Afganistan’s Qur’an Star!
The latest TV reality show that is making headlines in Afghanistan is not about modeling, singing or dancing talents, but rather about the memorization of the Noble Qur’an.
“I really hope I win,” Ahmad Hasib Kazemi, one of the three finalists of the Qur’an Star show, told. “I’ve told all my friends and family to vote,” added the 31-year-old, who works as a shoe seller in a Kabul bazaar.
The contestants vie in reciting long passages from the Muslim holy book, as the audience vote for who they think is best.
Over two months, the competitors have been whittled down from 250 to just three, each hoping to receive the most votes from viewers in the finals.
Ahmad Bahir, a 19-year-old student, has been practicing for hours every day to prepare for the final show.
He hopes that by winning the competition he would be closer to his dream of studying in Makkah.
“I don’t have money and I’m hoping this will help.”
The only female finalist, Uzra Mohamedi, is a 16-year-old schoolgirl.
“I’ve been practicing with my mother and I’m ready.”
The contest, aired from the Marco Polo wedding hall on the outskirts of Kabul, has dominated Afghan TV for the past 8 weeks.
It is one of the country’s most-widely watched programs with an impressive 80% audience share.
“People recognize me in the street now,” notes Bahir, the student finalist.
“It’s amazing, the power of TV.”
The hit show, however, is the result of a compromise between the producers and the government.
Most of the 13 private channels in Afghanistan run Western music videos and movies and have come under criticism from conservatives who call the programs un-Islamic.
Some cable operators were banned briefly by the government after complaints from the Ulema Council about immodesty and immoral programs.
Tolo TV, a privately-owned TV channel, has created the program to appease the government and the Ulema Council.
Fearful that its hit program Afghan Star, a local version of the western Pop Idol program, Star would be banned, it agreed to increase Islamic content.
Apart from a literacy series helping people to read the Qur’an, they came up with the idea of Qur’an -Star, which aims to educate viewers on good recitation.
The new program has won the warm approval of the authorities.
“That’s a model program,” Abdul Karim Khurram, the minister for information and culture, told the Times.
“People running TV stations are dealing with people’s thoughts and minds so must be careful.”
Source: Siasat News Paper, Hyderabad, India