Reality show judging young Muslim leaders eyes expansion


courtesy DAWN News

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KUALA LUMPUR: Producers of a Islamic reality TV show which set out to find the best young Muslim leader are hoping other Muslim countries will adopt the program’s format after a successful first series inMalaysia.

Religious scholar Muhammad Asyraf Ridzuan, 26, from Penang, was named the winner of Malaysia’s “Imam Muda” or “Young Imam” show during Friday’s live finale, beating 27-year-old religious teacher Hizbur Rahman to the top slot.

The 10-episode, prime time program sought to stimulate interest in Islam among the young and create some modern role models for them by combining a reality TV format with traditional religious teachings.

The show attracted interest in Malaysia and overseas as the good-looking contestants dressed in sharp-looking black suits recited verses from the Koran, sang religious hymns, washed corpses and slaughtered sheep according to Muslim rules, as well as counselled promiscuous young Malaysians.

As the last man standing, Asyraf won a scholarship to the Al-Madinah University in Saudi Arabia, a job as a cleric at a mosque in Kuala Lumpur, a car, an iPhone, an all-expenses paid pilgrimage to Mecca, and a cash prize.

Asyrak said he was delighted “not about me being the champion, but I felt happy the moment this programme had reached the ears around the world.”

“All the “Imam Muda” participants are very satisfied as our target is not about individual success, but our target is the success of the community, the success of youths and success of Islam itself,” he told reporters.

More than 1,000 Malaysians auditioned for the show but only 10 candidates were selected to battle for the young imam title, based on their understanding and practice of Islamic teachings.

Imams are tasked with leading prayers and sorting out community problems at mosques inMalaysia where more than 60 percent of the 28 million population are Muslim.

For the show Asyraf and the other contestants had to live an austere life away from families for three months, with no TV, Internet or phones and following strict learning schedules with prominent Islamic preachers.

Each week the candidates were tested on their religious knowledge and assessed on how well they performed tasks with the final word down to former grand mufti of Malaysia’s national mosque, Hasan Mahmood.

Producers of the “Young Imam” TV programme at Kuala Lumpur pay-TV channel Astro Entertainment said they were delighted with its success although declined to release audience numbers.

The network hoped the content would be of interest in other markets.

The grand finale of “Imam Muda” was streamed live on Internet in 16 countries, including the United States, United Arab Emirates, India, Canada and Germany, and a Facebook page for the show had attracted nearly 60,000 fans and made the contestants into local celebrities.

“From the content perspective we certainly want to be able to turn this into a format, to be duplicated, translated and replicated in other countries, in other markets,” said Astro Entertainment executive director Zainir Aminullah. – REUTERS

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