A new Canadian television series, 'Little Mosque on the Prairie', has attracted worldwide media attention since its debut on 9 January 2007 - writes Kristine Greenaway for Ecumenical News International (ENI).
Coverage of the show has made the pages of newspapers such as The New York Times, the Jerusalem Post and the Saudi Arabian daily newspaper, Arab News, and further afield.
The series is a humorous look at the efforts of a young imam, fresh from a career as a big-city lawyer, to lead a small group of Muslims who have just persuaded the local Anglican priest to allow them to set up a mosque in the church basement.
The weekly social comedy about a small Muslim community inhabiting a town in the prairie region of western Canada was developed by a Muslim Canadian, Zarqa Nawaz, for broadcast on Canada's national public broadcast television network, CBC-TV.
Although the show is attracting large viewing audiences, some critics have criticised the soft tone of the humour, but Nawaz says the series is not intended to be political satire.
He explained: "I simply want people to laugh with Muslims like they would laugh with anyone else and feel comfortable doing so," she explains. "I think that people will identify with the characters and story lines represented in our series, regardless of what faith community they come from."
The show has also evoked debate on blogs. One blogger on truthdig.com wrote: "Archie Bunker, a generation ago, helped people see the absurdity of blind hate and prejudice, how stupid it is to mouth off without knowing what you're talking about and how really funny that can be. 'Little Mosque On The Prairie' holds out the same promise."
But old attitudes die hard. Another blogger on the same site wrote: "This show is not going to change people's attitudes toward Muslims - not when there are bombings everyday in the Middle East and Muslims plotting the destruction of Western civilisation."
[With grateful acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches]