Malaysian Reality TV Show Updates Islam

Contestants gather on the set of "Imam Muda" (Imam Muda/Facebook)
Contestants gather on the set of "Imam Muda" (Imam Muda/Facebook)

The Reality TV genre usually conjures up images of drunken Snooki-types or washed up, overweight celebs. But in Malaysia, a new reality show called "Imam Muda" or "Young Leader" is taking reality television in a much holier direction.

In this religiously-themed reality show, conservatively-dressed, young male contestants follow the usual reality TV format. They still compete against one another for prizes, but while contestants sometimes receive things like cash and cars for their wins, the ultimate prize isn't an elaborate vacation or a girlfriend. The show's winner receives a scholarship to study in Saudi Arabia, a free pilgrimage to Islam's holiest city, and a job offer as a religious leader.

"Imam Muda's" challenges also differ greatly from the average reality show fare. Past challenges have included slaughtering animals according to Islamic principles, counseling troubled teens, displaying Koranic knowledge, as well as washing corpses for burial.

According to The New York Times, the program's creators say they wanted to make Islam more relevant to the lives of young Malaysians. It seems like they have achieved that goal. "Imam Muda" is Muslim lifestyle channel Astro Oasis's most-watched show ever and its Facebook page has over 50,000 fans.  

The program's finale is scheduled to air this Friday. The two remaining contestants will return to their hometowns to organize religious community events, recite passages from the Koran, and debate religious issues.