2011: Volume 4, Issue 2, pp. 33-47

Through the Looking Glass: Muslim Women on Television—
An Analysis of 24Lost, and Little Mosque on the Prairie

Faiza Hirji



In the ten years that have passed since September 11, 2001, media discourses regarding Muslims have changed superficially while essentializing stereotypes have been reinforced for the general public. This is true of many forms of media, but this paper focuses on popular television entertainment, and the way in which this has framed the Muslim woman. Media have had a longstanding fascination with the Muslim woman but this appears to have grown during the war in Afghanistan. Despite greater attention to this subject, the overarching discourses do not seem to be more complex than they were during previous events, such as the 1979 Revolution in Iran. Indeed, portrayals of Muslim women on television are arguably more regressive now than on September 10, 2001. Admittedly, at that time, it would probably have been unthinkable to imagine a series such as Little Mosque on the Prairie, and this show does constitute a significant source of change. However, when looking at depictions of female Muslim characters on shows such as Little Mosque and other popular network shows from the last ten years, such as 24, it is clear that television after 9/11 has not evolved in its depiction of the Muslim woman. Drawing upon existing literature regarding historical depictions, and utilizing a textual analysis of contemporary shows such as 24Little Mosque on the Prairie and Lost, this paper interrogates the role of entertainment media in advancing pluralist discourses, and investigates the limitations and possibilities of historical and contemporary depictions of Muslim women in such media.



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