Review: Little Mosque on the Prairie, Season 3, Episode 18

There is a great gem of a show on the CBC that I have been watching almost since its beginnings that has great potential to be reviewed on Sahar’s blog. But, to be honest, there is just so much to talk about in the mere 20-something minutes that the show lasts that I can’t ever seem to come up with a short-ish, blog-friendly review. Quite the contrary; any attempted LMOTP review ends up looking like an honour’s thesis.

Not something you want to post on a blog.

But after watching this episode, I couldn’t help but wonder if I shouldn’t give reviewing LMOTP another try, especially since this episode is all about moderation and humility – two key ingredients in my writing a successfully short-ish and blog-friend review.

And so it goes.

While the theme, moderation and humility, doesn’t seem to bode well in a show that is meant to be lighthearted and funny, you’d be surprised at home the writers have managed to broach the subjects, slipping them gently and inconspicuously into the script. And they also manage to cover the subjects of segregation, propriety and friendship in there, too – plus a pretty funny wedding planning joke.

What more can you ask for?

The theme that struck a particular chord with me is that of propriety and segregation. I think we can all agree that propriety isn’t very present in today’s world. And while many might miss it – especially those of a certain non-teenage age – it doesn’t mean they have the right to impose restrictions in the name of propriety. More specifically, adults shouldn’t bind young people down with ridiculous rules in the name of propriety. This raises a very interesting question for all concerned parents: how do you teach your child propriety in today’s les than proper culture without resorting to tactics worthy of the 19th century?

Don’t ask me, I have no idea; my initial tendency would be to buy an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, move there with my husband and twenty other couples and live there, à la The Village (the movie by M. Night Shyamalan) which is, needless to say, a totally ridiculous idea (quite unfortunately). However, I do know that many of my friends, who have recently become or are thinking of becoming parents, continuously ask themselves this question. One of my friends in particular had extremely strict parents; while their intentions were good (my friend is the first to admit that his parents are loving and sacrificed everything they could for their four children), they also managed to send their children, all four of them, into years of rebellious and hair-rising behavior that got them into some serious trouble (including a stint in juvie and some liver function problems). In retrospect, my friend realizes that his parents were right about most things; but them imposing their rules on him, without in-depth explanation, discussion or consultation, made it next to impossible for him to accept. He told me that the only way he was able to accept them was to go totally the other way and when he realized that things weren’t working, he came back under the umbrella of his parents’ beliefs.

The storyline in this week’s LMOTP is seemingly simple, yet weaves in it many layers of thought provoking situations that relate to the previous paragraph. Baber, pressured by Fazel to show that he isn’t a ‘liberal’, creates a women’s only entrance to the mosque so as to ensure that his daughter Leyla’s doesn’t flirt with boys at the shoe rack. He is hoping that by segregating the men from the women, he will be able to basically force Leyla into being proper. However, there is no money to build a second entrance at the front of the mosque, and so the women’s entrance is relegated to the back of the mosque – where the garbage area is.

The women, offended at being segregated, decide to boycott the mosque, and Fatema changes her café to a women’s only café. Trying to defuse the situation, Amaar (the imam) brings the men and the women together for a meeting; he tries to use reverse psychology on the men by suggesting they should use the back entrance so that they can show that this segregation is an act of respect towards the women, who will now be allowed to use the front entrance.

Now while I refuse to tell you how this episode ends, I will tell you that Rayann had a very interesting comment for Amaar after his plan to use reverse psychology on the men backfired. She tells him that using the front entrance isn’t what this is about; because whatever door the women are using, they are being segregated against, and that is unacceptable.

Which brings me back into the whole propriety versus segregation debate: while this example might seem obvious, more often than not it isn’t so. In a world that is falling apart, it is only normal that we want to stick to rules and regulations that make us feel safe – but we have to be careful not to let these rules and regulations run amok and become irrational and erratic or, even worse, fundamentalist in nature. And fundamentalism has nothing to do with any religion in particular, but rather with human nature in general. As we try to understand what is going on in an increasingly crazy world, we tend to dig into what we know to find an answer.

Fundamentalism is the interpretation of every word in the sacred texts as literal truth. While many find their peace by digging into religion and trying to create forced harmony through a fundamentalist application, I would say that the ‘religion’ that is the most fundamentalist in this day and age isn’t Islam; rather, it’s materialism.

Think about it for a second.

Materialists are trying to create a forced harmony in the world that is centered on material things. Therefore, everything becomes about creating those material things and getting them to people at whatever cost.

And boy, have we been paying the cost of fundamentalist materialism. Because of its consequent feverish pursuit of things, materialism has brought together the disregard of human life (through the use of sweat shops), the disregard of life (through the incredible quantity of pollution making all this stuff creates), the disrespect of honor (through the accumulation of incredible amounts of debt to purchase more things, debts that can’t be paid back) and the creation of an unequal system (in which 1% of the people in the world own 99% of the world) in which we seemed destined to be stuck in unless we change things.

And, after watching the last episode of LMOTP, I have come to the conclusion that the most fundamentalist religion on earth in the 21st century is materialism.

Why don’t you watch it for yourself and see what conclusion you come up with. After all, the best cure against fundamentalism is an open mind maintained through respectful discussion, isn’t it?

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

For more information, visit the official website here. For a frequently updated list of LMOTP-related activities and events, go here. Enjoy!

From The Lancet: Iranian doctors’ conviction could damage public health

You might be wondering why I would put such an article up. Well, it’s simple really. Remember the persecution of the Bahá’ís in Iran? Well, I thought I’d go a little beyond my little sphere – i.e. the Bahá’í community – and see if I find anything else about other groups or people who are being persecuted in Iran. And what better reference than The Lancet, a respected medical journal?

