Murdered in whose name?
In every religion, some would drape themselves in the mantle of belief and faith only to distort its most sacred teachings- preaching intolerance and resorting to violence.
On 12 May 2022, Deborah Samuel Yakubu, a second-year college student, was killed by a mob of fellow students in Sokoto, Nigeria, after being accused of blasphemy. Deborah was stoned and burnt to death by a mob after she sent a voice note to her class group chat. "Holy Ghost fire, nothing will happen to me. Is it by force you guys will be sending this religious stuff to the group? The group wasn't created for that, but rather as a notice for when there are tests, assignments, exams, etc, not these nonsense religious posts," She said.
These words don't seem like they could stir up the violent death that Deborah was met with. But it did. Many of her classmates and other students in the school went into a violent rage and killed her. One of her killers boldly flaunted the box of matches he used to set her dead body ablaze.
There are a lot of questions regarding her death. Sadly, Nigeria has witnessed many of these lynchings and killings of Christian women who " blaspheme" against Islam and the Prophet (PBUH) by their neighbours, students and coworkers. Christian women have also been greatly affected by terrorist insurgents who kidnap and kill them simply because of their faith or prevent them from school.
Mrs Christiana Oluwatoyin Oluwasesin was murdered at Government Day Secondary School, Gandu, Gombe State; her students killed her on March 21, 2007. Narrating how the incident happened, her husband told Sunday Sun his wife also doubled as Discipline Mistress of the school.
"That day, Wednesday, she was invigilating Senior Secondary students sitting for Islamic Religious Studies examination. One of the students (name withheld) said she had a copy of the Qur'an in her school bag, which my wife took away before the exams started. The girl began crying that the Qur'an had been desecrated. Her bag wasn't the only one collected and kept in front of the class by my wife. Other students started shouting Allahu Akbar (God is great)! When the uproar continued, the school Principal, the head boy and other teachers escorted my wife to the Principal's office. From there, hell broke loose. The students and outsiders, who joined, tied her up, beat and tortured her. One of the students later took a knife and slit her throat. They cut her into pieces and set what was left on fire. They burnt her car also and almost killed her son, Emmanuel. He was only 10-months old then. A nice woman hid him in her long gown and saved his life," He said.
Deborah and Christiana's stories are similar to the death of a trader named Bridget Agbahime in Nasarawa, Kano state. On June 2nd 2016, she told a man performing ablution in front of her shop to leave.
According to a Statement by CAN (Christian Association of Nigeria) in Thisday newspaper, the man who did this used it to provoke her. “Information reaching us has shown that one of her killers had been looking for her trouble very often and on that day, he went to her shop and started his ablution right at the entrance of her shop, and she complained, and an argument ensued."
Afterwards, the man suddenly started shouting "Allahu Akbar", and a mob surrounded her shop and descended on the woman. Frantic efforts were made to save her life by people who tried to rescue her, but the mob overwhelmed them.
The accused killers of Bridget were released in November of the same year by a court in Kano State. There's a terrible pattern in these killings in recent times. Out of all the attacks, most of the victims are Christian women, and they have been killed because they were accused of committing blasphemous acts.
Nigerian Law on Blasphemy.
Even though Nigeria is a secular country, according to the 1999 constitution, laws governing crime include the Criminal Code Act applicable in the Southern Part of Nigeria and the Penal Code Act useful in the Northern Part of Nigeria. Section 204 of the Criminal Code attempts to criminalise blasphemy by saying that anyone who insults a person's religion is liable to imprisonment for two years. Under Section 417 of the Penal code, a person who "seeks to excite hatred or contempt against any class of persons in such a way as to endanger the public peace" is liable to three years in prison.
Blasphemy In Religion.
The religious laws on blasphemy in Islam and Christianity are both clear. The punishment for blasphemy is death but is it possible to commit blasphemy against a religion you do not believe in? How do we apply the punishments of blasphemy in a place like Nigeria with many ethnic groups? Document Women sought out answers to these questions, but, unfortunately, could not get answers to them as the Islamic scholars consulted waved our questions aside as sensitive.
From a peripheral knowledge of Sharia law, there is a huge condemnation of these killings by a lot of Muslims. Sharia law operates in such a way that allows for fair hearing and doesn't tolerate the mob justice that those three women were faced with.
What if there is no justification for these killings by the religion these men claim to defend? It is essential to have conversations to pinpoint where extremist views and indoctrination might be coming from.