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News Code: 657


British TV to Broadcast Call to Fajr Prayer Throughout Ramadan

(Ahlul Bayt News Agency) - The plans, which start on the first day of Ramadan on 9 July, have been fiercely defended by the broadcaster, who say that the channel gives "a voice to the under-represented."

The broadcast will be heard for three minutes from around 3am. Channel 4 said the call will be transmitted “directly into British living rooms at the exact time Muslims prepare for their first prayers and as they begin their fast every morning during Ramadan.”

Programming will also be interrupted during the first day in order for the channel to air short films ahead of the call to prayer.

Head of factual programming Ralph Lee also said that Ramadan was bigger than the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, which received blanket coverage on TV.

He told the Radio Times: "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.

"And let’s not forget that Islam is one of the few religions that’s flourishing, actually increasing in the UK.

"Like Channel 4’s target audience, its followers are young.

"It’s recently been reported that half of British Muslims are under 25."

He added: "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?"

The Independent quotes Terry Sanderson, President of the National Secular Society, as saying: “I wouldn’t object to it as at least it gives some balance to the BBC’s emphasis on Christianity but Channel 4 has to keep it in proportion.

“The percentage of Muslims in the UK is very small so few people will be interested in it. It may be a novelty and Channel 4 is good at causing a sensation. We don’t want to see any broadcaster becoming a platform for religious proselytising.”

Indeed, the factual programming head admits that the airing of the call to prayer is meant as a "deliberate 'provocation'" to viewers. Lee said: “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.”

All the same, Channel 4’s commitment was welcomed by the Muslim Council of Britain.

A spokesman said: “This is a very special month for Muslims and its recognition on a mainstream channel is not only symbolic for belonging and solidarity but will hopefully help to portray a more realistic account of Islam and Muslims.”

Some supporters of the move argue that it should not be considered provocative at all, since there are already Songs of Praise for the Christians every Sunday and special messages from the chief Rabbi for Passover and Yom Kippur.