Will Mosque‘s message click in Quebec?

Radio-Canada is dubbing the ground-breaking series in French and will broadcast it next spring.

Following its sale to France, Israel and Turkey, Little Mosque on the Prairie will air in Quebec next spring on Radio-Canada. The pubcaster’s decision is timely, as the province is in the midst of a very public, and at times divisive, debate about the integration of religious minorities and immigrants.

‘From the beginning, we thought it was a very contemporary series. It touches on issues that we are all dealing with,’ says SRC director of acquisitions Patricia Leclerc. ‘It may be set on the Prairies, but it also reflects our culture.’

Mosque, which will be dubbed in French, also fits the pubcaster’s mandate because it promotes tolerance, adds Leclerc. The series, about the goings on in a Muslim community in fictional Mercy, SK, has become a rare hit on CBC – scoring between 900,000 and one million viewers in its current, second season.

Leclerc regrets that a Quebec writer didn’t have the idea first. ‘It could have taken place in Hérouxville,’ she quips, referring to the small Quebec town that adopted a code of conduct for immigrants in January. Hérouxville ultimately altered its bylaws, which included banning public stoning and burning people alive, after a group of Muslim women met with the mayor.

‘I hope Quebecers will enjoy Mosque,’ says series creator Zarqa Nawaz. ‘My impression is that in Quebec, especially small-town Quebec, the only images of Muslims they get are of the extreme elements of the culture. Hopefully, it will have an impact, because Little Mosque is about showing Muslims in ordinary situations.’

Nawaz, who wears a headscarf and is the mother of four, also wants the series – which features a number of strong-willed women – to change the common North American perception that all Muslim women are oppressed. ‘We live in a culture where women get liposuction and breast implants. That’s oppressive,’ she says. ‘Just because you wear a headscarf, it doesn’t mean you are oppressed.’

Little Mosque‘s makers recently received the Search for Common Ground award, a humanitarian honour previously given to Nobel peace laureate Desmond Tutu and former US president Jimmy Carter. The award promotes collaborative problem-solving as an alternative to conflict.

Leclerc is quick to point out that Little Mosque‘s main selling point was not that it’s socially conscious, but that it’s funny. ‘It’s good TV. We wouldn’t have bought if it wasn’t.’

The series also recently inked deals for French-language broadcasts in Africa, Finland, Dubai, Gaza and the West Bank.

From Playback Daily