CBC’s ground-breaking show Little Mosque on the Prairie draws to a close Monday night, remaining true to the "ordinary folks" portrayal of Muslims it has practised from the outset.
When the show debuted in 2007, it drew attention to the then-radical idea of showing Muslims living in a Western society in a TV sitcom. The show was created by a Muslim woman, Zarqa Nawaz, who spoke to the New York Times, the BBC and media outlets around the world about her concept for the show.
The series followed standard sitcom format, centred around a small group of characters in the fictional Saskatchewan town of Mercy, where the mosque is based in a church.
The show ended up screening in more than 90 countries, its mild family-friendly humour helping to de-mystify the idea of Christians and Muslims living side by side. Only the U.S. failed to embrace the series.
As the series draws to a close, the cast reflected on the highs and lows of the series and how they will remember Little Mosque.
"It was a risk for Canada, it was a risk for the CBC and for the people who put this show together," said Zaib Shaikh, who played the lawyer turned imam on the series. "It came at a risky time and we leave it at a better time."
Shaikh said it seemed significant that a Muslim woman had created the show.
"She got the chance to have her characters come to life and that's an amazing thing for Islam, so that was a huge risk and look what came of it.... :it's an amazing thing," he said.
For most Canadians, the show soon stopped being about religion and became about family and community, said Sheila McCarthy, who played Sarah Hamoudi/Cunningham.
She said one of the highlights of the show for her was playing a mother letting her daughter go after Rayyan Hamoudi agrees to marry.
Her daughter, played by Sitari Hewitt, takes religion very seriously but is an Islamic feminist, helping to display the wide range of opinions there are within the faith.
Hewitt said she felt a kinship with women who wear hijab on Canadian streets because she was doing the same for viewers.
"So many people who were not Muslim said 'hey there's a girl in my office who wears a hajib and now I understand that she takes it off when she goes home.' And I understand all these things about women in hajibs, so it was nice to be informing people and finally making Muslims feel that they were finally represented in TV," she said.
The finale of Little Mosque on the Prairie airs Monday evening on CBC TV.