Nigerian Churches Denounce Miss World Beauty Pageant

Nov 13, 2002 03:00 AM EST

Various religious leaders in Nigeria have condemned the embattled Miss World beauty pageant, this year scheduled for December in Abuja, Nigeria, as being degrading to women and promoting morally questionable behavior.

"We can't sanction the exploitation of women because of the search for money," said the Rt. Rev. Josiah Idowu Fearon, Anglican bishop of Kaduna in northern Nigeria. "We all know that the whole idea behind [the pageant] is to make money. It is true this thing would bring money to government and to individuals, as it would encourage tourism. But definitely it is not something we should promote."

The contestants from about a dozen countries are threatening to boycott this year's competition unless the sentencing of a Nigerian woman, Amina Lawal, to stoning for adultery under the Sharia Islamic legal system practiced in 10 Nigerian states, is overturned. In an attempt to avert a boycott, the minister of state for foreign affairs told reporters that Nigeria's federal courts would overturn the judgment of the Sharia courts, the British daily newspaper The Guardian reported.

Still, religious leaders have objected to the moral aspect of the contest itself. Muslim groups such as the Jama'atu Nasril Islam (JNI), the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (SCIA) and the National Council of Muslim Youth Organizations (NACOMYO) have all condemned the beauty pageant and have threatened to disrupt the event. The Interfaith Forum of the Lutheran Church of Christ in Nigeria, which annually brings together Muslim and Christian leaders, also opposed the pageant.

Stella Obasanjo, wife of the Nigerian president, is the chief coordinator of the beauty pageant. She told journalists in Abuja, the nation's capital, that because of protests over the original timing of the event, which coincided with the Muslim fasting period of Ramadan, it had been shifted to December 7.

Nigeria is expecting to reap about US$60 million from hosting the pageant, expected to attract participants from more than 100 countries and to be televised live to 140.

By Albert H. Lee
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