TV author Zarqa Nawaz creates tales that problem stereotypes about Muslim ladies

Between 2012, when the sitcom “Little Mosque on the Prairie” went off the air, and at this time, as Zarqa Nawaz’s newest TV sequence is about to debut, our small screens haven’t precisely been awash in Muslim ladies.

“It’s undoubtedly few and much between,” mentioned Nawaz, who made what’s described as the primary sitcom a couple of Muslim household within the Western world with “Little Mosque” and whose net comedy “Zarqa” premieres on CBC Gem Friday.

She talked about “We Are Girl Elements,” the British comedy about an all-female, Muslim punk band, and “Ms. Marvel,” the upcoming sequence a couple of teenage Pakistani-American superhero, however “ladies in hijab, like, you’ll see one popping up right here and there in ‘Gray’s Anatomy’ or totally different cop reveals,” she mentioned throughout a Zoom name.

“There are only a few reveals on the market with Muslim ladies as leads, for positive, which is why I’m working exhausting to get this showcase the bottom and different reveals off the bottom.”

“Zarqa,” an attractive comedy a couple of divorced Muslim lady who decides to one-up her ex-husband when she hears he’s marrying a a lot youthful white lady, introduced a brand new problem for Nawaz: she not solely wrote and produced it, she performs the lead character regardless of by no means having acted earlier than.

And no, it’s not autobiographical. The 54-year-old mom of 4 remains to be fortunately married. “Everybody’s sending me tweets going, ‘Oh you’re such a courageous lady to be elevating 4 youngsters alone,’” she laughed.

The present was impressed partly by criticisms of the 2017 film “The Huge Sick,” by which white actor Zoe Kazan performed the love curiosity of Pakistani-American actor Kumail Nanjiani.

“There have been all these indignant assume items about how Hollywood was treating ladies of color when it got here to romantic comedies. And I simply thought it was hilarious,” Nawaz recalled.

Zarqa Nawaz, the creator of "Little Mosque on the Prairie," stars in her newest show, "Zarqa," as a divorced woman trying to get even with her ex with the help of brain surgeon Brian (Rob van Meenen).

She additionally wished “to discover that complete situation of divorce as a result of I’ve had numerous buddies who’re divorced, and that complete universality of feeling such as you’re not valued anymore and also you’ve been changed … It simply tied in completely to this concept that I might be a vengeful lady and attempt to get again at my ex.”

In actual life, Nawaz’s husband actually stepped up when she was making “Little Mosque,” which ran from 2007 to 2012 on CBC. He shifted to part-time work to care for the children in Regina, Sask., the youngest of whom was in Grade 1, whereas Nawaz spent six months at a time in Toronto making the present.

“It was a very tumultuous time in my life,” she mentioned.

How she ended up being a TV author within the first place is a narrative that wouldn’t be misplaced in its personal sitcom.

Though Nawaz was at all times the one writing the performs as a child at Muslim camp, she deliberate to change into a physician, a dream of her Pakistani immigrant mother and father.

She obtained a science diploma on the College of Toronto, however her marks weren’t excessive sufficient for medical college, so she pivoted to journalism college on the former Ryerson College (now Toronto Metropolitan College) and received a prized internship with legendary CBC journalist Peter Gzowski.

But it surely didn’t fulfill her artistic itch.

A buddy pointed her to a three-week, quick filmmaking course on the Ontario School of Artwork (now OCAD College) and her five-minute movie, a satire on terrorism known as “BBQ Muslims,” was accepted into the Toronto Worldwide Movie Pageant, which led to extra quick comedy movies, which led to a critical documentary about patriarchy inside Islam known as “Me and the Mosque.”

The Nationwide Movie Board paid for Nawaz to take the doc to what was then the Banff World Tv Pageant, which is the place she pitched the concept that would change into “Little Mosque”; CBC got here on board and the remainder, as they are saying, is historical past.

Quick ahead to 2019: Nawaz had completed her second novel, “Jameela Inexperienced Ruins Every part” — simply launched this week in the US and endorsed by tremendous producer Shonda Rhimes, no much less — and wished to get again into TV.

Zarqa Nawaz's second novel, "Jameela Green Ruins Everything," was released in Canada in March.

She determined to “‘Seinfeld’ my manner again in by doing standup comedy” and was doing properly till the COVID-19 pandemic put an finish to reside reveals.

However with the assistance of “Little Mosque” author Claire Ross Dunn and actor-director Elizabeth Whitmere (“UnREAL”), Nawaz efficiently utilized to the Unbiased Manufacturing Fund for seed cash to make “Zarqa.”

Again when “Little Mosque” first aired, “I keep in mind being advised that Canadians can’t do sitcoms,” she mentioned.

That’s actually not the case at this time. However past making her newest contribution to the burgeoning subject of Canadian TV comedy, Nawaz is keen on laying the groundwork for different ladies of color to make their very own reveals.

Making “Zarqa” was a implausible option to be taught “the nuts and bolts of manufacturing” and the way “to run my very own manufacturing firm,” she mentioned.

And don’t wager on it taking one other decade earlier than you subsequent hear about Nawaz in reference to a TV present.

She hopes to adapt “Jameela Inexperienced” right into a sequence. If that occurs, the girl within the hijab undoubtedly received’t simply pop up within the background.

“Zarqa” debuts Could 13 on CBC Gem.

Debra Yeo is a deputy editor and a contributor to the Star’s Leisure part. She is predicated in Toronto. Observe her on Twitter: @realityeo

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