“Little Mosque on the Prairie” and Modern Convivencia: An Intervention into Canadian Muslim Identities
Little Mosque on the Prairie, a television comedy series featuring Muslim characters and a Muslim minority community on the Canadian prairies, was a novel and groundbreaking undertaking when it was launched in 2007. Appearing in the context of a growing Canadian Muslim population, and of ambivalent attitudes towards Muslims among Canadians in general, the series is here analyzed as a cultural intervention into the contested field of Canadian Muslim identities. First, however, the scene is set by evoking Lessing’s interfaith parable of the three rings, and by searching through past Muslim-Christian-Jewish coexistence in al Andalus, or Muslim Spain, for categories of religio-cultural interaction. Second, the Canadian context of increasing religious diversity and ambivalent attitudes vis-à-vis Muslims is explored. Selected episodes form the first two seasons of Little Mosque on the Prairie are then analyzed to reveal its dynamic intervention in the Canadian cultural imaginary by confounding simple “Muslim versus Canadian” binaries, normalizing visible Canadian Muslim identities, de-homogenizing and circumscribing Canadian Muslim-ness, and longing for a utopic interfaith convivencia. In the end, it is argued that Little Mosque on the Prairie attempts to show how Canadian Muslims can be authentic, not despite, but because of having to interact with a wider non-Muslim context.
KeywordsMuslim Woman Muslim Community Canadian Context Ambivalent Attitude Religious Observance
- Angus Reid Strategies. 2009. Canadians hold dissimilar views on six religions. http://www.angusreidstrategies.com/uploads/pages/pdfs/2009.05.04_ReligionEN.pdf. Accessed 9 Oct 2009.
- Bakht, Natasha. 2008. Victim or aggressor? Typecasting Muslim women for their attire. In Belonging and banishment: Being Muslim in Canada, ed. Natasha Bakht, 105–113. Toronto: TSAR Publications.Google Scholar
- Coren, Michael. 2007. Show is visual drudgery. The Toronto Sun, January 13.Google Scholar
- DeDekker, Jeff. 2007. Mercy! ‘Little Mosque’ breaking new ground. Leader Post, Regina, January 8.Google Scholar
- Fatah, Tarek, and Fazana Hassan. 2007. Little Masquerade on the Prairie. The Toronto Sun, February 12.Google Scholar
- Greifenhagen, Franz Volker. 2010. On the way to Muslim-Christian understanding. Camrose: The Chester Ronning Centre for the Study of Religion and Public Life.Google Scholar
- Habacon, Alden E. 2008. Beyond the mosaic: Multiculturalism 2.0. Canadian Diversity 6(4): 150–154.Google Scholar
- Hamdani, Daood. 2010. The Al-rashid: Canada’s first mosque 1938/Edmonton. Toronto: Canadian Council of Muslim Women.Google Scholar
- Kay, Barbara. 2009. Truth and survival. National Post, September 16.Google Scholar
- Malenfant, Eric Caron, Andre Lebel, and Laurent Martel. 2010. Projections of the diversity of the Canadian population. Ottawa: Statistics Canada. http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/91-551-x/91-551-x2010001-eng.pdf. Accessed 14 Feb 2013.
- Mason, Christopher. 2007. ‘Little Mosque’ defuses hate with humor. The New York Times, January 16.Google Scholar
- Mattson, Ingrid. 2003. How Muslims use Islamic paradigms to define America. In Religion and immigration: Christian, Jewish, and Muslim experiences in the United States, ed. Yvonne Yazbeck Haddad, Jane I. Smith, and John L. Esposito, 199–215. Walnut Creek: Altamira Press.Google Scholar
- Menocal, Rosa. 2002. The ornament of the world: How Muslims, Jews, and Christians created a culture of tolerance in medieval Spain. Boston: Little, Brown and Company.Google Scholar
- Moghissi, Haideh, Saeed Rahnema, and Mark J. Goodman. 2009. Diaspora by design: Muslim immigrants in Canada and beyond. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.Google Scholar
- Parkin, Andrew, and Matthew Mendelsohn. 2003. A new Canada: An identity shaped by diversity, CRIC paper 11. Montréal: Centre for Research and Information on Canada.Google Scholar
- Poorthuis, Marcel. 2005. The three rings: Between exclusivity and tolerance. In The three rings: Textual studies in the historical trialogue of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, ed. Barbara Roggema, Marcel Poorthuis, and Pim Valkenberg, 257–285. Leuven: Peeters.Google Scholar
- Ramji, Rubina. 2003. Representations of Islam in American news and film: Becoming the ‘other’. In Mediating religion: Conversations in media, religion and culture, ed. Jolyon Mitchell and Sophia Marriage, 65–72. London/New York: Palgrave.Google Scholar
- Ramji, Rubina. 2008. Creating a genuine Islam: Second generation Muslims growing up in Canada. Canadian Diversity 6(2): 104–108.Google Scholar
- Religions in Canada (2001 Census: Analysis Series). 2003. Ottawa: Statistics Canada. http://www12.statcan.ca/english/census01/Products/Analytic/companion/rel/pdf/96F0030XIE2001015.pdf. Accessed 8 Oct 2009.
- Saddy, Guy. 2008. The First Little Mosque on the Prairie. The Walrus 5(8): 52–58.Google Scholar
- Schecter, Ronald. Trans. and ed. 2004. Nathan the Wise by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing with Related Documents. Boston/New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s.Google Scholar
- Smith, Christopher. 2013. Anti-Islamic sentiment and media framing during the 9/11 decade. Journal of Religion and Society 15. http://moses.creighton.edu/jrs/2013/2013-3.pdf. Accessed 18 Feb 2013.
- Syed, Naseer. 2004. Who speaks for Muslims in Canada? The Globe and Mail, October 27.Google Scholar
- Todd, Douglas. 2009a.‘Disturbing’ poll on religion contains lessons for Canada. Vancouver Sun, June 6.Google Scholar
- Todd, Douglas. 2009b. 1,000 Muslims pray at Vancouver Art Gallery. The Search, August 14. http://communities.canada.com/vancouversun/blogs/thesearch/archive/2009/08/15/1-000-muslims-told-they-re-accepted-in-vancouver.aspx. Accessed 10 Sept 2009.
- Wente, Margaret. 2007. Little Mosque: Way too cute. Toronto Globe and Mail, January 9.Google Scholar
- Wiseman, Richelle. 2009. Albertans most tolerant of religious diversity. A Faith and Media Blog, May 12. http://faithandmedia.org. Accessed 12 Sept 2009.