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CTV News recently reported on a BC based study in which it was found that Canadians with English names have a better chance of getting a job than do people with non-English, specifically Chinese, Pakistani, or Indian, names. CTV News reports

In fact, after sending out thousands of resumés, the study found those with an English name like Jill Wilson and John Martin received 40 per cent more interview callbacks than the identical resumés with names like Sana Khan or Lei Li.

“If employers are engaging in name-based discrimination, they may be contravening the Human Rights Act,” said the study’s author, Philip Oreopoulos, economics professor at the University of B.C. “They may also be missing out on hiring the best person for the job.”

The study also found that the only way the applicants could improve their chances of a callback was to state they had Canadian or British experience.

And before one thinks this may have something to do with acculturation or language issues some new immigrants may have, the study’s author suspects that even second and third generation immigrants are at a “significant disadvantage” if they have a Chinese, Indian or Pakistani name (great – I guess my Pakistani name is going to be trouble for me after all). However, not as much as their parents or grandparents may be. I guess, it’s all in the name.

Image via CTV.

Image via CTV.

Of course, one can see how this would be problematic for those with non-English sounding names. Employers would be engaging in discrimination of applicants based on an aspect of a person’s identity that cannot indicate an individual’s competency for the job position. An aspect linked to ethnicity. In other words – racism. In the case of this study, racism toward specific groups of people, many of whom are Muslims. The findings of this study are disturbing indeed and they demonstrate the way in which “Canadian” is defined. Those with English names – yes names originating from England (which if my memory serves me correctly is now considered a foreign country in Canada) – are categorized as “real” Canadians while those with non-English sounding names are seen as non-Canadians, as others.

To begin with, the CTV article itself creates an othering of those with non-English names. By using the terms “foreign names” or “foreign-sounding names” to refer to non-English names CTV makes the assumption that only English names are truly Canadian. Those names that are not English sounding are not Canadian – including Pakistani names. Pakistanis, along with Indians and Chinese, are therefore otherized and assumed to be foreign. Even those born and raised in Canada.

And of course, the results of the study imply a similar othering. Those with non-English names, it seems, do not appear to be Canadians and as such need not be interviewed or considered. They are considered to be “foreign” and as such are seen to be less competent than “real” Canadians (or Britons it seems). Additionally, the study also found that “Chinese resumes that had English first names increased the chances of getting a callback.” All this hints that those with non-Canadian names are not seen as acculturated or Canadian enough. Take on an English name (ie name from England) and all of a sudden you’re more Canadian?

The irony of course should not be lost on readers. English names are just that – English. They are not Canadian. They originated in England. Yet names from England, and therefore people whose roots are in England (a foreign country by the way), are viewed as Canadian. And those whose roots originate in India, Pakistan, or China are not? Additionally, can we really forget that these English names have belonged to the colonizers – those who massacred Canada’s indigenous populations and stole their land? These English names arrived in Canada via extremely violent and vicious means.

How will this discovery bode for Muslim applicants? The implications for Muslims are clear. Most Muslims in Canada have non-English names. According to what this study implies, we are seen as lesser Canadians, if Canadians at all. Our names, regardless of our citizenship and nationality, are “foreign names,” as CTV would put it. We are thus seen as not “real” Canadians. The racism inherent in such discriminatory practices, whether intentional or not, has tried to define for us our place in Canada – as foreigners.

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CBC TV recently played a four part documentary on India called India Reborn. The series was well done and diverse demonstrating India to be a paradox of a country. From filthy, filthy rich people to the dirt poor, India is a country of all colours, figuratively and literally. India also has the second largest Muslim population in the world, with the largest being Indonesia. Yet, Muslims are still a relatively small minority in the country. That is why I was quite interested in seeing how the documentary presented the Muslims of the country, if they did at all. With news in recent years of rising anti-Muslim sentiment and actions, it made sense when the documentary did indeed address the issue of communal violence and tensions.

