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Wednesday, 27 November, 2002, 16:09 GMT
Religious tensions simmer in Nigeria
Displaced people carry belongings to a camp in Kaduna
Thousands remain homeless after the violence
Christian leaders in Nigeria have warned that they will defend themselves if the authorities cannot protect them, following the death of more than 200 people in religious riots last week.

It is not clear how many of the dead were Christian but mobs of Muslim youths singled out Christians for attack in both the northern city of Kaduna and the capital, Abuja. Groups of Christians reportedly retaliated in kind.


When somebody has sentenced a fellow Nigerian to be killed by any other Muslim anywhere in the world... that person should be held responsible

John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan, Catholic Archbishop
The riots were sparked by a newspaper report linking the Prophet Mohammed to the Miss World beauty contest, which some Muslims said was blasphemous.

The northern state of Zamfara says it has issued a "fatwa" or religious decree, calling on Muslims to kill the journalist who wrote the article.

Fashion writer Isioma Daniel is now reported to have left the country after resigning from ThisDay newspaper.

Colleagues say she is now in the United States, according to Reuters news agency.

'Other cheek'

On Tuesday, authorities in the northern state of Zamfara issued what they said was a "fatwa", urging Muslims to kill her for writing the article, which sparked religious riots in the northern city of Kaduna.

Many Kaduna residents are still living in makeshift shelters after fleeing the violence.

"If the government fails to protect us, our people will be left with no option but to defend and protect themselves by whatever means available to them," said the Anglican Archbishop of Abuja, Ola Makinde.

He was speaking at a press conference, flanked by other Christian leaders.

The Catholic Archbishop, John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan, said Christians were "tired of turning the other cheek".

He called on the government to arrest the Zamfara officials who had issued the "fatwa".

"That is a criminal act," he said.

"When somebody has sentenced a fellow Nigerian to be killed by any other Muslim anywhere in the world... that person should be held responsible."

Born-again

The federal government has said the deputy governor of Zamfara had no right to issue a fatwa but no further action has been taken against him.

A fatwa is a religious decree which is normally made by an Islamic scholar but a spokesman for Zamfara state said that any leader could issue one.

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

Opinion is divided among Muslim leaders about whether the Zamfara fatwa is indeed valid.

Some say that because Ms Daniel has apologised and also resigned from her job, she does not deserve to be killed.

The new journalism graduate wrote an article in response to Muslim objections to Nigeria's hosting of the Miss World beauty contest, saying that the Prophet Mohammed would not have complained about the pageant and indeed, may have chosen to marry one of the beauty queens.

This infuriated many Muslims, who destroyed ThisDay's Kaduna office and went on to burn down churches and hotels last week.

Correspondents say this is the latest example of a split between politicians in the Muslim north and the federal government, which is largely made up of southern Christians.

President Olusegun Obasanjo, a born-again Christian, is seeking re-election next year.

Convert

Deputy Governor Mamuda Aliyu Shinkafi told religious leaders in Zamfara state capital, Gusau: "It is binding on all Muslims wherever they are, to consider the killing of the writer as a religious duty".

The speech was rebroadcast on local radio in Zamfara state, which was the first state in Nigeria to introduce Islamic law in January 2000.


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

Kaltume, Kaduna

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

A Muslim cleric in the capital, Abuja, said that Ms Daniel could only escape the death penalty by converting to Islam.

Hussein Muhammed told the BBC Focus on Africa programme that if he saw her, he would kill her, even if that meant going to prison because Islamic law is more important to him than Nigerian law.

"I would be willing to kill my parents for Mohammed," he said.

But other Muslim leaders have a different view.

"ThisDay newspaper has apologised on her (Ms Daniel's) behalf, so the fatwa has to be withdrawn," Kaduna-based Islamic scholar Ali Alkali told Reuters.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Dan Isaacs
"This is a society of deep divisions"
Hussein Muhammed on BBC Focus on Africa
"She can evade it by accepting Islam"

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