Canadians are not known for the quality of the television they produce. Yet a Canadian sitcom set to debut on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (the CBC) next week is getting slightly more publicity than Gulf Wars I and II combined. And not just in Canada. CNN and The New York Times – among others – have given airtime and column space to “Little Mosque on the Prairie.” The title is a play on the 1970s family show, Little House on the Prairie, based on the books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. But the “prairie” in question here is a fictional town in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan. The series is said to focus on Canadian Muslims interacting with their non-Muslim neighbours, and all the hilarity that will naturally ensue.
While I object strongly that my taxes are used to pay for the CBC, I don’t object to the idea of this show itself. And if hilarity actually does ensue, I’ll be happy. But I’m dubious. The show’s creator, Zarqa Nawaz, a Canadian Muslim filmmaker who wears a traditional hijab, has noted “that while the classic sitcoms All in the Family and The Jeffersons dealt with bigotry and racism for the first time on American television, their success was based on the hilarious delivery of those issues, not on preaching to viewers.”
First of all, I would be willing to argue that All in the Family was indeed preachy, but that aside, Canada’s public broadcaster has had little success where sitcoms are concerned, and regularly scores low ratings against American shows that most Canadians would prefer to watch. The CBC is, however, long on preachy.
One must also take into account the CBC’s propensity for anti-American and anti-Israeli bias in its news coverage, and for increasing dhimmitude in the years since 9/11. The CBC has already hired a Muslim-Canadian consultant to “ensure it doesn’t cause unforeseen offense” with Little Mosque on the Prairie. The consultant’s job will be “to comb through the sitcom’s creative elements and suggest possible alterations.” The show has also been screened for select Muslim audiences to gauge community reactions. This seems odd, given that Nawaz has said, in many interviews, that she does not wish for Little Mosque on the Prairie to be known as a “Muslim comedy.” The show’s executive producers have stated that they hope the series will – with humour, of course – deal with “the treatment” of Muslims in Canada since 9/11. Treatment that includes a taxpayer-funded sitcom putting focus on their lives, one would do well to remember.
It is hard to believe that the CBC will buck tradition and bring forward anything truly daring or even funny, with this series. More likely, it will be a recycling of corny jokes and situations involving misunderstood Muslims and intolerant non-Muslims. I hope I’m wrong, but if I’m not, expect to see it on preachy European television channels, too.