It’s no surprise that the religion of Islam tends to make some Americans a bit testy. After the name “Osama Bin-Laden” started making news hour rounds, the name “Muhammad” immediately lost all rights to dinner table conversation, except in reference to boxing movies with Will Smith (or attacks on Danish cartoonists).
Then there’s Young Imam, the Malaysian reality show. Think American Idol minus Sex And The City 2. Ten young, good-looking men compete for the favor of a judge, who eliminates one contestant every week. Sounds familiar, except the contestants are all devout Muslims, and the judge is a former grand mufti of the Malaysian national mosque. And the grand prize? A free trip to Mecca, a scholarship to al-Madinah University of religious studies in Saudi Arabia, and a job as one of the country’s premiere religious leaders. That’s Imam for you.
Calling this an unusual perception of Islamic culture would be sort of like calling Caddy Shack a different take on golf culture. Islam is the second mostpracticed religion in the world, and yet in America our views are shaped by the actions of a relatively small number of extremists. Young Imam gives us a version of Islam that is decidedly moderate — and, as it turns out, crowd-pleasing. After three weeks, the show’s Facebook page has garnered plenty of fans; among them are a good number of mother-in-laws trying to marry off their daughters to the show’s rising studs.