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Fatwa on writer over Miss World rioting

Kaduna (Nigeria), Nov. 26 (Reuters): A Nigerian province today issued a “fatwa” urging a death sentence for the author of a newspaper story on the Miss World pageant that sparked deadly riots in northern Nigeria.

More than 200 people died in the violence in the northern city of Kaduna. Muslims were enraged by the November 16 article which suggested the Prophet Mohammad would probably have married one of the contestants in the pageant, which has been relocated from Nigeria to London because of the bloodshed.

“What we are saying is that the holy Quran has clearly stated that whoever insults Prophet Mohammad should be killed,” Zamfara state commissioner for information Umar Dangaladima Magaji said. Asked to clarify the government’s pronouncement, Magaji said the state had “passed a fatwa”.

“It’s a fatwa. It is based on the request of the people,” he said, adding that this did not contradict the authority of Islamic clerics who have the powers to decree death sentences. “Being a leader you can pass a fatwa,” Magaji said.

Magaji said a number of Islamic associations in the state had asked the government to take action. The government had decided a fatwa was appropriate and could defuse anger that might otherwise lead to further bloodshed.

The Kaduna-based New Nigerian newspaper said the “fatwa” was issued by Zamfara’s deputy governor Mamuda Aliyu Dallatun Shinkafi, who compared Daniel, the style editor of ThisDay and writer of the offending article, with British author Salman Rushdie, sentenced to death by Iranian Muslim clerics.

“Like Salman Rushdie, the blood of the ThisDay writer can be shed,” the paper quoted its reporter, who attended a rally at which Shinkafi made the pronouncement, as saying.

Zamfara was the first Nigerian state to adopt the sharia soon after the end of military rule in Nigeria in 1999. Attempts to introduce the sharia code in the neighbouring state of Kaduna sparked protests and riots from non-Muslims that killed some 3,000 people in February 2000.

The Kaduna office of ThisDay, which published the article linking the Miss World beauty queens with the Prophet Mohammad, was razed last week by Muslim youths. Daniel has since then fled to the US after resigning from the paper.

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