Sharif : Waiting for the Hangman’s Noose or Judicial Repreive?

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Nseobong Okon-Ekong and Ibrahim Shuaibu write that the recent death sentence passed by a Shariah Court on a Kano-based musician, Yahaya Sharif Aminu over alleged blasphemous acts has provoked mixed reactions around the world

All eyes are on Governor Abadullahi Umar Ganduje of Kano State as the world awaits his response to the death sentence passed by an Islamic Sharia Court against Yahaya Sharif Amin, a 22 year-old musician who resides at his family home in Sharifai quarters of Kano municipality.

A notice of appeal has since been filed at a Kano High Court a few hours to the end of the 30-day window allowed by the Shariah Court.

The minstrel has suffered untold hardship since he was declared an enemy of Islam. The punishment against him has been extended to his relatives, as well. The family house of the Sharif located at Sharifai quarters in Kano Municipal Local Government Area was set ablaze by irate youths who invaded the area in protest against Sharif’s alleged blasphemy in his creative work.

Residents of Sharifai including friends and associates of the condemned musician have been overwhelmed by stifling backlash from the larger Kano society and agents of the state government. Afraid for their lives, they have distanced themselves from him. To justify their stance, which is largely out of fear of the dreaded Sharia Police popularly known as Hisbah Command, they resorted to distorted stories suggesting that Sharif may be suffering psychiatric problems. They also allude to his membership of theTijjaniya sect and Faidha group who are known for their preference of Ibrahim Nyass (a famous Senegalese Islamic Scholar) over Prophet Muhammad (SAW). Sharif, they claim had become radicalised, holding fanatically on to a strain of Islam that contradicts the mainstream Islamic teachings.

According to Islamic tenets, blasphemy, for which Sharif has been found guilty attracts capital punishment. The offence was allegedly on a social media platform through his posts.

So far, the dissenting voices against the death sentence passed on Sharif have come from outside Kano. Itnside Kano, there is a conspiracy of agreement to execute the death sentence as tasted as possible. Some group of Islamic teachers began mobilising themselves to compel the state governor to sign the death warrant for the execution of the judgment to appease the din of protesters.

This move prompted the Kano State government and its officials to immediately summon a public decision meeting and allow the Islamic scholars to properly advise the government and the governor.

Ganduje said at the public meeting that “What happened is so important to the state and to the security of the state and the nation in general. What the Court did is absolutely right. And we support it completely. Such kind of irresponsible act, if not because of the state power, nobody could know what would happen in the future,” he reminded.

“The man, who did that, confessed to be a follower of a particular Islamic Sect. But the adherents of those Sect rejected him right away. So we need to understand the importance of this judgment. We are lucky that scholars maintained that it wasn’t a case for a particular sect, but rather of one member who just decided to derail.”

Waiting for Ganduje

The statement by the governor at the meeting was seen as an affirmation that everyone was in support of the execution of the judgment. The governor also reaffirmed that the state government has accepted the death verdict of the Shariah court and the rule of law surrounding the case.

“I will not waste time in signing the warrant for the execution of the man, who blasphemed our Holy Prophet of Islam,” he assured.

“Lawyers just told us that the case could go up to Supreme Court. So if that happens, I will not waste time in approving the verdict right away. And the second issue is, if the victim did not take up the case to appellate courts, I will not waste time to give the approval for the execution. I will not take more than a few minutes to accept the verdict,” he said.

Representatives of the Islamic scholars addressed the gathering on why the judgment should be accepted and executed. The Chairman of the Council of Imams, Sheikh Muhammad Nasir Adam, Leader of Izalatul Bid’ah Wa’iqamatussunnah, Prof Abdullahi Saleh, Malam Usman Yusuf Makwarari and others, gave reasons why the judgment should be executed.

The Muslim Lawyers Association of Nigeria (MULAN) Chairman, Kano State Branch, Barrister Muhammad Sani Garba, disclosed that his group would stand firm behind the governor’s approval of the judgment, adding that, even if the case goes to Supreme Court, nothing could change.

NBA Chairman, Kano State Branch Barrister Aminu Sani Gadanya, said, as an association, they collectively accept the verdict of the Court. “Looking at the legal provisions followed by the court, we are supporting this judgment 100 percent.”

However, the renowned lawyer, Kola Olapini of High Bridge Chambers has registered a notice of appeal before the Kano High Court against the death sentence on Islamic musician, Yahaya Aminu Sharif.

In a notice of appeal, CR432020 filed by Kola Olapini, the convict, sued the Attorney-General, the State and the Governor.

