Radio Ramadan is "on message" for British Muslims (Feature)
By Anna Tomforde Aug 27, 2009, 5:04 GMT
London - For Britain's 1.7 million Muslims, tuning into Radio Ramadan has become an important part of the holy month of fasting and prayer.
This year, some 30 stations across Britain have been granted a temporary licence to broadcast around the clock for 32 days on issues of belief, daily life, entertainment and politics.
Broadcasts, phone-ins and panel discussions range from spiritual matters to advice on education, anti-smoking campaigns, tax matters and current world conflicts.
While spiritually-based, the station's programmes reflect a 'complete mixture' of the interests and concerns of the local community, according to Tanveer Ashraf, operations manager at Ramadan Radio Slough, near London.
This year, the escalation of the conflict in Afghanistan and its effect on Pakistan are expected to be uppermost on the minds of listeners, contributors and panelists, Ashraf said.
'People are very concerned now about their loved ones back home in Pakistan. People are really suffering now, the situation has moved from bad to complete catastrophe,' he said.
But phone-in sessions also deal with everyday concerns. Health experts are on hand to advise listeners on the effects of a 'guilty cup of coffee' during Ramadan, on how to handle fasting and breastfeeding, or how to enjoy the benefits of yoghurt during Ramadan.
Weight loss is traditionally a big theme.
'There are more eating traps during Ramadan than in any other month,' a health expert advised on Radio Ramadan, citing the consumption of a large iftar (meal at breaking of fast) among the most common 'pitfalls.'
'Eating too much is an obvious pitfall to weight loss during Ramadan,' said the expert, advising people to write down what they eat.
The history of Britain's Radio Ramadan goes back to the early 1990s, when the first station opened in Bradford, in the northern county of Yorkshire, only to grow into a nationwide initiative.
The stations are run by volunteers who aim to provide a point of focus for worshippers during the long days and nights of Ramadan, offering spiritual companionship as well as information and entertainment.
They have so far proved to be a huge success in most major cities and led to increasing demands for permanent licences being granted to Muslim community radio stations.
Output is financed by advertising revenues from local and national business communities as well as organizations such as the police and the Ministry of Defence to recruit Muslims for policing and Britain's armed forces.
'The station is run mainly by volunteers, but we need to survive, so we do take advertising,' Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin of the Ramadan station at the East London Mosque explained.
'The police put out anti-smoking and anti-drugs messages, the army does recruitment advertising, the local authority and other statutory bodies also use us, and we take commercials from local restaurants and companies,' he added.
Output from the stations is mainly in English, reflecting the fact that more than 50 per cent of Britain's Muslims were born in the United Kingdom, but Urdu, Punjabi, Somali and Arabic are also used.
'Ramadan Radio shows how radio can be effective at the most local level, as well as nationally and internationally, said Mueen-Uddin.