Amaar reminds him that anti-Semitism is not tolerated in the Muslim faith. Baber also fell for Thorne's tricks of taking over as Imam which led to Amaar being removed as Imam. His bringing in the overzealous Rahaloon resulted in the mosque being removed from the church. Later Amaar made amends with Baber when he was reinstated as Imam. Baber performed Amaar and Rayyan's wedding and they left for their honeymoon. Upon their return it is revealed that Baber is the current Imam and is good friends with Reverend Thorne.
- Fatima Dinssa (Arlene Duncan) – A conservative Nigerian immigrant and the widowed owner of a diner. She is sarcastic and enjoys engaging in verbal sparring matches, frequently with Fred Tupper, the local bigot and radio "shock jock" who has a crush on her. She hates the Mercy Diner, her competition. She has a son, Jamal (Demetrius Joyette), who hates being forced to play ayo by his mother. She officially becomes a Canadian citizen during the show's run. She recalls fights with her deceased husband.
- Rev. Duncan Magee (Derek McGrath) – The priest of the Anglican Church which also houses the mosque, he is a good friend of Amaar and the two religious leaders often turn to each other for advice. He is liberal, once offering to perform a gay marriage at the church, and is willing to stand up to the church hierarchy when he believes that it is acting inconsistently with the true message of Christianity. He often laments the sad state of his own church and congregation. He suddenly left the church after the events of season three, replaced by the ambitious younger and distinctly less accommodating Rev. William Thorne, played by Brandon Firla, who feels it is his religious duty to compete with Amaar for the souls of the residents of Mercy. It is gradually revealed that he has taken up a number of hobbies over the course of his life including curling, running, and painting and has taken all of them seriously.
- Mayor Ann Popowicz (Debra McGrath) – The mayor of Mercy, who supports the Muslim community in return for their votes. She is primarily concerned with maximizing the perks of her office and minimizing the amount of work that she actually has to do. She has an uncharacteristically wild streak for a woman in middle age, having been known to date members of the Hells Angels and has more skeletons in her closet than the local cemetery. She is also very witty and blunt.
- Fred Tupper (Neil Crone) – The local bigot and the host of a talk show on the local radio station, he often equates Muslims to terrorists who want to take over the country. However, at times he finds himself in the awkward position of siding with the Muslim community, as evidenced in the first season. A flashback episode revealed that his distrust of Muslims stems more from an unpleasant encounter with Baber than from any deeply-held prejudices. His radio rants are primarily a ratings-grabbing persona; while he can be a condescending jerk off the air, he is like that with everyone and does not actually treat the Muslims any differently than anybody else. He has also had a crush on Fatima which was requited in an episode when Fatima banned him from her diner, and ended up crying from missing him. Fred Tupper is also a divorcee.
- Layla Siddiqui (Aliza Vellani) – Baber's daughter and a representation of an average teenage Muslim girl struggling to find the right balance between her desire to be a good Muslim and her desire for the lifestyle of a regular Canadian teenager who's into music, clothes and boys. She can be rebellious and sarcastic, especially at her father's foibles (she refers to their home as "Baberistan"), but is also very perceptive and insightful.
- Junaid Jaffer, also known as J.J. (Stephen Lobo) – Son of Yasir's friend Karim and former fiancé of Rayyan, who remembered him as a geeky childhood playmate whom she once pushed out of a tree. She wasn't expecting to meet an urbane, handsome, wealthy engineer when first told that Yasir was inviting him over for dinner.
- Joe Peterson (Boyd Banks) – A local farmer and a perpetually trouble-making sidekick of Fred Tupper. Basically a stereotypical hoser, he mostly trades cheap insults with Fred and occasionally causes mayhem by going for a joyride on his tractor. To their mutual surprise, he and Baber have found themselves agreeing on certain matters more often than they expect, developing a friendship only occasionally hampered by cultural differences. He has also found common ground with Sarah, unexpectedly revealing that he had read and loved the novel that her book club was reading. He is mainly a comic relief character, appearing in almost every episode, but having very little significance to the plot.
- Nate Shore (Jeff White) – Editor and reporter for the local newspaper. He has a very Zen attitude to his job as the main news source of a tiny, tiny town. He is a good friend of Amaar, despite Amaar's occasional exasperation at his freewheeling personality.