The recent conviction of two Iranian doctors could be detrimental to public health and sour relations between academics in Iran and the rest of the world.

By Kristin Elisabeth Solberg

Published in The Lancet, Volume 373, Number 9663, page 533

The conviction of the pioneering Iranian HIV/AIDS doctors Kamiar and Arash Alaei could have devastating effects on public health in the region and around the world, human-rights groups warn. On Dec 31, 2008, the Alaei brothers were tried behind closed doors in the Iranian capital Tehran. After a brief trial, in which some of the charges were kept secret, they were found guilty of plotting to overthrow the regime, and sentenced to 3 and 6 years in prison. The Iranian authorities claim the brothers, who founded the country’s first HIV/AIDS prevention programme in the late 1990s, were part of a US$32 million, US-funded “intelligence war” aimed at stirring up civil unrest and starting a revolution.

Human-rights groups have condemned the trial as unfair and politically motivated, and have warned of its far-reaching consequences on public health. “Public health will suffer in Iran, and around the world”, said Jonathan Hutson, chief communications officer with the US-based group Physicians for Human Rights. He added that the doctors were not known to be politically active. “If these doctors were engaged in any kind of warfare, it was only the battle to prevent and treat AIDS”, he said.

In a region where HIV/AIDS is taboo, the Alaei doctors’ work is widely regarded as pioneering and innovative. Working with the blessing of Iran’s religious leaders and the passive approval of the government, they believed in a holistic approach to the treatment and prevention of the infection, focusing primarily on harm reduction and injecting drug users. Among their initiatives is a nationwide needle-exchange programme— reflecting the needs of a country with one of the highest proportions of heroin users in the world. Their work has been praised by WHO and UNAIDS, and is widely seen as a model for the rest of the Middle East. The region faces one of the fastest growing HIV/AIDS rates in the world, but its rulers have so far done little to combat the threat.

The charges against the Alaei brothers seems to stem from their work. The evidence against them, say human-rights groups, seems to include training people in public-health work; engaging with international non-governmental organisations; and attending conferences abroad. “These are not crimes, it is good medicine”, said Hutson. Reflecting the view of the medical community he said it was “shocked” when it learned of the arrest of the brothers in June, 2008.

The case could curb scholarly exchange between Iran and the rest of the world, campaigners now fear. Joe Amon, director of the HIV/AIDS Programme at Human Rights Watch, is alarmed by the potentially devastating effects of the case, especially on Middle Eastern countries. “It will be harder for Iranians to share their experiences, in, for example, harm reduction and HIV prevention, with other countries in the region”, he said. But the effects of the trial could reach far beyond HIV/ AIDS, Amon warned: “It will also be harder to learn from the experiences of other countries in addressing various different problems—be it HIV, SARS [Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome], or avian influenza—which are really critical to global health and security.” It remains to be seen whether the case also signals a shift in Iran’s HIV/AIDS policy, or if the government is simply warning against close ties with the west. The conviction could be part of a general crackdown on opposition figures and activists ahead of the presidential election in June. If so, the many HIV/AIDS clinics set up by the Alaei brothers in Iranian cities and prisons should be allowed to continue their work. But with the doctors behind bars, campaigners believe the drive to battle HIV/AIDS will be substantially reduced. Some campaigners remain hopeful that the brothers will be released. Several scholars with ties to the west have been arrested in Iran since President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took over in 2005; most have been released without conviction. The Alaei brothers’ attorney has announced that he will appeal the verdict. Some activists believe that the government will respond to the public outcry from health professionals around the world. “The doctors should be freed immediately, so they can go about their business saving lives in Iran”, said Hutson.

A petition to free the doctors can be signed here: http://iranfreethedocs.org.

Celebrity Gossip: How much is too much?

There is such a thing as healthy curiosity. And it’s only normal that we be curious about our role models, trying to find out as much as we can about them to learn to apply what makes them so great.

But there is something wrong about our role models being misbehaving celebrities and there is something even more wrong with our collective obsession with them, as demonstrated by the endless number of tabloid newspapers, magazines, websites and even blogs.

How much is too much? The New York Times published a very interesting article on the subject:

Turning Some Online Writers Less Opinionated

By STEPHANIE CLIFFORD; Published: March 8, 200

The Internet has made it easy for a lot of young writers to make money by making enemies. Defamer, Dlisted.com and PerezHilton.com lambaste Hollywood; and Jossip and Gawker make fun of New York media.

Whenever it is time to leave those sites, though, the mocking writers often seem to have a change of heart as they try to change their jobs.

The editor and writers at Defamer, the Gawker Media site, have taken a similar turn. Last Monday, they moved over to work on the reopening of the Movieline Web site. (Defamer is being absorbed into Gawker.)

“Gawker had tried to turn us, this year, into something we weren’t,” said Seth Abramovitch, who was the editor of Defamer. “It wasn’t just snarky. It could get outright, I thought, kind of exploitative.”

But exploitation gets page views. In January 2008, Gawker sent an employee to videotape the body of the actor Heath Ledger being rolled out of the New York City apartment where he had died, and Defamer ran the video.

Commenters objected with messages like, “Take this one down, guys” and, “It’s just bloody wrong” — but the link to the video received more than 32,000 views, more than the posted obituary for Mr. Ledger did. Mr. Abramovitch says that item made him particularly uncomfortable.

Mr. Abramovitch said that Movieline, which will reopen in the spring, would have less “cutting and mean-spirited gossip” like that and more enthusiasm for movies.

Read the rest of this interesting article here.