Islamic TV launches 4 new language services
Cairo, June 7, 2010
Egypt's al-Azhar's satellite channel that seeks to promote moderate Islam launched four language services to extend its reach to millions of Muslims worldwide, its designers said.
Al-Azhar, one of the oldest seats of Sunni Islamic learning, will target viewers in English, French, Urdu, and Pashto besides its now running Arabic programmes, in a renewed effort to further US President Barak Obama's call for greater religious tolerance.
The station was launched to coincide with Obama's visit to Cairo in mid-2009 and his call for better ties between the Muslim world and the US.
Al-Azhar, whose head is appointed by the state, has traditionally supported the Egyptian government in its campaign against Islamic militants, such as a group that launched an insurgency in Egypt in the 1990s.
"There is a wide open market for religious moderation on the airwaves," said Sheikh Khaled El Gendy, Azhar religious scholar and one of the channel's content developers.
"We are competing with voices of intolerance for the attention and loyalty of young people," Gendy, who hosts a live call-in programme for viewers struggling with the interpretation of Islam to seek guidance, said.
The channel, called Azhari, aims to counter "confrontational and aggressive" interpretations of Islam that have damaged the image of the Muslim world, a statement from the channel said.
Since its June 2009 launch, Azhari has faced some threats from what it calls "extremist elements", including a bomb threat to Azhari studios in February and other warnings to staff.
Gendy said the channel's message would attract a wider audience than those promoting militancy, adding: "We believe we have the better product. And clearly our message is resonating."
Al-Azhar, which runs schools, universities and other educational institutions across Egypt and sends scholars to teach in countries throughout the Muslim world, hopes this second channel will help reach people in their living rooms.
Architects of the channel envisage reaching more than 325 million households in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. – Reuters