On Canadian TV: On a show about different faiths getting along, atheism is just a punch line

You may remember that show that CBC aired a few years ago called Little Mosque on the Prairie. It caused a big stir when it was first announced, and remained a moderate hit for its first year or two, though interest waned quickly when it became obvious how empty-headed it was. Pretending to be controversial to get publicity then putting on a banal and inoffensive show gets people in the door, but they don’t stick around.

Like over two million other Canadians, I checked it out when it first aired. And, like pretty much everyone else who did, I realized quickly it was a waste of time then forgot about it. It creaked on for six years until its slow and inconspicuous demise, never once generating any buzz after its initial, undeserved hype.

Some background: The premise of the show is that the Muslim community in a small Saskatchewan town has rented space in the local Anglican church to use as their mosque. Hijinks ensue due to the differences between the traditional values of rural Saskatchewan and Islamic culture, though only the most inoffensive of cultural clashes are ever discussed – let’s face it, most of the hijinks are pretty standard sitcom fare that have little or nothing to do with the premise.

I happened to be relaxing yesterday when the season 4 episode “A Lease Too Far” reran. It’s a fairly typical sitcom premise. The smarmy Reverend William Thorne has evicted the Muslims – apparently due to something the very extremely conservative (though, naturally, only in the most inoffensive way) Muslim Baber Siddiqui (played by an Indian Hindu, by the way) said or did. He opens the show with a musical number about all the brown people being gone (“no Yasirs or Yusefs, just Jims, Bobs, and Joes”). For the first half of the show he is trying to find replacement renters, while the religiously flighty Sarah Hamoudi/Cunningham sabotages his efforts so he’ll be forced to allow the mosque back (in the second half, predictably, a twist has Thorne desperate to get the mosque back for his own reasons). After he catches Sarah in the act and puts a stop to her shenanigans, he is finally able to close a deal with a tenant.

And then this happens: the video link is http://www.cbc.ca/player/Shows/Shows/Little+Mosque+on+the+Prairie/ID/1443300951/, and the time is 10:05–10:36. The transcript of the exchange is:

Visitor
We have been looking for a spot like that one for a dog’s age.
Thorne
Ah, one more thing. You don’t have any… religious associations, do you?
Visitor
Not a one. No religious nothing. Where do I sign?
Thorne
Really? You’ll take it?
Visitor
Yup!
Thorne
Wow, just like that.
Visitor
Just like that.
ACTION
Visitor signs lease agreement.
Thorne
Wonderful! Well, on behalf of Mercy Anglican, welcome aboard.
Visitor
And on behalf of the Saskatchewan Brotherhood of White Atheists, I am glad to be here.
Thorne
Right.
ACTION
Thorne tears lease agreement in half.
Thorne
Get out.
Visitor
Yup, I saw that coming. Thanks for your time. Everything you believe in is a crock.
Thorne
Back at ya.
ACTION
Thorne tears lease agreement in quarters.

Why is it that whenever there is a desire to show harmony and peace between religious groups, it requires dumping on atheists. I mean, it wasn’t enough to just make it a racist organization, it had to be an atheist racist organization (and, if “Brotherhood” implies sexism, wouldn’t being racist and sexist bad enough)?

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On Canadian TV: On a show about different faiths getting along, atheism is just a punch line by Indi in the Wired is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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