Quran Contest Gives Muslims Spotlight

October 13, 2006

Author: Hassan M. Fattah

Source: The New York Times


With its big-budget sets, promise of large cash prizes and surly judges who grimace at the slightest slip-up, the contest might seem like yet another made-for-TV talent show.

But the competition being beamed by satellite across the Muslim world this Ramadan is no "American Idol." The winners, judged the best at reciting the Quran from memory, won't become the objects of breathless gossip in glossy magazines. Instead, they will become stars of a different sort, earning the respect of devout Muslims and invitations to recite the text in religious gatherings.

The Dubai International Holy Quran Award is open to males 21 and younger. More than 80 young Muslim men from countries including Iran, Iraq, Brazil, Australia and the United States faced off in more than two weeks of nightly performances that end this week.

Dubai's ruler, Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, sponsors the competition, one of the most prestigious Quran recitation contests in the world, to encourage young Muslims to understand the essence of their faith. He provides the equivalent of nearly $700,000 in prize money, including a top prize of almost $70,000.