When I was younger, I read the "Little House on the Prairie" books religiously.
The first story about Laura Ingalls Wilder -- a girl growing up in the Midwestern United States during the late 19th century -- was the first full-length book I finished after I learned how to read. I couldn't particularly relate to Laura's life as a prairie girl; nevertheless, in my fake glasses, braces and bangs chopped just a little too short, I was obsessed.
As much as I loved those books, I hadn't thought about them in probably 10 years, until recently, when I heard about a television show called "Little Mosque on the Prairie."
When I first heard the name, I thought that it must be a mocking YouTube video, like the USC girl ranting about Asians in the library.
I didn't think a show with such a seemingly controversial title could ever make it on the air.
Looking into it, however, I found out that it was actually a well-known Canadian TV series that was selected and showcased in 2009 at the Dawn Breakers International Film Festival.
After watching an episode, I understood its appeal.
The series focuses on a Muslim community in the fictional prairie town of Mercy, Saskatchewan, where the primary institution is a mosque located in a rented room of the town's Anglican church.
The plot incorporates a lot of tongue-in-cheek humor, making fun of commonly held stereotypes about Muslims in the U.S. post-9/11. At the same time the show inconspicuously reveals a lot about Islam as a religion, from strictly conservative views to the very liberal interpretations.
The inventor and director of the series, Zarqa Nawaz, is a Muslim woman of Pakistani origin raised in Toronto, Canada. She reportedly based the show on many of her own experiences, and was inspired by family and friends in the creation of the characters.
I like the show because it's not a preachy documentary that scolds Americans, or makes them feel guilty for having a racist thought about Muslims in their community.
It's a laid-back sitcom that makes light of the matter, rather than placing blame. It makes a joke of the situation, while still communicating a lot about Muslims that many of us probably don't know.
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According to Wikipedia, Nawaz has said that she "views comedy as one of the most valuable and powerful ways to break down barriers and to encourage dialogue and understanding between cultures."
I wholeheartedly agree with her, and I think we should definitely incorporate more shows like this into our media.
The media is one of the most powerful forces of our generation, feeding us pictures of how we should look, dictating which products we should buy and, essentially, shaping the way we see the world. Thus, incorporating more shows like Nawaz's could be extremely beneficial in spreading truth and quelling ignorant stereotypes about an innocent group of people.
From an American perspective, I can understand how racist ideas about Muslims and Islam developed after the tragedy of 9/11.
With such a devastating event and subsequent suffering it's natural to want to place the blame somewhere, and since many American high schools don't offer a wide education on other cultures and religions, it was easy to take Osama Bin Laden as a representation for all Muslims.
However, I think that before we start taking action on these sentiments -- according to a USAToday study 39 percent of U.S. citizens favor requiring Muslims to carry a special ID "as a means of preventing terrorist attacks" -- we need to educate ourselves.
I didn't have much in common with Laura Ingalls Wilder when I read the "Little House" books (and acted them out, and bought the movie and dressed as her for Halloween...) but I read them because they were well written and I learned a lot about a lifestyle entirely different from my own.
I think the same can be said for the "Little Mosque" series: people will watch it because it's funny, and it's on TV, but in the process learn more than they realize and maybe even see the world and the people around them just a little differently afterward.
Contact staff writer Abby Kloppenburg at firstname.lastname@example.org
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