London, Asharq Al-Awsat—The London-based British television network Channel 4 announced at the beginning of July that it would be broadcasting the Islamic call to prayer, or adhan, every morning of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Now in its second week—which has coincided with temperatures of over 30 degrees Celsius in parts of England—British Muslims, who number some 2.7 million, are abstaining from food, water, smoking and sexual intercourse during daylight hours.
“Nearly five per cent of the country will actively engage in Ramadan this month,” Ralph Lee, head of factual programming at Channel 4, wrote in Radio Times when he announced the decision.
Hassan Rasool is a South African-born singer–songwriter, and is “considered to be one of the UK’s best muezzins,” according to Lee’s article. As such, Channel 4 selected him to perform the call to prayer live on television. He told Asharq Al-Awsat that he was “very happy with the project, as I think that, in Britain, we need to see positive programs on the official channels.
“We always see negative images about Islam and Muslims on the television screen, especially after the killing of the soldier Lee Rigby in Woolwich at the hands of extremists. With the call to prayer being broadcast, I think that we will give British viewers a good perspective of Islam, full of peace and tranquility.”
Likewise, Ralph Lee wrote in the Radio Times earlier in the month that the series of broadcasts would be in stark contrast to “the way most Muslims are represented on television—nearly always appearing in contexts related to extremism or terrorism.”
Rasool affirmed that it was a “fantastic opportunity” for the non-Muslim population of Britain to get an insight into the spiritual aspect of the religion that is often overlooked, and to hear “the sweet, soothing sound of the call to prayer,” as he told Arise News.
While he normally performs the call to prayer in various different locations, the musician said that “in Ramadan, I do the call to prayer for all the prayers at a mosque where I live in Harrow.”
Rasool also told Asharq Al-Awsat about his own music. “My songs tend to be in the soul genre, or Bob Dylan songs. I have released a number of songs already,” he said.
This is something the Muezzin—the individual who conducts the adhan—wanted to transpose to the network’s coverage of the event, which takes place five times a day. “I wanted to reflect my personality. I am someone who loves people; I smile at strangers and help those in need. Honestly, when I agreed with the channel, one of the most important things was that I could be myself.”
A Channel 4 spokesman also told Asharq Al-Awsat that “the decision is part of the channel’s policy to meet the tastes and interests of a culturally diverse society, and to provide space for different views and opinions. The programs designed for the month of Ramadan will provide a look at how Muslims integrate fasting into their daily life in Britain.”
“The call to prayer takes place at all the mosques across Britain. We will broadcast it at three in the morning, and although we do not expect a large number of the general public will watch it, we hope that Muslims and others interested in Islam will follow the channel to watch the call to prayer and the Ramadan Reflections program.”