Religious Imam, reality TV star and dream son-in-law?
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.
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.
From that moment, I started to keep up to date with who was eliminated each week.
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).
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”.