Entertainment & Arts

Channel Four to broadcast Ramadan prayer call

Members of the East London Mosque during Eid prayers.
Image caption Millions of Muslims around the world fast for a month during Ramadan

The head of Channel Four's factual programming has explained the decision to broadcast the Muslim call to prayer every morning throughout Ramadan.

Ralph Lee told the Radio Times it would act as a form of provocation aimed at those associating Islam with extremism.

He also suggested that Ramadan was of more interest to viewers than "blanket coverage" of Royal events.

Channel Four will show a series of programmes as part of an examination of Ramadan, which begins next Tuesday.

Writing in the Radio Times, Lee said the broadcaster would become the first mainstream channel to screen the call to prayer every day.

He said he hoped it would make viewers "sit up and notice" that the event is taking place.

Almost invisible

"A mass act of personal sacrifice and worship, it's carried out every year, by increasing numbers of committed Muslims - yet the vast majority of people in Britain won't even be aware of its existence. Not surprising when you consider its near invisibility on mainstream TV," said Lee.

"It's easy for non-Muslims to see Islam through a superficial prism of what is forbidden, and Ramadan through the physical hardship of fasting and control.

"For Muslims, however, Ramadan provides great physical and spiritual gains.

"It's a time of reformation and reflection, whether that's developing a greater awareness of the suffering of others, feeling a stronger affinity with their Muslim brothers and sisters around the world, or resolving to change the way they live their lives for the greater good."

Lee said that after the killing of Drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich on 22 May and the subsequent reprisals against British Muslims, there had "never been a more pressing need to give a voice to the moderate mainstream majority".

He said the live broadcast would "act as a nationwide Tannoy system" and a provocation to viewers "in the very real sense of the word".

He admitted the decision to broadcast the event may result in some criticism of Channel Four, but said "that's what we're here to do - provide space for the alternative and a voice to the under-represented.

'Publicity stunt'

"Nearly five per cent of the country will actively engage in Ramadan this month - can we say the same of other national events that have received blanket coverage on television such as the Queen's coronation anniversary?" he asked.

Channel Four will also broadcast the traditional call to prayer, known as adhan, delivered by muezzin Hassen Rasool, online. It will be automatically played at the same time it is played in mosques around London.

The channel's series about Ramadan, which begins later this month, will also include a documentary with Rashid Khan, a former rugby player who starred in the award-winning Make Bradford British, which examines how Muslims in Britain prepare for the holy month.

Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, said: "It seems reasonable that there should be some acknowledgment on TV of the needs of the growing Muslim population in Britain, although one can't help wondering whether this is just another of Channel Four's publicity-seeking stunts.

"Given that the BBC devotes hundreds of hours a year to Christianity, with two or three church services every day on its radio stations, and hardly any mention of minority religions, a few minutes devoted to Islam doesn't seem unreasonable," he said.

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