This is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program In TheNews.
There is a dispute about a majorwomen's beauty competition to be held in Nigeria. The Miss Worldcompetition is to take place November thirtieth in Abuja, thecapital. Women representing countries around the world compete inthe beauty contest. They wear bathing suits for part of thecompetition.
Conservative Muslim Nigerians have severely criticized thecompetition as immoral. They say the contest will incite immoralsexual activity and lead to the spread of diseases like AIDS. Theyare especially angered that the Miss World contest is to take placeduring the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
The contest will be held in Nigeria this year because a Nigerianwoman won the contest last year. Agbani Darego became the firstblack African woman to be named Miss World. The event is broadcastto more than one-hundred-forty countries.
Some militant Muslim groups in Nigeria have threatened tointerfere with the event. They say Miss World and similarcompetitions are offensive to the Muslim religion. They also saysuch competitions violate Islamic law called Sharia.
A number of competitors in the Miss World contest have threatenedto boycott the competition for another reason. These women say theyare angered by the severe form of Islamic law that has beenestablished in parts of Nigeria.
They are protesting a Shariacourt's recent decision that sentenced a woman to death in thenorthern Nigerian state of Katsina. Amina Lawal was found guilty ofhaving sex when she was not married. The court ordered that she bestoned to death. The execution is to be carried out after shefinishes breastfeeding her nine-month-old baby. The court says thismust happen by early two-thousand-four.
Earlier this week, the European Parliament's committee on women'srights approved a motion calling for a boycott of the Miss Worldcontest to protest the death sentence.
A large majority of the population in northern Nigeria is Muslim.The twelve states in the area have used Sharia in cases of civillaw. However, those states began pushing for complete rule by Shariain nineteen-ninety-nine after a civilian government was establishedin Nigeria. The non-religious federal government of Nigeria has saidit opposes the use of Shariah in criminal cases in northern Nigeria.However, it says it has no power to act against the states that useit.
Sentences of death by stoning are not believed to be common.However, several other countries also use very restrictive Islamiclaw.
Several human rights organizations and women's rights groups haveexpressed concern about the Sharia law in effect in northernNigeria. Amnesty International has protested stonings and othersevere punishments. The human rights group also says the law treatspeople unfairly based on their sex.
This VOA Special English program In The News was written by CatyWeaver. This is Steve Ember.