The Canadian Quilt in Action

Canada’s multiculturalism is often referred to as a patchwork quilt, but its often not really clear what that actually means on the ground, in real terms. One example of what that phrase means may very well be starting on the CBC, in the guise of new sitcom, Little Mosque on the Prairie. Its always hard to tell after only a single example of any show, especially the first episode of a brand new series, but so far, this one looks very promising.

Set in Mercy, Saskatchewan, it is, as the title suggests, a show about the Muslim community of a small prairie town. Toronto lawyer turned Imam Amaar (played by Zaib Shaikh) comes to mercy to take over leadership of the Mosque from the more conservative former Imam Baber Siddiqui (played admirably by Manoj Sood) and while the first show treads on some familiar stereotypical ground … we first meet Amaar as he is being mistaken for a terrorist at the airport, for example … it does so with some interesting new steps.

Understandably, given the subject matter, the show has generated tremendous buzz, both in Canada and around the world, and a lot of the buzz outside of Canada has centred on the question of how its even possible to do such a show given the current climate in the world. Thats why I started this post off like I did … watching the show tonight I was struck that it is a uniquely Canadian concept. The idea that we could have a show about a specific section of the community that not only transcends stereotypes, but actually interacts with the rest of the community around it is a unique part of what it means to truly be a ‘patchwork quilt.’ The American Melting Pot may very well have its advantages, but one key feature is that difference within the community is the subject of ridicule … in the patchwork quilt, each different piece adds both beauty and structure to the whole.

In the end, I don’t know if Little Mosque on the Prairie will live up to its advance billing or not … the first episode definitely didn’t disappoint me, but one episode does not a sitcom make. What I do know was it was nice to see a show where the Muslim community is portrayed as just another part of the larger Canadian microcosm (or smaller microcosm as in the case of Mercy), and the short performances tonight by the town Reverend, Duncan McGee (Derek McGrath) and Mayor Ann Popowicz (Debra McGrath) show serious promise in adding to that sense of the larger community. Little Mosque on the Prairie is going on my must watch list … I’m a definite convert so far.

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