New host Zarqa Nawaz debuts on The Morning Edition

The Little Mosque on the Prairie creator will be in host chair until August when permanent host Stefani Langenegger takes over.

Little Mosque on the Prairie creator will be in host chair until August

Zarqa Nawaz will be hosting CBC Saskatchewan's Morning Edition until August. (Jonathan Pinto/CBC)

Zarqa Nawaz has done a lot in the span of her career.

The journalist by trade is probably best known as the creator of the CBC sitcom Little Mosque On The Prairie, which aired on the station for six seasons.

She also made several short comedy films and the documentary Me and the Mosque. In 2014, she penned an autobiographical collection of stories called Laughing All The Way to the Mosque.
Little Mosque on the Prairie, created by Nawaz, aired on CBC for six seasons. (CBC)

Now, she is taking on a new role in the host chair of CBC Radio's The Morning Edition.

The Regina mother of four will start by waking up the Queen City on Jan. 29 and will be interviewing guests every weekday until August when permanent host, Stefani Langenegger, steps in.

Big city to prairie living

Nawaz grew up in Toronto, where she took a bachelor of science in hopes of becoming a doctor — the wish of her immigrant parents. She said those in charge of admissions did a good job of weeding her out.

Without a portfolio or any previous experience in the field, she filled out an application to Journalism School at Ryerson, where she said she later flourished.

"I realized this was the place where I truly did belong because I enjoyed the whole world of journalism, telling stories and talking to people and gathering people's words," she said.  
Nawaz and her younger brother Muzammal. (zarqanawaz.com)

Over 20 years ago, it was radio where she got her start in the industry on the show Morningside with Peter Gzowski.

A few months later, she moved from Toronto to La Ronge, Sask. to work on a radio show in a studio above a general food store. She said more than two decades living in Saskatchewan have been some of her most formative years.

"It was like suddenly becoming immersed in another new world, a world no one had ever taught you about," said Nawaz. "It was such an incredible learning experience."

Nawaz moved to Regina, where her now-husband is from, not long after and worked on The Morning Edition as an associate producer. It was early on in Sheila Coles' hosting career.

Returning to The Morning Edition

Although she said Coles has left "impossible shoes to fill," she is now working to find her own voice on the program.

"After being gone for like 22 years, it's like coming full circle to the exact same place where I started in Saskatchewan," she said. "I don't know if there is any other job like this in the world where you can meet people and tell their stories and learn from them and it's such an incredible way of growing as a person.

"This is wonderful." 

After taking a break from journalism to work on her other, aforementioned pursuits, Nawaz said the opportunity with CBC Radio came at the perfect time.
Nawaz at a book signing for Laughing All The Way to the Mosque with former host of The Morning Edition, Sheila Coles. (Facebook/Zarqa Nawaz)

Three of her children now attend the University of Regina and one is in high school at Campbell Collegiate, the same school her husband graduated from.

"I'm hoping that I won't destroy The Morning Edition," Nawaz said, laughing. "It's my biggest fear."

Nawaz said she hopes to connect with the city as it evolves and welcomes the many newcomers finding their way to the prairies. 

She said she'll be searching for interesting stories from members of the community and looks forward to hearing from listeners. Follow her on Twitter @ZarqaNawaz and email her at zarqa.nawaz@cbc.ca.