Read, Debate: Engage.

Musician gets death sentenced for blasphemy

August 18th, 2020
topic:Death Penalty
by:Ndubuaku Kanayo
located in:Nigeria
tags:blasphemy, human rights violation, Sharia law

The 22 year old Nigerian musician Yahaya Sherif Aminu has been sentenced to death by an upper Sharia Court for blasphemy.

A 22 year old Nigerian musician Yahaya Sherif Aminu has been sentenced to death by an upper Sharia Court for blasphemy. The verdict was reached by presiding judge Khadi Aliyu Mohammed Kani at a court sitting in the Hausawa filin Hockey area in Kano.

The singer who purportedly belongs to the Tijjaniya sect and also a member of Faidha, a group “known for their preference of Shaikh Ibrahim Nyass over Prophet Muhammad (SAW)” had circulated a song through WhatsApp around March, where he allegedly showered encomium on an Imam from the Tijaniya Muslim brotherhood to the point of elevating him above the Prophet Muhammad.

Reacting to the judgement, the Jamiyyathul Ansarudeen Tijaniyya organisation in a statement has since disowned the gospel singer, while labelling the song blasphemous.

The national secretary of the organisation , Sayyidi Muhammad Al Quasim Yahaya noted that contrary to reports making the rounds, the Dariqatul Tijjaniyya and Sheikh Ibrahim Nyass had immense love for the prophet Muhammad.

While voicing displeasure at the development, the social economic rights and accountability project (SERAP), an advocacy organisation based in Nigeria has called for the immediate release of the singer, describing the death sentence as a violation of the right to freedom of expression as entrenched in the constitution.

On its official social media page, the group stated that "authorities must question all sentences for blasphemy and unconditionally release those imprisoned solely for exercising their constitutionally and internationally guaranteed right to freedom of expression. Mr Sharif-Aminu must be immediately & unconditionally released. Nigerians have the right to live free from fear of unjust punishment. Blasphemy charges should never be brought against people simply for exercising their rights, including the right to freedom of expression," the statement concluded.

Sharia and the human rights debate in Nigeria

Over time, the debate on the compatibility between Islamic law and international human rights law has garnered attention in both the Muslim and the non-Muslim parts of Nigeria and across the world.

Dating back to the year 2000, a former governor of Zamfara state had introduced a full Sharia penal code in his state through a proclamation.

The move also gave room for Muslim majority states in the north to follow suit, creating an avenue for the states to adopt both Sharia and customary law for criminal procedures, with an exception for non Muslims.

Since the introduction of the Sharia penal code, only one death sentence has been recorded even when some have argued that the Sharia violates the Nigerian constitution, the fundamental principle governing the country.

While speaking to DW, a religious philosophy researcher Aliyu Dahiru noted that "Nigeria is a secular country, blasphemy is not a crime unless it causes a breach of peace or incites conflicts which is punishable with a maximum of two years in prison.

Evidence from an African social science review paper has pointed towards some negative consequences of the Sharia legal system, even as some of the punishments prescribed under the Sharia Law like stoning to death, amputation and flogging constitute human rights violations.

Also, a human rights watch report had revealed how certain aspects of the Sharia legislation practised in some parts of the country fall short of international and regional human rights standards and convention, many of which Nigeria has ratified.

But with the death sentence of Yahaya Sharif Aminu for blaspheming against Prophet Muhammad, a pro-democracy and human right group, concerned Nigerians, have frowned at the verdict as the group insist that it violates his rights to freedom of thought, conscience, religion and expression.

The group in a statement made public by its spokesman Theophilus Abu Agada said: "We condemn in strong terms, the death sentence by hanging for a Kano-based artiste, Yahaya Sharif-Aminu, for blaspheming against the Prophet Muhammad.”

“The injustice faced by non-religious and even religious people in some parts of Nigeria is unbecoming. Every Nigerian, irrespective of their belief, should be allowed to practice whatever they believe without being arrested, detained and sentenced to death.”

"It is fundamental that the Nigerian government, Kano state and other states in Northern Nigeria take into cognizance, section 10 of our constitution which stated that “The Government of the Federation or of a State shall not adopt any religion as State Religion”. Yahaya by law has not committed any crime against the state or any person or group of persons to warrant a death sentence by hanging."

International law permits the death penalty only in exceptional circumstances, and requires incontrovertible evidence of intentional murder.

Carrying out the death sentence by hanging of Mr. Yahaya Sharif-Aminu for blaspheming against Prophet Mohammed by upper Sharia court in the Hausawa Filin Hockey area of Kano would amount to an arbitrary killing, the group said.

Although the option for appeal remains open, the singer is yet to neither comment nor deny the charges, even as the ruling has since elicited different reactions from both international and local observers.

Article written by:
Ndubuaku Kanayo
Ndubuaku Kanayo
Author
Nigeria
The singer had circulated a song through WhatsApp around March, where he allegedly showered encomium on an Imam from the Tijaniya Muslim brotherhood to the point of elevating him above the Prophet Muhammad.
The social economic rights and accountability project (SERAP) has called for the immediate release of the singer.
The group stated that "authorities must question all sentences for blasphemy and unconditionally release those imprisoned solely for exercising their constitutionally and internationally guaranteed right to freedom of expression.