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Islamophobia: Why the Debate About Channel 4's Ramadan Season Could Increase It

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RAMADAN
AP

Channel 4 has taken the conscious decision to 'shock' and inform the British public by airing the Islamic call to prayer (adhan) throughout Ramadan.

Muezzin Hassen Rasool will record the call to prayer, at the same time it is played in mosques around London (around 3am).

On the first day of Ramadan, Channel 4 will interrupt scheduled programming with four 20-second reminders that the call to prayer is soon. After that, they will continue to broadcast the 3am adhan but the shorter reminders will move to their website.

When you break it down, the company are doing a small, but great service to the many Muslims marginalised in this country. So often, the right wing media will only condemn Muslims as 'extremists' and 'criminals'. Rarely, will representations be positive (unless they fit that newspapers value system).

Instead, Ukip, a political party who called for the burka to be banned, detest multiculturalism and had a county councillor resign over Islamophobic comments become the counter view.

The Sun and Express quote an unnamed Ukip spokesman: "This is a priceless piece of attention seeking. I cannot believe that the majority of mainstream Muslims want to see this. It will inflame community tension."

The article becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts, as the only quoted Muslims in The Sun's article are Anjem Choudary and Abu Zakariyya. If anyone can be accused of inflaming tensions, it is not Channel 4. The extremist dichotomy is readily enforced.

The Daily Mail gives a national platform to the minority far-right group Britain First.

However, under the The Digital Economy Act 2010, Channel 4 must: "[make] a broad range of relevant media content of high quality that, taken as a whole, appeals to the tastes and interests of a culturally diverse society."

In the past, Channel 4 has given platforms to Anjem Choudary and aired spurious documentaries about Islam. I hope this season of programming will now fulfil the remit.

Sadly, our right wing press is only content to listen to extremists and marginalise the views of ordinary Muslims. Had they stopped to ask them the question, I am sure the answer would have been very different. But, that was never the intention.

If your sensibilities are truly 'threatened' by a 3am call to prayer and a day of televised 20-second reminders. Don't tune in. Nobody is forcing this upon you.

I have seen many calls for the boycott of Channel 4 in newspaper comments and social media. Many grasp onto the incorrect notion of an impending 'Islamification' despite the Quran having no compulsion of faith: "There shall be no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religion. The right course has become clear from the wrong". [The Cow, 2:256]

The census indicates that almost one in 10 people under the age of 25 are Muslim (Channel 4's target audience). Therefore, you could argue, they are merely trivialising a special event in the Islamic calendar for ratings.

However, I feel the good might just outweigh the negative publicity. As for once, ordinary Muslims will have a chance to discuss their faith on a national platform during a period of great spiritual and religious reflection.

Ramadan is meant to bring Muslims closer to their faith. However, certain right wing media want to push them further from society. We must challenge them instead.

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