لا تزال المسابقة الدينية الماليزية الكبرى تشهد تنافسًا كبيرًا بين المتسابقين الستة الذين وصلوا للتصفيات للفوز برحلة حج أو منحة دراسية بجامعة المدينة الإسلامية، أو سيارة، أو جهاز كمبيوتر محمول.
هذا وقد تم اصطفاء 10 متسابقين بناءً على الاختبارات الشخصية والمعلومات الدينية من بين 1134متسابقًا تقدموا للاشتراك في المسابقة الدينية المقامة للشباب ما بين 18و27 عامًا، التي تنتهي بحلول الثلاثين من شهر يوليو الحالي.
ويتولى التحكيم بين المتسابقين الشيخ "حسن محمد"، إمام المسجد المحلي بالعاصمة الماليزية "كولالمبور"، الذي يؤكد مساهمة أئمة المساجد في علاج مشكلات الشباب الماليزي.
وينص الدستور الماليزي على علمانية الدولة، إلا أن الإسلام هو الدين الأول؛ حيث يعتنقه 60% من الماليزيين البالغ عددهم 28 مليون.
وسعت "ماليزيا" في السنوات الأخيرة للظهور بمظهر الدولة الإسلامية المتطورة، من خلال تبني التكنولوجيا الحديثة مع الحفاظ على القيم الإسلامية.
Muslim scholars score a hit on Malaysian reality TV show - Feature
Six handsome young men now remain in the race, not for cash or celebrity status, but for the tag of "most religious" in a Malaysian reality show of a different kind.
Ten contestants, aged 18 to 27, set out in May to ace practical and theoretical examinations that have included reciting verses from Islam's Holy Koran to washing and preparing corpses for a Muslim burial in the surprise hit show Young Imam.
In their dark, smart suits with matching skull caps, the contestants - who include a cleric, a student, a businessman and a farmer - are a far cry from the elderly, modestly dressed imams of public perception.
Unlike other reality shows, the winner does not walk away with merely money and fame. The list of prizes includes a trip to Mecca to perform the hajj, a scholarship to al-Madinah University in Saudi Arabia, a car and a laptop.
And also unlike other reality television shows, contestants are not voted out by their opponents or viewers but are sent home one by one based on their weekly "examination" results.
The sole judge of the show, Hasan Mahmud, the former grand imam of the National Mosque of Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur, said the programme aims to create a pool of exemplary young clerics to help combat social ills among Malaysia's Muslim youths.
Hasan, along with two mentors, guides the contestants through their challenges before one is knocked off the show every week, based on his performance in the tests.
The 10-week series has sparked wide public interest and has taken the social-networking website Facebook by storm as fans post comments in support of the contestants and the programme.
"Keep on going and going, young imams!" a recent posting said.
"By God's grace, there will be more and more television programmes aimed at building our faith and morals," another young fan wrote.
"The show is enjoying the highest ratings ever for an Islamic-themed programme," said Izelan Basar, channel manager with the cable network Astro Oasis, which is broadcasting the programme.
"People's interest in the show is growing because it's unique, it's something seen to help build the religious faith of Muslims," he said. "It's positive TV for a change."
Not surprising is the fact that many of the show's supporters and followers are young Muslim women, who unabashedly cheer on their favourite contestants.
"They are young, good-looking and most of them are single," said a follower who wanted only to be known as Yati.
"They would be any pious Muslim girl's dream husband," she said of the strapping contestants.
A total of 1,134 candidates applied to join the show, and 10 were picked, based on their personality and Islamic knowledge.
For the duration of the show, the contestants are quarantined at a mosque dormitory and banned from using phones, the internet and television so they can focus on their religion.
The show's finale is to be aired live on July 30 to tens of thousands of viewers as well as to a live studio audience. Organizers said they expected the 2,000-capacity auditorium to be easily filled.
While Malaysia's constitution states that the country is secular, Islam is the main religion and embraced by almost 60 per cent of its 28 million people. Large minorities of this multiracial nation are Christians, Buddhists and Hindus.
Malaysia has in recent years tried to portray an image of a progressive Islamic nation, welcoming high-tech industry and Western culture, while striving to protect its conservative values.
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