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Miss World moved after protests

From Jeff Koinange

Angry mobs rampaged through the streets, killing bystanders
Angry mobs rampaged through the streets, killing bystanders

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CNN's Jeff Koinange looks at the controversy surrounding the Miss World pageant in Nigeria (November 22)
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Was it right to move Miss World after the violent protests in Nigeria?


KADUNA, Nigeria (CNN) -- Miss World organisers say they will move the competition from Nigeria to Britain after violent protests left more than 100 people dead.

Officials said on Saturday that Miss World was moving to London "in the overall interests of Nigeria and the contestants."

In a faxed statement, Miss World CEO Julia Morley did not mention the protests at all. Instead, she thanked organisers and the Nigerian government, and said she regretted having to make the decision to move the event.

The pageant will be held on December 7, the same date it had been planned for Nigeria. No government officials were immediately available for comment.

Authorities in the northern city of Kaduna, which saw the worst rioting, said the situation had eased but tensions were still high in some areas.

"The situation is calm right now, but we are still maintaining a curfew in order to make sure that the people of Kaduna can move freely around," said Kaduna's state governor, Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi.

According to Red Cross officials, at least 100 people were killed and more than 500 were injured in the riots. Government authorities would only say "scores" are dead.

With smoke billowing in the aftermath of the riots, police and soldiers on Friday patrolled the city, where Christian and Muslim tensions have persisted for years.

Rioting broke out several days after an article about the Miss World pageant published in the newspaper, ThisDay, was seen as insulting to Muslims. The article, published last Saturday, supported the pageant against Muslim criticism, saying that if the Prophet Mohammed were alive, he would consider marrying one of the contestants.

Despite front-page apologies early in the week, Muslims rioted. Christians then retaliated against Muslims. The newspaper's offices in Kaduna were burned down and there were reports of churches and mosques being torched.

Many Muslims also were upset that the pageant coincided with the holy month of Ramadan.

"We regret the nature of the article coming during Ramadan, but we accept the apology of the publishers," Makarfi said.

The contestants who had already arrived in Nigeria had been under heavy guard
The contestants who had already arrived in Nigeria had been under heavy guard

The newspaper's "apology to all Muslims" was posted on its Web site on Friday.

"With all sense of responsibility, sensitivity and respect for all Muslims, the staff, management, editors and board of ThisDay Newspapers apologise for the great editorial error in last Saturday's edition on Miss World Beauty Pageant.

"We are sorry that the portrayal of the Holy Prophet Mohammed in a commentary written by one of our staff was not only unjustified, but utterly provocative," the apology said.

The Nigerian Red Cross has been able to evacuate more than 500 people to various hospitals in Kaduna. Many were displaced by the violence as hundreds carried their worldly possessions through the city.

The Miss World pageant, now in its 53rd year, is watched on television by more than two billion viewers worldwide, according to the pageant's Web site.

The current Miss World is Agbani Darego, of Nigeria.

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