Although the show is set in Saskatchewan, the actual production is split between Saskatchewan and Ontario. Episodes 1 and 2 were filmed in Regina, but the rest of season one was filmed in the Toronto area. Indian Head, where a set has been built for the exterior of the mosque, doubles for the show's exteriors. Film Rescue International's building exterior stands in for the town hall and Certified Plumbing and Heating as the local used car dealership. The Novia Cafe, the front of which is used in the show as a stand-in for Fatima's, was located in Regina. It closed in the early summer of 2011.
Actors Zaib Shaikh and Aliza Vellani are Muslims. Sitara Hewitt (Rayyan) is also of partial Pakistani Muslim descent, but was raised Christian as both of her parents are Anglican Christians. Manoj Sood (Baber) is a Hindu Punjabi.
Zarqa Nawaz based much of the show on her personal experiences. Many of the characters are partially inspired by her family and friends. The episode "The Barrier" is based on a true happening at Nawaz's mosque when incoming conservative Muslims pressured the imam to put up a barrier separating men and women. The pilot episode also contained a satire of Maher Arar's 2002 detainment.
In the episode "The Archdeacon Cometh", the archdeacon mentions having to "shut down a church in Dog River", referencing Canadian sitcom Corner Gas on rival network CTV. Carlo Rota and Sheila McCarthy, in character as Yasir and Sarah, also later appeared in a crossover with Brent (Brent Butt) and Hank (Fred Ewanuick) from Corner Gas on the sketch comedy series Royal Canadian Air Farce, debating the location of Mercy and Dog River (both fictional towns) in relation to each other after Yasir and Sarah bought the gas station and fired Brent.
Guest actors who have appeared on the show include Colin Mochrie, Dan Redican, Samantha Bee, Dave Foley, Maria Vacratsis, Sam Kalilieh, Peter Wildman, Sugith Varughese, Hrant Alianak, Veena Sood, Kathryn Winslow, Jayne Eastwood, Patrick McKenna and Tom Jackson, as well as hockey player Darcy Tucker, curler Glenn Howard, and sportscaster Ron MacLean.
The show's executive producers are Mary Darling and Clark Donnelly, owners of WestWind Pictures, and Allan Magee. Producers are Colin Brunton and Michael Snook. Associate producer is Shane Corkery, with Jason Belleville, Dan Redican and Zarqa Nawaz as consulting producers.
The writing staff includes or has included Susan Alexander, Cole Bastedo, Jason Belleville, Andrew Carr, Andrew De Angelis, Claire Ross Dunn, Sadiya Durrani, Greg Eckler, Anthony Q. Farrell, Josh Gal, Sarah Glinski, Barbara Haynes, Karen Hill, Paul Mather, Jackie May, Zarqa Nawaz, Paul Pogue, Al Rae, Dan Redican, Sam Ruano, Vera Santamaria, Rebecca Schechter, Rob Sheridan, and Miles G. Smith. Carr, Mather, and Sheridan were previously writers for Corner Gas.
The directors for the first four seasons include Michael Kennedy (33 episodes including the pilot and entire first season), Brian Roberts (14), Jim Allodi (6), Steve Wright (4), Jeff Beesley (4), Paul Fox (4), and Zarqa Nawaz (1).
While the show does derive some of its humour from exploring the interactions of the Muslims with the non-Muslim townspeople of Mercy, and the contrast of conservative Islamic views (held primarily by the characters of Baber and Fatima) with more liberal interpretations of Islam (as represented by Amaar and Rayyan), at its core the show is essentially a traditional sitcom whose most unique trait is the simple fact of being set among an underrepresented and misunderstood cultural community. Nawaz herself has stated that the show's primary agenda is to be funny, not to be a political platform. She has also stated that she views comedy as one of the most valuable and powerful ways to break down barriers and to encourage dialogue and understanding between cultures.
This is represented by the show's current promotional tagline, "Small town Canada with a little Muslim twist": the religious angle, while always present, is largely tied to and sometimes even secondary to standard and universal sitcom themes such as family, friends and the humour in everyday life. For example, while the show sometimes tackles storylines with a political edge, such as a character claiming to be unable to attend a conference in the United States because he says he was wrongly placed on a no-fly list (when in fact he is simply afraid of flying) or the mosque being raided by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, even these situations are explored as much for their humour as their politics. The show much more commonly explores purely comedic issues such as whether a Muslim woman still has to cover her hair if the only man who can see her is gay, whether Muslims can curl, whether to haggle with the carpet salesman when buying a prayer rug, or whether a Muslim woman's head scarf is enough to mitigate a bad hair day. Television critics have also credited this very combination of an attention-grabbing premise with conventional and familiar sitcom themes as one of the primary reasons that the show successfully retained an audience after its debut.