The relations between Hindus and Muslims are eluded to many times throughout the series. In the first episode, entitled Might and Myth, we hear the very popular and whimsical politician Lalu Prasad Yadav, mentioning to reporters that as the current month is a holy month in which worship takes place both Hindus and Muslims will be participating. A sign of the beauty of India he says. Being South Asian myself and having been exposed to Indian media, I’ve heard this mantra of love and brotherhood often. I have always felt that it hinted at a struggle within India itself and among the various religious communities. A struggle to keep the fragile relationship between Hindus and Muslims peaceful and respectful. This message seems not only a statement about the realities of peace between Muslims and Hindus in many parts of India, as I know many do live in peace and harmony and as demonstrated in the documentary with Hindus and Muslims partaking in the predominantly Hindu garba dancing, but also a hopeful self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts in those areas that are not so peaceful. A sort of “if we say it enough times it will become true.”

Sharifa Cheeba. Image via CBC

Sharifa Cheeba. Image via CBC

In the first part we are introduced to Sharifa Cheeba, a Gujrati Muslim woman, who has experienced the ugliness of Hindu-Muslim violence and hate. A woman who grew up with Hindu neighbours who were like family now expresses her anguish about not being able to live in that same environment. Sharifa tells of how during the Gujrat riots of 2002 her Hindu neighbours, with whom they were previously close, told her and her family to get out of the neighbourhood and robbed their home. They were told that Muslims did not belong in the neighbourhood. In her recounting of what happened Sharifa’s pain and sadness if clear. Her longing for the days of peace can be heard in her voice.  And in this sad story Sharifa brings up an important and disturbing point – the impact on the children. The children, she says, have been left feeling as if India is not for them, as if being Muslim is a sin. She also notes that India is her home and her birth place. This despite Gujrat having the largest Muslim ghetto in India. However, Sharifa’s story demonstrates a sad and devastating reality of India – that of being a marginalized minority. Not only does her experience show the fear and vulnerability that many minorities, specifically Muslims, live in, but also the constant negotiation of identity. Despite being in India for centuries many Muslims are often forced to question their Indian-ness. Their loyalty to the country is questioned and their authenticity is doubted. This leaves, as Sharifa notes, confusion in the minds of Muslims growing up in India. Are they really Indians? And if not, then what else are they? They know no other home. To be made to feel like an alien in one’s own home can lead to feelings of vulnerability, loneliness, and loss. Something one has known as familiar has now become foreign.

To add insult to injury, and adding to my own sense of growing unease, we are next introduced to the Hindu nationalist group, the RSS, gathering in a field for what seems to be a rally and militaristic training. All are dressed in one uniform listening to the hate filled speeches of their leaders. The volunteers of the RSS, as well as onlookers, listen while Muslims are called demons and monsters who are an evil threat to Hindus. Referred to, by the narrator, as one of “the most powerful forces in India today” the men desire India to go from a secular country as it is, to a strictly Hindu one.  No Muslims allowed. Such is their power that even on Eid in Ahmedabad, Gujrat’s major city, the mosques require police protection.

One particular member, Babu Bajrangi, a participant in the Gujrat riots, was caught on video in 2007, talking about his part in the riots, and it is chilling. As a Muslim I felt goosebumps as I listened to his boasting about killing Muslims.

We didn’t spare a single Muslim shop, we set everything on fire. We set them on fire and killed them…I can’t tell you what a good time it was.

and

They shouldn’t be allowed to breed. I say that even today.  Nothing to be done with them but cut them down.

As the backdrop for his words, India Reborn presents images of burn victims, children and adults, lying in hospital beds, the victims of Bajrangi and his kind’s “good time.” It’s enough to make one sick. But the horror is that this Hindu nationalist group holds political power in Gujrat, a state with many Muslims, and the fear is always there, as the narrator tells us, of renewed violence and killing. With the RSS’s call to arms against the Muslim enemy, such fears seem valid.

Farooq Jafri. Image via CBC.

Farooq Jafri. Image via CBC.

But of course, as India is a diverse country, there will be the good with the bad. And in the episode entitled Manufacturing Dreams we meet, in the small, predominantly Muslim town of Malegaon located close to Mumbai, Farooq Jafri, a poor and struggling writer and actor with hopes of making it big in Bollywood. With the help of his friend Sheikh Nasir they film social issue films for the entertainment as well as education of local people. Although the focus is on his films and dreams, the tensions between Hindus and Muslims are brought up here too. Except here we see different consequences. After a bomb ripped through a local mosque 3 years ago killing many mosque goers, there was no retaliation nor further violence. As Sheikh Nasir puts it, Hindus and Muslims joined together to denounce the violence. He sees this as an example of the love between Hindus and Muslims. And like a true filmmaker Nasir expresses his desire to make a film about the unity of Hindus and Muslims by using the local looms, owned by Muslims who sell their goods to Hindus, as a metaphor, therefore demonstrating their interdependence.

