KUALA LUMPUR - A Malaysian Muslim woman was crowned Monday, December 19, the best preacher in a televised reality TV show that aims to change conservative mindset about the role of women in Muslim societies.
"We will try slowly ... We will try to change (people's ideas) without going against Islamic laws," said 25-year-old Amie Sofia, who won the award, Reuters reported.
Sofia, an Egyptian-trained Qur`anic studies graduate, was crowned the best preacher in the prime time program titled Solehah, an Arabic word meaning pious female.
She won a certificate, a pilgrimage trip to Makkah, $10,000 and a car.
The young winner, whose victory was greeted by a rain of confetti as she and two other finalists embraced, said she hoped her win would help widen the acceptance of women preachers in society and encourage more women to join the field.
"It may not happen immediately, but eventually it will come, God willing."
Although Islam allows both men and women to preach, the field is dominated by men.
Haji Bukhari Che Muda, the chief executive of TV AlHijrah, the cable television station that produced the program, said the show had hit its aim of providing Islamic knowledge to audiences from all walks of life.
"People now understand what is the meaning of da'wah, what is the meaning of Islam," he said.
Participants included young women who are aged between 20 and 30.
The young Muslim women were judged by scholars on their religious knowledge as well as their oratory skills and personality.
They were also judged by their ability mainly to "da'wah," an Arabic word literally meaning to spread Islam, and deliver religious lectures to an audience of Muslims to get them to be better Muslims.
The contestants were also tested on their ability to complete various tasks, such as helping orphans and renovating a rundown mosque.
The reality show followed on the heels of the hit Islamic-themed show "Imam Muda," or Young Imam, which has taken place on a rival TV station to seek the best Imam, or male Muslim leader.
The show has gained huge popularity in Southeast Asia where Islam is the most widely practiced religion, with more than 240 million followers.
Malays, mostly Muslims, make up nearly 60 percent of Malaysia's 28 million population.
Ethnic Chinese and Indians - most of them Buddhists, Hindus and Christians - make up about 35 percent. The rest are indigenous people and Eurasians.Malaysia offers the image of a model Muslim country, heading towards the status of developed nation with huge buildings, beautiful cities and a fast track economy.