(CNSNews.com) - A Christian research organization has decried what it called the "disturbing trend" of media and politicians to blame those who arouse Muslim violence, rather than those who actually carry out that violence.
Commenting on the uproar in Nigeria over the Miss World beauty pageant, the UK-based Institute for the Study of Islam and Christianity (ISIC) said Nigerian politicians and Western media alike were trying to "rationalize" the violence perpetrated by Muslim youths late last week.
More than 200 people were killed in rioting in Kaduna state, after a newspaper published an article Muslims found offensive.
The article in This Day questioned the opposition Muslims had voiced to plans to hold the annual Miss World beauty competition in Nigeria next month. The writer said that Mohammed, had he been alive today, might even have chosen a wife from among the beauty pageant contestants.
The violence erupted several days after the article appeared, following a call by Islamic leaders for Muslims to attack the paper. According to eyewitness accounts, Muslim youths ran riot, killing and wounding Christians and attacking churches and businesses.
Muslims were killed in retaliatory attacks launched by Christians, who comprise about 40 percent of the population of Kaduna.
Even before the article was published, some Muslim groups had threatened to disrupt the Miss World contest, prompting organizers to postpone the finale until the Muslim fast month of Ramadan was over, rescheduling it for Dec. 7.
The violence led the contest organizers to evacuate participants and relocate the event to Britain.
Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo attributed the developments to a "conspiracy" by the international press, and also blamed "irresponsible journalism" by This Day for the violence. A senior editor was detained for several days.
For her part, Miss World head organizer Julia Morley at a London press conference also laid the blame on "a journalist who made a remark that absolutely infuriated young Muslims."
Some Western feminists were quoted as blaming the beauty contest.
But the ISIC said the wrong people were being accused.
The moral responsibility for the killings "must lie with the Muslim youths who perpetrated the latest violence and with the extremist leaders who cynically manipulated and fostered it," it argued in a briefing.
"In recent years there has been an increasingly disturbing trend amongst some sections of Western media, church and society to place more blame at the door of those who arouse Muslim violence with mere words, than with the perpetrators of that violence," the ISIC said.
It recalled that when Western missionaries were threatened with a death sentence by the Taliban in Afghanistan in August 2001 for sharing their faith with Muslims, the Christians were themselves blamed by many journalists for "not being more sensitive to local culture."
After U.S. evangelist Jerry Falwell early last month called Muhammad a "terrorist" and a "man of war," Muslim riots in India left eight people dead.
"Once again the overwhelming sense given by the media and political and church leaders was that responsibility for this lay with Falwell, not with those who rioted."
It was not the responsibility of political and religious leaders to tiptoe around issues involving Islam, afraid of causing offense for fear this could trigger violence, said the ISIC.
"No such considerations are made for the sensitivities of other religious groups."
The ISIC also said important facts were being overlooked by most Western media reporting on the Nigerian situation.
Nigeria was not an Islamic country, it said, and the contest was not to have been held in parts of the country that were mainly Muslim.
"One group in society should not be allowed to use violence to push its demands on the whole."
The ISIC also challenged the view portrayed in some media reports that the beauty contest was "an example of western cultural imperialism seeking to push its decadent ways on a more modest and reluctant third world society."
Nigeria won the 2002 hosting rights because Miss Nigeria last year took the Miss World title, and the government enthusiastically backed the event, seeing it as an opportunity to showcase the country.
Nigeria's slight Muslim majority is centered in the north of the country, where many states have introduced strict Islamic ( shari'a ) law, while the south is predominantly Christian and animist.
Muslims Urged To Kill Nigerian Journalist (Nov. 27, 2002)
Miss World Pageant Moves To London After Violent Clashes (Nov. 25, 2002)
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