Nigeria: Islamic Court Sentences Young Singer to Death for Blasphemy

A judge has sentenced Yahaya Sharif, a 22-year-old musician in northern Nigeria’s majority-Muslim Kano state, to death by hanging for blasphemy against Islam’s Muhammad, Nigeria’s Premium Times reported this week.
Idris Ibrahim

A judge has sentenced a musician in northern Nigeria’s majority-Muslim Kano state to death by hanging for blasphemy against Islam’s Muhammad, Nigeria’s Premium Times reported this week.

On Monday, the Kano Upper Sharia (Islamic law) Court in the state’s Hausawa Filin Hockey area sentenced 22-year-old Yahaya Sharif to death by hanging. Sharif was found guilty of blasphemy by the sharia law court for a song he circulated via the WhatsApp messaging app in March.

According to the BBC, critics said Sharif’s song was blasphemous because it praised an imam (religious leader) from the singer’s Islamic sect – the Tijaniya Muslim brotherhood – exalting him above Muhammad, regarded as the greatest of all prophets in Islam.

After Sharif’s song went viral online for its allegedly blasphemous content, violent protests erupted in his hometown of Kano, the state’s capital city. An angry mob gathered outside his family home and burned it down. The mob then reportedly marched to the Kano Hisbah (Islamic police) headquarters and demanded punitive action be taken against the singer. A state-run entity, the Hisbah enforces sharia in the state.

Sharif went into hiding after the incident and currently remains in detention, the BBC reported.

Idris Ibrahim, the leader of the violent protests against Sharif, told the BBC on Monday that the singer’s death sentence will serve as a welcome warning to others who dare to defy the region’s strict interpretation of Islam.

“When I heard about the judgment I was so happy because it showed our protest wasn’t in vain. This [judgment] will serve as a deterrent to others who feel they could insult our religion or prophet and go scot-free,” he said.

Kano is one of a dozen Muslim-majority states in Nigeria’s north that operates the sharia system of justice, according to the report. “Sentences handed down by the courts include floggings, amputations, and the death penalty,” the BBC noted.

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