This interdependence hangs in stark contrast to the Hindu nationalist party in Gujrat, thus demonstrating the diversity of a country like India. On the one hand people live in constant fear of their safety, and in another they have aspirations to show the world how well Hindus and Muslims get along. Both appear to be realities in today’s India and depict an aspect of the paradox. From the documentary it was clear that along with many other struggles, the Hindu-Muslim tension is an ever present one.  Appearing as a theme in two episodes one gets a sense that it is on the minds of many Muslims in India. Despite the examples of peace and harmony, the fact that Muslims are a marginalized minority appeared obvious in the documentary. Such findings match previous ones. The Council on Foreign Relations states:

The Muslim literacy rate ranks well below the national average and Muslim poverty rates are only slightly higher than low-caste Hindus, according to a November 2006 government report (PDF). Muslims—mostly Sunnis—make up 13.4 percent of India’s population, yet hold fewer than 5 percent of government posts and make up only 4 percent of the undergraduate student body in India’s elite universities. The report also found that Muslims fall behind other groups in terms of access to credit, despite the fact that Muslims are self-employed at a far higher rate than other groups.

And BBC reported:

Indian Muslims are also largely illiterate and poor.

At just under 60%, the community’s literacy rate if lower than the national average of 65%. Only half of Muslim women can read and write. As many as a quarter of Muslim children in the age-group 6-14 have either never attended school or dropped out.

They are also poor – 31% of Muslims are below the country’s poverty line, just a notch above the lowest castes and tribes who remain the poorest of the poor.

And indeed that Muslims were poor and disadvantaged also became apparent. Whether this was an oversight of the filmmakers or a reflection of reality, this absence was not lost on me.

The tensions between Hindus and Muslims were documented in the film. Of course, the history behind the tensions was not provided but the fact that the tensions remain, and in some cases are worsening, is worrisome in and of itself regardless of history. One may accuse the documentary of exaggerating the issues, but considering other sources can corroborate the information I was glad to see this reality. In a country that is trying to reinvent itself it seems that it is not including certain segments of its population in this makeover. Such neglect can only further marginalize. And although some may see this as airing India’s dirty laundry in public, the reality is that no country has a good record regarding marginalized populations, but India, in all its re-branding needs to pay attention to this segment of the population they are trying to sell to the world.

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The following was originally published on Muslimah Media Watch. As this documentary was just recently aired on Canadian television it has been edited for Muslim Lookout.

Saira Khan. Image via BBC Two.

Saira Khan. Image via BBC Two.

CBC Newsworld documentary program The Passionate Eye aired the British documentary Forced to Marry on March 23rd. I found the film which aired originally on BBC Two on December 1st, 2008 fascinating, frustrating, disturbing, chilling, sad, and, at times, hopeful and heartening.

The film, which was filmed, produced, and directed by Ruhi Hamid and narrated and presented by Saira Khan, begins with the dire statistics that each year thousands of girls from Britain are taken abroad and are forced to marry, many of them in Pakistan. In fact, Khan notes that more British people are forced into marriage in Pakistan than in any other country. In the documentary, Khan follows staff members Albert David, Neelam Farooq (both Pakistanis), and Theepan Salvaratnam (British Vice Consul) of a unit set up in Pakistan by the British Foreign Office which finds and rescues British girls in Pakistan who have been forced into marriages, in hopes of finding out why young British Pakistanis are being forced to marry.

In the documentary, we are presented with the cases of four British Pakistani girls – Tanya, Aaliyah, Zara, and Rubina (all aliases) – who the unit tries to rescue. With each rescue attempt, I found myself getting nervous and tense. The unit confronts those involved (without showing their faces on camera) and the chance of confrontations becoming tense and dangerous always seem high. However, each confrontation is resolved in some way or another, as the unit is intent on keeping tensions and altercations of any kind at a far distance.

