A musician from the northern state of Kano in Nigeria has been sentenced to death by hanging for blasphemy by a Sharia Court. According to a report published by BBC, 22-year-old Yahaya Sharif-Aminu was found guilty of committing blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammad. One of his songs were circulated via WhatsApp in March in which he had praised Imam from Tijaniya Muslim brotherhood. He allegedly said that the Imam was above Prophet Muhammad.
An upper Sharia court in the Hausawa Filin Hockey area sentenced him to death by hanging. Aminu had denied the charges against him. Judge Khadi Aliyu Muhammad Kani added in his judgment that Aminu could appeal against the verdict. In the states across northern Nigeria have both Secular and Sharia laws. The non-Muslims are not covered under Sharia Law. In 1999, Sharia Law was introduced in Nigeria. Since then, only one death sentence passed by the Sharia court has been carried out.
The singer went into hiding after composing the song. His family house was burnt down the protesters. They gathered outside the Headquarters of Hisbah, the Islamic Police of Nigeria and demanded strict action against him. He was detained later. The leader of the protesters Idris Ibrahim said that his arrest would serve as a warning for others not to do anything that goes against their belief. He said, “This [judgement] will serve as a deterrent to others who feel they could insult our religion or prophet and go scot-free.”
The unknown singer Aminu
Before protests erupted against him, Yahaya Sharif-Aminu was one of the lesser-known singers in Nigeria. He is an Islamic gospel musician, and his work is mainly famous in his Tjjaniya sect.
Another member of the Tijaniya sect was sentenced to death in Sharia courts in the country in 2016 and remains in prison. Abdulazeez Inyass was convicted of blasphemy in Kano after a secret trial for allegedly proclaiming that Tijaniya founder Sheikh Ibrahim Niasse “was bigger than Prophet Muhammad” during a sermon.
USCIRF Condemns Death Sentence
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) stated on 10th August and condemned the death sentence against the 22-year-old singer over blasphemy charges. USCIRF Vice Chair Tony Perkins said, “Blasphemy laws are inconsistent with universal human rights standards because they fail to respect recognized rights, including freedom of religion and expression. The Nigerian government must overturn Sharif-Aminu’s death sentence and repeal blasphemy laws still present in state-sponsored courts.”
USCIRF Commissioner Frederick A. Davie stated, “It is unconscionable that Sharif-Aminu is facing a death sentence merely for expressing his beliefs artistically through music. The U.S. Senate should work swiftly to pass S.Res. 458, which calls for the global repeal of heresy, blasphemy and apostasy laws.” USCIRF listed Nigeria as a country of particular concern under the International Religious Freedom Act for engaging in or tolerating systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom in its Annual report for 2020.