Reuters, Nov. 28, 2002
BY DANIEL BALINT-KURTI
KADUNA, Nigeria – Nigeria’s supreme Islamic body ordered Muslims Thursday to ignore a fatwa issued by a northern state calling for the death of a journalist whose article on the Miss World pageant sparked bloody riots.
The Jama’atu Nasril Islam circulated its order a day after Christian leaders vowed their followers would defend themselves by any means available after the sectarian clashes in the city of Kaduna killed more than 200 people.
Thursday President Olusegun Obasanjo faced angry church leaders in Kaduna who said most of the dead were Christian.
Conservative Zamfara state issued the fatwa — a theological edict — against Isioma Daniel, a female journalist in her early 20s, whose article on the Miss World pageant enraged Muslims.
The Kaduna office of her newspaper ThisDay was razed by irate Muslim youths at the start of the riots on Nov. 20.
“The Zamfara state government has no authority to issue fatwa and the fatwa issued by it should be ignored,” the statement said.
Only the Jama’atu and the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, both headed by Nigeria’s powerful Islamic figurehead, the Sultan of Sokoto, have the power to issue a fatwa, it said.
The Sultan had directed the fatwa committee of the two bodies to meet and deliberate on Daniel’s article, the statement said.
“The fatwa committee, which comprises members from the 36 states of the federation and Abuja shall soon meet,” it added.
Referring to the journalist and the newspaper, the statement said: “Their apology is noted.”
Daniel, who has fled Nigeria, had written that the Prophet Mohammad would have approved of Miss World. Organizers hurriedly shifted the pageant to London because of the Kaduna bloodshed.
OBASANJO VISITS WOUNDED
Obasanjo, making his second visit after carnage in Kaduna since his election in 1999, visited wounded in a hospital, driving in a heavily fortified convoy, with soldiers strategically placed along the route.
City authorities had cleared streets of most of the burned and overturned cars and rubble, the most obvious evidence of damage done by rampaging sectarian militants, before he arrived.
“The people I saw in the hospital, they are just victims, (and) cannon fodder,” Obasanjo later told religious, civil and traditional leaders at a meeting.
“Some people must be responsible, so who are they? Should they do this and get away with it? I should say no. They must…be brought to book,” he said.
Church leaders have complained that no culprits had been apprehended after Nigeria’s worst sectarian bloodletting in Kaduna in 2000 over plans to introduce sharia law there. More than 3,000 people died in two bouts of Muslim-Christian fighting then that devastated the city of over four million people..”
Kaduna residents said both Christians and Muslims carried out last week’s killings, but the head of the Christian Association of Nigeria said most of the dead were Christians.
“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,” Methodist Archbishop Ola Makinde, the Abuja chairman of the Council, said in comments carried on state television’s main national news.
As Obasanjo visited thousands of frightened residents — Christian and Muslim — were still sheltering in police and army barracks, afraid to return to their home districts.
Makinde blamed the violence on the adoption of Sharia law by 12 states in the predominantly Muslim north of the polarized country whose 120 million people are divided roughly evenly between Christians and Muslims.