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STANDING in front of the Ka'ba, a sacred Islam site, was a lifechanging moment for broadcaster and TV presenter Jason Mohammad, one that he recalls almost daily - especially if he's getting riled.

"The vision of the Ka'ba confronts me and I calm down," he says, in a snatched moment between filming for today's Wales v New Zealand game in Cardiff.

Jason made the trip to Mecca, Saudi Arabia and the sacred sites such as the Ka'ba which are associated with Abraham and the Prophet Muhammad, in the last in the current series of Y Daith (The Journey) on S4C, shown tomorrow.

Jason, brought up in Cardiff, was followed by TV cameras as he embarked on his first Umrah or pilgrimage.

"It was the most amazing trip, especially as it coincided with the first day of Ramadan," said Jason.

"It changed me as a person - I have always tried to be kind and generous but sometimes I do lose my temper.

"Being there has made me more thoughtful in the way I act and speak.

"It was something I always wanted to do, especially as my dad went three years ago.

"When the opportunity came up with the programme I jumped at the chance.

"Initially I was worried it would be too intrusive, but the cameras were unobtrusive, and I forgot they were there.

It was so incredible being close to Allah. I was so emotional. I didn't want to leave," said Jason.

"People who have been say they cannot explain what it feels like to stand there and I never understood that. Now I have been I understand as I was overtaken by the same feelings. You are at peace and the rest of the world doesn't exist, it doesn't matter how much money you've got, or what colour you are.

"You are just one brotherhood."

Brought up a Muslim, Jason's father Afzal is from Pakistan and his mother from Ely in Cardiff, and he has always followed his faith.

When Jason and his brother were children, Saturday was an extra day of learning for them.

It was a bit of a raw deal having to learn Arabic and the Koran every Saturday while other children could play, but, looking back, I'm now grateful," said Jason, who is now dad to Lili, six, Max, two, and sevenweek-old Poppy.

Securing the rights to film on the pilgrimage between Jeddah and Mecca proved to be complicated for production companies Cynyrchiadau Elan and Rondo Media, negotiating access with the Saudi Arabia authorities.

The three months of hard work paid off and they were able to film the whole journey, even within the sacred city of Mecca.

In ihram clothing - two lengths of white cotton all pilgrims wear to Mecca - Jason left Jeddah at 7am.

In Mecca he followed rituals for three hours and then had his hair cut in a symbolic way denoting the end of his pilgrimage.

During Ramadan, Muslims don't eat or drink during daylight hours and completing the pilgrimage was tough for Jason in a country where temperatures can reach as high as 40C. In the programme, Jason, who learnt Welsh at school and studied the subject at university in Swansea, talks about the great pride he feels in being Welsh.

But he admitted things have not always been easy for Muslims in Wales since 9/11.

"I'm comfortable as a Muslim and as a Welshman," he said, "but what's happened internationally over the last ten years means people focus on the differences between the west and Islam.

"There was a lot of negativity and it still remains with us after 2001. I felt the negative response at the time."

At the time of the attacks on the World Trade Centre, Jason interviewed local Muslims in Cardiff Bay for the news.

"They were so sad, saying this wasn't the Islam they believed in. The whole meaning of Islam is peace and that's the message we will hear in Mecca," he says.

"Y DAITH: Jason Mohammad Tomorrow, S4C, 8.00pm English and Welsh subtitles s4c.


Jason Mohammad in Cardiff Bay Islamic Centre, before he embarked on his memorable journey to Mecca
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Nov 7, 2009
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