Mosul Boy Favored in Iraq Version of 'Idol'

A 12-year-old boy from Mosul has emerged as the favorite in "Pop Idol" (search), Iraq's answer to "American Idol" (search) that's extremely popular in the war-torn country.

Bilal, who strums an acoustic guitar, had viewers and judges alike praising him after he sang a song dedicated to his country and its people, according to

"When this 12-year-old boy on 'Pop Idol' came along, he sang a song which made us feel for our nation," said Laith Ali, an Iraqi who works for the BBC's Baghdad bureau.

"He sang his song with incredible emotion," Ali said. "And the way he sang was as though he was a professional."

Because of the situation in Iraq, "Pop Idol" differs drastically from its American counterpart in several ways.

For one, contestants reportedly have had to dodge bullets and bombs just to make it to the show's studio in Baghdad.

And, because of security reasons, the "Pop Idol" finale won't even be held in Iraq — but in neighboring Beirut, Lebanon.

The show also doesn't have a studio audience (only judges).

According to, Bilal sang his song in standard Arabic, which is more difficult than colloquial Arabic used in everyday life.

"The words he used were not ordinary words, and they were very effective in conveying strong emotions," Ali said.

"They were so powerful. I was very moved by the performance.

"I felt he was sending a message to the people, singing for the people of Iraq," Ali said. "He wasn't singing for himself — he wanted to send a message out to the people."