Fear Factor

Little Mosque on the Prairie is a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) comedy about Muslims in a small Canadian town. It has become so popular after its first season that it is about to be shown in the Middle East, Turkey, and the UK. The second season aired on October 3.

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Little Mosque on the Prairie is a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) comedy about Muslims in a small Canadian town. It has become so popular after its first season that it is about to be shown in the Middle East, Turkey, and the UK. The second season aired on October 3.
Zarqa Nawaz, the show’s director, believes people will come away with an understanding of a misrepresented group. The show’s title is a play on the popular novel Little House on the Prairie. This show is set in Mercy, population 14,000, on Canada’s southern plains. Like the real town of Regina where Nawaz lives, Mercy’s population consists mainly of white Christians. The programme shows the difficulties Muslims have been integrating in a remote community.
In its debut in 2006, the Muslim-themed sitcom tackled subjects such as religion, race and ethnicity and attracted an average of 1.2 million viewers a week. The attraction is that Muslims are portrayed as they have not been seen before in Western media – as regular people with everyday problems and have a sense of humour.
Zarqa Nawaz, the show’s director, hopes to correct the stereotype that Muslims are humourless. She told Al Jazeera: “This will be a great opportunity for people to see Muslims in normal context.” Zarqa is a Muslim born to Pakistani immigrants in Liverpool, England, who was raised in Toronto and moved to the Canadian prairie 10 years ago. Nawaz has loosely based the show on her own experiences of adapting to life in a new setting.
The sitcom “shows Muslims to be utterly normal”. “They’re not terrorists, they’re not religious freaks. There’s nothing odd or menacing about the Muslim characters on Little Mosque on the Prairie – they’re just like any other Canadian citizens.”
Not all Muslims see the sitcom as a true representation of their community. Tarek Fatah, founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress (MCC), an organisation of secular Muslims based in Toronto, says: “The vast majority of Muslims in North America don’t go to mosques.” He said: “I believe there’s an attempt by Islamic groups to sanitise what happens in mosques. We know that most mosques give political sermons.”
Farzana Hassan, MCC president, says the sitcom portrays Muslims from a narrow narrative and she is offended by the way non-Muslims are portrayed. “The bigotry of small-town white Canadians has been exaggerated.” She would have liked to have seen the women in Little Mosque not wear the hijab.
The plot: An Imam moves to the small fictional town of Mercy, Saskatchewan. Mercy’s Muslims establish the town’s first mosque – a church they lease. The new mosque becomes the focus of a small, but suspicious Canadian community in its midst. The programme strikes a chord in its depiction of the cultural collision between Westerners brimming with paranoia about “terrorists” and Muslims struggling to maintain their customs and identities.
In an early episode, Amaar, a young Muslim lawyer from Toronto, is chatting on his mobile phone in public and innocently uses the words “suicide” and “blow-up”. That conversation coupled with his dark complexion is all it takes for the police to begin interrogating him.
“This creates a chance to see characters struggling and communities rubbing up against each other.” The show tells stories about the interactions between religiously diverse people and familiar topics about immigrants. It is enlightening and people will come away with an understanding of a misrepresented group.
The first season ended with all the typical makings of a controversial comedy: a battle of the sexes at the mosque, a new white convert causing friction in the community because she is more pious than her Muslim husband, problems with in-laws, interfaith dating with a sexy fireman, and the Muslims saving their town from financial ruin.
WestWind Pictures, the sitcom’s production company has signed its first international distribution deal with French broadcasting company Canal Plus. It started airing in France, Switzerland and French-speaking African countries in July.
In that same month, the sitcom won two awards at the 2007 Roma Fiction Fest, an annual international television festival in Rome, Italy. Israeli television stations will also begin broadcasting the first season in English with Hebrew subtitles on October 23. Audiences will be able to watch in the West Bank and Gaza as well. Finland and the United Arab Emirates have also signed deals and will begin airing the first season in early 2008.
A filmmaker in northern Nigeria has defied a ban on filming brought in by Islamic authorities after a popular actress was caught up in a sex scandal. Officials then acted, saying that in future, singing and dancing will be banned in movies; and actors and directors will need a license to make films.
The state’s Islamic authorities say singing and dancing are gratuitous sexual titillation banned by the Qur’an, and the new regulations are necessary to protect public decency.
But producer Hamisu Lamido Iyan Tama, a Muslim, says he has found a loophole in the state’s harsh censorship powers. His film is funded by the US embassy as part of “heart and minds” anti-violence campaign and is therefore out of reach of the state censor’s knife.
Interviews with 12 Iraqi witnesses, several Iraqi investigators and an American official provide explosive details:
A single bullet apparently fired by a Blackwater guard killed an Iraqi man and propelled the car forward as the man’s mother clutched him and screamed.
The car continued to roll toward the convoy, which responded with an intense barrage of gunfire in several directions, striking Iraqis who were desperately trying to flee from the scene.
Minutes after that shooting stopped, the Blackwater convoy moved north from the square and opened fire on another line of traffic hundreds of yards away.
Iraqi investigators believe that during the shooting Blackwater helicopters flew overhead and fired into the cars from above. They say that at least one of the car roofs had bullets through them.
Ahmed Haithem Ahmed was driving his mother, Mohassin, to pick up his father from the hospital where he worked as a pathologist. As they approached Nisour Square at midday on September 16, they did not know that a bomb had gone off nearby or that a convoy of four armoured vehicles carrying Blackwater guards was approaching.
