One and a half billion people around the globe watch the Miss World beauty pageant every year.
Women from over a hundred countries compete for the crown. The Miss World website brags, “Miss World 2002 will be the most lavish and spectacular production that we’ve ever undertaken. It’s second only to the Olympics for international participation.”
The pageant was scheduled to be held in Nigeria.
But Muslim-Christian riots erupted, some two hundred and twenty people are dead, and a Nigerian state governor has called for the death of a journalist.
The controversy started when Miss World decided to hold its annual pageant in Nigeria. Muslims in Nigeria began protesting. Then a journalist by the name of Isioma Daniel wrote an article in the Lagos-based paper This Day, in which she speculated that the Prophet Mohammed would not only have approved of the Miss World beauty pageant, but might have wanted to marry one of the contestants.
Muslim-Christian riots erupted. Now, there are 220 people dead, 1000 injured, 8,000 homeless, and mosques and churches have been razed to the ground.
Yesterday, the government of a mainly Muslim state in northern Nigeria urged believers to kill the journalist. The government spokesman said: “Like Salman Rushdie, the blood of Isioma Daniel can be shed.”
The Miss World organization is insisting it had nothing to do with the riots in Nigeria. The 89 contestants and the chairman of the Miss World competition Julia Morley denied responsibility and refused to say the decision to hold the contest in Nigeria had been a mistake.
To complicate the story, before any of this began, some pageant contestants threatened to boycott the pageant over the case of Amina Lawal. Earlier this year, an Islamic court in northern Nigeria sentenced Lawal to be stoned to death for having a baby out of wedlock.
- Fawzia Afzal-Khan, Professor of English, Montclair State University.
- Gloria Allred, partner with the Los Angeles-based law firm Allred, Maroko and Goldberg. Allred held a press conference last month with former beauty pageant queen Brandi Sherwood (Miss USA, 1997), calling for the Miss World contest to be pulled from Nigeria unless the death-by-stoning sentence of Amina Lawal was nullified.
- Azizah Al-Hibri, Law Professor at the University of Richmond, Virginia.
- Joan Jacobs Brumberg, Professor of History and Women’s Studies at Cornell University. She is also the author of “The Body Project” and “Fasting Girls.”