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BBC radio broadcasts Muslim prayers in a historical first, just in time for Ramadan

For the first time ever, the BBC will broadcast the 'azaan' every Friday morning. As mosques remain closed, this is a welcome initiative.

BBC radio broadcasts Muslim prayers in a historical first, just in time for Ramadan
Image Source: Izzet Keribar / Getty Images

There are over three million Muslims in the United Kingdom, comprising almost five percent of the total population, confirms the Office for National Statistics. In an effort to be more inclusive of the country's diverse population, the BBC will finally broadcast the "azaan," that is, the Islamic call to prayer, every week. The first broadcast took place on Friday, April 2, Arab News reports. The move has been highly praised by the nation's Muslims as a welcome initiative to promote inclusivity and embrace the UK's melting pot of cultures. Various imams (the person who leads prayers in a mosque) have been chosen to lead the prayer, which is set to begin at 5:50 am every week.




The decision to broadcast the prayer comes just in time for Ramadan, the ninth month of the Muslim calendar when worshippers observe a month of fasting, prayer, reflection, and community. Celebrating Ramadan, which begins on April 23 this year, is considered one of the Five Pillars of Islam. It will last anywhere between 29 and 30, depending on the sighting of the crescent moon to the next. Therefore, this is a rather auspicious time to begin the national broadcast of the Muslim prayer. Different imams will lead the 5:50 am broadcasts every Friday. Prior to delivering sermons and leading listeners in prayer, the imams will recite verses from the Quran or quotes from the Prophet Muhammad.




"Ramadan is just a few weeks away and I appreciate that for many that’s a big void to fill with as many as one and a half hours of your day, especially in the evening, in Ramadan month, spent in your local mosque," said BBC CWR presenter Phil Upton. "With many local mosques being closed because of the coronavirus outbreak there’s an overwhelming sadness with the loss of your spiritual connection that can be gained from congregational prayers, so we are trying to fill the void in some small way with Islamic reflections."



The broadcast is especially important as mosques in the United Kingdom have been forced to shut their doors since March 23 in order to prevent the spread of the novel Coronavirus. For those who cannot go to a mosque during this time, the Friday prayer broadcast will become a way to reconnect with their religion. The weekly broadcasts are expected to continue for as long as until the stay-at-home directives do. Areas in the UK with large Muslim communities, such as Leeds, Sheffield, Lancashire, Manchester, the West Midlands, Leicester, Stoke, Derby, Nottingham, Coventry and Warwickshire, the Three Counties, Merseyside, Berkshire, and London, are likely to benefit from the BBC's initiative.




Chris Burns, the head of BBC Local Radio, affirmed, "Local radio is all about connecting communities, and we hope these weekly reflections will go some way to helping Muslims feel a sense of community while they are isolating." Queen Elizabeth is also likely to appreciate the move. In a TV broadcast to the people of Britain on Sunday, she praised folks of "all faiths" for their combined contributions to prevent the spread of the deadly COVID-19. The BBC already airs Christian services every Sunday on almost 40 of both its local and national stations. The broadcaster hopes to soon initiate regular broadcasts for other religious minorities as well, such as the Hindu and Jewish communities. It is heartening to see that while everyone may be practicing self-isolation, they are more united than ever in the United Kingdom.



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