A new game show for Ramazan on Turkey’s flagship state broadcaster channel has incensed many conservative religious groups across the country. The show, Kur’an-ı Kerim’i Güzel Okuma Yarışması [Kuran: Beautiful Recital Competition], televised each night, shows men competing by reciting passages from the Kuran.
A panel of three judges give feedback to the competitors, who are hafız (those who have studied and memorised the Islamic holy book), on their performance, which can last up to nine minutes each. Like the UK’s well known TV singing show, The X Factor, the judges have adopted a showman-like quality when critiquing individuals. But their brash comments have irritated some viewers, along with the criteria and prizes on offer.
While the Kur’an remains the same for all Muslims, there are variations among different regions on the recital of the Holy Scripture, from tone to accents, and musicality. These variations have been reflected on the show, as Turkey is now home to refugees from several neighbouring Muslim-majority countries. However, contestants have received lower marks from the studio audience and judging panel if their recital is not in keeping with the Turkish style.
The harshest criticism from conservative viewers came for turning what is essentially a devotional act into a game show. Kur’an-ı Kerim’i Güzel Okuma Yarışması awards a gold coin to each participant with more on offer for daily and weekly winners, and 50 gold coins for the series winner. The financial prizes have led to accusations that the programme is debasing the spirituality of reciting from the Kuran.
Such was the outcry from the country’s pious Muslims that the Head of Turkey’s Department of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) Mehmet Görmez felt obliged to intervene. He said, “In recent times, a competition programme has been broadcast. Let me just say this: the Kur’an is not a book of lyrics to be used for singing competitions. The Kur’an is a book of life.”
The show continues to be broadcast every evening on TRT 1 at 20.50pm local time and is repeated in the afternoons. The grand finale will be held on 21 June – Night of Power / Kadir Gecesi. Episodes of the show are also available on YouTube.
Main photo: still from the show’s first broadcast on 26 May.