Amr Khaled’s Evangelical roots!

There is an interesting article about Amr Khaled, the super-cool Islamic preacher. For those of us who never heard of Amr Khalid; Amr is claimed by many to be the most popular Islamic preacher in the Arab World and beyond. Many in the West refer to the young Mulsim reformer as “Billy Graham of Islam”. The article claimed that the 37 years old preacher’s style and content were influenced heavily by Evangelical preacher Dr. Sameh Moris. Dr. Moris(showed in the photo to the right) is the Senior Pastor at Qasr Al-Dobara Evangelical Church in Cairo. Apparently, Amr who attended the church for many years managed to adopt and integrate some Christian Evangelical elements into his new version of Islam; a version that strongly emphasizes the main message of “God is Love” and encourages the faithfuls to build a personal relationship with God.

The new emerged approach which invokes the Protestant work ethic and self-awareness considered by many within Islam as very controversial to say the least. For example, the well-known Muslim Brotherhood call Khaled’s version of Islam as “air-conditioned Islam”. Other critics pointed out that Khaled’s approach is mainly tailored to meet the needs of the trendy young of Cairo or Alexandria through a religious discourse that talks of the values of self-realisation, a concept that was firstly introduced by Psychologist Maslow and considered by many as the basic bloc for liberal modernity.

Copying the style of the US televangelists, Khaled focused on connecting with the soft human part of his audience in contrast to other traditional Islamic preachers who leaned heavily on fiery sermons that leave their audience in an anger state of mind. In order to do, Khaled preaches using soft Egyptian dialect that understood by the public instead of using typical classic Arabic. This new trend is another clear break up with the classic Salafi style of preaching. Khalid modern style is also reflected in his way of dressing. The young televangelist prefers to wear suit and tie instead of a white galabiyya.

Khaled’s impressive success did not go unnoticed by many scholars. According to Patrick Haenni and Husam Tammam, “The secret of his success was that he positioned himself outside the rivalry between political and official Islam, by offering a religious product compatible with the modern expectations of the urban middle classes: a worldly religion that talks about inner peace and spiritual well-being, and rejects religious observance in which rite is an end in itself. It refuses to see Allah as a God of retribution.”

Regardless from where Khaled got his ideas, his style is working. Khalid’s sermons are now protected by copyright. He also became the religious adviser to the Saudi firm Iqra and in demand on the boards of directors of Islamic banks. Interestingly and according to Patrick and Husam Tammam; “the LBC, the chain founded by Christian Lebanese militias, unhesitatingly sacrificed its religious loyalties to the god of profit: last Ramadan, it broadcast Khalid’s Islamic chat show, Wa Nalqa al-Ahibba (Meeting the Loved Ones), to its audiences in the Gulf states in order to maximise its advertising revenues.”

The pragmatic version of Islam is also another form where Khaled distinguished himself from other traditional Islamic schools. To the contrast of Sufisim, Khaled embraced good living and wealth. He told his followers: “I want to be rich so that people will look at me and say ’You see, rich and religious’, and they’ll love God through my wealth. I want to have money and the best clothes to make people love God’s religion.” In order to do so, Khaled preaches the importance of time management, defining goals in life and value ambition and success.

The question of the day is: whether Khaled is an ever-lasting reformer or a media product phenomenon that is doomed to fail? The answer to that is…only time can tell.