Imam for a new generation

-- The Islamic preacher slipped on a pair of shorts and talked about the Koran while playing beach volleyball, eating barbecue and joking about hot cars and palaces in paradise.“People are attracted to new preachers like me because they want religious solutions to daily problems,” says Mostafa Hosni, pictured on the set of his TV show in Cairo.

Mostafa Hosni preaches on TV, repackaging Islam and focusing on real-life problems for Egypt's young adults. He doesn't fit the West's stereotypical image of an Islamic spiritual leader.

If the West were to dream up its version of an ideal imam, he might look and sound like Mostafa Hosni, a 30-year-old former Nestle accountant who's comfortable in argyle sweaters and hip to self-help. A video of his seaside sermon posted on his website was a cross between a travel brochure and a spiritual quest for the BlackBerry generation.

Abu Islam Ahmed Abdullah"We decided to leave the city and go somewhere with a sea, clear sky and mountains so that we can meditate about almighty God's greatness," Hosni says with a gentle surf behind him. "It is hard for one to meditate about that in the crowded city. In fact, we want to draw some link between the beauty of the Earth and that of paradise."

The West's picture of the Muslim preacher is often caricature: a bearded man in a tunic bellowing ancient verses and spinning asides about American imperialism. But that icon is changing as the image and message of mainstream Islam are softened to appeal to upwardly mobile, twentysomething followers less concerned with dogma than bleeping out life's annoyances on the way to success.

"I try to preach with simple language, not the language of scholars," said Hosni, who has a weekly TV talk show and whose sermons are sold on CDs in front of Cairo University. "People are attracted to new preachers like me because they want religious solutions to daily problems, not someone talking to them about the afterlife."