Miss World reporter Receives Islamic Death Sentence
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NIGERIAN STATE SLAPS "DEATH SENTENCE" ON MISS WORLD REPORTER
Wednesday, November 27, 2002
The government of a mainly Muslim state in northern Nigeria called for
believers to kill a woman journalist who wrote an article on the Miss World
pageant which was seen as insulting to the Prophet Mohammed.
Zamfara State's information commissioner, Umar Dangaladima, told AFP that
the state government endorsed a "fatwa" -- an Islamic religious decree --
calling for the death of fashion writer Isioma Daniel, whose report
triggered bloody riots.
There is no danger that the decree will be carried out -- Daniel lives far
from Zamfara in Lagos and is said to have fled Nigeria -- but the statement
marks another dispute between the leaders of the Muslim north and Nigeria's
Information Minister Jerry Gana, who acts as a spokesman for Nigeria's
secular government, dismissed the decree as both "null and void" and
unconstitutional and vowed it would not be enforced.
"The federal government under the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria
will not allow such an order in any part of the federal republic," he told
Last week more than 220 people died in the northern city of Kaduna in
rioting, which has been blamed on the report, and the Miss World
organisation was been forced to abandon plans to stage the spectacle in
Dangaladima told AFP: "The state government did not on its own pass the
fatwa. It's a fact that Islam prescribes the death penalty on anybody, no
matter his faith, who insults the Prophet.
"Therefore the state government has retained this verdict as it applies to
Isioma. This is our position," he said, explaining that Islamic youth
organisations had come to the Zamfara government to ask for action against
the offending journalist.
Zamfara's deputy governor Mamuda Aliyu Shinkafi said late Monday in a speech
to religious leaders in the Zamfara State capital Gusau which was
rebroadcast on state radio: "Like Salman Rushdie, the blood of Isioma Daniel
can be shed."
"It is binding on all Muslims wherever they are to consider the killing of
the writer as a religious duty," he said.
But Lateef Adegbite, general secretary of the Supreme Council for Islamic
Affairs in Nigeria, distanced his influential body from the fatwa, refusing
to endorse it.
He told AFP that the council would study the ruling, but would also take
into account that Daniel is a Christian, does not live or work in Zamfara
and that her paper had apologised.
A "fatwa" is a legal statement in Islam, issued by a mufti or a religious
lawyer after reference to precedents, to decide on an issue of
In an interview with CNN late Monday Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo
defended the right of Zamfara and 11 other states to reintroduce Islamic
"I have always maintained Sharia has been part of Nigeria since we have
lived together as Christians and Muslims," he said.
"We are practicing a federal form of government in this land... because of
our diversity. Anybody who tried to enforce a unity form of government in
this land would destroy it overnight."
But Obasanjo also said that he opposes the death sentences handed down by
some Sharia courts for offences such as adultery, and vowed that the federal
courts will quash them on appeal.
Daniel resigned from the newspaper This Day after fury erupted over an
article she authored on November 16 on the Miss World pageant, in which she
suggested that the Prophet Mohammed might not have opposed its being held in
"The Muslims thought it was immoral to bring 92 women to Nigeria to ask them
to revel in vanity. What would Mohammed think? In all honesty, he would
probably have chosen a wife from one of them," she wrote.
Daniel is described by her paper as "a style writer who had only just joined
This Day a few months back after a short journalism career in the UK".
Her mobile telephone was not accepting calls on Tuesday and a senior source
at the paper said she had fled the country.
On Wednesday a group of Muslim youths burned down This Day's local offices
in Kaduna, an attack that proved to be a prelude to three days of sectarian
At the weekend the contestants and organisers of the Miss World pageant left
Nigeria under a cloud of disastrous publicity surrounding the violence. The
show has now been moved to London and its organisers have blamed This Day
for the violence.
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