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Tuesday, 26 November, 2002, 17:36 GMT
Nigerian Government rejects 'fatwa'
Man being arrested in Kaduna
Hundreds of people have been arrested in Kaduna
Nigeria's Government will not allow a death sentence to be carried out on the woman who wrote an article which Muslims complained insulted the Prophet Mohammed, sparking religious riots last week.

The northern Nigerian state of Zamfara endorsed an Islamic judgement calling on Muslims to kill the fashion writer Isioma Daniel after she wrote in the ThisDay newspaper that the Prophet Mohammed may have approved of the Miss World contest and possibly wished to marry one of the beauty queens.


It is binding on all Muslims wherever they are, to consider the killing of the writer as a religious duty

Mamuda Aliyu Shinkafi Zamfara deputy governor

But Information Minister Jerry Gana said the judgement was "null and void" and promised it would not be enforced.

Following protests over her article, more than 200 people were killed in clashes between Muslims and Christians in the northern city of Kaduna last week.

"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, because the federal republic is governed by the rule of law," Mr Gana told AFP news agency.

"The constitution of the federal republic is the supreme law of the land and the laws do not provide for anyone who has done something like what ThisDay has done to be killed," he said.

The Miss World contest was moved to London after the riots.

Ms Daniel resigned from her job and is in hiding but is believed to be still in Nigeria.

ThisDay has retracted the article and printed several apologies.

'Irresponsible journalism'

After the article was published, Muslim leaders in Kaduna urged their followers to demonstrate and text messages were sent on mobile phones.

Zamfara's deputy governor Mamuda Aliyu Shinkafi told religious leaders in the state capital, Gusau: "Like Salman Rushdie, the blood of Isioma Daniel can be shed."

The speech was rebroadcast on local radio in Zamfara state, which was the first state in Nigeria to introduce Islamic law.

"It is binding on all Muslims wherever they are, to consider the killing of the writer as a religious duty".

A "fatwa" was pronounced on Indian-born British author Salman Rushdie in 1989 by the then Iranian spiritual leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, for alleged blasphemy in his novel, the Satanic Verses.

A fatwa is a legal statement issued by an Islamic religious leader.

A senior official from Nigeria's highest Muslim body said that he was still studying the Zamfara statement.


I think the writer of the newspaper article should have known that there are tensions about religion

Kaltume, Kaduna

Lateef Adegbite, secretary general of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, hinted that he disagreed with the decree, because the journalist was not a Muslim and the newspaper had retracted the article and published apologies, according to the French news agency, AFP.

But a Zamfara state spokesman said that any leader could issue a fatwa.

State Commissioner for Information Umar Dangaladima Magaji told Reuters news agency that the decree had been in response to pressure from Islamic associations in Zamfara.

He said it could defuse anger that might otherwise lead to further bloodshed.

Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo has blamed "irresponsible journalism" for the bloodshed.

Sharia courts

Calm has now returned to Kaduna and mass funerals have begun for more than 200 people known to have died in the four days of rioting.

Court cases against the alleged killers have started.

Muslim women walks past destroyed Kaduna church
Churches and mosques were attacked

The Red Cross said 215 bodies had been counted on Kaduna's streets and in mortuaries and correspondents say the death toll could rise yet further. Muslim defendants are being tried by the Islamic or Sharia courts in Kaduna State, while Christians are appearing before civilian jurisdictions.

It is estimated that more than 1,000 people were injured and more than 11,000 made homeless in the clashes.

Civil rights activists said more than 20 churches and eight mosques were burnt down in the city as well as a number of hotels.

Two years ago, Kaduna saw more than 2,000 deaths in clashes between Christians and Muslims, sparked by the introduction of Sharia law.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Dan Isaacs
"This is a society of deep divisions"

Talking PointTALKING POINT
Miss World row
What next for Nigeria?
 VOTE RESULTS
Was the press to blame for Miss World fiasco?

Yes
 49.23% 

No
 50.77% 

130 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion


Miss World row

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25 Nov 02 | Africa
23 Nov 02 | Africa
24 Nov 02 | Media reports
22 Nov 02 | Africa
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