The Muslim Televangelists

Essential viewing for an understanding of Islam today.

The Muslim Televangelists They're young, charismatic and they bring the word of Allah, straight to your TV, computer, or mobile phone. These superstar preachers are as accessible as a click of a button and are rocking the image of extremism that Islam struggles to shrug off. Get up close and personal with the evangelist preachers hailed as the future of Islam itself.

'Islamic religious discourse has stagnated in the last 200 years' Amr Khaled cries to a captivated crowd 'It has failed to respond to current issues in society'. He speaks for an hour, with no pauses and no notes and he leaves his audience of mostly young and female Muslims, in tears. 'It's mass hypnosis on a satellite television scale' argues Wael Lofti.

'Look' beams Amr Khaled gesturing to his mobile phone 'I received 1170 calls last week'. But fearing the power of Amr's celebrity, the Egyptian government gave him little option but to flee to London, from where he continues to preach. Amr's phone is open to everyone, a modern answer to the Egyptian government's attempts to silence him. 'In Egypt I could speak nowhere' Amr confides, 'I couldn't even speak with individuals'.

In London he found a new understanding of the relationship between Islam and the West. 'If you do things for non-Muslims, it will generate respect for Islam' Amr tells the crowd. His message of community has inspired millions of young Muslims, sending his talk show ratings above those of Oprah Winfrey herself.

In the cosy living-room setting of his talk show, Amr talks freely with women about Islam today. 'One day I will be before God and be accountable' one guest declares 'I do not like the veil'. 'We're not here to judge' Amr responds but he has inspired many of the women in the audience to take the veil. 'I know very well that such programmes are made especially to convince Arab women to wear the hijab' the guest reveals after the applause dies down.

Yet the wave of female televangelists is giving women in Islam power. Lutfia Sungkar earns a month's average salary for every television appearance and on the hit show 'The Star Academy', women and men preach alongside each other for a prize. 'Look my friends, do not fear technology, send me a text and, God willing, I will be here next week' jokes one contestant. But it doesn't stop at text-voting, Muslims can now receive the Qu'ran by SMS. 'A lot of people in Islam read the Qu'ran in Arabic just to have read it, they don't understand it' explains the founder of the subscription service.

'It's an insult to Islam' argues an orthodox preacher. Whilst for Lutfia it's a fact that 'good preachers aren't recognised any more unless they're on TV'. With 'Time' magazine voting Amr Khaled the 13th 'most influential person in the world' this documentary charts a phenomenon which is finally bringing Islam up to speed with the modern world.

Director: Thierry Derouet

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