The New York Times (21 November 2011) reports on a new contest in Malaysia to find female Muslim role models:
"While official religious leadership in this predominantly Muslim country has traditionally been male, women in Malaysia are carving out new roles, including that of female preacher. Now, television has taken up the theme, starting rival preaching contests on separate channels: “Solehah” (pious female in Arabic), and “Ustazah Pilihan” (ideal female preacher in Malay).
“We need women preachers, rather than men,” said Siti Adibah Zulkepli, 21, after her appearance on “Solehah.” “Because they don’t face what we are facing — health problems, how to manage the house, how to manage the children. The woman knows better.”
Women in many Muslim countries have been engaged in religious education behind the scenes. In Malaysia, where women are on the rise in business, politics and academia, the new television shows have shone a spotlight on women’s growing role in religious leadership.
Contestants on “Solehah,” who are selected by auditions around the country, study Islam and get coaching in public speaking and personal grooming. During one recent episode, the women produced videos on high school drop-outs and acid attacks and were then asked to comment before a live studio audience on how these issues could be addressed, using Islamic references.
“Ustazah Pilihan” focuses more on a search for “muslimah,” or female Muslim role models. Modeled on a popular TV contest for male imams that premiered last year, it eliminates one contestant a week. Publicity material for the show stresses the “importance of assuming responsibilities as a Muslim woman, not only as a wife or mother but also as an educator, who can shape and nurture potential leaders of the future.”
Read the full article here.