The Washington Post: “After controversy, Muslim call to prayer sounds from front of Duke University Chapel”

Susan Svrluga, Sari Horwitz, and Michelle Boorstein for The Washington Post: “The Muslim call to prayer echoed across Duke University’s quad Friday, the day after university officials canceled plans to have weekly services begin with an amplified call to prayer from atop the chapel’s bell tower.

That initiative had sparked such intense debate, even threats, according to university officials, that they reversed the decision. But Friday’s call to prayer, held at the base of the chapel rather than at its pinnacle, was a peaceful gathering.” (The Washington Post)

Channel 4 chief rejects criticism over call to prayer Ramadan broadcast

Channel 4 chief executive David Abraham has rejected criticism that the broadcaster’s decision to air the Muslim call to prayer at 3am was “patronising”. Abraham told MPs on the Commons culture, media and sport select committee on Tuesday that the daily broadcast fit “absolutely” with its public service remit and that it has attracted 181,000 viewers – almost triple its usual audience at 3am. Conservative MP Angie Bray questioned whether Channel 4 was “patronising” Muslims by airing the ritual at 3am, when most of the nation is asleep. Abraham countered that the timeslot is “just a practicality” of the three-minute call to prayer.

 

British tolerance is never a given. Post-Woolwich, it must be defended

If you’re living in a Muslim country you’ll notice Ramadan in many wonderful ways – but a not so wonderful way is the one where you live next to a mosque with really bad speakers over which it broadcasts those early, longer, seemingly louder calls to prayer during the holy month. In stark contrast, it is hard to imagine Channel 4’s planned 3am broadcasts of the Ramadan prayers will be observed by anybody not already observing this special holiday. And yet this move has been cast as a deliberate provocation by the channel itself – to bust our stereotypes of Islam – and by bigoted newspapers spinning the call to prayer as a call to impose sharia law in Britain.

 

And yet, rather than recognise how alarming and frightening this vicious spike in anti-Muslim attacks truly is, sections of the British media have been engaged in trying to underplay it. Underpinning all this was a confident appraisal of British culture, such as that suggested by Tony Parsons in the Mirror, who noted that we are “a civilised, polite, tolerant people” – as though that could magically stop us also being capable of bigotry or hatred. Forty percent of anti-Muslim attacks recorded by Tell Mama UK last year were linked to English Defence League sympathisers. But these attacks can only take place and then be so casually diminished in a culture that sees some degree of hatred or suspicion of Muslims as acceptable and understandable.

 

Fortunately, though, tolerance really is a component of British life: that is what has prompted the flood of messages of support for British mosques, the solidarity across communities, and the anti-fascist protests that are organised to face down racist mobilisations by the EDL. Tolerance is something that makes people proud of Britain, but it is never a given; it always has to be defended – more than ever in the testing times we face today, and even when the attacks seem as superficially schoolyard as the one about the televised call to prayer.

 

Is the Muslim call to prayer really such a menace?

The author Patrick Strudwick questions the outrage caused by Channel 4’s decision to broadcast the adhan by likening it to the ever present BBC broadcasting of songs of praise on a Sunday. Songs of praise is aimed at the devout. Its purpose is clear: to call followers to prayer, to convert non-believers, to ring out across the land like an air-raid siren from on high. The programmes, for transmission on British terrestrial television, will, I fear, inflame community tensions; whip up divisions between religious groups and even spark hate crimes against its devotees. So let’s ban Songs of Praise. The BBC is set to continue its weekly indoctrination of impressionable young viewers with this vile, dangerous programme. Call it a publicity stunt; call it the deliberate provocation of right-thinking atheists, but this supposedly innocent show about Christians flaunting their religion with hymns – some of which contain such incitements to holy war as, “Onward, Christian soldiers… Christ, the royal Master, leads against the foe” – exposes once and for all the sinister agenda of the BBC: to turn all our children Anglican.

 

The Sun, the Ukip, and Tory MP Conor Burns however are “Vibrating with indignation at a frequency inaudible to rational adults” over Channel 4’s decision to broadcast the adhan, the Muslim call to prayer, every morning during Ramadan, which begins next Tuesday. A spokesman for Ukip said: “It will inflame community tension”. Burns called it “politically-correct tokenism”. They fear, seemingly, that so soon after the Woolwich murder, such chanting could prompt further Islamophobic attacks, entirely unaware that theirs is an Islamophobic attack and that censoring religious worship would gain the respect of Mao.

 

They seem ignorant too of the entirely obvious truism that the more people know of a culture, the greater our understanding of the complexities, rituals and history of a faith, the more irrational fear is neutralised. Their broadcast, in three-part disharmony, is a hymn for a very un-British hate.

Channel 4 to air daily Muslim call to prayer during Ramadan

Channel 4 is to air the Muslim call to prayer live every morning during the month of Ramadan. The broadcaster said it was an act of “deliberate provocation” aimed at viewers who might associate Islam with extremism. The headline-grabbing move will see Channel 4 broadcast the three-minute call to prayer at about 3am for 30 days from the start of Ramadan on 9 July. Channel 4 will also interrupt programming four times on the first day of Ramadan to mark subsequent calls by means of a 20-second film to remind viewers of the approaching prayer time. After that date, the channel will air the 3am call to prayer on live TV, and the other four prayer times will be broadcast on its website.

 

Ralph Lee, Channel 4’s head of factual programming, said: “The calls to prayer prompt Muslims to carry out quiet moments of worship, but hopefully they’ll also make other viewers sit up and notice that this event is taking place.

