Justice for Deborah Yakubu

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Humanists are outraged by the gruesome murder of a female college student in Sokoto in Northern Nigeria. Such a horrific act is a sordid reminder of the threat of Islamic extremism in Nigeria. Muslim students at Shehu Shagari College of Education accused a Hausa Christian, Deborah Yakubu, of blasphemy; they beat their colleague to death and burnt the corpse. Ms. Yakubu reportedly protested against posting religious messages on the student Whatsapp platform. Her protest angered some Muslim students who mobilized and subsequently killed her.

The brutal killing of Ms. Yakubu is not an isolated incident. Many Muslims and non-Muslims adjudged to have insulted Islam or its prophet have suffered a similar fate in the region. In 2007, some Muslim students in Gombe lynched their female Christian teacher for desecrating the Quran. There have been other violent attacks and murders of alleged blasphemers in Muslim-dominated areas in Kano, Niger, and other parts of the North. Persons accused of blasphemy have been sentenced to death by sharia courts in Kano. Others like Nigerian Humanist, Mubarak Bala, have been given long prison sentences. Some Muslim clerics have openly and publicly endorsed the execution of blasphemers.

For instance, in 2015, an Islamic theocrat tweeted this comment after a sharia court sentenced nine persons for blasphemy: “I cannot pretend or keep silent. I support the death penalty for blasphemy.” So it is patently untrue and misleading for anyone to say that the brutal murder of Ms. Yakubu and other blasphemy-related attacks, sanctions, and bloodletting in Northern Nigeria have nothing to do with religion. No, they do. As the case of this Christian woman has shown, these bloodletters are usually motivated by their religious belief, Islamic teachings and orientations.

So if Nigeria wants to end these horrific attacks and killings, it should take a critical look at how Islam is professed and practiced in Northern Nigeria. Do muslims operate within the law or above the law? The government must admit that jihadist Islam is entrenched and pervasive. Boko Haram militants are not only in the Sambisa forest. Islamic extremists exist and operate in several mosques, courts, police, and army stations. Boko Haram jihadists and their sympathizers are not a small minority as some people claim. They populate government houses, schools, colleges, and universities.

So it is high time Nigeria confronted this big elephant in the room, that is Islamic extremism. Muslim leaders should stop living in denial; they should stop pretending that jihadist Islam is not a huge problem. Muslim leaders should stop deceiving the world and saying that blasphemy killings and attacks have nothing to do with religion. Nigeria must tackle this savage and dreadful inclination of some muslims to kill, attack or maim others at the slightest provocation. Nigerian authorities should monitor the activities of Muslim clerics because these religious actors use their preaching and Quranic indoctrination programs to radicalize young Muslims and turn them into merchants of hate, violence, death, and destruction. The government should protect the rights of those who criticize the teachings and traditions of Islam.

Nigeria should take measures to end impunity and ensure that those who indulge in blasphemy-related attacks or killings are brought to book. Those who carry out these barbaric acts should not go scot-free. They are murders and criminals and should be arrested, prosecuted, and jailed to serve as a deterrent to others. This culture of impunity must end if Nigeria must make progress in this 21st century. There should be serious consequences for blasphemy-related attacks.

Leo Igwe, nskepticleo@yahoo.com