Islamic Religious Personality Plans Reality Show


"Khaled, 40, is among a new breed of media-savvy Muslim clerics who have taken to the stage and are beaming messages to millions across the Middle East on a series of dedicated pan-Arab TV shows and channels," according to a recent Variety story.

Amr Khaled, an immensely popular Islamic religious personality, has announced plans for a reality show called "Man Yukmel el-Resala," or "Who Will Bear the Mission?"

The show, which is scheduled to air on the Al Arabiya television channel, will follow several Muslim youth as they live together and are trained by Khaled to be successful Islamic preachers, according to a story at AlArabiya.net.

"The new show, written by Youssef Maati, aims to create a new generation of preachers to complete Khaled's mission of promoting progress through faith," says the Al Arabiya story.

"Khaled, 40, is among a new breed of media-savvy Muslim clerics who have taken to the stage and are beaming messages to millions across the Middle East on a series of dedicated pan-Arab TV shows and channels," according to a recent Variety story.

Khaled, in fact, isn't new to television. His first show, "Kalam min al-Qalb" ("Words from the Heart") achieved popularity first as a videotape sold on the street. It later aired on Dream TV in 2001, according to an extensive 2004 article from Transnational Broadcasting Studies.

"The program used a talk-show format featuring audience participation and 'testimonials' from famous actresses, football players, and ordinary young Muslims," the article said. It went on to quote the show's producer, Ahmed Abu Haiba, who said he consciously patterned the product after "Christian preaching channels in the West."

That show's success earned Khaled a contract with the Saudi-owned satellite TV channel Iqra, where he produced other shows, including one which told stories about the life of the Prophet Muhammad.

Khaled eventually started producing "Sunna' al-Hayat" ("Life Makers"), which works as a sort of self-help program with Web site tie-ins (and products like shirts that say, "I AM A MAKER, NOT A TAKER"). Khaled emphasizes more than just personal transformation; he speaks a great deal about community transformation as well.

Khaled is popular, and controversial, in the Muslim world. He is an accountant by training, but he is now referred to, as in the case of the Al Arabiya news story, as a "popular Egyptian preacher." The story also refers to Khaled as "Islam's first televangelist."

In March 2008, Forbes Arabia listed Khaled as the top-earning Islamic religious figure in 2007, with a reported income of $2.5 million.

Time magazine listed Khaled as one of its 100 most influential people in 2007, mentioning his popular Web site, TV shows and especially the 2006 conference he organized in Denmark following a Danish cartoon that mocked the Prophet Muhammad.

Khaled has prompted comparisons with everyone from Dr. Phil to Pat Robertson, Time said. "But Khaled may be most like Rick Warren, who has built an empire around his 'purpose driven life' philosophy."

"Think of him as the Billy Graham of Islam," is how a CBS News segment characterized Khaled, who says any problems among youth in the Middle East can be traced back to the lack of one thing: hope.

Khaled's message is one of positive personal transformation, which has led him to support all manner of causes, including a massive anti-drug effort across the Arab world. His message of cooperation between Islam and the West has angered some Islamic hard-liners, as did his decision last Christmas to attend a religious service at a Coptic church in Cairo.

Al Arabiya reported that Khaled defended that decision by citing a story involving the Prophet Muhammad, in which Christians were welcomed and allowed to pray in the mosque in Medina.

Khaled's TV shows are seen by tens of millions of viewers across the Islamic world. And since his move to Birmingham, England, in 2004, he has deepened his influence among Muslim youth in Europe, according to the New York Times, which profiled Khaled in 2006.

Khaled's influence is everywhere, including a "youth development forum" on Facebook—which includes a link to apply to be a contestant on Khaled's upcoming reality show.

Lindsay Wise, who wrote a graduate thesis on Khaled, said Khaled and other Islamic televangelists have an appealing approach.

"Their messages resonate with an increasingly globalized Arab youth culture struggling to carve a third way between the excesses of religious extremism and disillusionment with state-subsidized clerics," wrote Wise in the Transnational Broadcasting Studies article.

"[Osama] bin Laden is saying he is talking on behalf of Muslims," Khaled said in his Time profile in 2007. "Who asked him to talk on behalf of us? Nobody."

Cliff Vaughn is managing editor for EthicsDaily.com.

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