Alhamdulillah, Ramadan is being marked in the UK this year by Channel 4 in a first for British television channels. The mainstream “alternative” broadcaster has taken the “controversial” but welcome decision to broadcast the adhaan
live at the time of fajr
, the morning prayer, every day throughout the month of Ramadan.
Hassen Rasool, widely considered one of the best Muezzins in the UK delivers the call to prayer each morning, with programmes scheduled on the channel to be interrupted to accommodate the adhaan
at the correct time each day. The specially shot video to mark the start of each day of fasting features a number of famous British landmarks and cities, including London and Birmingham. The live broadcast of the adhaan
is accompanied by a short feature, Ramadan Reflections, giving a voice to the British Muslim community to express what Ramadan means to them and the importance of this holy month. The channel’s weather forecast also includes sunrise and sunset times to help guide British Muslims in their fast between these hours.
Ralph Lee, Head of Factual Programming at the channel said: "No doubt Channel 4 will be criticised for focusing attention on a 'minority' religion but that’s what we’re here to do – provide space for the alternative and a voice to the under-represented.”
Indeed, Channel 4 has been criticised as “becoming a platform for religious prosetlytising”, and that due to the small percentage of Muslims in the UK, few people would be interested in the show.
Lee however importantly stated "let’s not forget that Islam is one of the few religions that’s flourishing, actually increasing in the UK”. A senior Channel 4 executive also defended the broadcaster’s decision to provide extensive coverage of the most significant event in the Islamic calendar, by suggesting that Ramadan was of greater interest to its viewers than the “blanket coverage” given to the 60th anniversary of the Queen’s Coronation by its rivals.
Despite being a “minority” religion, with an increasing Muslim population and more and more Brits turning to Islam each year, it seems only natural that Ramadan, as the most holy month in Islam, should be given appropriate public recognition in the UK as a multi-cultural and democratic country.
Lee went on to add in an interview with the Radio Times that the “vast majority of people in Britain” would not be aware of the “mass act of personal sacrifice and worship” about to commence.
“Not surprising when you consider its (Ramadan) near invisibility on mainstream TV. Contrast this with the way most Muslims are represented on television – nearly always appearing in contexts related to extremism or terrorism,” he wrote.
Channel 4 said that broadcasting the adhaan
is a deliberate act of “provocation” aimed at viewers who associate Islam with terrorism and extremism. With so much “bad press” recently in British media surrounding Islam, it is about time a mainstream media channel took the initiative to promote a positive discussion around Islamic issues, as well as to represent the majority voice of peace-loving British Muslims.
The broadcaster’s decision can be seen as an attempt to garner more active engagement with the Muslim community, foster inter-faith dialogue and generally bring awareness about the true meaning of Ramadan as a time for reflection, patience and self-sacrifice to the average Brit.
“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” Lee stated.
Channel 4 should be congratulated for taking the brave step in being the first British television channel to air the adhaan
daily during Ramadaan knowing they will be opening themselves to criticism and complaints from the general public. We hope that other British channels follow in their footsteps in airing a positive view of Islam and British Muslims.