As if reality T.V. hadn’t sunk low enough ( NYC Prep and Dating in the Dark) we now have Penitents Compete. A Turkish game show that challenges a panel of holy men to convert 10 bona fide atheists. Making up the panel is a Buddhist monk, a Jewish rabbi, a Muslim mullah, and a Catholic priest. The grand prize is a vacation to Tibet, Mecca, Jerusalem, or Rome. Like this is hard? Of the four, only one gets me a free vacation to Europe. But, just so the game show is on the level, potential contestants are questioned in advance by scholarly theologians who will guarantee they are in fact atheists and not just a bunch of believers looking to get a free vacation. Because as we all know, no one is more willing to lie outright about believing in God to get on Turkish t.v. than religious people.
But the show has run into more than a few problems. Not the least of which is the inter panel drama that has already begun even before the first show has taped. The mullah has apparently declared a fatwa on the rabbi, the Buddhist monk is trying to work in finding the incarnation of his former master with a grueling show schedule, and the Priest is having a trouble balancing the show with his real life job as the Vatican’s official twitterer.
But the shows producers are optimistic saying that fatwas happen and it’s nothing that can’t be worked out with a little diplomacy. In the meantime, however, the rabbi is holed up in his hotel room recovering from a near death experience with an exploding shwarma and the mullah won’t go on the show unless he can kill all the infidels, sort of a Convert or Die, type of scenario. Producers in an effort to promote peace among the panelists have gone on record as saying, “We haven’t ruled out anything. We are willing to work with all the panelists to reach a peaceable agreement. We are not ruling out the possibility of killing infidels, then again we are not saying that we will.. We are remaining open at this point.” Many potential contestants are complaining that a convert or die type game show means they will end up going to Mecca, when they really want to go to Rome. Producers are working out the details on a possible, convert to Islam go to Rome, option for the winner.
When asked if the convert or die policy might compel people to convert even if they don’t want to, the producers of the show said they didn’t think so. When pressed on this issue of whether or not they thought people would convert to Islam just to avoid having their heads lobbed off, the producers of the show said that if contestants feel compelled to convert to Islam rather than die, than it’s still a valid decision because in the end they exercised their choice to convert or die. The fact that it’s not a great choice, the producers say, isn’t really their problem.