The documentary is eye-opening as it tells the stories of the girls in order to to explain this particular, and seemingly increasing (a 40-45% increase in just one year), problem the U.K. and Pakistan face. When telling such stories, one has to perform a sensitive balancing act: expose the problem without stigmatizing a marginalized community. This documentary does this well. First, the documentary ensures to clarify the difference between forced and arranged marriages, the latter of which are still very common in South Asian cultures. The documentary also mentions numerous times that such forced marriages are un-Islamic.

At one point this distinction becomes bittersweet when Khan speaks with young British Pakistani girls about the issue and they state that it is not Islam but rather the culture. So in defending religion, they implicate culture. I was not sure how to feel about this. I cannot deny that the issues of family honour and “parents know best” are not a part of South Asian culture, but such expressions (i.e., forced marriages) are extreme. Yet, working as a double edged sword, this same depiction of culture as the culprit portrays the parents of the girls as victims of the culture, bound by traditions of honour and having to fall to the pressures of families and bradries (brotherhoods, or castes). This, because it is obvious that the young girls profiled in the film are torn and conflicted. They want to leave Pakistan, they do not want to be forced, but at the same time they love their parents and do not want to hurt them, despite their parents forcing them into marriages. By depicting the parents as victims just as much as victimizers, one sees the complexity of the issue as well as the inner struggles of the girls being rescued.

The film ends back in the U.K., with Khan speaking with British Pakistani writer and broadcaster Ziauddin Sardar who has written books on British Asians. He calls for a reform of laws criminalizing forced marriages. A law which has since become reality. He accurately points out that the attempt of the parents to create closer ties with family in Pakistan by forcing to marriage their children to family in Pakistan has actually ended up tearing families apart.

The film left me feeling sad for the young girls who although portrayed as victims in some ways, were also the ones who instigated the rescues. They were always given the choice of leaving or staying. The unit was just a means for them to escape. And the unit, although a British initiative, was made up mainly of Pakistanis rescuing British girls. However, I wondered, as did Khan, about the many girls the unit was not able to help.

The film left me feeling angry at the parents who force their children to marry to uphold traditions that they may hold dear but which are detrimental for the children involved. The film left me feeling frustrated at the loyalty some of the girls felt to either their parents or in-laws. However, being South Asian myself, I understand that sense of loyalty, honour, and respect. I also understand my own privilege for having parents who would never force me to do anything, thus making my adherence to such cultural practices easy. The film also left me feeling hopeful that there are resources for these young girls (and apparently boys as well). Finally, I felt sad for the Pakistani girls who are forced into marriages, who do not have the Pakistani government to come to their rescue. The issue of forced marriages in Pakistan, of both Pakistani nationals as well as British (and others perhaps), is obviously a problem which must be highlighted and thus such documentaries are a necessity.

You can watch parts 2-6 of the documentary on YouTube here. The first part has been removed. I highly recommend watching it.

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Warning: Spoilers ahead

Image via Marketwire

Image via Marketwire

In this last episode of this season of Little Mosque on the Prairie involved the long-awaited wedding between Rayyan and JJ.  When it begins, JJ’s parents are still arguing, and Amaar is making a deal with Fred to use the Prairie Dog Lodge as a wedding venue.  Baber goes to rid the place of alcohol, gambling chips, and the painted groundhog portrait.  Once the wedding finally takes place, and Rayyan gives her consent to marry JJ, JJ surprises everyone by saying “no.”

Krista: I thought this episode was one of the more complex and probably the most serious one that they’ve had.  Have they ever even had anyone crying on the show before?  The scene where Rayyan and JJ are talking about how they love each other and want to be together but know it won’t work out was unusually moving for this show.  Also, YAY for Ammar standing up for Rayyan!  He usually bothers me because he seems so insecure all the time, but he stepped in at just the right moment, and laid down the law as imam about why they had to respect her.  He also gave a great sermon at the wedding about the importance of companionship.  It was an unusually strong imam performance for him, but I was glad to see it.

Sobia: I don’t think they’ve had anyone cry on the show before. That was so surprising to me too and, yes, it was moving. That scene between Rayyan and JJ was quite emotional and I think they did it well. I was surprised at how “deep” they went in this one. I thought this was definitely most serious one they’ve had. I could tell it was not so funny because it was meant to not be funny. They didn’t try too hard in this one.  And I totally agree about Ammar. I liked that not only did he stand up for Rayyan but he, for the first time, seemed very confident and comfortable in his role as imam. Maybe that was on purpose. Maybe from now on we’ll see a more confident imam in Ammar. Additionally, we can’t forget that he does have feelings for Rayyan so this may be another incident of foreshadowing.

