November 21, 2002

On this day, in the northern city of Kaduna, Nigeria, gangs of Christian youths retaliated against Muslims in the third day of riots over Miss World contest, which was to be hosted by Nigeria. The fighting began when a newspaper article suggested the Prophet Mohammed would have chosen a wife from the Miss World beauty pageant contestants.

George Bennet, head of the International Federation of the Red Cross in Nigeria, said Nigerian Red Cross officials gathering the dead and helping the wounded had reported a “ball park figure” of 100 killed by the morning of this day. But he stressed that an exact figure was impossible to confirm. Other Red Cross officials said more than 500 people had been wounded in the mayhem as at that day.

Sporadic gunshots and shouting could be heard on this day by residents who hid inside their homes. Angry mobs stabbed, killed and burned bystanders to death, torched churches and cars, and rampaged through streets.

The riots began two days earlier with the burning of an office of This Day newspaper in Kaduna, after the Lagos-based daily published an article questioning Muslim groups that condemned the Miss World Pageant. Muslim groups had said that the pageant which was to be held the following month in the capital city, Abuja, promoted sexual promiscuity and indecency. The writer of the article, Isioma Daniel, had written that, “What would (the Prophet) Mohammed think? In all honesty, he would probably have chosen a wife from among them (the contestants).”

In the morning of this day, plumes of black smoke rose above Kaduna from makeshift barricades lit by rioters. Authorities extended the already imposed dusk-to-dawn curfew to 24 hours a day, but large numbers of people ignored the order.

In Ungwa-Rome and Larayi – neighbourhoods dominated by the city’s Christian minority – witnesses said youth smashed windows and set fires in mosques. Rioting was also reported in Kabala Costain, one of the predominantly Muslim neighbourhoods of Kaduna, a cosmopolitan city of several million people. Fearful residents of all faiths rushed into police stations and military facilities for protection.

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