Egyptian preacher Amr Khaled – who is no stranger to polemics and controversies – stirred up news after he released video clips of himself from the Hajj pilgrimage.
These video clips included passages where he recorded himself in front of the Kabaa with the Ihram attire praying heartily with devotion. This led to criticism and ridicule from several parties.
Naturally, there were those who defended the star of Egyptian television preacher and called the attacks directed toward him unfair and unfounded.
He himself defended his recordings, which comprised several passages on spirituality and the days of Hajj. He stated that he was unjustly targeted and reiterated his love for all Muslims. He also insisted that his video clips cut off abruptly and were hence taken of context.
The issue is not the story itself but in the distorted reality reflected by this incident. Since the proliferation of satellite channels, and emergence of social media platforms, we are experiencing new trends in religious preaching. This new phenomenon stirs people’s spirituality and invokes religious passions.
However, this time, it does not target the elderly or those accustomed with the former methods of religious preaching and guidance. Indeed, this new kind of preaching seeks youth including young girls in their quest for a “modern” and trendy way of preaching or what is called “good presentation”.
The 21st century methods of preaching have become sophisticated, and the new preacher has been transformed into a millionaire advertising star sought by government institutions and corporations alikeMashari Althaydi
This new populist preaching is bold in both its presentation and content without particular regard to the strict standards of texts and their meaning. Religious scholars and erudite condemned these practices in the past and those who perpetuated them.
Just recently, before the age of satellite channels and Internet, the public came to know about a number of preachers, most of whom belonged to the Muslim Brotherhood.
The latter preached with fervor and employed sermons in order to promote the Brotherhood’s values and agenda, and commonly resorted to the use of slang jokes on the pulpit.
Nowadays, a similar scenario is taking place even though preachers of the past have been replaced by the rising stars of satellite TV and social media platforms.
However, the new 21st century methods of preaching have become more sophisticated, and the new preacher has been transformed into a millionaire advertising star sought by government institutions and corporations alike.
Does the shortcomings we are witnessing today lie in the stars themselves or the audience that created and propelled these celebrities? Or does it reside somewhere else? What is certain is that during our times even the most sacred values have been made devoid of sanctity.
This article is also available in Arabic.
Saudi journalist Mashari Althaydi presents Al Arabiya News Channel’s “views on the news” daily show “Maraya.” He has previously held the position of a managing senior editor for Saudi Arabia & Gulf region at pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat. Althaydi has published several papers on political Islam and social history of Saudi Arabia. He appears as a guest on several radio and television programs to discuss the ideologies of extremist groups and terrorists. He tweets under @MAlthaydy.