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Sunday, 12 November, 2000, 01:26 GMT
Islamic groups banned in fashion row
Alphadi's collection.  Photo by permission Alphadi.com
Alphadi's designs do not conform with Islamic dress code
The government of Niger has banned seven Islamic organisations following violent protests against the international fashion show under way in the capital, Niamey.


There was already debauchery and adultery in Niamey before the show

Interior Minister Mahamane Manzo
Over the past few days, police have stepped up security around mosques and used teargas to break up attacks on bars, lottery outlets and brothels.

Muslim leaders say the International Festival of African Fashion (Fima), organised by the Niger-born designer Alphadi, amounts to debauchery.

But the government backs it, seeing it as a harmless distraction which could bring investment to Niger - a drought-stricken and extremely poor country.

Debauchery or democracy?

Interior Minister Mahamane Manzo signed the banning orders on the grounds that the organisations had disturbed public order.

Photo by permission of Alphadi.com
The organiser, Alphadi, is from Niger
The protests began on Wednesday, when more than 800 Islamic clerics and students gathered outside Niamey's Grand Mosque, opposite the parliament building, and demanded the festival's cancellation.

"This show is contrary to Islam, because there are naked women, wearing indecent clothes parading before a floor of invited guests," one protester said.

Rioting continued for several hours, spreading to the city's main market and elsewhere:

A number of people were injured as riot police fought running battles with the protesters, and dozens of people were arrested.

Alek Wek models Lacroix.  Photo by permission of Alphadi.com
FIMA includes African models such as Sudan's Alek Wek
There were further protests on Thursday and the trouble spread to the country's second city, Maradi, an Islamic stronghold close to the Nigerian border.

However Friday's Muslim prayers, despite the authorities' fears of further unrest, passed off peacefully under the watchful eye of the security services.

Mr Manzo told the protesters they had no right to stop the festival taking place.

"We haven't asked you to come, this is a democracy. If you have the right to protest, Alphadi has the right to organise his show," he said.

"There was already debauchery and adultery in Niamey before the show," he added.

Showcase?

Other Muslims say the fashion show, which includes traditional African as well as other designs, should be allowed to take place.

Collection Alphadi. Photo by permission of Alphadi.com
A showcase for national culture?
They say Islam preaches tolerance and that the event is a showcase for Niger's rich cultural heritage.

The festival, which attracts large numbers of tourists from Europe, is being held in a specially constructed tented village on a beach on the river Niger near Niamey.

The Paris-based Alphadi has held several fashion shows in Niger, including one in the middle of the Sahara desert.

He is a flamboyant figure well known throughout West Africa.

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