Krista: JJ’s mother and Baber were both their usual annoying, unrealistic and predictable selves, so I guess that balanced things out in the show.  And how cheesy was that thunderstorm???

Sobia: Oh that thunderstorm. That was really cheesy. And oh man – JJ’s mother was terribly annoying. She seemed meaner this time. And unnecessarily so. I mean, last week because of the whole hiding the divorce thing one could understand her stress. But now that the cat’s out of the bag, and her real target of anger was supposed to be her husband, her attitude toward Rayyan seemed inappropriate. And Baber was being unnecessarily picky. I can understand getting rid of alcohol, but the picture of that prairie dog? It was ugly but not offensive. However, I was glad that when Ammar explained that the picture could be offensive he made sure to clarify that it could be offensive to some Muslims. Finally, no generalizations. But for some reason the way Baber tried to get rid of the picture seemed a little disrespectful to me. Ah well…at least it was Baber who was doing it and not a more rational Muslim character.

Krista: I wasn’t sure what to think about the part with the witnesses.  They need two people as witnesses, so JJ has his father as a witness, and Rayyan chooses her mother as hers.  JJ’s mother jumps in (possibly out of jealousy, given her actions in most of the rest of the episode) and tells Rayyan that she can’t have only one female witness, that she needs two female witnesses to equal one man.  Rayyan first tells her that “no one does that anymore,” and then finally asks her to be another witness, which she refuses.

I wish there had been more context to that scene, rather than just throwing it in there.  There are different opinions about the reasons for (and validity of) the two-female-witnesses thing, and also about the contexts where this is required.  I was confused about why they put that part in there, and felt like it would be especially confusing for any non-Muslims watching the show.  You can’t just have someone say “you need a second woman to equal a man,” and not explain where that came from.  If the writers really wanted to bring up the question about witnesses, they should have allowed for more of a discussion about it, rather than just rushing through it, and basically using it as another way to show how immature JJ’s mother was acting.

Sobia: I see what you’re saying, but this is the dilemma with LMOTP. They are trying to teach people about Muslims but they only have a limited amount of time to do it. To be honest I didn’t mind it so much. Maybe because I agreed with Rayyan. JJ’s mother represented one school of thought and Rayyan another. Many Muslims do believe that the whole two-women-equals-one-man thing is outdated, and culture and time specific. I don’t think they had enough time to address it fully but at least they addressed the stereotype that all Muslims believe or follow this – because we don’t. And I did like that.

Krista: One area where I felt the episode was lacking was at the end, when they’re reflecting on what happened.  There was a lot of reflective talk about how the past is past, maybe what took place happened for a reason, and so on, and not a single mention of God, not even from the imam!  I thought it really could have benefited from some indication that Islam could be a source of comfort and inspiration during a difficult time, a way to look philosophically at what happened and to feel hope that something better might be in store.  I realise that they don’t want to make it a religious show, but I wonder if people watching the show are going to start understanding Islam as a set of strange rules – no gopher portraits at weddings, women are only worth half of men, etc. – and not as a source of inspiration or a positive force in other ways.  Ammar’s speech at the wedding was great as a demonstration of the lessons that people can find in Islam, but I felt like the absence of any reference to any religious teachings at the end was really weird (and unrealistic.)

Sobia: I didn’t think of it that way when I was watching it but now that you mention it, I agree. It would have been nice to even have said something like “God has a plan” or “God does everything for a reason.” It didn’t even have to be Islam specific because coming from a Muslim, especially the imam, would have implied the Islamic source of inspiration. And as you said, at the very least Ammar should have said something about it. He is the imam.

However, that last conversation between Ammar and Rayyan was not so sublte at hinting at the possibility of something happening between them. Overall, not a bad show.

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LMOTP Round-Up: March 16

Image Courtesy of WestWind Pictures/CBC via Google Images.

Image Courtesy of WestWind Pictures/CBC via Google Images.

This week was the second-last show of the season and Rayyan and J.J.’s wedding is getting closer. Here are our thoughts, but first a brief summary. Warning – spoilers ahead.

