Muslims and Mediums of Story Telling: Our Stories Matter with Iman Zawahry

by Farida Haji & Suryani Omar

An exclusive watch party with Iman Zawahry playing an episode of Little Mosque on the Prairie and a tete led to enriching conversations about Muslims and our mediums of storytelling.

Muslims from all walks of life in a television series

Conversations with Iman Zawahry

Iman Zawahry is a proud hijabi filmmaker, who recently created an award-winning film Americanish. A rom-com based on Muslim lives.

Little Mosque on the Prairie is a Canadian sitcom created by Zarqa Nawaz and was broadcast from 2007 to 2012 on CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Centre).

Iman was prompt at appreciating her mentor Zarqa, “you can value the show when you learn about the personality of the person who made it. A show like this shows us where we as Muslims were and where we are now. “

Discussions about the context and relevancy of the show over the past two decades resulted in understanding how it requires the entire community to create ripples and waves in the media industry. Iman mentioned, “As an American Muslim, we did not have anything like the Little Mosque, and when we see the show now, between 2007 and 2022 there are still issues that have not changed. Issues facing the Muslim community still exist. However, seeing the situation translated on screen is so amazing.”

How Did The Show Inspire You To Be Where You Are Today?

She passionately stated,” the biggest thing is filmmaking can be done. There are so many naysayers. For me, it has been an entire life of rejection. I may be slightly dramatic. But if Zarqa did it, it can be done. I was in film school when Little Mosque on the Prairie came out.  I was there was an audience. Being the first one is always difficult. But I know that people want to hear the story of Muslims vs non-Muslims.”

Talking about familial support, Iman mentioned that she came from a family of physicians and that traditionally, within the Muslim community in the West, filmmaking was not a common route. “My family never stopped me, they were supportive, but they wanted me to be financially stable. They did not realize the activism that is going on. And it took them a very long time to come around until I made Americanish and they were like, YAY!

Talking about her award-winning rom-com, we asked Iman the relation between Comedy and Muslims to which she chuckled and answered ”when you are able to laugh, your guard gets let down. This allows you to learn. From a young age, my Muslim core group of friends used comedy to deal with uncomfortable situations. And comedy comes from trauma, and that’s how we used to cope with it. “

Qalbox is a great space for Muslims. We want our actors, actresses, artists, writers, and filmmakers, to share our stories. We want to try and dispel stereotypes about Islam and entertainment. All of Canada has watched Little Mosque. It was huge in Canada. There haven’t been any comedies around. We need comedy.  And streaming services provide a plethora of options. I think comedy is the way to go!

Hijabi Muslim women talking about films and muslim entertainment

Our Stories Matter

We need more of them on our faces and tvs. Comedians such as Yasmin Elhady, Nadirah Pierre, Hoodo Hersi are some talents that we hope to see showcasing their stories.

“We take small steps and big strides. Support the arts and continue to support who is telling these stories and we are all trying to work for the greater. It is good to tell Muslim stories!” – Iman Zawahry.

5 Reasons Why You Should Watch Little Mosque

Little mosque sitcom thumbnail
  1. It is hilarious and everyone loves a good laugh. 
  2. It portrays a lived reality. Behind the laughter, it depicts the issues that Muslims in the West face from seeking spaces for women in the mosques to dealing with various stereotypes.
  3. The representation of Muslims and people of color playing lead roles is delightful to watch.
  4. The show paved the way for performances with minorities as the lead to be on television. Since then, we’ve had more but this was the first.
  5. A Good Television show. And no one can deny good shows when they see one!