The series also sidesteps issues of stereotyping by having characters in both the Muslim and non-Muslim communities who cross the entire spectrum of political opinion. Baber and Fatima, who represent conservative views within Islam, are balanced by conservative radio host Fred Tupper among the non-Muslims, while Amaar and Rayyan, who represent Islamic liberalism, are balanced by the liberal Anglican Rev. Magee. The more moderate Yasir and Sarah, who try to be good Muslims but aren't particularly strongly defined by their faith, are balanced among the non-Muslims by Mayor Popowicz, who doesn't care what anybody's religious beliefs are as long as they vote for her on election day.
Hewitt's character of Rayyan Hamoudi, in particular, has been singled out in the media as a strong and unique role model for young Muslim women—both for her ability to reconcile a commitment to her Muslim faith with a modern, feminist-inspired Western lifestyle and career, and as a fashion icon who dresses in clothes that are religiously appropriate yet stylish, professional and contemporary.
The series logo used for the cover art of the DVD releases does not use the mosque imagery of the televised version, thus rendering it similar to that used by Little House on the Prairie except for the use of the word "Mosque" instead of "House".
Unusual for a Canadian television series, Little Mosque received extensive advance publicity in international media, with stories appearing in The New York Times, the Washington Times and the Houston Chronicle, as well as on CNN, NPR and the BBC
The show premiered on Tuesday, January 9, 2007, at 8:30 p.m. It aired Mondays at 8:00 p.m. (all times half an hour later in Newfoundland). The Monday, January 15 broadcast was a repeat of the pilot.
The series premiere drew an audience of 2.1 million, an exceptionally strong rating for domestic programming in the Canadian television market, and on par with Canadian ratings for popular American series. It was, in fact, the largest audience the CBC had achieved in a decade for an entertainment program. By comparison, Corner Gas, one of the highest-rated Canadian TV shows, attracts just under one and a half million viewers for a typical episode. The second episode, airing against the second night of the much-anticipated season premiere of American Idol in most markets, had 1.2 million viewers, a sharp drop but still a high rating for a Canadian sitcom, and very high for CBC Television, which has had trouble garnering large audiences for its scripted programming in recent years.
At the end of the show's season on March 7, 2007, the show attracted 1.1 million viewers, or an average of 1.2 million for the season. CBC Television renewed the show for a second season consisting of 20 episodes, which began airing on October 3, 2007, and continued to attract an average of one million viewers per episode.
CBC renewed the show for a third season on March 7, 2008. Season three premiered on CBC Television October 1, 2008. In its third season ratings declined and as of December 2008 it was attracting a quarter of its original audience. In its fourth season ratings declined further and as of December 2009 it was drawing 420,000 viewers a week, or twenty percent of its original audience.
Canadian writer/producer Ken Finkleman (best known for his CBC series The Newsroom) criticizes the show's sunny outlook. "There’s deep confusion and racism about the place of Islam in the Western world and it’s the thing that’s broiling up under everything in the world, and the show presents this world where everything is happy."
|1||"Little Mosque"||January 9, 2007||2.178|
|2||"The Barrier"||January 17, 2007||1.232|
|3||"The Open House"||January 31, 2007||1.311|
|4||"Swimming Upstream"||February 6, 2007||1.085|
|5||"The Convert"||February 14, 2007||1.112|
|6||"The Archdeacon Cometh"||February 21, 2007||0.906|
|7||"Mother-in-Law"||February 28, 2007||1.001|
|8||"Playing with Fire"||March 7, 2007||1.128|
|Wikinews has related news: Canadian television show to debut in French speaking countries|
On May 8, 2007, WestWind Pictures announced that the show would be airing in France, Switzerland, and francophone African countries beginning in July. The French television company Canal+ Group will distribute the show's first season in July to non-subscribers of Canal+, a channel to which viewers must subscribe in order to watch. French voice-actors will dub the show.
On September 26, 2007, WestWind Pictures announced that the show would soon air in Israel, the West Bank, Gaza, United Arab Emirates, Finland and Turkey. On October 2, 2007, Al Jazeera English confirmed that the United Arab Emirates and Finland had signed deals to begin airing the series in 2008.
The show was nominated for Best Writing at the 2007 Canadian Comedy Awards. The episode "The Convert" was nominated for Best Writing in a Comedy or Variety Program or Series and Best Direction in a Comedy Program or Series at the 2007 Gemini Awards. The show was also nominated for Best Television Series – Comedy at the 2007 Directors Guild of Canada Awards.
