Religious Imam, reality TV star and dream son-in-law?

August 31, 2010

When a friend told me about the “Young Imam” reality TV show, I thought it must be just another ‘preaching and nagging’ religious program.

But when another friend of mine jokingly said “the young imams are dream son-in-laws”, I decided I should take a peek into this phenomenon. While I could understand why Mawi became a heartthrob of teenage girls after he won the Malaysian version of American Idol but, a religious TV program doesn’t usually catch on in Malaysia.

After locating “Imam Muda” (“Young Imam” in Malay) on one of the our cable TV channels, I found it to be interesting.

"Ultimate Young Imam" candidate, Asyraf, a contestant in a Malaysian reality TV competition to find the country's best young Imam, is silhouetted as he prepares to rehearse ahead of the final in Kuala Lumpur July 29, 2010.  REUTERS/Bazuki Muhammad
(Click on the image above for an audio slideshow)

It began with 10 educated and professional candidates. They came from various backgrounds – a bank officer, an entrepreneur, a farmer, a religious teacher and a graduate student, among them. The imam muda recited verses of the holy Koran, prepared the dead for burial, slaughtered animals in a halal manner, following the Muslim ritual, and counseled young Muslims.

Contestant of Malaysia's "Young Imam" cable television program, Asyraf, preaches before the Friday prayer during the show's recording in Kuala Lumpur July 16, 2010.   REUTERS/Bazuki Muhammad

From that moment, I started to keep up to date with who was eliminated each week.

Adib (2nd R, back to camera), a contestant of Malaysia's "Young Imam" cable television program, is hugged by other contestants after his elimination during the show's recording in Kuala Lumpur July 5, 2010.  REUTERS/Bazuki Muhammad

The contest was won by Muhammad Asyraf Mohd Ridzuan, 26, who won a scholarship to the Al-Madinah University in Saudi Arabia, a job as a cleric at a mosque in Kuala Lumpur, a car, a MacBook laptop, an iPhone, an all-expenses paid pilgrimage to Mecca, and a cash prize of 20,000 ringgit ($6,300).

"Young Imam" contestant Asyraf sings during the Malaysian reality TV competition to find the country's best young Imam during its live telecast in Kuala Lumpur July 30, 2010.  REUTERS/Bazuki Muhammad

The experience opened my eyes to the fact that religious programs could produce local celebrities, or in the words of my friends “dream son-in-laws”.

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