Spokesman for the Kano judiciary, Mr Baba Jibo told THISDAY, “Yes I can confirmed to you that a notice of appeal has been filed before High Court in Kano”

“A lawyer, Kola Alapini, has filed an appeal on behalf of Sharif on Thursday. The judgement as you all know was passed in Hausa, it will be translated into English for the use at the appeal.’

Mr. Jibo also confirmed to THISDAY that Mr. Femi Falana (SAN) had also requested for certified copies of the judgment in preparation for filling an appeal.

Abdulgafar Oladimeji, the immediate past chairman of the Association of Crime and Judicial Journalists, Kano state chapter said no doubt the convict has the right to appeal until all legal windows are exhausted. The verdict, if upheld by the Supreme Court will invoke a huge burden on Governor Ganduje who is a Muslim and is expected to promote the tenets of Islam.

How the Protest Against ry Sharif’s Alleged Blasphemy Started

Initially, agrieved youths in their thousands on Wednesday 4th March besieged the headquarters of Sharia Police popularly known as Hisbah Command situated along Sharada quarters in Kano. They came to register their protest against Sharif Yahaya over his alleged blasphemous song, portraying the Holy Prophet Muhammad in bad light.

Mr Idris Ibrahim (known as Baba Idris), the Convener of the protest against Sharif said they came to notify the government to do the needful otherwise they would take the law into their own hands.

The outbreak of Coronavirus pandemic helped to calm the protesting youths. They accused the government of doing nothing when similar incidents occurred in the past. According to them, lackadaisical attitude toward of the Kano State government towards similar atrocities may have allowed the issue die without any action from authorities. This time, they were not ready to let go

The Hisbah Commander in the state, Harun Ibn-Sina, while speaking to the protesters, assured that the state was on top of the situation.

The Upper Sharia Court is one of the respected courts in the state which is situated at Hausawa quarters within the metropolitan area. In the Sharif case, the court is believed to have conducted all its sittings under law and procedures laid down by Islamic law and jurisprudence

Khadi Aliyu Muhammad of Kano Shariah Court had offered defence options to the convict who kept admitting that he committed the crime. He resolutely declined to plead not guilty, the court records revealed.

It was also disclosed that he was even offered the option to change his plea. He kept admitting the offence, therefore, the court found him guilty of blasphemy on Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) on a social media platform through his posts.

Passing the judgment on August 10, under tight security, the judge said based on Section 382 (b) of Kano Shari’ah Penal Code of 2000, the court found him guilty and ordered for his death by hanging but gave him the option of 30 days to appeal the case.

The organised body of Nigerian musicians, the Performing Musicians Employers of Nigeria led by its President, Mr. Prettty Okafor has written to Ganduje to drop all charges against Sharif. Okafor also rallied internatiinal support for the condemned musician. The musicians represent 10 national and international organisations in the field of music and artistic freedom: European Music Council (EMC), Finnish Music Council, Finnish Musicians Union (SML), Freemuse, International Federation of Actors (FIA), International Federation of Musicians, (FIM), International Music Council (IMC), Nordic Musicians Union (NMU), Artists at Risk / Perpetuum Mobile, Safemuse. They wrote, “We wish to express our deepest concern regarding the situation of young Nigerian musician Yahaya Sharif-Aminu, who has been sentenced to death by a Sharia court in Kano State, for blasphemy against Prophet Mohammed. According to our information, he will be executed by hanging in less than seven days from today, unless charges are dropped or the sentence is overruled.

“This court decision is clearly in breach of sections 38 (protecting freedom of thought, conscience and religion) and 39 (protecting freedom of expression) of the Nigerian Constitution. The application of the death penalty also violates Nigeria’s international obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)
to which it is a party. “

“Considering the above, we urge you to use your influence to make sure that the rights of Yahaya Sharif-Aminu under the Nigerian Constitution are fully respected and that all charges against him are dropped.”

In 2014 publication, titled, ‘ Death Sentence for blasphemy’, a well-traveled journalist Abdulrazaq Hamzat, who is a Muslim stated ‘ both Christians and Muslims have different attitudes to their “Holy” books, the Bible and the Quran. While the Christians are free in the ways they handle the Bible and can put it under their pillow for “protection” and on their dining table for use before meals, the Muslims hold their Qur’an in respect that borders on awe. For example, the Qur’an cannot be put on the bed, especially on ones where love is made between couples. It should not be put on the floor, table or any place where anyone that has not performed ablution can have access to it. The tendency for Christians not to treat the Qur’an with the level of respect that Muslims accord it has been a source of problems, and a number of conflicts have been linked to this. Closely related to this is the extent of respect that should be given to the Prophet Mohammed”.

