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No, it’s not a joke. The CBC–a major Canadian broadcasting network–premieres a long awaited, much talked about new television series called “Little Mosque on the Prairie,” tonight at 8:30pm. And, it’s a sitcom! That’s right–a comedy about being Muslim and living in the West.

The show, created by Zarqa Nawaz, “focuses on the small Muslim community in the little Prairie town of Mercy,” where “many of the town’s residents are leery of their Muslim neighbours, who are unsure how to assimilate into the community,” reports Jeff DeDekker of the Saskatchewan News Network.

Nawaz got the idea for the sitcom after 9/11 and experiencing personally the breadth of attitudes and situations Muslims faced as a result–some of which she found were rather funny. “Little Mosque on the Prairie” is described as “a kind-hearted comedy that makes light of misconceptions about Muslims and isn’t afraid of poking fun at all characters, be they Muslims, rural folk or bigcity residents.”

As for characters, Nawaz has filled them with conflict: “When I created each of the characters I was careful to create characters who had inherent conflict built into them. For example, Baber, the most conservative member of the community, has a rebellious teenage daughter who doesn’t want to wear the hijab or go to Islamic school or participate in the faith at the level he would like her to. Yasir and Sarah, the more modern, non-secular Muslims, have a daughter who went to university and discovered her faith and wears a scarf, much to the chagrin of her mother, the convert, who sees it as a sign of oppression.”

Nawaz confesses she is prepared for the inevitable backlash that comes when anyone–Muslim or otherwise–makes light of Islam’s followers:

“The only people who will be offended are the people who are extremely right wing, on both sides of the spectrum, Muslims and non-Muslims who have no sense of humour,” said Nawaz. “There’s nothing you can do about that… I know the heart of the show is in the right place, the intention is to be a comedy, to make people laugh and entertain people. It’s coming from a very funny place and I think it will be very successful, God willing.”

— Posted by Donna Freitas

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