British TV Broadcasts Muslim Call To Prayer

Britain's Channel 4 is airing the three-minute call to prayer at 3 a.m. every day for the entire month of Ramadan. Weekend Edition Sunday host Rachel Martin talks to Sheikh Ibrahim Mogra of the Muslim Council of Britain.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The holy month of Ramadan began this past week, a time when Muslims around the world engage in a disciplined routine of fasting and prayer.

(SOUNDBITE OF CALL TO PRAYER)

MARTIN: This is the call to prayer, a common sound on the streets of Muslim countries, but this year the same sound will echo through homes in Great Britain - at least those with their televisions tuned to Channel 4. The broadcaster is airing the three-minute long call to prayer at 3 a.m. for all 30 days of Ramadan.

Sheik Ibrahim Mogra joins us now from Leicester, England. He's with the Muslim Council of Britain. Welcome to the program.

SHEIK IBRAHIM MOGRA: Thank you.

MARTIN: So this is a big decision by this broadcaster, to do this. They haven't done this before. Is this a good thing, in your opinion? Is this a good move?

MOGRA: It's a wonderful move. We're all very excited, and Muslims are very proud that a significant part of their religious observance is now on a mainstream television channel in our country. I like to think that this is now one of the necessary steps of mainstreaming all our religions. As you know, Islam and Muslims have been portrayed in a very negative way around the world but also here recently in our own country.

And for a change, there's something very spiritual, very positive about Islam which viewers can enjoy and get to know.

MARTIN: Channel 4 called this a deliberate act of provocation meant to spark debate. What is the message there, because after all, we should say that the Muslim population in Great Britain is only about 5 percent?

MOGRA: I regret the decision to market it, if I can use that word, using that sensational headline. It should be about saying to the nation that we have a small but substantial presence of Muslims in our country and this is a very special month for them and we would like the nation to hear it and to celebrate that.

MARTIN: British viewers heard the call to prayer five times on the first day of Ramadan this past week. And I understand after that it will be broadcast five times a day on Channel 4's website. I wonder what the response has been from non-Muslims to this.

MOGRA: I think most people have just taken into stride. This is Britain, this is multicultural, multi-faith Britain. We don't seek any preferential treatment, we don't want to be favored in any way whatsoever. We just simply want to be treated as everybody else, as equals in a diverse, multi-faith, multicultural country that we live in.

MARTIN: Sheik Ibrahim Mogra is assistant secretary general with the Muslim Council of Britain. Thank you so much for talking with us.

MOGRA: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTIN: This is NPR News.

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