BBC, Jan. 18, 2002
The Nigerian journalist whose article about the Prophet Mohammed and Miss World contestants sparked deadly riots in Nigeria says she will probably spend the rest of her life in hiding.
In an exclusive interview with the BBC, Isioma Daniel said her initial guilt soon turned to anger that fanatics would use a newspaper article as an excuse to kill.
People used her article to “unleash their anger, their frustration with other aspects of their life”.
Trouble was centred on Kaduna – a city in the mainly Muslim north of Nigeria which has a large Christian minority.
Daniel, 21, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme she was still coming to terms with the consequences of her article.
A fatwa – a religious edict calling for her death – was issued against her by the government of Zamfara state.
It followed an article she wrote in the newspaper ThisDay claiming that the Prophet Mohammed would not have complained about the Miss World competition, and may have even chosen to marry one of the contestants.
She wrote: “The Muslims thought it was immoral to bring 92 women to Nigeria to ask them to revel in vanity.
“What would Mohammed think? In all honesty, he would probably have chosen a wife from one of them.”
She told the BBC’s Zubeida Malik she acknowledged her article had sparked the unrest.
“At first I did feel very guilty, but eventually I thought to myself, this is ridiculous, they’re taking this thing overboard,” she said.
“There’s no reason why someone should write something and you immediately think it gives you the right to go out and kill innocent people.
“They used it as an excuse to unleash their anger, their frustration with other aspects of their life. And unfortunately, I gave them that excuse. It was not a normal reaction.”
Now living in hiding, Daniel is coming to grips with not having any personal security, while being one of the most sought after people in the world.
“It’s quite difficult, because I’m not with my family, I’m not with any friends, in a place I’ve never been to before,” she said.
“I haven’t got a bodyguard, or anything like that. I’m not being given the same kind of priority that Salman Rushdie probably got, because the fatwa was issued by… a secular country.”
Rushdie was the subject of a fatwa in 1989, when the Iranian Government called for his death, saying his “Satanic Verses” was blasphemous.
Daniel is now trying to sort out her life away from Nigeria.
“I have to have plans for the future. I’m only 21,” she said.
“I hope I’ll be able to write a book… I’ve got a long, long road ahead of me.”