Accessibility links

Nigerian Violence Continues for Fourth Day - 2002-11-24

Soldiers are patrolling the northern Nigerian city of Kaduna following a fourth day of rioting over Nigeria's earlier plans to host the Miss World Pageant. The violence between Muslims and Christians continued despite the pageant organizers decision to move the event out of Nigeria.

Kaduna remained under curfew following more sporadic fighting Saturday. Muslim and Christian youths attacked each other for a fourth day in the city.

Red Cross officials say thousands were forced to flee their homes. The violence was more fallout from protests over Nigeria's now-cancelled plans to host the Miss World Pageant.

The Miss World finale, originally scheduled for December 7 in Abuja, will now be held in London.

Pageant organizers decided to move it out of Nigeria following reports the religious violence over the event had killed at least 100 people.

[The Red Cross later upped the death toll to at least 200.]

The Miss World contestants, the organizers said, were emotionally distraught over the news people had died as a result of the controversy over the pageant.

Islamic leaders in the country's largely Muslim north, protested the beauty contest, calling it indecent.

The riots were sparked after a newspaper published an article mocking the Islamic leaders' protest. The piece, published more than a week ago, said the Islamic prophet Mohammed would have probably taken one of the 92 contestants as his wife.

In addition, some Muslims were offended that the event was being held during the Islamic holy season of Ramadan.

The Nigerian government had hoped the contest would promote tourism and boost the image of Nigeria, which is Africa's most populous country and one of the world's leading producers of oil.

Instead, observers say, the pageant inadvertently caused long-standing tensions to burst yet again between the country's Muslims and Christians.

Religious and ethnic clashes have killed hundreds over the past two years and some northern states began implementing Islamic law, Sharia.

The introduction of Sharia has caused deep divisions between some Muslim-dominated state governments and Nigeria's secular federal government.

As the Miss World contestants prepared to board a special flight to London, Miss World Organization President Julia Morley angrily told reporters in Abuja, she did not believe organizers had done wrong in choosing Nigeria as a venue for the event.

"To note, not all Islamic people are screaming," she said. "They made some very healthy statements recently. They knew Miss World was not to blame. Let me put it this way to you. How hypocritical it suggests, and I don't think Islamic people are hypocritical, but when you look at this, it wasn't really that anyone had anything against us. You have fashion shows, you have beauty contests all over Nigeria. You all know it. Let's all be frank about this. It's not a big surprise." Miss Morley accused the local media of exploiting the controversy and turning the event into what she described as a political football.