Touting Muslim Modernity

May 18, 2009

Author: Hadeel Al-Shalchi

Source: The Houston Chronicle

Wire Service: AP

Flames burst from the stage for a grand entrance, and fake fog swirls around a young man in a white robe. He clutches the microphone, gazes seriously into the camera and then, accompanied only by drums, he sings.

“I accept Allah as my God, His religion as my religion, and His Messenger as my Messenger,” he intones, as the audience, divided into men’s and women’s sections, claps along with the rhythm.

The singer is a contestant on a new Islamic version of American Idol, launched to promote and drum up talent for one of the Arab world’s newest Islamic pop music video channels.

The satellite station, 4shbab — Arabic for “For the Youth” — is the brainchild of an Egyptian media worker, Ahmed Abu Heiba, who says his mission is to spread the message that observant Muslims can also be modern and in touch with today’s world.

“We have failed to deliver this message,” Abu Heiba said in an interview on the sidelines of the contest, aired in late April.

The channel, which was launched in February and can be seen across the Arab world, is a bid to capitalize on a generation of young Muslims who have become more observant but also are raised on Western pop influences.