Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Reverse Racism on Little Mosque on the Prairie

Racism is an unspeakable crime in Canada. Anyone guilty of it is publically shunned and criticized. But apparantly this is only the case for white Christians. Other people can feel free to mock and criticize the majority with impunity. This is clearly shown on Little Mosque on the Prairie.

The other day I finally decided to watch an episode. Every time I watch Jeopardy, previews for the upcoming show are shown. I heard reviews, but decided to have a look for myself. I was pretty disappointed.

The episode started when the Anglican priest ordered a Jesus statue, ostensibly for his own church. A group of Muslims, including a white woman convert, opened the crate that it came in and saw the statue. One of the men accidentally knocked over the large statue (larger than life-sized) and it smashed to pieces. They were worried about being caught, and made several jokes in bad taste. First of all, it seems rather shocking to feature an episode where a statue of Jesus would be smashed to pieces. Would there ever be an episode where a koran was accidentally shredded in an industrial shredder? Don't count on it. Jesus is obviously the central figure of Christianity and a statue is a likeness of Jesus which we use as a point of reverence. To smash it is a great insult. Why it's part of a comedy is a little odd to me.

We then go to the Anglican priest in the episode. The priest is shown as extremely untrusting and suspicious of Muslims in general. He believes they are all "up to something". This is quickly contrasted with the Muslims' acceptance and tolerance. The bigotted priest accuses Amaar, the young imam, of doing things which are wrong. The only basis for his accusation is that they are Muslim and must be up to something. Amaar, however, is the voice of morality throughout the episodes. He continually petitions others to "do the right thing". This of course is much different from the priest who only jumps to unfounded conclusions and whose morality seems somewhat skewed.

The episode plays like a sort of "after-school special". It attempts to be comedic but falls short as it quickly become a politically correct lesson in Islam. Baber is a more traditional Muslim who seems to be in the episodes simply to provide a springboard for canned responses to popular opinions about Muslims. For example, in the episode Baber demands that his daughter wear a traditional Muslim veil. She refuses. This sets up a great "the more you know" opportunity. A Muslim woman informs the girl that: wearing the veil is a choice, one that must be made by all Muslim women. The entire episode was one contrived and humourless lesson opportunity after another.

The current Anglican priest replaced another who was less morally offensive. It seems they wanted to turn up the contrast of Muslim vs. Christian. Whereas the Muslims are seen as tolerant members of society who want to integrate themselves and help out the community, the Christians are viewed as backward and bigotted. In the episode, the original Jesus statue was (accidentally) replaced by a black Jesus. The priest had a good laugh at this "ridiculous" Jesus and went on a sort of racist rant. This was only to discover that the Catholic priest for whom he was storing the statue was himself black.

I have only watched one episode, and doubt I will watch more. However, I am not spared from the constant onslaught of commercials promoting the show on CBC. It seems the next episode will feature the same Anglican priest in a state of near ecstacy at the possibility of the Muslims leaving the community. I'm sure viewers can expect some comedic genius in that episode.


  1. I am quite surprised to read this take on the episode. I like the show a lot, and this particular episode is one of my favorites.

    The show tends to be a bit corny and "Safe" at times, but I think that's sort of an endearment. I've brought up the idea of a lot of the characters, particularly Christians, being stereotypical, however if you watch the show on a regular basis ALL the characters have their flaws and are sort of caricatures.

    Baber is the stereotypical ultra conservative who most of the others kind of shrug off. Even the Imam (their Priest) is shown with actual flaws and shortcomings.

    The character of Rev. Thorne was a hotbed of contention with many of the fans last year for the reasons you point out. And it should be mentioned that the character was designed that way on purpose, because of where it was heading THIS year. The character, realizing he was going to be in the town for a long time, realizes he needs to change and be more of a member of the community, than an outsider hurling insults and racist cracks.

    And he has, for the most part. He's still got that sarcastic edge to him, but he's becoming more involved and is roommates with the Muslim priest.

    As a Christian I don't find any offense by this show, although I suppose I can understand those that do find it. I would suggest you watch some episodes from this season. You'd see the change in the Rev. Thorne character. He's still an a-hole, to a degree, but he's changing.

    Just my thoughts.

  2. Hey Gary, thanks for your comments. They are well thought out!

  3. No problem. BTW: here's a couple of blog posts I've made about the show.

    "Little Mosque On The Prairie & Religious Intolerance"


    "Would Little Mosque On The Prairie Succeed in The US?"