Muslim-majority Malaysia has just begin airing of their very own reality show. While the US has ‘American Idol’ and the UK has ‘The X-Factor’, Malaysia has Imam Muda, meaning Young Imam in Malay. In it, ten aspiring imams compete for a job leading prayers at a major Kuala Lumpur mosque, a scholarship to the prestigious al-Madinah university in Saudi Arabia and an all-expenses paid trip to Mecca for the Haj pilgrimmage.
Each week, “Young Imam” goes out of its way to confront the contestants with situations they might have to face one day as real imams. In the first episode, the young contenders were sent out to prepare unclaimed corpses for burial—an essential rite in Islam.
Mr. Taufek, the motivational speaker, says, “It’s a tough contest, but if we want to be imams and lead our community, we should expect to face difficult challenges any time, any place.”
In the following show, the contestants ditched their suits and black Muslim caps to don sports shirts to head out with the police on a midnight raid on a gang of teenage motorcycle street racers in the southern town of Johor Baru. The young imams—none of them much older than the street racers—herded the bikers into a room and tried to wean them off their racing fix by lecturing them about Islam.