Moments later a bullet tore through Mr. Ahmed’s head, he slumped, and the car rolled forward. Then Blackwater guards responded with a barrage of gunfire and explosive weapons, leaving 17 dead and 24 wounded – a higher toll than previously thought, according to Iraqi investigators.
Ahmed’s father later counted 40 bullet holes in the car. His mother, Mohassin Kadhim, was shot to death as she cradled her son in her arms. Moments later Blackwater guards fired a type of grenade into the vehicle and the car caught fire.
Witnesses close to the places where most of the Iraqi civilians were killed directly facing the Blackwater convoy on the southern rim of the square all give a relatively consistent picture of how events began and unfolded.
The car in which the first people were killed did not begin to closely approach the Blackwater convoy until the Iraqi driver had been shot in the head and lost control of his vehicle. Not one witness heard or saw any gunfire coming from Iraqis around the square. And mystery is why following a short initial burst of bullets, the Blackwater guards unleashed the second overwhelming barrage of gunfire when Iraqis were turning their cars around and attempting to flee?
As the gunfire continued, at least one of the Blackwater guards began screaming, “No! No! No!” and gesturing to his colleagues to stop shooting, according to an Iraqi lawyer who was stuck in traffic and was shot in the back as he tried to flee. The account of the struggle among the Blackwater guards corroborates preliminary findings of the American investigation.
Blackwater chief told a Congressional committee that his company’s armed guards in Iraq were loyal Americans doing a necessary job in hostile territory.
Several nationalist and Islamist armed groups have formed alliances in Iraq to thwart a power struggle should the US military withdraw and the Iraqi government collapse.
In July, the Islamic Army, the Army of Mujahidin, the Supporters of Sunni, and the Salafist group for Missionary Action and Fighting, got together to form the “Reform and Jihad movement.” This was followed in September by the “Change and Reform Front”, comprised of eight groups, including the 1920 Revolution Brigades and the Mohammed al-Fatih Brigades. The latter groups include senior members of the former Iraqi Army and Saddam Hussein’s elite Republican Guards. Fadil al-Rubaie, a member of the National Alliance, an Iraqi opposition movement in exile, believes that the unification of Iraq’s “resistance groups” indicates a turning point after previous refusals by the Islamist groups to merge with nationalists.
A smoothie ad claimed the fruit drink could rid the body of toxins. Manufacturers said the antioxidants in one smoothie were the equivalent of the recommended five daily portions of fruit and vegetables. However, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) decided it didn’t have the evidence to back that claim.
The drink – the acai, pomegranate and blueberry smoothie – contains acai berries, a nut-like fruit which grows in the Brazilian rainforests and which contains high levels of antioxidants. The firm marketed the drink as a “natural detox super foods smoothie”.
Michael Norman Podhoretz’s new book, World War IV: The Long Struggle Against Islamofascism, is a hate-filled, anti-American book of the first order. Podhoretz hates every American who does not support the neoconservatives’ views, the foreign policy they have devised, and the military and national security disasters to which they are leading America. Clearly, Podhoretz and his heroic band want the Islamist enemy to stay in the field so that the war he wanted will go on and on and on.
British MPs visiting the Pentagon to discuss America’s stance on Iran and Iraq were shocked when one of President Bush’s senior officials, Debra Cagan shouted: “I hate all Iranians.” She also accused Britain of “dismantling” the Anglo-US-led coalition in Iraq by pulling troops out of Basra too soon.
Debra Cagan, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Coalition Affairs to Defence Secretary Robert Gates, made the comments this month to an all-party group of MPs from Britain.
The six MPs were taken aback by the hard line approach of the Pentagon and in particular Ms Cagan, one of Mr Bush’s foreign policy advisers. She made it clear that although the US had no plans to attack Iran, it did not rule out doing so if the Iranians ignored warnings not to develop a nuclear bomb. It was her tone when they met her on September 11 that shocked them most. The MPs say that at one point she said: “In any case, I hate all Iranians.” Although it was an aside, it was not out of keeping with her general demeanour. Another MP said: “I formed the impression that some in America are looking for an excuse to attack Iran. It was very alarming.”
The United States reportedly has a plan for attacking Iran whose scope is deemed insufficient by Israel.
The Bush administration this summer revived a long-standing contingency plan for military strikes against Iran with a view to retaliating for Tehran’s support for the Iraqi insurgency, the New Yorker magazine reported in its latest edition. According to correspondent Seymour Hersh, the plan was shared with U.S. allies including Israel, which raised objections to the relative lack of Iranian nuclear facilities on a target roster that instead focused on military training camps.
But Hersh quoted a former U.S. official as saying that Israel was reassured “that the more limited target list would still serve the goal of counter-proliferation by decapitating the leadership of the Revolutionary Guards, who are believed to have direct control over the nuclear-research programme.”
They are a dime a dozen in Congress: resolutions commemorating this or commending that. Be it a sports team or a holiday or just about anything, Congress can find comity and bipartisanship when it comes to commending things. “In order to demonstrate solidarity with and support for members of the community of Islam in the United States and throughout the world, the House of Representatives recognises the Islamic faith as one of the great religions of the world.”
Tuesday resolution did not sit well with Rep. Tom Tancredo, the Republican from Colorado. He did not oppose the measure, but he didn’t support it either. He was one of 42 Congressmen to vote “Present.” Shortly after the vote Tancredo issued a press release in which he argued that the resolution shows how political correctness is ruining public discourse.