Laughing All the Way to the Mosque
Zarqa Nawaz, creator of the hit sitcom Little Mosque on the Prairie, believes that comedy can help overcome cultural barriers. It's no surprise that her memoir is hilarious, whether she's describing growing up in suburban Toronto, her search for a suitable husband or her short-lived stint on the Dead Body Washing Committee at her Regina mosque. Though mostly light-hearted and refreshingly irreverent, Laughing All the Way to the Mosque also has a serious side: It makes Islamic practices understandable for non-Muslims and shows the diversity of Muslim experience.
"What do you think of the name Maysa?" I asked my mother.
"I don't like it. Call her Munzal."
'What? Munzal's a horrible name," I said, flabbergasted. "Why don't you like Maysa?"
"It's not Islamic."
I was nine months pregnant with our first child. Sami and I had scoured all the halal meat shops for every Muslim baby book we could get our hands on. (I know that sounds weird, but that's the only place you could buy them.) We had started our search for the perfect name the moment I knew I was pregnant. One name stood out to us:
Maysa — a woman who walks with pride. There was no second choice. We didn't even know at the time that we were going to have a girl. If we had had a boy, I guess he would have toddled with womanly pride. My mother's declaration devastated me.
"How Islamic is Zarqa?" said my father.
"It's very Islamic," countered my mother. "Lots of Muslims choose it."
"Nobody had heard of Zarqa before you chose it,' said my father. This was true. I had hated my name growing up. It was a really odd name, even for Muslims.
The only other Zarqa I ever met was when I was ten, and she was a sad-faced girl who looked like she couldn't believe her fate either. And that was it. The only other Zarqa I've ever encountered is the henna brand sold in my local halal meat shop. (Yes, halal meat shops sell the most bizarre things.)
From Laughing All the Way to the Mosque by Zarqa Nawaz ©2014. Published by HarperCollins Canada.