05 August 2010

Imam Idol - American Idol, Malaysian Style!

Mr Asyraf's prize package includes a scholarship to al-Madinah University in Saudi Arabia, a job as prayer leader in a major mosque in Kuala Lumpur, a car and an all-expenses paid pilgrimage to Islam's holiest site, Mecca.

New Straits Times writes: "Imam Idol hails win
KUALA LUMPUR - MALAYSIA'S top 'Young Imam' has vowed to soften the stern image of clerics and energise young Muslims after winning a hugely popular TV talent show search for a top young Islamic leader.

The show, which attracted
worldwide attention, saw 10 finalists tackle tasks such as reciting verses from
the Koran, washing corpses and slaughtering sheep according to Islamic rules.
Following the reality TV formula of shows such as 'American Idol' and 'The X
Factor,' one contestant was eliminated each week until the series drew to a
close on Friday night.

Religious scholar Muhammad Asyraf Mohammad
Ridzuan, who saw off nine rivals to win the 'Young Imam' title, said he wanted
to reach out to youngsters to spark their interest in the religion. 'I want to
be an imam who is friendly to the youth, cool, relaxed, able to play with
children and engage the elderly,' the 26-year-old said after the finale, as he
hailed the show as a 'victory of Islam'.

'I want to play football with
the kids in my neighbourhood and still be a spiritual leader among them,' said
the soft-spoken Asyraf, clad in a black long robe over a suit and wearing a
white Islamic skullcap. Religious authorities in Malaysia, where more than 60
per cent of its 28 million population are Muslim, regularly make headlines with
morality raids on hotels and nightclubs, looking for illicit drinking and sex.

In a development that alarmed rights activists, three women were caned
in February for having sex out of wedlock - the first time the punishment under
Islamic law had been carried out on women in Malaysia. But there is a debate
even among Muslim leaders over whether the punishment-based approach is
appropriate, or whether they should instead seek to persuade and inspire.

The shows' creators said a main reason for the success of the programme
was that it has sought to make Islam more appealing to young people. 'I think
it's because it's breaking a lot of traditions and a lot of stigma about the
religion partly because of the title itself, 'Young Imam',' said Zainir
Aminullah, editor of pay-TV operator Astro which airs the show. -- AFP"

And yes - you can watch the episodes on YouTube in BMOV with English subtitles!