This piece was written by both Sobia and Krista and originally posted at Muslim Lookout. Viewers in Canada can now watch full episodes of the show here. This review looks at Episode 18, “Baber Makes an Entrance.”
Sobia: It’s 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.