. . . but it is changing, and rather rapidly. I was just listening to radio stations in various parts of the world on the Internet, through the invaluable TuneIn service (click on Browse, then choose By Location to surf stations the world over). My heart soared when I discovered that there was a radio station based in Luton, England, streaming on the Internet. When I was a boy, I would hear the Monty Python team poking gentle fun at this town 30 miles north of London, and the name Luton has come to have great sentimental associations for me.
So when I learned that “105.1 Inspire FM,” referred to on TuneIn as a “Variety” station, was broadcasting out of Luton, I checked it out. What sort of entertainment do the hapless but lovable Lutonians of Monty Python’s 1970s gags favor today? Well, it turns out Inspire FM is a Muslim station, featuring English-language songs, in low-key folk-music, reggae, and hip-hop styles, on Muslim themes. (One about Medina: “My heart is never far / from the home of the ansar, / and the city of the Prophet al-Madina.” Another about the hajj: “By car, and by boat and by plane and by the camel / Some brothers even do it by foot just with a sandal. / But when they arrive and the city just glows, / You’ll understand the reasoning why everyone goes.”) The tone of the station is upbeat, much like mainstream-Evangelical Christian radio stations I listen to here in the U.S.
I had been aware, of course, that the Muslim population of England has, like that of Western Europe, been rising rapidly. But it still sounds incongruous to me when the LutonMuslims website says Inspire FM is “the first full-time Muslim station in Luton.” First? Full-time? To think of Luton as a place with more than one Muslim radio station, along with some part-time ones, violates my mental image of it; much in the way that I would find it jarring to hear somebody at the Theravada Buddhist Temple of Mayberry, N.C., boasting that the Theravadins were in Mayberry long before the Mahayana Buddhist Temple of Mayberry, N.C., opened last year. (I readily admit that my image of Luton — based entirely on throwaway jokes in a ’70s TV show, for heaven’s sake — was probably even more fictional than the explicitly fictional Mayberry. But still.)
Also: Let’s spare a moment to pity the dogmatic atheists, who have invested so much effort in recent years to stifle Christianity in England, only to see Islam spring up there with such impressive vigor. It’s because the pop-atheists are basically playing Whack-a-Mole with the human spirit: Man’s religious hunger is very real, and it will always reemerge — not always in ways we expect, but reemerge it will.
P.S. Also available on the Internet from Luton are dance-music station Diverse FM 102.8, and general-interest broadcaster BBC Three Counties Radio. The latter recently had a brief report — which will be available for on-demand play for another day or so — on the rise of Christian megachurches in England: encouraging news for those of us disappointed by the setbacks the Church of England has experienced in recent years.