Televangelism, Muslim-style

Clarice Feldman and Rosslyn Smith
Sunday's  Washington Post had a story about the rise of TV evangelism in the Middle East. There has been an explosion of satellite TV in the region. Among the at least 370 satellite channels offering news, movies and music videos are 27 dedicated to Islamic religious programming. This is up from just five such channels two years ago. 

While some of these channels are funded by governments, others are privately controlled. As a result, program content has become more varied.  According to the Post, chief among the new class of rising stars on Middle Eastern religious TV is Moez Masoud, a produce/director of commercials and part time preacher who is the product of the American schools in the region.

The upbeat, cosmopolitan Masoud seems to be drawing large audiences of educated young Muslims with his message that art, music, movies, tolerance of other faiths, compassion towards homosexuals and chaste friendships between members of the opposite sex are not incompatible with Islam.  According to Masoud,  

"There is no contradiction between real Islam and the modern world. We have to redefine the word 'Muslim' for the world." A female Egyptian medical student interviewed for the article said "Moez helps us understand everything about our religion -- not from 1,400 years ago, but the way we live now."
Television is a medium in which a soft, upbeat message is usually more effective than either dry theology or hellfire and brimstone.  Masoud says things like:  

"A lot of Muslims act as if we can't enjoy this life, we can only enjoy the afterlife. That is not right. We should enjoy life, enjoy music and art. This life is ours and we should enjoy it." 
I hear echoes of the way some members of organized Christian churches accuse American televangelists of promoting a simplified, feel good version of Christianity.  Sure enough, the article went on to note that critics accuse Masoud and others like him of pushing a brand of "Muslim-Lite". I was particularly amused by this encounter:
After his speech in Alexandria, an angry older woman in a black veil pushed her way to the front of the crowd. "Why don't you talk more about punishment?" she said, urging a more tough-love approach to preaching.

M
asoud smiled at her and said, "Thanks for your advice."
This article underscored the observations that Muslim blogger Ali Etraz made last month in his series of articles on trends within Islam in the Guardian that an increasing number of Muslim seek their own interpretations of Islam as opposed to one handed down to them by the authorities.  
Sunday's  Washington Post had a story about the rise of TV evangelism in the Middle East. There has been an explosion of satellite TV in the region. Among the at least 370 satellite channels offering news, movies and music videos are 27 dedicated to Islamic religious programming. This is up from just five such channels two years ago. 

While some of these channels are funded by governments, others are privately controlled. As a result, program content has become more varied.  According to the Post, chief among the new class of rising stars on Middle Eastern religious TV is Moez Masoud, a produce/director of commercials and part time preacher who is the product of the American schools in the region.

The upbeat, cosmopolitan Masoud seems to be drawing large audiences of educated young Muslims with his message that art, music, movies, tolerance of other faiths, compassion towards homosexuals and chaste friendships between members of the opposite sex are not incompatible with Islam.  According to Masoud,  

"There is no contradiction between real Islam and the modern world. We have to redefine the word 'Muslim' for the world." A female Egyptian medical student interviewed for the article said "Moez helps us understand everything about our religion -- not from 1,400 years ago, but the way we live now."
Television is a medium in which a soft, upbeat message is usually more effective than either dry theology or hellfire and brimstone.  Masoud says things like:  

"A lot of Muslims act as if we can't enjoy this life, we can only enjoy the afterlife. That is not right. We should enjoy life, enjoy music and art. This life is ours and we should enjoy it." 
I hear echoes of the way some members of organized Christian churches accuse American televangelists of promoting a simplified, feel good version of Christianity.  Sure enough, the article went on to note that critics accuse Masoud and others like him of pushing a brand of "Muslim-Lite". I was particularly amused by this encounter:
After his speech in Alexandria, an angry older woman in a black veil pushed her way to the front of the crowd. "Why don't you talk more about punishment?" she said, urging a more tough-love approach to preaching.

M
asoud smiled at her and said, "Thanks for your advice."
This article underscored the observations that Muslim blogger Ali Etraz made last month in his series of articles on trends within Islam in the Guardian that an increasing number of Muslim seek their own interpretations of Islam as opposed to one handed down to them by the authorities.