Miss World contestants arrive in London


The Miss World beauty circus arrived in Britain today while in northern Nigeria the death toll continued to mount in bloody sectarian rioting fuelled by Muslim anger at the pageant.

Around 90 contestants arrived in London this afternoon as a bitter row erupted over how a beauty pageant could have unleashed such a violent reaction.

The Nigerian government and Miss World president Ms Julia Morley were united in blaming the media - both international coverage and a controversial article in the Nigerian press - for starting the trouble, then undermining Miss World by reporting it.

"There's an international conspiracy just to show that an African country like Nigeria cannot host this thing," Information Minister Mr Jerry Gana told state radio. "I think Nigerians should be really angry with the international press."

Mr Gana and Ms Morley also criticised an article which appeared last week in the Nigerian daily This Day, which offended Muslims by claiming that if the Prophet Mohammed were alive today he would have approved of the contest and might have married one of the contestants.

But Muslim leaders insisted that anger at the contest was not solely generated by press coverage, and that they had always considered it an immodest spectacle which should not have been brought to Nigeria during the holy month of Ramadan.

"The pageant was the root cause of the riots because if it had not been for the pageant hosting controversy, the blasphemous article would not have been written," Mr Nabiu Baba Ahmed, secretary of the National Council of Sharia in Nigeria, said.

Hosting the beauty queens during Ramadan is unacceptable to Muslims, he said at his home in Kaduna, lambasting the federal government for supporting its organisers.