- Title: MALAYSIA: Islamic reality TV show draws international attention
- Date: 17th July 2010
- Summary: KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA (JULY 16, 2010) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF A FAMILY AND NEIGHBOURS WATCHING 'IMAM MUDA' TELEVISION SCREEN SHOWING 'IMAM MUDA' MORE OF PEOPLE WATCHING THE PROGRAM
- Embargoed: 1st August 2010 13:00
- Location: Malaysia
- Country: Malaysia
- Topics: Royalty
- Reuters ID: LVAACC7I38DCVK1Y1ZT4XGC92E3G
- Story Text: Malaysia selects Imam par excellence through television reality show, draws international attention.
A new television show in mainly Muslim Malaysia is seeking to stimulate interest in Islam among the young by marrying the popular reality TV format with traditional religious teachings by offering 10 young men a chance to become Muslim clerics.
Within a month of airing, the 10-episode show "Imam Muda" or "young religious leader" has become one of the prime time favourites of many households in the majority Muslim country.
It has also embraced other new media, with 34,000 followers on its Facebook page.
Imam Muda fan Ahmad Reduan Zulkilfli said it was important to spread the good values of Islam to young people so they would not get involved in anti-social activities.
"This programme is good for all of society, especially the Muslims themselves, so that they become of the social ills out there which are getting worst by the days," Zulkilfi said.
In a studio set up within the confines of a mosque in Kuala Lumpur, seven young men in smart black suits and skullcaps are reciting verses from Islam's holy book, the Koran.
They are the survivors after several grueling rounds in the religious reality show.
Astro All Asian Network, which is producing the programme, said "it's a phenomenal" that the show is airing in many countries including the non-Muslim ones.
More than a thousand Malaysians auditioned for the show, but just ten candidates including a bank manager, a businessman, a cleric and students selected to battle for young Imam title, based on their understanding and practice of Islamic teachings.
The ten had to live an austere life away from families for three months, follow strict learning schedules with prominent Islamic preachers and have their performances assessed periodically.
Each week, the candidates were tested on their religious knowledge and assessed on how well they performed tasks.
One of the first tasks was to perform washing rites on a pair of unclaimed bodies and when the final burial rites were conducted, many broke into tears.
By the fourth week, the reality show stars joined a police crackdown in the southern Malaysian city of Johor Bahru to counsel the youngsters arrested for illegal motorbike racing, an activity that plagues Malaysia and costs many young men their lives. In the latest episode, they took on the roles of religious teachers at a Kuala Lumpur orphanage.
Muhammad Khairul Azahar Ghazali, a 22-year-old undergraduate, said the contest had broadened his mind.
"This is a platform that gives us an opportunity to adopt something new from old practices. At the same time, it gives us a chance to show young people that Islamic studies can make you into a knowledgeable Imam too," Ghazali said.
Apart from regular assignments, the contestants are given chance to deliver sermons in one mosque in the capital city of Kuala Lumpur every Friday. Their performances were highly appreciated by local religious leader.
Chief religious leader of Jamek Mosque, Ustaz Dr Ahmed Termiji Abdul Razak, aged 40, said the search for young Imam did not contravene Islamic teaching.
"The benefits are for the whole world, so if anyone says this should be considered something bad, then I would not agree at all, because this event is to discover new talent which is beneficial especially in finding future in finding future religious leaders. So, for me, the disadvantage is zero," said Razak.
The last man standing will win a scholarship to the prestigious Al-Madinah University in Saudi Arabia, one of the top seats of religious learning in the Islamic world, the position of cleric at a mosque in Kuala Lumpur and an all-expenses paid chance to perform the pilgrimage to Mecca -- one of the five pillars of Islam.
However, some Muslims were worried that this modern format and commercialism were against Islamic values.
"The (contestants') main aim is to win the competition, that (means religion) is becoming a contest, how can you put religion into a contest? Can not," Mohamed Johari Abdul Rahman, a 51-year-old worshipper told Reuters after ended his regular Friday prayer.
The competition is due to end on July 30 and one man will win the title of "Imam Muda".
- Copyright Holder: REUTERS
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