• EGYPT \ Jul 11, 2001
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    Egyptian Mufti Bans "Who Wants to be a Millionaire"
Egyptian Mufti Bans The Grand Mufti of Egypt, Dr. Nasser Farid Wassel, last week issued a fatwa (religious decree) denouncing a television quiz show on Egyptian-TV that offered cash prizes as "haram", forbidden.

Dr Wassel said a winning contestant takes the money that others have contributed through charges for the telephone calls made to the programme. "This is forbidden in Islam," he said.

He further justified the fatwa by saying that the shows are based on deception and fraud.

Private telephone companies organise television quiz shows and offer the winner a money prize which is a tiny fraction of huge profits the companies rake in, according to a report published in the Egyptian Gazette on Tuesday.

To take part, a contestant must call a mobile phone number. The rate per minute is LE1.50 ($0.40).

The caller's name is fed into a computer, which makes a random selection of those to appear on the show. This is a hi-tech form of drawing lots. "Islam does not allow us to play dice or games of chance," said the Mufti.

A member of the Al-Azhar Islamic university's Fatwa committee, Abdul Sabour Shalabi, stated that the twice-weekly programme "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" will give the younger generation false ideas of a life of luxury after winning a seven-digit prize cheque. George Kadahi hosts the Arabic version of the British show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.

"Muslims are enjoined to work hard to provide for their families, while those who live off the labour of their fellows are worthy of contempt."

"Islam takes a dim view of day-dreaming about instant wealth. Luck should play no part in earning an honest living," Shalabi said, adding that these programmes that have become widespread on Arab satellite channels, are undermining well-established ideas of the importance of work and being independent in society.

Egypt's Minister of Information, Safwat el Sherif, however, said, "television game shows are not gambling. They are cultural competitions like those held in schools and universities."

Amin Bassyouni, Chairman of the Egyptian Satellite Company, was not convinced with the fatwa. ''Competitions are tests of general knowledge. Cash prizes are given to the clever ones who can answer the questions correctly," he said.

Youssef Kassem, professor of jurisprudence at the Law Faculty of Cairo University, said that if game shows are purely educational, the telephone companies cannot charge contestants for phone calls. "Competition is encouraged in Islam provided that competitors do not contribute to the winnings," he said.