A Bridge to Understanding

Think of him as the Billy Graham of Islam ... in his prime. He is an Egyptian born, 38-year-old, Muslim televangelist named Amr Khaled.

An ex-banker turned TV preacher, Khaled is a different kind of Islamic radical, bringing a modern message to millions of disenchanted youth across the Muslim world, a message - he says - of personal responsibility through Islam, reports CBS News correspondent Mark Phillis.

"Big gap between the thinkers, the ideologists, between the government and the youth," said Khaled. "And no bridges between them."

"I'm, I'm trying," added Khaled when asked if he sees himself as a bridge.

A bridge built using his satellite TV programs, beamed throughout the Middle East and in the West, and seen in more than 20 million homes.

His Web site of inspirational messages and chatrooms drew 26 million hits last year.

His personal appearances run from packed stadiums to intimate classrooms.

"Youth listen to me and I listen to them, and I can say that the main problem of youth in the Middle East is only one word - hope," said Khaled.

Hope and direction. He tells them inward-looking isolationism is not the way. There is no anti-Muslim conspiracy in the West, he says. Co-existence, not terrorism, is the answer.

"He's trying to motivate us through Islam as a guidance to our lives and it's not just, he's not telling us do this because we have to do this, he's trying to make us better people," said student from the American University of Cairo.

Not everyone is a fan. Traditionalists see him as a fraud, cashing in on religious fervor to make an easy buck. Others see him as hypocrite dressed in snappy suits while demanding that Islamic women wear headscarves.

But there is no doubt his message of conciliation between the Muslim east and the West is in sharp contrast to the shrill calls to jihad and sacrifice in the name of Allah, which have been intensified by the Iraq war.

"I'm talking about faith to motivate and encourage people to do something better," said Khaled.

Amr Khaled, now with a huge fan base in the Muslim world and growing recognition in the West, trying, he says, to change hate into hope in both places.

  • Mark Phillips

    Mark Phillips is CBS News senior foreign correspondent, based in London.