London, Asharq Al-Awsat—British national television network Channel 4 has announced that it will provide live broadcasts of the Islamic call to prayer, or adhan, at roughly 3 a.m. every morning of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, the first such move by a mainstream national network.
In addition, the channel will air all five calls to prayer at their respective times on the first day of Ramadan, which this year takes place on July 9. Thereafter, daily coverage of all five calls to prayer will be available online.
According to the latest census, 4.8 percent of the UK population, or 2.7 million people out of a total population of 56 million, adhere to the Islamic faith.
Ralph Lee, Channel 4’s head of factual programming, wrote in Radio Times that “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 said that the programming would be in stark contrast with “the way most Muslims are represented on television—nearly always appearing in contexts related to extremism or terrorism.”
“Even when moderate Muslims do appear, it’s often only to provide a counterpoint to these issues. Following the horrific events in Woolwich and subsequent reprisals against British Muslims, there has surely never been a more pressing need to give a voice to the moderate mainstream majority,” Lee continued.
There has been a recent spate of Islamophobic and anti-Muslim activities in the wake of the fatal attack that took place in Woolwich. A report published by Teesside University stated that in the 35-day period after the attack, there were a total of 241 anti-Muslim incidents—a dramatic increase from the average of 1.5 such incidents in the same time period the previous year.
British mosques and Islamic centers—between 40 and 60 percent of which have been attacked in ‘at least one form’ since September 11, 2001—have also come under increased threat. There have been numerous incidents involving the spraying of racist graffiti.
In the direct aftermath of the Woolwich attack, two men were arrested after a mosque in the northern town of Grimsby was attacked with petrol bombs.
In the light of such incidents, the Channel 4 executive explained that “observing the adhan on Channel 4 will act as a nationwide tannoy system, a deliberate ‘provocation’ to all our viewers in the very real sense of the word.”
Lee also defended the Channel’s decision to “provide space for the alternative and a voice to the under-represented” by arguing that Islam is in fact “one of the few religions that’s flourishing, actually increasing in the UK.”
Channel 4, which began in 1982 as an alternative media outlet to cater for minority groups, is also showcasing a series of documentaries and short films covering Ramadan in Britain, which lasts either 29 or 30 days depending on the phase of the moon.
“Each night a short film will follow Muslims as they observe the Holy month of Ramadan,” and “every morning just before sunrise, to start the day’s fasting, a short film offers a unique insight into what Ramadan means from 30 different individuals,” the Channel 4 website explained.