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Yahaya Sharif-Aminu: Blasphemy and Death Sentence Revisited

Yahaya Shariff Aminu: Kano sharia court sentence Nigeria musician to death for blasphemy of Prophet Mohammed

While the Muslim Lawyers Association, the Council of Imams, and the Supreme Council for Sharia in Nigeria have called for the execution of the Muslim singer, Yahaya Sharif-Aminu, I urge a stay of action and ask that the death sentence be reconsidered and quashed.

Here I argue that Sharif-Aminu did not commit any crime as the sharia court in Kano had ruled. First of all, as in cases of capital punishment, there is a risk-a high risk of executing an innocent person. Sharif-Aminu’s is a typical case.

The Kano state government is about to execute an innocent person. Unfortunately, all Muslim associations, including the Christian Association of Nigeria, that have come out in support of the death sentence, have not considered this possibility-that Sharif-Aminu could be innocent and that the sharia court could have erred in judgment. Nobody has bothered to ask. What if the sharia court was wrong?

Look, the sharia court in Kano sentenced Sharif-Aminu to death for insulting the prophet of Islam in his song. Right? Ok. What if it is later found out, after executing this sentence, that the song did not insult the prophet, Muhammad. I mean, someone’s life is at stake here. And we need to thoughtfully and painstakingly look at the facts.

Imagine this. The parties that were not insulted were the ones who determined and punished the insult. And they have gone to the extent of ruling that the insulter, Sharif-Aminu, be killed. And no Muslim organization sees nothing wrong in this Islamic misstep and judgmental overstep? Let us assume that by some stretch of Islamic sense, this Muslim singer insulted the prophet of Islam. Who will be the ultimate judge? A sharia court judge in Kano? No. The Muslim Lawyers Association, the Council of Imam, or the Supreme Council for Sharia? Not at all. It is the prophet, Muhammad.

Now, the prophet of Islam, who is the one that was allegedly insulted did not affirm-or was not in the position to affirm- that he had been insulted. So, how could a sharia court judge sitting in Kano and all these Islamic busybodies determine beyond a reasonable doubt that Sharif-Aminu insulted the prophet of Islam, and should be executed? Is it not viciously presumptuous of this judge? Is it not a demonstration of lack of wisdom on the part of all who support the death sentence to think that Sharif-Aminu should be killed at this instance?

Once again I urge the Kano state government not to execute Sharif-Aminu because he did not commit any crime in the song that he circulated on Whatsapp. This Muslim singer exercised his right to freedom of expression and belief. He sang a song that reflected his beliefs. Muslims who disagree with his song and message should release and circulate a song that reflects their own beliefs. Muslims say that there is no compulsion in religion. Unfortunately, this is not the case. The death sentence passed on Sharif-Aminu for merely singing a song is an indisputable affirmation that there is a compulsion in the practice and profession of Islam in Nigeria.

Leo Igwe
Leo Igwe
Leo Igwe (born July 26, 1970) is a Nigerian human rights advocate and humanist. Igwe is a former Western and Southern African representative of the International Humanist and Ethical Union, and has specialized in campaigning against and documenting the impacts of child witchcraft accusations. He holds a Ph.D from the Bayreuth International School of African Studies at the University of Bayreuth in Germany, having earned a graduate degree in Philosophy from the University of Calabar in Nigeria. Igwe's human rights advocacy has brought him into conflict with high-profile witchcraft believers, such as Liberty Foundation Gospel Ministries, because of his criticism of what he describes as their role in the violence and child abandonment that sometimes result from accusations of witchcraft. His human rights fieldwork has led to his arrest on several occasions in Nigeria. Igwe has held leadership roles in the Nigerian Humanist Movement, Atheist Alliance International, and the Center For Inquiry—Nigeria. In 2012, Igwe was appointed as a Research Fellow of the James Randi Educational Foundation, where he continues working toward the goal of responding to what he sees as the deleterious effects of superstition, advancing skepticism throughout Africa and around the world. In 2014, Igwe was chosen as a laureate of the International Academy of Humanism and in 2017 received the Distinguished Services to Humanism Award from the International Humanist and Ethical Union. Igwe was raised in southeastern Nigeria, and describes his household as being strictly Catholic in the midst of a "highly superstitious community," according to an interview in the Gold Coast Bulletin.[1] At age twelve, Igwe entered the seminary, beginning to study for the Catholic priesthood, but later was confused by conflicting beliefs between Christian theology and the beliefs in witches and wizards that are "entrenched in Nigerian society."[1] After a period of research and internal conflict due to doubts about the "odd blend of tribalism and fundamentalist Christianity he believes is stunting African development," a 24-year-old Igwe resigned from the seminary and relocated to Ibadan, Nigeria


  1. A perfect example that any belief-system that demands death for what a person says should never be allowed precedence over state law. What next, execution for looking at a Moslem in an unfriendly way, or for NOT praising Mohammed while others do ? Sad, sad,pathetic Nigeria, you are lost.

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