In an effort to reach out to younger people the shows creator started this "American Idol" like show to recruit young people between 18-27 to become Imam's in Malaysia. He says the show is becoming so popular he has had requests to air it in Turkey and Egypt soon.
How soon before this spreads into Europe and into America?? Is this something we should be concerned about as Islam slowly creeps across the world,soon followed by sharia law?
A Reality Show Where Islam Is the Biggest Star
Participants in the “Imam Muda” reality TV show waited to hear the results of an elimination round in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. More Photos »
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Bright studio spotlights illuminated the faces of four nervous young men, arms linked as they anxiously awaited their fate. Cameramen stood poised, ready to capture the climactic moment. Finally, the chief judge broke the suspense.
The competition is called “Imam Muda,” or “Young Leader” — a Malaysian venture into religious-themed reality TV.
The basic premise may replicate that of reality shows like “American Idol” around the globe, but here, inside an auditorium at one of Kuala Lumpur’s largest mosques, are notable variations on the tried-and-true formula.
The prize pool, too, offers a clear indication of the detour the show takes from the usual reality show script. Cash and a new car are up for grabs, but the winner will also be offered a job as an imam, or religious leader, a scholarship to study in Saudi Arabia and an all-expenses-paid pilgrimage to Mecca, Islam’s holiest city.
The show, which debuted in May with 10 contestants — whittled down from more than a thousand applicants with backgrounds ranging from banking to farming — has built an impressive following among young Malaysians. It is the most-watched show ever on Astro Oasis, a Muslim lifestyle cable channel, and its Facebook page has more than 50,000 fans.
Viewership is expected to soar on Friday, when the winner will be announced in a live broadcast from a convention hall. The two finalists have spent recent days in their hometowns, giving sermons and organizing community events. During the finale, they will be required to debate religious and news topics, as well as recite passages from the Koran.
Some political commentators say the show’s popularity reflects the increasing Islamization of this Muslim-majority nation of 28 million. The program’s creators, who are already planning a second season, say they are trying to provide an entertaining way of making Islam more relevant to the lives of the young and extending the role of religious leaders beyond the mosque.
A collaboration between Astro Oasis and a regional government’s Islamic affairs department, the show requires the contestants, ages 18 to 27, to master and demonstrate the duties of an imam through both practical and theoretical activities. In addition to preparing unclaimed corpses for burial, a task that some contestants said was particularly memorable, the men have also had to counsel wayward teenagers, console elderly people abandoned by their children and display their skills in reciting parts of the Koran.
Izelan Basar, the show’s creator and Astro Oasis’s channel manager, said his aim was to find a way to make Islam more appealing to young people.
“In every religion, the toughest challenge is to attract the youth,” he said, noting that most of the country’s imams were older men.
While an imam’s main duties include delivering Friday sermons and leading prayers, Mr. Izelan said that contestants were also coached for the show in public speaking, suitable dress, how to talk with children, even how to hold their cutlery, as well as studying the Koran.
The judge each week is Hasan Mahmood al-Hafiz, a former national grand imam. He says he is looking for someone with a strong grasp of Islam, but also general knowledge and communication skills, “strong morality” and open-mindedness. There is a shortage of young men with the qualities to make a good imam, he said, something he hopes the show will help change.
On Friday, the show’s fans will discover whether Hizbur Rahman bin Omar Zuhdi, 27, or Asyraf bin Mohammad Ridzuan, 26, will be named Malaysia’s first “Imam Muda.” Mr. Hizbur, a religion schoolteacher, said he hoped to “use ‘Imam Muda’ as a platform to become a model for teenagers and the community.”
“The benefit of this program — fame — is an asset to attract youngsters to live the religion,” he said.
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Mr. Izelan, who said he had fielded inquiries from television stations in Turkey and Egypt about producing similar shows, seems genuinely taken aback by the success of “Imam Muda.”
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