THE BLOG

A Very Channel 4 Ramadan...

08/08/2013 16:08 BST | Updated 08/10/2013 10:12 BST

Eid Mubarak! A month ago Channel 4 created world-wide news when we announced 4Ramadan, a season of programmes marking the fact that across Britain nearly three million Muslims were about to embark on an incredible 30 days of gruelling 18-hour fasts. So what was it that inspired The Sun's RAMADAN-A-DING-DONG headline, sent international news crews to the steps of Horseferry Road and generated hours of media debate? The fact that we would be marking all five calls to prayer on the first day of the month on the first day of the month, and every dawn thereafter.

There were the inevitable accusations that this would incite religious and racial tension, particularly so soon after the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby, and that we were wrong to persist with the season, that Muslims wouldn't want their heads over the parapet in this religious month.

But the truth is simple; the atrocity in Woolwich galvanised our belief that it would be wrong to let extremism and violence continue to set the Islamic agenda and claim to be a representative face of Islam; to abandon the season we had planned for many months would be letting down the majority of Muslims in Britain for whom terror and extremism have no place in their faith.

Our goal - as it ever is on Channel 4 - was to challenge perception and give a voice to the voiceless.

Across the month viewers DID see the real face of Islam in our nightly Ramadan Diaries which featured ordinary, moderate Muslims going about their days without food and drink, running businesses, looking after their families and participating in British life with grace, (mostly) good humour and a desire simply to become a better version of themselves. To acknowledge this holiest of months through the Channel 4 weather reports, the dawn Calls to Prayer and a daily Ramadan Reflection just before it, has been a privilege and undeniably well-received by our Muslim audience who, at 5% of the population, represent a significant minority of the British public.

As July has crept into August, viewers who were previously none the wiser have begun to recognise the incredible physical and spiritual undertaking our Muslim friends, colleagues and partners have been committing to during one of the hottest summers in decades. And hopefully Muslims were finally able to see themselves reflected in a way they recognised and were proud of.

Over 30 nights, we've seen what it is like to serve the British public as a waiter in an Indian restaurant and as a British soldier in Afghanistan when you can't eat or drink. We've met a Great Ormond Street Surgeon who feels he becomes better at his job as a result of the calm he feels during Ramadan and travelled across the UK with a group of leather-clad bikers who raising over £10k in one day for charity. Up in Aberdeen we've seen an Episcopal Church open its doors to worshippers from the next-door mosque when there wasn't enough space for them all to pray and discovered a white, middle class female doctor in Notting Hill who feels more at home in a Somali Peckham mosque.

And what of the broadcast calls to prayer which almost doubled our viewers for that slot in that first week? Well, not many of those who were initially vocal in their despair at Channel 4 in airing them seemed to complain after they actually were broadcast. If they were watching, they would have also bumped into the Ramadan Reflections which featured a who's who of the next generation of Muslim mover and shakers, as well as non-Muslims alike who translated Ramadan into concepts like architecture, minimalist art or corporate social responsibility which, come to think of it, might not have been their cup of tea either.

To view the 4Ramandan films please visit www.channel4.co.uk/4ramadan