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Nigeria Government: Death Sentence Will Not Be Permitted - 2002-11-26


Nigeria's government has rejected a death sentence issued against the author of an article that sparked rioting over the Miss World beauty contest.

Nigeria's information minister, Jerry Gana, says under Nigerian law, the order cannot be carried out. Nigeria is a secular nation, although 12 states adopted strict Islamic -- or Sharia -- law two years ago.

Earlier today (Tuesday), an information official in mostly-Muslim Zamfara State -- a Sharia state -- said the principles of Islam dictate that anyone who insults the prophet Mohammed be sentenced to death.

The sentence was issued by the deputy governor of Zamfara state, Mamuda Aliyu Shinkafi. At a rally, the official said -- in his words -- "Like Salman Rushdie, the blood of the writer Isioma Daniel can be shed."

However, the president of the Supreme Council of Sharia, Datti Ahmed, says he will not say whether the religious body endorses the sentence until he confers with leaders of Zamfara state. Under Islam, a religious decree -- or fatwa -- can only be issued by an Islamic body.

Ms. Daniel wrote an article in a Nigerian newspaper ("This Day") suggesting the prophet would have chosen a Miss World contestant to be his wife. She was later fired from the newspaper and has reportedly left Nigeria.

The article triggered violent clashes between Muslims and Christians in Kaduna state last week that spread to the capital, Abuja. More than 200 people were killed and a thousand others injured.

Nigeria was set to hold the beauty pageant, but it has since been moved to London.

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