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Nigeria, The Road North

 

 

ARCHIVED CONVERSATION
Read through archived FRONTLINE/World conversations around this story, including responses from the reporter.

Bemidji, Minnesota
How can we find out more about this woman, and get updates on her [Amina Lawal's] situation?

Co-producer Cassandra Herrman responds:
Amnesty International has a page dedicated to Amina Lawal and posts updates on her case. The web site is at: http://web.amnesty.org/web/content.nsf/pages/gbr_nigeria. There is also an online petition you can sign urging the UN to act on her behalf at http://www.gopetition.com. Amina has one appeal pending in the sharia courts and then her case will be brought to the federal Supreme Court, which could overturn her conviction.

Enitan Doherty-Mason - Gaithersburg, Maryland
Many Nigerian women have remained silent for too long and have often been side-tracked by issues of ethnicity, tradition, false perceptions of superiority based on level of education and often temporary images of wealth (acquired sometimes through marriage or affiliation with a perceived wealthy man). I am delighted to see more women speaking out about the suffering of women as a collective, recognizing that the pain of one woman is the pain of all women...and ultimately the pain of a nation. I hope that more Nigerian men will take the time to listen to their women and to reflect on what is said, realizing that when women speak out, it is not to put men down rather it is to lift up the nation with a goal of improving the quality of life for all.

Whitney Streets - Annandale, Virginia
While appalled with the plight of Amina Lawal, what about the offensive nature of the "Miss Universe" pageant? I too would be indignant if a bevy of expensively clad, overly made-up, overfed, and uninformed women were paraded in front of myself and my starving family. When are women going to stand united against stereotypes and say "NO" to hypocrisy??

Ray J. Acosta - Bay St. Louis, Mississippi
Hi,
Just a line to let you know that I think "Frontline" is an awesome program. Please keep up the good work. A few weeks ago I had gotten just a small piece of info on the lady in Nigeria that was to be stoned to death for committing adultery. Thanks to Frontline, my curiosity has been satisfied. Don't ever feel that these issues are not really important to more than a few of us.

Gratefully Yours, Ray J. Acosta
Bay St. Louis, Mississippi

Akron, Ohio
Regarding Amina Lawal, the man you interviewed said her pregnancy confirmed that she is guilty of adultery. Was it determined that the father was married? Or is adultery defined differently according to sharia law?

FRONTLINE/World responds:
Sharia law is a subject that is best explained by professionals. Read what Amina Lawal's attorney, Hauwa Ibrahim, says about defending her client and sharia law.

Additionally, check out FRONTLINE/World's compilation of sites for a closer look at sharia law, or this article by The Guardian, which explains the issue of sharia law in Nigeria or, finally, this discussion of the finer points of Amina Lawal's case by "Women Living Under Muslim Laws," an organization designed to provide "information, solidarity and support for all women whose lives are shaped, conditioned or governed by laws and customs said to derive from Islam."

Chicago, Illinois
I felt the report on Nigeria had a very specific agenda. The journalist had a great opportunity to actually learn and investigate the basis for thought and law from a perspective opposite from most; however, she insisted on asking questions that could only be answered in a defensive manner. What I learned in this report was that butting heads gets you no where. Talking intellectually about a subject can teach both sides much more.

Tracy Harris - Charlotte, North Carolina
I would also like to know what I can do to help Amina Lawal. To stone a woman and not address the man's part in the same act...The other day I was at a friend's home, he had the football game on. An ad came on with two women tearing each other's clothes off, fighting in their skimpy, sexy underwear, and ending up mud wrestling.

Last night my friend's 14-year-old daughter was telling us about her girlfriend who is regularly beaten by her father, and of two mothers of friends who are beaten by their husbands, one man is the father, the other the step-father. Each example is an example of man's inhumanity to woman, as women we must put an end to this!!!

Faatimah Abdullah - Atlanta, Georgia
As a Muslim woman, I find that society has misconstrued views of what it is to be a Muslim woman. I am very upset that the international community picks and chooses what issues are more important and at what time. Human and civil rights should be the priority for all people in the international community. I will continue to fight those who misinterpret Islam and those that misinterpret the Holy Koran. Woman and children are just as important under the eyes of God. We all must take a stand against violence and ignorance--not just women. I pray the Nigerian government does not stone any woman, man or child to death. We all need to pray every day for peace. Running away does nothing for the solution. And worrying about your image as a country is contradictory of your beliefs. It solves nothing.

Co-producer Cassandra Herrman responds:
Thank you very much for your comments. We met many Muslim women in Nigeria who shared your sentiments about the misinterpretations of Islam and the Koran. They were frustrated by the double standards applied to women within the legal system and emphasized, as you pointed out, that the Koran provides equal protection for men and women. Their hope is that the current sharia criminal system in Nigeria will be revised, with an emphasis on moderation and equity.
Portland, Oregon
My thoughts go out to Amina Lawal. To see her with her child and know that she will die such a horrific death and leave this child is heart wrenching. Is she dead already as of the airing of this program? Is there anything one can do to help stop this barbaric act? I am so saddened by the continuing suffering of so many women and children, and always so incredulous that in the name of religion, all three of the monotheisms, so many are killed, tortured, and exploited.

