Miss World can flee to England: millions of Nigerians can't

Submitted by AWL on 29 November, 2002 - 5:01

By Nicole Ashford

An estimated 200 people have died and tens of thousands have been left homeless in the riots sparked by the Miss World contest in Nigeria.

There is a long history of conflict between Muslims in northern Nigeria and the mainly Christian south. Islamist influence has been growing in the Muslim areas of the country, and an increasing number of states are adopting sharia law - bringing them into conflict with the national government.

The recent trouble began after a newspaper suggested that the Prophet Mohammed would not have disapproved of Miss World and might even have married one of the contestants. But this is about much more than a row over a beauty pageant - it is about a battle between political groupings for control of Nigeria, and about gathering support for the introduction of Islamic law.

This Miss World contest had already attracted much protest. Earlier this year, in a sharia court, a Nigerian woman, Amina Lawal, was sentenced to death by stoning for having a child outside marriage. Seven Miss World contestants pulled out of the pageant in solidarity with Amina Lawal. Disgust at the organisers' desire to make a profit regardless of human rights led Miss Denmark, Hadley Freeman, to quit the "Miss" business and get involved in campaigning for women's rights internationally.

When the impact of the riots forced the organisers to move the contest, the international Misses simply got on a plan and flew out. For Nigerian women like Amina Lawal flying out to London - or anywhere else - is not an option.

The National Union of Students Women's Campaign is organising two protests on the night of Miss World, 7 December. First of all we'll be protesting outside the Nigerian High Commission, saying "Hands off Amina Lawal". Then we'll be heading up to Alexandra Palace to make the point to the Miss World organisers that while they can jet out of Nigeria, millions of other women can't. Although in previous years we've said "Shut down Miss World", this year our slogans will be different. In the circumstances of this contest we want to make it clear that we're not lining up with Nigerian Islamists - and although we still think the contest is a sexist cattle market that pales in comparison with the barbarism of religious sex police and state-organised murder.

hands off amina lawal!
Protest, Saturday 7 December, 4.30pm Nigerian High Commission,
9 Northumberland Ave (tube: Charing Cross)
and later outside the Miss World contest at Alexandra Palace (BR: Alexandra Palace, overground from King's Cross)

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