Angry Muslims Burn Down Newspaper Over Miss World Comment
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RIOTERS BURN NEWSPAPER OFFICE OVER MISS WORLD
Associated press / CNN
Thursday, November 21, 2002
LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) -- Rioters burned down a newspaper office Wednesday to
protest an article suggesting the Prophet Muhammad might have favored
marrying a contestant in the Miss World beauty pageant being hosted by
The local editorial and circulations office of the daily ThisDay newspaper
in the northern Nigerian city of Kaduna was destroyed in the fire, lit by a
mob of angry Muslim demonstrators, police and newspaper officials said.
Nobody was in the building when it was attacked, ThisDay editor Eniola Bello
told The Associated Press.
Newspaper staff in Kaduna have been put under police protection while
hundreds of heavily armed security forces have been deployed to protect the
national paper's offices in Kaduna and other cities in this West African
nation of 120 million people, a police spokesman said.
ThisDay was "taking very seriously" letters from several Muslim groups
expressing outrage, Bello added.
The Nigerian Muslim Umma, a group of Islamic scholars, declared a "serious
religious emergency" on Wednesday and called on President Olusegun Obasanjo
to both cancel the pageant and "sanction" the newspaper. Government
officials were not immediately available to comment.
"As a result of the indescribable pain caused to Muslims ... one cannot
predict what can happen" if the pageant goes ahead, the group said in a
statement that described Miss World as a "pungent display dehumanizing of
The offending article, published Saturday under the title "The World at
Their Feet," questioned why some Muslim groups condemn the pageant,
scheduled for Dec. 8 in the capital of Abuja, on the grounds it promotes
sexual promiscuity and indecency.
"The Muslims thought it was immoral to bring ninety-two women to Nigeria and
ask them to revel in vanity. What would Muhammad think? In all honesty, he
would probably have chosen a wife from among them," the article's author,
Isioma Daniel, wrote.
The same issue had profiles and pictures of more than 60 Miss World
contestants. More than 80 beauty queens from around the world are in the
country for photo shoots and other preliminary events.
On Monday, ThisDay carried a brief front page editor's note apologizing for
"portions that may be considered offensive to ... our Muslim brothers." It
said the material had been "published in error after being removed by the
Several Nigerian Muslim groups, including the Nigerian Supreme Council of
Islamic Affairs, the country's highest Muslim body, demanded a more complete
apology and threatened boycotts and other unspecified measures of protest
"We Muslims do not provoke other people. But when we are provoked we do not
rest until we deal with the offending agent," Datti Ahmad, president of
Shariah in Nigeria, a group supporting the adoption of Islamic law, was
quoted as saying by Abuja's Daily Trust newspaper.
Ahmad added without elaborating: "Nobody will denigrate the holy Prophet of
Islam and live in peace with Muslims."
Later in the week, ThisDay plans to run a second apology as well as articles
by Muslim columnists in an effort to appease critics, Bello said.
The uproar is just the latest controversy to hit the Miss World pageant. The
beauty contest has been boycotted by participants from at least five
countries in protest at the sentencing of several Nigerian Muslim women to
death by stoning for conceiving babies outside wedlock.
The boycotting nations are Costa Rica, Denmark, Switzerland, South Africa
and Panama. Contestants from several other countries, including Spain, have
failed to show up for unspecified reasons.
Nigeria's federal government has appealed for the boycott to end, insisting
none of the judgments will ever be carried out. However the government has
so far refused to intervene directly in the Islamic court system, adopted by
a dozen predominantly northern states.
Muslim protests earlier forced the Miss World organizers to postpone the
grand finale until the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. At least one
Muslim group has embarked on a campaign of "black prayers" wishing plagues
of illness and bad luck upon organizers and participants.
Miss World publicist Stella Din on Wednesday described the attack on ThisDay
office as "deeply unfortunate," while stressing the Miss World pageant does
not support any statements deemed offensive to Muslims. She said the pageant
hoped to reach out to Muslims to explain it "is not aimed at promoting
promiscuity or immorality."
Miss World -- which competes for global television audiences with Miss
Universe -- is popular in Asia and parts of sub-Saharan Africa and South
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