An interfaith television game show, believed to be the first in Britain, in which Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Muslim and Sikh contestants compete against one another for cash prizes is to be broadcast weekly from the London studios of the Islam Channel from mid-June 2008 - writes Martin Revis.
The producer of the show says that two teams of four will answer rapid and multiple choice questions testing both general and religious knowledge, posed by the Muslim comedian Jeff Mirza. There will also be a home-or-away round in which contestants can answer questions on their own faith or the opposing team's for further points.
Abrir Hussain, who is producing the show called "Faith Off", told Ecumenical News International, "I wanted to do something to promote good relations and bring a new approach to the interfaith debate other than that of the usual consultative round table format."
Hussain said, "The aim is attract younger people who may find the commendable but somewhat repetitive [interfaith] initiatives going on at the moment boring." He told ENI, "While the show has not been designed to touch on contentious areas there will be an opportunity for some discussion arising from the questions."
Interfaith bodies had been consulted during the planning stage and all had responded positively.
One of the show's Jewish contestants, 42-year-old Danny Judelson, was quoted as saying by the Guardian newspaper: "A game show is an original idea, to say the least ... I thought it was interesting that the channel were taking seriously the opportunity to educate their audience. There's a very serious purpose behind it."
For the two shows already shot, participants were invited to the studios two hours beforehand to get to know one another. Hussain said it had gone very well. The show was not aimed at theologians or scholars, and the participants would have varying degrees of knowledge. It was hoped to show some of the similarities between religions rather than focusing on the differences, in order to promote better relations. The prizes would be modest, as the show was more about taking part than winning.
The programme will be shown in 31 countries and also world wide via the Internet.
[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International  is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches.]