Indonesia: Imam Idol

22 November 2007

It is show-time at the Lativi television studios in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta.

The dancers are going through their routines, stressed-out floor managers are doing final sound checks and the audience is beginning to get excited.

Everything is as it should be for a prime-time TV talent show - with one exception.

All of the contestants are under the age of 10.

Fahmi, for example, is one of the three finalists in tonight's competition. He is eight years old and he is here, he says, because he wants to spread the word of Islam.

"I want to be a preacher when I grow up," he says, "because there are lots of young people these days who don't follow the Koran."

That is the other thing about this competition - it might look like a normal entertainment show, but it is all about the word of Allah.

Young orators

Child Preachers, as the show is called, tests children in the art of Islamic sermons. Fahmi and his two competitors are, in effect, trying to out-preach each other.

And despite the age of the contestants, it is a serious business. For the past two months, the contestants have been living in quarantine at a house in Jakarta.