Monday’s episode saw J.J.’s parents coming to Mercy, Saskatchewan from Dubai for the wedding. While J.J.’s father has Yasir, Rayyan’s father, sweating over the amount of the mahr, J.J.’s mother is confusing Rayyan with her antagonistic and resentful behaviour. We find out later in the show that the reason for her bitterness is not Rayyan but rather her disdain for marriage, which itself is in response to her impending divorce from J.J.’s father (which they have kept secret from J.J.)

Sobia: With LMOTP I find the humour component is either hit or miss. I have not found the show consistently funny, nor have I found it consistently un-funny. Last week I found funny; this week not so much. This week I found the attempt at humour quite forced, especially with the character of J.J.’s mother. In fact, her attempts to be patronizing came across as over the top and exaggerated. Some subtlety would have been better and easier to watch. Additionally, I have to admit, that until we find out why she’s being so mean to Rayyan she was coming across as the stereotypical possessive mother-in-law and it felt old and done. Everybody Loves Raymond played it out.

Krista: I know!  There wasn’t much that was funny, but pretty much everyone was making me squirm with discomfort or just plain annoyance at how they were acting.  Even Baber seemed more childish and irritating than usual.  Seriously, playing dominoes and eating chips in the imam’s office, and then leaving bags of food on Ammar’s desk?  And this is someone who is supposed to be a university professor?  It seemed pretty silly and unrealistic.

I totally agree about J.J.’s mother.  I thought they should have revealed the secret (that she and her husband were planning to divorce) much earlier on, to put us out of the misery of having to watch all that awkwardness.  The back-and-forth about the mahr also totally frustrated me.  Why couldn’t they just have a direct conversation about it???

Sobia: The struggle and panic over the mahr was entertaining. As described in the show, its a “dangerous cultural tightrope” because asking for too much will seem demanding and asking for too little insulting. Though I have to admit that while watching the show I kept thinking “Why doesn’t he just ask Rayyan to ask J.J. what a reasonable amount would be?” Nonetheless, watching the bride’s family stress over this made me think of how in South Asian cultures at least, the bride’s family has usually been the one panicking and stressing to keep the groom’s family happy. Although the dynamics were different here the panic was repeated. I was glad though that Yasir’s eagerness to please J.J.’s father had more to do with their friendship and nothing to do with their future relationship dynamics. However, I’m sure you noticed how there was no mention of where the money was going, or was supposed to go.

Krista: Yeah, exactly.  I have no personal experiences with any issues to do with mahr, but my understanding is that it is money given to the bride directly (or put aside for her, depending on the agreement.)  The show implied that it was Rayyan’s family that would be receiving the money (at least, that’s the conclusion that I would have drawn if I didn’t know better), whereas Islamic law is pretty clear that the mahr belongs only to the woman herself.  I was actually pretty surprised that the show went into this issue, because it’s a complicated one, and easily misinterpreted, especially with so little explanation given about what a mahr actually is.  I know that Little Mosque generally tries to educate non-Muslim Canadians about Muslims, but I felt like this episode probably made Muslims seem even more weird and complicated than we already do.  The way they showed it, I think it could have been easily interpreted as if Yasir was receiving money in exchange for allowing his daughter to marry into the Jaffer family, which totally misrepresents the idea and makes it appear pretty paternalistic.

Sobia: Speaking of the Jaffers, J.J.’s parents seemed to completely fit the stereotype of rich Emiratis. Their excessive wealth was not hidden. I mean, his father had his Rolls Royce shipped to Mercy from Dubai and they had four or five homes around the world! Although I know there are lots of rich Emiratis, again, this is something that is way overdone. We get it. They have money. Let’s try something different. I’m sure there is more to Emiratis than money. There has to be! It seemed like LMOTP was relying too heavily on steretypes in this episode.

And what was up with “Norma Carmicheal?” Why was that name so fake? And did you notice how Ammar said it didn’t sound Muslim? I understand that its not Arabic sounding but Ammar, as a progressive Imam raised in Toronto should know that Muslims can have non-Arabic sounding names too, including European names. I just thought that in this day and age assuming someone’s name didn’t sound Muslim doesn’t have as much logic as it may have 50 or so years ago.

