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Breakfast with Frost
BBC BREAKFAST WITH FROST
INTERVIEW:
MASJA JUEL, MISS DENMARK
DR ZAKI BADAWI, HEAD OF THE MUSLIM COUNCIL and
PETER OGVONNAYA, PRESS ATTACHE TO THE NIGERIAN HIGH COMMISSIONER
NOVEMBER 17TH, 2002

Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used

DAVID FROST:
Well now as some of the world's most beautiful women gathered in Nigeria for this year's Miss World competition, a less fortunate Nigerian woman, Amina Lawal, was facing a horrible fate. Found guilty by an Islamic court of committing adultery, she's been sentenced to death by stoning. The Nigerian government insists that they will not allow the sentence to be carried out but some of the Miss World competitors have refused to take part this year in protest. Miss Denmark, Masja Juel, who is leading the boycott, has joined us here in the studio, and I'm also joined by an expert in Islamic law, Zaki Badawi, good morning to you.

ZAKI BADAWI
Good morning.

DAVID FROST:
And I'm also joined, I'm delighted to say, by Peter - and I was just discussing, he's a Nigerian press attache, and he will now announce the correct pronunciation of his name. Peter.

PETER OGVONNAYA:
Ogvonnaya.

DAVID FROST:
Ogvonnaya. Perfect. Thank you very much for being with us this morning, and let's start with you, if we may, Masja.

MASJA JUEL:
Yes.

DAVID FROST:
What was it that made you take what must have been a difficult decision, because you had been very excited, presumably, about -

MASJA JUEL:
Yes. Of course, it was a difficult decision but I couldn't, I felt it was very wrong that Amina Lawal was going to be stoned so I decided to stay home because I feel so sorry for her and it's a terrible, horrible thing for the torture she is going through.

DAVID FROST:
And it is very different from sort of all the glitz of the Miss World contest.

MASJA JUEL:
Yes.

DAVID FROST:
And how many, how many other people have followed your lead - how many other contestants?

MASJA JUEL:
Well we are not so many, I think we are about four countries, five countries. ... not sure.

DAVID FROST:
And do you think it will have - I mean in fact the lady in question said yesterday or someday, she hopes other people would still come and so on.

MASJA JUEL:
Yes.

DAVID FROST:
But I mean I guess that she would have been persuaded, perhaps, to say that.

MASJA JUEL:
I, maybe I think so she will but you cannot be a hundred per cent sure that Amina Lawal will be free. Her case isn't finished yet, so she can still be stoned. And I think we should boycott it because making this protest to show the world how wrong it is.

DAVID FROST:
Very good, and let me turn to you next, Zaki. What's your reaction to what you've heard and for the stand on principle that Masja has made.

ZAKI BADAWI
Well what I have ... I'm not a follower really of the beauty contests at all, but let me say that as a, sort of, an expert on Muslim law, I have objected to the sentence. And we have actually made this objection throughout the Muslim world and have conveyed that to the authorities in Nigeria. One of the things, people do not understand the law, you know. Islamic law applied this particular sentence really in sort of, in continuation of the biblical law - the Jewish law. In fact the prophet Mohammed applied it to start with to a Jewish couple. When he was in Medina, one worked, a Jewish worker, cohabited, or rather slept with his employer's wife, and they both confessed. So they came to Mohammed, whom they agreed to be a lawyer.

DAVID FROST:
But today, the Sharia, I mean what is the status of these punishments in Nigeria? They say that - and then we'll come to Peter - that this won't take place, this stoning will not take place, which obviously ...

ZAKI BADAWI
Well it would not need to not take place because of the intervention of the authorities. We, as Muslims, we can say that it is in fact not obligatory at all. The rule in the Koran does not mention the stoning at all - and this is the source of law for us.

DAVID FROST:
Right. Peter, turning to you, your government has said that this stoning will not take place. How sure can we be of that?

PETER OGVONNAYA:
Yes, because you see Nigeria is a secular state and Sharia law applies to the states. Some states will choose to go by it. Thereafter, the sentence has been appealled against and when it comes to the higher court, the decision of the higher court will be respected. The government is not trying to intervene in the judgement of the Sharia court but there is an appeal against the judgement and when the judgement of the higher court is heard, the, the judgement will be applied. It has never happened before that a Sharia, that the judgement of a Sharia court is the final thing that happens.

DAVID FROST:
Yes, but there have been a couple of Sharia punishments lately, haven't there - corporal punishments, not of stoning, corporal punishment - and according to The Independent on Sunday today, Amina is not alone there are at least three other stoning convictions awaiting appeal as well.

PETER OGVONNAYA:
Well, nobody has been stoned to death in Nigeria. Nobody. We have an example where there has been a judgement on Saffiyat Mohammed. It was appealed against and the judgement of the higher court was upheld. There haven't been any judgements -

DAVID FROST:
It's never happened but do you believe it won't happen here?

PETER OGVONNAYA:
I believe it won't happen at all because not on the basis just simply of the appeal court, which of course has to be respected, but because of our interpretation of Islamic Law - which is quite legitimate. We say that it should not apply because it's not mentioned in the Koran. And let me say that quite a number of Muslim leaders have appealed to the people there that this should be waived. And the whole point is, if you have a conflict between the Sharia, between the state and the federal government, this is not healthy for a government, not healthy for the judicial system. But what we are doing is to tell our people in Nigeria that the Sharia Law does not insist, or does not have this particular punishment ... in the ...

DAVID FROST:
So when Peter, you say your government will actually step in and remove the threat from Amina.

PETER OGVONNAYA:
It is not a question of the government stepping in, it is a question of the law taking its course. When there is a case at the Sharia level, and the judgement is opposed, you can appeal to a higher court. The government has no business stepping in, it is a question of allowing the law to take its course.

DAVID FROST:
And that will definitely mean that the stoning will not take place.

PETER OGVONNAYA:
Yes.

DAVID FROST:
Well you've heard - are you reassured by all of this Masja?

MASJA JUEL:
Yes, but what afterwards. It's not only a problem in Nigeria, it's also a problem in Iran where there have just been stoned five people and more are going to be stoned, so I think it is a problem in the whole world. It's a problem we are going to look on and do something about it. Yes.

DAVID FROST:
Thank you very much.

MASJA JUEL:
You're welcome.

DAVID FROST:
Absolutely. It's not just one country. Thank you, thank you all very much indeed.

INTERVIEW ENDS
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