By Ian Dunt
Channel 4 plans to show the Muslim morning and evening call to prayer every day during Ramadan, it has announced.
The "provocative move" is designed to show a different side to the religion than the common stereotype of terrorism and live up to the channel's mission to appeal to minority audiences.
"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," Ralph Lee, head of factual programming, wrote in Radio Times.
"Even when moderate Muslims do appear [on TV], it’s often only to provide a counterpoint to [extremists].
"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."
The period Ramadan sees five per cent of the British population go without food or drink during daylight hours and then break their fast with family and friends when the sun sets.
The broadcast of the call the prayer is just part of Channel 4's coverage. There will also be details of sunrise and sunset for those fasting during weather reports and video diaries showing British Muslims going about their daily life.
"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," Less said.
"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.
"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?"
There was a limited press backlash against the move this morning, with the Sun newspaper running a critical lead story.
The National Secular Society struck a cautious but broadly supportive note in its response to the news.
"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," president Terry Sanderson said.
"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."
Ramadan begins next Tuesday.
By Ian Dunt