Krista: I sure did notice Ammar’s comment about the name!  That made me so mad!  Of all people, the IMAM at least should be open to Muslims not having traditional “Muslim-sounding” names!  I know that his reaction had more to do with him suspecting that Rayyan was making up the name, but the dismissive way he said that the name “doesn’t sound Muslim” really got to me.  It’s probably not a big deal to most people watching the show, but for people who are often told (implicitly and explicitly) that we don’t “look” Muslim or that our names don’t “sound” Muslim, Ammar’s comment just seemed to reinforce that it’s okay to question our Muslimness.  Comments like that do have an impact.  Yes, I realise it’s a fictional show and everything, but it actually really bothers me that he said that.  Sigh.

As you said earlier, LMOTP can be pretty hit-and-miss, and this one has “miss” written all over it.  Here’s hoping the season finale next week is a bit better!

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Image via CBC website

Image via CBC website

This post has been edited from when it was originally published.

Sobia: Its been a while since I’ve written about Little Mosque on the Prairie. Unfortunately I haven’t been watching it on a regular basis. However, after seeing this week’s promo my curiosity was peaked. The premise this week: Baber, the ultra-conservative Muslim is convinced by the uber-conservative Muslim, Faizal, that the mosque needs a separate, women’s only entrance. Another entrance is hastily “created” – the back door used for throwing out and stacking garbage gets the label “women” placed on it – and the women are forced to enter the mosque after making their way threw piles of garbage. Meanwhile, Amaar, tries to get these super conservative men to somehow change their minds.

Knowing Zarqa Nawaz’s strong opposition to segregation in the mosque I already had a suspicion of how the show would proceed and I was not disappointed. The separate entrance is depicted as the injustice it is. The women, in protest, refuse to come to the mosque. Baber only has a change of heart when he realizes his daughter has to go through the humiliation of walking through garbage to get into the mosque. Amaar, to show the ultra-conservatives how wrong the idea of segregation is, devises a plan which, as a woman, I thought had quite satisfying consequences.

Krista: I really liked this episode, and I was also pretty satisfied with Amaar’s plan.  Part of me still wishes that he had laid down the law more firmly in the beginning (I know, I know, that would have been totally out of character for him!), and I was frustrated that in both of the meetings that he had with the men and women all together, he seemed much more concerned about having the men’s approval than the women’s.  That said, I guess the point was that he was trying to get the conservatives to decide themselves that separate entrances were a bad idea, rather than having that concept forced on them.

I especially appreciated that the motivation for Baber and Faisal wasn’t about piety or modesty, but was specifically discussed in terms of proving how conservative they are.  They want to one-up the mosque that Faisal went to in Winnipeg not because they want to show that they’re better Muslims, but because they want to show themselves to be more conservative.  I couldn’t imagine this discussion actually happening in these terms in real life, but I liked how it was scripted here, to suggest that separate entrances really are a matter of particular ideologies, and not a measure of piety.

Sobia: Those who know me know that I have had my issues with some of the portrayals of Muslims and Islam in the show in the past, but I have been appreciative that the show does exist. This episode had one particularly highly enjoyable segment. As part of the plan Amaar agrees to having two separate entrances but only if the men use the back, garbage door. They begrudgingly agree but when they try to enter the back door for Friday prayer they find the door won’t open. They can’t get in and are stuck listening in at the door to Amaar’s khutbah. As I watched this the comment on women’s sections in various mosques was certainly not lost on me. Men leaning in trying desperately to hear the khutbah over the noise of the garbage truck behind them reminded me of so many women’s sections in which women desperately try to hear the khutbah over the noise of playing children every Friday. It was nice to see men being so inconvenienced. Although I am not sure how many Muslim, mosque going, men will recognize their privilege after seeing this (if they haven’t already that is) but let’s hope that at least a few have a change of heart and recognize that being able to actively be a part of the mosque is a luxury they have. Nicely done LMOTP!

Krista: I completely agree about hoping that this will show some Muslims (men in particular) the ways that segregated spaces often make for profoundly unequal spaces that can seriously limit the potential for women’s participation.  Is it bad that I felt a guilty kind of pleasure in seeing the men, for once, as the ones having strain to hear what was being said?  Of course, for some mosques, a more realistic representation would have been if that back garbage area WAS the women’s space, with a few screaming children thrown in too, just for fun.

Okay, so I’m exaggerating (and possibly a little bitter.)  Overall though, I think this might be the most useful/powerful LMOTP episode yet.

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