 

“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.”

 

The Muslim Council of Britain supported Channel 4’s move.

 

The film, made by production company Watershed, will “feature a range of voices, from imams to architects, feminists to a former rock chick, each providing some serious Ramadan food for thought”.

 

But it is not without discussion from within the community:

 

Nabil Ahmed: ‘This is an opportunity to learn’. There could not be a better time to try to understand Islam than during Ramadan. Muslims believe that Ramadan is primarily about one’s relationship with God, and the effort to live in accordance with a divinely ordained order. It is the month in which the Qur’an was revealed, which Muslims believe is God’s final revelation to mankind. It is thus also the month in which Muhammad was sent to warn humanity of future dangers, as a bringer of glad tidings and as a conduit of God’s mercy. TV should be a medium in which we share our understanding of faith in Britain. Ramadan seeks to reawaken our consciousness of God, but also teaches us to give to the poor and to practise self-discipline in relation to our ego and with material temptations. Fasting is a means, not an end, to reconnect with our divine purpose by not relying on food and drink. Channel 4’s approach is an opportunity for all of us to learn – and to put aside preconceived ideas.

 

Nesrine Malik: ‘To reduce it to a media gimmick is exploitative’. Apparently, there is an urgent need, post-Woolwich in particular, to show that Islam is a religion of peace and sacrifice. This is an inherently contradictory stance. If there is such a charged atmosphere in the UK vis a vis Islam, why “provoke” people by projecting this message even more loudly? It all rather smacks of busy-bodying do-goodery. Even on Arab Muslim satellite channels, only the national ones broadcast the call to prayer, with others merely showing a ticker along the bottom of the screen to indicate sunset and iftar times. Channel 4’s idea might be well-intentioned, but it also seems spurred on by the fact that Islam has become the latest topic of media sensation, to be turned into a spectacle under the guise of “debate” and furthering understanding. The way to do this isn’t to project the call to prayer five times a day in a cultural vacuum. It is instead to resist particularising the Muslim experience by attempting to mainstream it by putting some British Muslim faces in front of the camera as something other than religious curiosities to be examined. Reducing it to a media gimmick is exploitative and an unwise, crude way to promote a sensible discussion.

 

Channel 4 was warned not to give excessive coverage to Ramadan. Terry Sanderson, President of the National Secular Society, said: “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.

 

Ottawa’s Muslim call to prayer? It’s an app

Ottawa’s Muslim community, which comprised 3.9 per cent of the city’s population in the 2006 census, is out of luck if they’re listening for a public daily reminder. There is only one mosque in Ottawa with a minaret capable of performing the call, though it has never been used to do so, says Mohamed Ghadban, the president of the Ottawa Muslim Association.

Without a public call to prayer, many Muslims rely on technology to keep track of changing prayer times. “When there weren’t digital watches, no atomic clocks, and all these ways to tell time, people needed to hear something, or people needed to tell each other what time to pray,” said Amira Elmi. “I usually just Google the time.”

Mahfoudhi said he uses his smart phone for accurate prayer times. “We’ve gotten around the restriction of not being allowed to do it publicly, and we actually have a little app,” said Mahfoudhi.

Why basketball is Muslims’ favorite sport

For many Muslim Americans, college and professional basketball provides heroes they can take pride in, symbols of affirmation at a time when they face hostility from some Americans. And it serves as a way to develop fellowship with their fellow believers while reaching out to non-Muslims.

“Every Muslim community I go to, there’s this obsession for basketball. Almost every mosque you go to, there’s a basketball court outside,” said Musab Abdali of Houston.

At the moment, there are at least eight Muslim players in the NBA (four Turks, two African Americans, one Iranian, and one Tanzanian), and one of them — center Nazr Mohammed of the Oklahoma City Thunder — is currently in the middle of a tense series against the Los Angeles Lakers.

But the special relationship between Muslims and basketball goes beyond any particular player or team and embraces the sport itself. It is not unlike the one described in “Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story,” a 2010 documentary film written by Ira Berkow, a Pulitzer-prize winning sportswriter.

 

Omar Abdelkader, a student at Northeastern University in Boston, is an observant Muslim but admits that, at least as a kid, he was occasionally seduced by the swish of a perfect jump-shot over the Islamic call to prayer.

“Sometimes we’d sneak out of prayers to play ball,” recalled Abdelkader, who grew-up attending the Worcester Islamic Center in central Massachusetts. Like a growing number of American mosques, the Worcester Islamic Center has a basketball court — and hence a built-in temptation for younger members.

Protesters to NYPD: ‘We are unapologetically Muslim and uncompromisingly American’

NEW YORK — Hundreds of Muslims prayed in a lower Manhattan park and marched to New York Police headquarters Friday to protest a decade of police infiltrating mosques and spying on Muslim neighborhoods.

Bundled in winter clothes, men and women knelt as the call to prayer echoed off the cold stone of government buildings.

“Being Muslim does not negate our nationality,” Imam Talib Abdur-Rashid told the crowd of about 500 gathered in Foley Square, not far from City Hall and local courthouses. “We are unapologetically Muslim and uncompromisingly American.”

Dutch Town Sounds Call to Prayer

25 August 2011

 

The Dutch town of Doetinchem sounded a call to prayer on September 4 as a part of an inter-religious service during a local festival. The call joins the ringing of church bells and precedes a service led by Muslim, Catholic and Protestant leaders. Event organizer Joop Sars notes that festival organizers wanted to demonstrate that the town is a tolerant space where diverse communities live and confirm their faiths side by side.