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Friday, 24 November, 2000, 17:00 GMT
Wired up Ramadan
Salamm Web site
The start of Ramadan will be announced on the Web
By the BBC's Michaela Graichen

The Muslim holy month of Ramadan begins in a few days time and for many Muslims, at least here in Britain, the internet will be playing an important role.

There was a time when people looked at the moon or called their local mosque to determine when the fasting month began. But increasingly these days, a website is taking over that role.

Not only is the internet making inroads into the Muslim faith, but mobile phones, text messaging and even satellite technology will soon be reminding more and more Muslims when to fast, when to pray and even how to find the direction of Mecca.

Salamm. co.uk is the website that up to 25,000 British Muslims will use this year to find out when Ramadan begins.

A crescent moon signals the start of the holy month, but if you live in Britain, you can't always see the moon through thick cloud. That is where this website comes in.
Maidenhead mosque
Mosque in Maidenhead - one of many where prayers will be held

The site even tells people in major cities when to fast, based on sunrise and sunset times.

Prayer alerts

But it's not just the internet which is making its way into Muslim worship. A young computer buff from Preston in northern England logs on five times a day to send a mobile phone text message to five thousand subscribers, reminding them that it's time to pray.

His name is Bilaal Patel and his subscribers sign up to his prayer alerts, using his website, patelscornershop.com.

Bilaal says he wants to encourage smaller groups of people who worship at the same mosque to start their own prayer alert networks.

He calls these groups eMuezzins, the Muezzin being the Muslim official whose job it is to summon people to prayer or Salaat.

In today's world it's a bit more difficult to be a Muslim

Abdul Hari Ayad

It's a common sound in any Muslim country, but in most neighbourhoods in Britain, the official call to prayer is not allowed. Bilaal's eMuezzin is the more discreet modern version.

Abdul Hari Ayad is a young Palestinian living in London, who has recently signed up for the prayer alerts.


Order your Salaat alert here

"In today's world it's a bit more difficult to be a Muslim and for example to know exactly when the prayer times are going to be." he said.

So in the absence of a real Muezzin, the mobile phone is clearly becoming a handy tool. Soon it could even point you towards the Holy City of Mecca, the direction Muslims should face to pray.

Mobile phone companies are now developing the technology to make GPS, or satellite navigation, a standard feature on cellular phones.

Dr Jamil Sharif from the Muslim Council of Britain, believes the technology is just around the corner.

"I can imagine holding a mobile phone and clicking a button and a dial appearing, giving me the direction of Mecca," he said.

"So instead of hazarding a guess by looking at my bearings, or having to carry a compass, I know which direction to pray."

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06 Nov 00 | UK Politics
Muslims seek to counter prejudice
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