Jerry, Harris - Eugene, Oregon
Dear Sir (Ms): I watch PBS because I don't like the "newstainment" of the commercial stations. Your story about North Korea and Nigeria was not complete. Yes, the political system in North Korea is awful, and the stoning of a woman in Nigeria for adultery is inhumane, but I wonder what the people in those countries think about the everyday occurrence of people killing whole families by their fathers in America, the daily lives of so-called street people here, and the thousands of young people who are murdered every day on the streets of the United States? Is there any difference in the North Korean people adoring their leader and the American people adoring the dollar as God? I would venture to say that there are millions of people in the world who think that America is a barbaric society.

Reporter Alexis Bloom responds:
There may indeed be people who think, for instance, that the death penalty in the United States is inhumane. And thankfully these issues are much debated. But not much is known about North Korea or about Nigeria...we're just trying to provide a little window onto foreign worlds.

Ebi Bozimo - Atlanta, Georgia
I deeply appreciate the facts, balance and candor you exhibited in the story you presented titled 'The Road North' about the woman under the sentence of stoning in Northern Nigeria.

I was gratified that you pointed out that the people of Nigeria are not monolithically manaical enough to ALL think or believe that women, or indeed anyone, ought to be stoned to death, for this or any other crime. All too often, in an effort to categorize and stereotype, western media and reporters lazily refrain from going behind the scenes to get the true stories.

Again, you merit praise for the efforts you made and the considerable personal risk you undertook. Frontline/World has just added itself to my microscopic list of must-see tv programs!

Cambridge, Massachusetts
This was such an excellent production to watch! Thank you.

Sabella Ogbobode Abidde - Mankato, Minnesota
It's been a couple of weeks since the Miss World fiasco; yet, I still cringe at the thought of the reactionary response that engulfed some parts of Nigeria -- as a result of the article written by Miss Isioma Daniels in the Thisday Newspaper. There was nothing sacrilegious about it.

I am a Nigerian, and am still at a loss for a sensible explanation, or a rationale for the gruesome event. For whatever reasons, we have become masters at tarnishing our image before the world community; and because of the fiasco, we are now a pariah and the laughing stock of the world community.

In a budding democracy like Nigeria, journalists, and other writers must be allowed to soar -- not censured, punished or coerced to resign simply because the government or a section of the country considers their writings offensive. The carnage that was let loose on the country because of mere journalistic exercise was totally uncalled for. I was glad when well meaning Nigerians and the entire global community forcefully condemned the barbaric act.

The incessant ethnic and religious conflicts do not bode well for the country -- a country that is increasingly slipping towards damnation. Otherwise, how else could one account for the sorry failures, lapses and misguided judgments of a country that was once the doyen of the Black World? It saddens and pains me to think of what Nigeria might have become - but for all the corruption, incessant military coups and legions of civilian stooges and military thugs who paraded themselves as heads-of-state.

Nigeria held so much hope and so much potential in the period immediately following political independence; and even today, it is a country that is brimming with enviable human and natural resources; yet, it cannot keep its house in order.

Nigeria as a country is gradually becoming a failed state. Though, not yet Somalia; Liberia; or the Sierra Leone of recent past, still consider what has been happening in recent years: stagnant economy and fetid environmental conditions; general mayhem and increase in the level of lawlessness and anarchy; unbridled political assassinations; ubiquitous ethnic, religious and sectional violence; deep-seated corruption and general malaise; private and public sector ineptitude; decayed infrastructures; and an acute lack of vision at all levels of leadership.

Speaking of leadership, I am constantly reminded of Daniel Etounga-Manguelle's contribution to an anthology - Culture Matters - that recently read: "In Africa...the entire social body accepts, as a natural fact, the servitude imposed by the strongman of the moment. It has been argued that the underdeveloped are not the people, they are the leaders. This is both true and false. If African peoples were not underdeveloped (that is to say, passive, resigned and cowardly), why would they accept undeveloped leaders...?"

We have the tendency to blame colonialism and the West for Nigeria, and indeed Africa's problems. That's nonsense! In as much as I agree that slavery, exploitation, and colonialism in all its forms is evil, inhumane, sinful and injurious - we have had time to correct some of the imbalances and injustices; we have had time to map our future and our destiny; we've had time to climb the highest mountains. But instead, we moan and groan and complain and cry and beg for aids and handouts and crumbs. This is totally unacceptable. Sabella Abidde Minnesota, USA

Reporter Alexis Bloom responds:
Although Isioma Daniels is certainly in a difficult position, it's worth noting that the fatwa that was issued against her has subsequently been retracted. And thankfully, the Nigerian government and a large proportion of the Islamic community spoke out against the original issuing of that fatwa.

Journalistic freedom in Nigeria is by no means untrammeled, but journalists are allowed to express dissent. Which is a very healthy sign...a sign that there is a plurality of voices in Nigeria. Nigeria does have a great deal of potential - both in terms of its physical and its human resources. It's a country that has a lot to offer. We'll all be watching the upcoming elections with fingers crossed.

Leslie Soden - Lawrence, Kansas
This was an excellent journalistic report of something I knew nothing about. Keep up the good work!!

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