A major Nigerian Islamic group has condemned the killing of a 74-year-old pastor’s wife, Bridget Agbahime, at the hands of a Muslim mob that accused her of blasphemy against Muhammad, referring to the incident as a “most unfortunate alleged blasphemy,” not a murder.
Agbahime, an Igbo Christian who worked in a market in Kano and is described by the Associated Press as “middle-aged,” despite being a septuagenarian, died of stabbing wounds on Thursday after a large group of young Muslims accused her of claiming that Muhammad was “not important.” Initial reports described the killing as a “beheading,” something her husband has publicly denied, though a report in Nigeria’s Leadership newspaper claims the mob “raised her severed head in celebration” after she had died.
There also remains some controversy regarding whether she actually said anything about Muhammad. Leadership‘s Aniebo Nwamu writes that the incident began when Agbahime attempted to shoo away “some of the dirty assassins [who] were washing their genitals in front of her shop.”
“Then they started shouting ‘Allahu akbar’ and invited other ignorant bigots to slaughter her,” the reporter contends.
The leader of Jama’atu Nasril Islam, a nationwide Muslims community group, issued a statement quoted in Nigeria’s Vanguard newspaper in which he condemned “the most unfortunate alleged blasphemy” that occurred, not the killing. While the group issued its condolences to the victim’s husband and branded the lynching as “criminal and unislamic, perpetrated by miscreants and criminals,” it particularly thanked the husband for “setting the record straight against all odds, by stating that his wife was not beheaded as reported by the media.” The group has yet to elaborate on what the phrase “against all odds” is meant to imply about the couple, their faith, or such incidents of Christian murder generally.
While Muslims in public life have taken to social media to condemn the lynching, the Nigerian outlet Naij notes that many commenters responding to these statements have condemned the condemnation of the killing. Common reactions to statements by Muslim politicians sending condolences to the family cite the Koran and praise the mob, while asserting the peaceful nature of Islam.
“Since she insult prophet Muhammed s.a.w, she suppose [sic] to hang to dead may Allah destroyed Her and any body that is backing for the insulting the greatest man in history……….#ISLAM#IS#PEACE,” one commenter writes.
“Muslim is a religion of peace but we will not tolerante such kind of stupidity to our noble prophet. I swear without any exception any body who did it again or try to will expect the same consequences or above that. BE CAREFUL,” another commenter warns.
“Islam has an automatic fatwa that any one that insult the Holy prophet Mohammed SAW should be promptly killed,” another commenter writes on Facebook.
Nigerian Christians are expressing outrage not only at the recent murder, but at widespread terror campaigns by Islamic groups like Boko Haram and the Fulani herdsmen to eliminate Christianity in the country. Rev. John Joseph Hayab of the Christian Association of Nigeria issued a statement demanding Muslims repudiate the violence and teach peaceful coexistence. “Our religious leaders must come out and preach the true tenets of religion, because this arrogance is getting too much,” he said in the statement, which also questions why police managed to save Agbahime’s husband but not her. “This barbarism must stop now,” he concludes.
Dr Oby Ezekwesili, a co-leader of the Bring Back Our Girls group, which works to advocate for the parents of the girls Boko Haram kidnapped from a school in Chibok, Borno state, in 2014, also issued a statement urging the government to work harder to eradicate Muslim violence. “Extrajudicial murder of Bridget Agbahene in Kano for ‘blasphemy’ must mark a turning point,” she tweeted. “I shall stay on her matter until justice is done.”
Aniebo Nwamu, a columnist for Leadership, noted that Nigeria’s government has an abysmal track record of convicting Islamic criminals and demanded a change. “None of the dirty pigs that have murdered people in the north over ‘blasphemy,’ since the 1980s, has been sent to jail, much less executed in public to serve as a deterrent to would-be assassins,” Nwamu writes.