“Muslims are unequivocal in their demand for respect for the Prophet, while Christians are less inclined to giving the Prophet any special attention. While most Christians are willing to respect the sensitivity of Muslims by not desecrating the name, they do not have any special desire to accord the name any special respect. Saying the usual “Peace be unto him” after the mention of his name, for example, is not what Christians are inclined to do.

While many Muslims are willing to accept this, they take seriously any conscious attempt to desecrate the name. Again, this has been at the center of violence in northern Nigeria.
While Muslims in the south also frown at any form of desecration of the Holy book an holy prophet, they believe such desecration should be peacefully corrected with education of the culprit. There hasn’t been any form of violent reaction to desecration in the south, though, they express their displeasure with such desecration and try to ensure it is corrected.

“This slight difference in reaction to same issue can be traced back to the origin of Islam in both region. While those in the north receive islamic do’s and don’ts from their ruler as a form of state law that should be strictly adhere to failure of which may be punished, those in the south learned about it on their own through islamic education. Therefore, there is every tendency that those who learned through islamic education could have been properly exposed to the diverse nature of the law and its applications, while those who receive it as an order may have not.”

Hamzat’s publication also takes into account a similar occurrence in the past. “The crisis over the Miss World Beauty Pageant in May 2004. The crisis brought out all the complexities of national politics. Sometime in 2003, Nigeria was selected to host the Miss World Beauty Pageant. It was widely believed that the country won the bid because a Nigerian contestant, Agbani Darego, had won the competition the previous year.

“But controversy began almost immediately after the announcement of Nigeria’s hosting of the competition. A protest came from within the country and it comprised mainly of those who saw the competition as a debasement of women. These people saw the exercise as promoting promiscuity as it offends female modesty and sexual morality. While objections to this remained contained, crisis erupted when a columnist with a national newspaper, HISDAY, Isioma Daniel, criticised Muslims who opposed the competition and argued that Prophet Mohamed would probably have loved to marry one of the contestants.

This was greeted with spontaneous riots across the country and a fatwa was pronounced on the writer who was forced to flee the country.

“Despite two front-page apologies by the newspaper, riots continued for many days, resulting in the death of more than 100 people and the organizers of the competition had to move the venue to London.

“The fatwa pronounced on Isioma turned out to be very controversial even among Muslim clerics and scholars both within and outside Nigeria. Within the country, there were those who argued that the fatwa declaration was inappropriate since Isioma is not a Muslim and that she and her newspaper had apologised for the article that caused offence.

Indeed, the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs accepted the apology and was not willing to endorse the fatwa. There were also those who argued that while Isioma not being a Muslim did not invalidate the fatwa, the apology that was tendered nullified it.

“Outside Nigeria, reactions were mixed; an official of the Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Sheikh Saad al-Salah, said that it would be inappropriate to kill a person who is not a Muslim and had apologised for her action.

However, regardless of the opinion on the matter, the Nigeria government said that it would not allow the fatwa to be carried out.”

So far, there has been no reaction from the Federal Government on the Sharif death sentence. Will Ganduje approve Sharif’s death? As the matter goes to appeal, the whole world is watching the unfolding event in Kano

QUOTE 1

Khadi Aliyu Muhammad of Kano Shariah Court had offered defence options to the convict who kept admitting that he committed the crime. He resolutely declined to plead not guilty, the court records revealed. It was also disclosed that he was even offered the option to change his plea. He kept admitting the offence, therefore, the court found him guilty of blasphemy on Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) on a social media platform through his posts. Passing the judgment on August 10, under tight security, the judge said based on Section 382 (b) of Kano Shari’ah Penal Code of 2000, the court found him guilty and ordered for his death by hanging but gave him the option of 30 days to appeal the case

QUOTE 2

The organised body of Nigerian musicians, the Performing Musicians Employers of Nigeria led by its President, Mr. Prettty Okafor has written to Ganduje to drop all charges against Sharif. Okafor also rallied internatiinal support for the condemned musician. The musicians represent 10 national and international organisations in the field of music and artistic freedom: European Music Council (EMC), Finnish Music Council, Finnish Musicians Union (SML), Freemuse, International Federation of Actors (FIA), International Federation of Musicians, (FIM), International Music Council (IMC), Nordic Musicians Union (NMU), Artists at Risk / Perpetuum Mobile, Safemuse