Internationally, Little Mosque won awards for Best International Television Series and Best Screenplay at the 2007 RomaFictionFest. Former Canadian federal Member of Parliament Rahim Jaffer, who is Muslim, and director Michael Kennedy introduced the program screening.
The show won the Canada Award for media representation of multiculturalism at the 2007 Gemini Awards, and the 2007 Search for Common Ground Award, an international humanitarian award whose past recipients have included Muhammad Ali, Desmond Tutu and Jimmy Carter.
Since the producers of the show are Baha'is, it was selected and showcased in the Dawn Breakers International Film Festival in both 2008 and 2009 festivals making its first international film festival premieres in the US and Europe.
United States version
In June 2008 Fox announced plans to adapt Little Mosque on the Prairie into an American setting, in partnership with the show's production company, WestWind Pictures. The planned deal would not affect the Canadian version if it were to be picked up in the United States by another distributor or network. The U.S. version of the show has never been produced since the acquisition.
In 2012, PPI Releasing, LLC acquired the U.S. broadcast rights of the Canadian television series.
- Little Mosque' now calls Indian Head home. The Leader-Post (Regina). July 28, 2008.
- Zarqa Nawaz on 'Little Mosque' (Interview, MP3, Flash). Fresh Air; NPR. January 17, 2007.
- EGO Magazine: Sitara Hewitt EGO Magazine. October 8, 2008.
- Witty and wise, Little Mosque is enjoying a fine second season. The Ottawa Citizen. October 24, 2007.
- "Little Mosque steps on the Gas", The Globe and Mail, March 3, 2007.(subscription required)
- "Season finale on Mosque", CanWest News Service, March 5, 2008.
- "The rights stuff: Sitara Hewitt resurrects women's-lib issues as Little Mosque's Dr. Rayyan Hamoudi", canoe.ca, March 5, 2008
- Hijab Chique, a Muslim fashion blog which frequently uses Rayyan's wardrobe as inspiration.
- Little Mosque on the Prairie: Season One
- Little Mosque on the Prairie: Season Two
- Little Mosque on the Prairie: Season Three
- Little Mosque on the Prairie: Season Four
- Little Mosque on the Prairie: Season Five
- Little Mosque on the Prairie: Season Six
- McFarquhar, Neil (2006-12-07). "Sitcom's Precarious Premise: Being Muslim Over Here". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-01-07.
- "Glenn Beck (interview with series creator Zarqa Nawaz)". CNN. December 12, 2006. Retrieved 2007-01-07.
- NPR : CBC to Tell the Story of Little Mosque on the Prairie
- BBC website: "Muslim sitcom debuts in Canada"
- "A whopping two million viewers tune into 'Little Mosque'". The Globe and Mail. 2007-01-10. Retrieved 2007-01-10.
- CBC's 'Little Mosque' viewership drops off from hyped debut, but still respectable, Canadian Press via CBC.ca, January 18, 2007
- Brioux, Bill "'Heroes,' 'Little Mosque on the Prairie' among shows needing work", Canadian Press, 2008-10-27. Retrieved on 2008-12-2.
- Brioux, Bill " "Being Erica Means Being on the Bubble", 2009-12-10. Retrieved on 2009-12-15.
- "CBC Renews Lots of Stuff". Macleans. February 11, 2011. Retrieved March 21, 2011.
- Harris, Bill (June 8, 2011). "Cover Me Canada’ takes centre stage". Toronto Sun. Retrieved June 10, 2011.
- "CBC Season Preview". Retrieved December 26, 2012.
- "Press Release: Little Mosque on the Prairie Producers Ink First International Distribution Deal With French Broadcasting Giant Canal+". CCNMatthews. May 8, 2007. Retrieved 2007-05-08.
- "Little Mosque goes international". CBC News. 2007-09-26. Retrieved 2007-09-26.
- "A Little Mosque Grows". Al Jazeera English. 2007-10-02. Retrieved 2007-10-03.
- "Radio-Canada présentera "La petite mosquée dans la prairie"". Showbizz.net. 2007-10-29. Retrieved 2007-10-02.
- Surette, Tim (June 10, 2008). Fox importing Mosque. TV.com.
- Vlessing, Etan (June 10, 2008). Fox picks up rights to build U.S. 'Mosque'. The Hollywood Reporter.
- PPI Releasing Little Mosque press kit
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Little Mosque on the Prairie|
- Official website
- PPI releasing page
- Little Mosque on the Prairie at the Internet Movie Database
- Little Mosque on the Prairie at TV.com