KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysian Idol is under attack by Islamic fundamentalist leaders who have denounced the local version of the hit American television show as an attempt to steer Muslim youths away from religious fidelity.
Thousands of young, aspiring pop stars - ranging from urban teenagers in Kuala Lumpur to struggling fishermen in Sabah - have flocked to nationwide auditions for the singing competition, often belting out English-language ballads or gyrating to R&B tunes.
But the opposition Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) urged audiences yesterday to boycott the programme, which is attracting millions of viewers every week following its debut last month on private 8TV network.
Organisers promise the winner a recording contract and 'platinum-selling artist treatment'. Participants - none of them older than 26, due to the show's age restrictions - who bungle their performances are frequently shown tearful and devastated.
'We fear that such shows will create a culture where Malaysians become too emotional, spiritually weak and hungry for fame and glamour,' said Mr Mahfuz Omar, a PAS senior official.
Even the word 'Idol' in the show's title contradicts Islamic principles, by encouraging people to revere entertainers instead of God, he said.
Officials at 8TV said they could not immediately comment.
Politicians often express concern about Western culture encroaching on religious values. About two-thirds of Malaysia's 25 million people are ethnic Malay Muslims. Most of the rest are ethnic Chinese and Indians, whose faiths include Christianity, Buddhism and Hinduism.
PAS, which is Malaysia's largest opposition group, has voiced concern about the show ever since it was launched shortly after the end of the latest season of American Idol, which has a huge following in Malaysia.
Muslim youths have 'forgotten their religious obligations, including prayers, because they are too busy practising for the show', the party's newspaper, Harakah, said in a recent commentary.
'The enemies of Islam have pricked the souls of young Muslims with the needle of their evil propaganda,' the commentary added. 'Our first step should be to display our disgust by boycotting this programme and explaining the truth about such evil propaganda to our children.' -- AP
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