Blasphemy in Nigeria
Section 204 of the Nigerian criminal code prohibits any act that publicly insults any religion and stipulates a prison sentence of two years. The Sharia Law, on the other hand, is exclusively concerned with acts considered insulting to Muslims, the punishment for which can be as severe as execution.
The word “blasphemy” as defined in some religious, or religion based laws, is an insult that shows contempt, disrespect or lack of reverence concerning a deity, a sacred object or something considered inviolable. Some religions considered blasphemy to be a religious crime. As of 2012, anti-blasphemy law existed in 32 countries in which Nigeria is part of.
There is no gainsaying that blasphemy laws are used to flagrantly deny basic human rights, including the right to life, freedom of religion or belief and freedom of expression. In Nigeria, there are many incidences of blasphemy (religious crime) since 1999:
1. On July 14, 1999, Abdullahi Umar of Kebbi State was mobbed and later beheaded for insulting the name of Prophet Muhammad
2. On Nov, 2002, Muslims in Kaduna accused a daily newspaper (Thisday) of blasphemy and burned down its office building in Kaduna, following one of its coverage on the Miss World where it was alleged that the persons of Prophet Muhammad was blasphemed. Subsequently, the mobs attacked churches and properties owned by Christians, resulting in 250 deaths and loss of properties.
3. In March 2007, Christianah Oluwatoyin Oluwasesin, a mother of two and a teacher at Government Secondary School, Gandu, Gombe State was accused by a student that she had touched a bag which allegedly contained a Quran, and had thereby defiled the Quran. The woman was mobbed to death by the Muslim students and their co-adherents.
4. In October 2007, a Sharia court in Kano sentenced Sani Kabili, a Christian and a father of 6 to three years imprisonment for blasphemy against Muhammed.
5. Also, in February 2008 in Kano State, a Christian police inspector and two civilians were killed on the alleged distribution of a leaflet that blasphemed Muhammed.
6. In 2008, a fifty year old Muslim man was beaten to death in the name of blaspheming Muhammed.
7. In March 2020, one Mr. Sharif Aminu of Kano State was sentenced to death for committing blasphemy against the prophet of Islam in a song circulated via whatsapp.
8. In April 2020, Mubarak Bala, a Nigerian atheist and activist, was accused of writing facebook posts criticizing Islam and its Prophet. He was subsequently sentenced to 24 years imprisonment
9. In August 2020, State’s upper Sharia court in Kano sentenced one Omar Farouq, a 13 year old, to 10 years in prison for blasphemy but in Jan. 2021, the appellate division of Kano State High Court acquitted him of blasphemy and quashed the 10 years imprisonment passed on him.
10. In May 2022, Deborah Yakubu, a student of Shehu Shagari College of Education, Sokoto State was mobbed and burnt by her colleagues for blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammed (SAW).
This list is endless. And this must stop.
It is high time religious leaders woke up to educate their co-religionists to restrain from jungle justice and never put the laws in their own hands.
Oluwadamilare Omotosho writes from Ede, Osun State, email@example.com
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