The Middle East's most famous televangelist has launched a reality TV show to promote cultural development through faith in Islam, Nina Curley reports.
Amr Khaled, a former accountant from Egypt who has been called the the "anti-bin Laden," says the show, "Mujaddidun," is a reformist approach to understanding faith. "Mujaddidun" is the plural of "Mujaddid" (مجدد), which refers to an individual who appears at the end of a century to reform or revive Islam.
The program is a co-production of Dubai TV, The British-based Right Start Foundation (whose board of trustees is headed by Amr Khaled), and several multinational companies.
Khaled, who has been listed as one of the Time 100 Heroes and Pioneers in 2007 and Newsweek's 50 Global Elite in 2008, has been compared to Dr. Phil and Joel Osteen for his work promoting cross-cultural understanding and encouraging harmony with the West. His previous show "Life Makers" focused on encouraging Muslims to express their faith by engaging in community development projects.
In an interview with the BBC, Khaled describes that for "Mujaddidun," sixteen young women and men from nine countries across the Arab world have been selected from a group of 250,000 applicants. They will be divided into two teams in order to compete against other in tasks oriented around cultural, social, and media development. The winner will receive 100 thousand euros to lead a development project in his or her home country.
Khaled says that through this program, he managed to survive the challenge of blending a recreational program rich in scenes and ideas with the intended reformist message.
أشار عمرو خالد إلى محرر الـ" بي بي سي " إلى أنه تمكن بهذا البرنامج من تجاوز تحدي تقديم برنامج ترفيهي تشويقي ثري في مشاهده وأفكاره يقدم أيضا رسالة إصلاحية
This reformist message is not without controversy however. Khaled was recently banned from both public and private television in Egypt.
"For the first time ever, Amr Khaled gives up the role of preacher, settling for managing dialogue and competition between 16 young men and women who have come together from seven Arab countries to execute the tasks demanded by the programme's team."
تخلّى عمرو خالد للمرة الأولى عن موقع الداعية، ليكتفي بإدارة الحوار والتنافس بين 16 شاباً وفتاة من سبع دول عربية اجتمعوا للمشاركة في تنفيذ المهمات التي سيطلبها منهم فريق البرنامج
Khaled also notes in the BBC interview that he adopted this action-based tactic specifically to target young populations, since "direct preaching may have an impact with specific age groups, but [not] the age group between 15 and 25."
However, Elaph editor Dimah Tareq elucidates a central criticism as he questions the appropriateness of a religion-based reality show for a Muslim audience, wondering:
الوعظ المباشر قد يكون له تأثير مع شرائح عمرية معينة ، ولكن الشريحة العمرية التي تتراوح بين 15 و25 سنة لا تفضل الوعظ في تلقي الإرشادات
Has religion been put on the market? Would it now be subject to promotion and advertising, profit and loss, use and replacement, supply and demand?
ل نزل الدين الى السوق ليخضع لمنطق الترويج والدعاية والربح والخسارة والاستخدام والاستبدال والعرض والطلب؟
Add your thoughts to the dialogue at meedan.net. Thanks to Nouran, Nour and Ahmed for their contributions to this post.