A reality TV show in Malaysia invites Muslims from around the world to compete to be the best 'Young Imam'.
KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA. REUTERS -A hit Malaysian reality TV show is widening its search for the best young Muslim leader by inviting contestants from around the world to take part in the programme.
Combining a reality TV format with Islamic teachings, "Imam Muda" or "Young Imam" first aired last year, attracting interest in Malaysia and beyond.The prime-time show features contestants dressed in black suits who are judged on a variety of tasks, from reciting Koranic verses and washing corpses to counselling promiscuous young couples.
The first season allowed only Malaysians to compete, but auditions for the upcoming second series that will air in April will be open to anyone between the ages of 18 and 27 who can speak Malay.
Television executives say the international contestants could bring some fresh influences to Malaysia.
"Their interpretation and understanding of Islam is obviously very different. The way that they immerse themselves in the programme later on, there's going to be a lot of those influences, because they came from a very different place, so I think that's going to be interesting by itself. It would be a great diversity introduced in the programme among the participants," said Zainir Aminullah, an official at the Malaysian satellite television station which produces the show.
In the new 10-episode show, all the candidates will have to lead a frugal lifestyle away from their families for three months and follow strict learning schedules with prominent Islamic preachers. Participants will be introduced to new topics such as Islamic medicine and preaching Islam to Malaysian indigenous people living in the jungle.
Each week, they will be tested on their Islamic knowledge and on well they have performed their religious-related tasks.
Aminullah said the show's format had been particularly well-received in the first season.
"I think the strong interest from last year was more of the format. They will keep working with us to see whether they could actually replicate the format and do a local version in their respective territories. We are still working on that," he said.
Last season's winner, Muhammed Asraf, said the main aim of the programme was to proselytise and make Islam more attractive to young people.
"I want to tell all youngsters to join this programme and then go down to see what people want, what people want from a preacher," said the 27-year-old, whose prize included a scholarship to a university in Saudi Arabia, a job as a cleric at a Kuala Lumpur mosque, a car and an iPhone.
Auditions for the current season will take place in six states across Malaysia, starting on January 22.