News / Europe

British Broadcaster to Air Daily Call to Prayer During Ramadan

Men pray at a mosque in south London, September 2012.
Men pray at a mosque in south London, September 2012.
Selah Hennessy
One of Britain's main broadcasters is set to air the Muslim call to prayer live every morning during the month of Ramadan.  Channel 4 says it is an act of "deliberate provocation" aimed at viewers who might associate Islam with extremism.  The move is proving controversial.

Channel 4 is set to broadcast the three-minute call to prayer at about 3 a.m. on each of the 30 days of Ramadan.  The other four daily prayers will be broadcast on its website.

Programmers say it is a way to challenge conceptions of Islam in Britain and provide a voice for the underrepresented.  The move, it says, will force non-Muslims to “sit up and notice” that Ramadan is taking place.

Buzz among British Muslims

Usama Hasan, a senior researcher in Islamic studies at the Quilliam Foundation, a London-based research group, says the news is creating a stir among British Muslims.

“I'm looking at Muslim discussion forums online and blogs and things," he said.  "There has been a lot of buzz about Channel 4's Ramadan season.  So people will know about it.  And whereas in previous years they would have automatically switched on Muslim satellite channels at dawn time, now many will also see Channel 4 as a watchable alternative.”

Hasan says the move is especially important for young Muslims.  A recent census carried out in Britain found that one in 10 people under the age of 25 is Muslim.  Channel 4 says that age group is its target audience - and a big part of why it decided to broadcast the prayer.

Young Muslims in Britain, Hasan says, have grown up in an environment formed by the September 11, 2001 terrorism attack in the United States and a subsequent terror attack in Britain in 2005.

Hasan says for young Muslims, signs of inclusion in mainstream British society are significant.

“They have lived through their formative years with that whole, rather negative atmosphere.  And it is very important for them to feel more positively accepted in British society and this will be one welcome step,” he said.

Controversial move

The move by Channel 4 has been controversial.  Right-wing political groups and some media outlets have at times reacted with dismay, and outrage.

Andrew McBride is deputy chairman of a far-right pressure group called Britain First.  His group has launched a campaign to stop the broadcast, which it calls “Islamic propaganda."  So far the “complaint” has garnered some 5,000 signatures.

“Getting from the broadcasting airwaves the call to prayer in Arabic in Britain - it annoys people, it annoys me,” he said.

Some from the Muslim community in Britain have voiced concern that Channel 4 is using Ramadan to spur ratings and create controversy.

But Ibrahim Mogra, assistant secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, says representing Muslim culture in mainstream broadcasts makes Muslims feel more integrated into British society.

“I think this will certainly help.  It is not going to dispel all the myths and misconceptions about Islam in one go.  But every effort helps,” he said.

Channel 4 also is set to launch a series about Ramadan this month, including documentaries about leading Muslims in Britain.

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Comment Sorting
by: Azztec from: uk
July 10, 2013 5:41 AM
What a bold move, this is not a case of pandering to a specific religion but raising awareness of the month of Ramadan so the argument of doing the same for other religions does not quite stick.
If people payed attention to what the month of Ramadan is about rather than try and belittle it they may actually learn something useful and enlightening which they may be able to use in their own lives as a motivation to better themselves.

by: Alan King from: USA
July 09, 2013 4:00 AM
What a bold, civilised, courageous, inclusive and humane move by the British Channel. It seems having ruled the world, east to west, the Brits understand other cultures much better.
I hope the american and other western media will follow suit and start accept accomodating the moslem members of our communities more decently and appropriately.

by: OldPolyman
July 09, 2013 3:38 AM
The problem with broadcast prayers is that it gives creedence to a particular religion, if Channel 4 will broadcast prayers of all other religions, then I have no problem. However I suspect 4 will not give the same to any other religion.

by: guy c from: UK
July 08, 2013 5:24 PM
what a depravity!!!

by: Carlos Gomez-Mota from: Dominican Rep
July 08, 2013 9:47 AM
This one wrong way for looking integration of a foreign group because this integration must look that these people live the culture of UK instead of the reverse.
In Response

by: TAHA from: Washington
July 10, 2013 4:45 PM
What is wrong with letting to this when a channel starts expressing the wishes of a big minority when they have come under attack because of act of a few. This is a way that Muslims feel at home and surely they will strive to be part and parcel of British society.
Islam and any other faith should be viewed as a common heritage of human society. Any open society without looking to the behavior of some followers should ponder on what the faith preaches and how can one benefit from its messages.

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