A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

a multi-faceted look at the middle east, and the middle west

Little Mosque on the Prairie VI: Good Neighbors

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on March 4, 2007

Several times during the past week the fact that I have no television set has come up in conversation. Regardless of nationality, everyone is horrified.

I love radio, newspapers, books, and magazines; somehow the appeal of television and cinema is less strong for me. When I watch television here, I download American shows and watch them on my computer.

I include all this exposition about my media consumption as explanation for my tardiness in posting about the two most recent Little Mosque episodes. I adore the show, but … I forget to watch it. Television, even good television, doesn’t always grip me in the way that a novel does.

Episode six,  which I am taking from mydien rather than asifnana because mydien’s version has stripped the show of its commercials, deals with the ominous visit of the Anglican archbishop. He is making a tour of non-performing parishes and closing those with poor attendance.

Given the small (and aged) size of his parish, our priest fears that his church will be the next to go. The Muslim congregation volunteers to impersonate a full, enthusiastic, multi-cultural congregation in order to give the impression that the parish is full of active parishioners. They stage a dress rehearsal, practicing hymns, the sequence of standing and sitting, and prayers – a delightful display of good neighboring, as they attempt to help the parish that helped them (by renting its parish hall to them as the community mosque).

Some of the humor is situational, and some of it a bit slapstick for me. What I found fascinating about this episode was the (very realistic, in my experience) gulf between Muslims and Christians with respect to knowledge of one another’s religious praxis.

While many Muslims may be aware of two of the fundamental theological differences between Islam and Christianity (the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the related doctrine of the Holy Trinity), the details of their neighbors’ religious lives are unknown. For example, Yasser, though married to a converted Anglican, has no idea what distinguishes New Testament from Old.

Sarah is called upon to give the congregation a crash course in Anglicanism, and her efforts to do so are funny but also sad. Her knowledge of the faith and practices of her former faith are hazy at best – and a not inaccurate depiction of the depth of many Christians’ religious knowledge.

As a scholar of the Islamic world, I am quite accustomed to the reality that Christians (in the Middle East almost more than in the United States) know very little about the ways in which practicing Muslims live their faith. This episode brought home the reality that our lack of knowledge of one another extends in both directions. For me, it was comic and sobering at one and the same time.

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2 Responses to “Little Mosque on the Prairie VI: Good Neighbors”

  1. […] Little Mosque on the Prairie VI: Good NeighborsSeveral times during the past week the fact that I have no television set has come up in conversation. Regardless of nationality, everyone is horrified. I love radio, newspapers, books, and magazines; somehow the appeal of television … […]

  2. Intlxpatr said

    I think I am going to have to buy it when it comes out on CD, and watch start to finish. Your reviews make it so intriguing!

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