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|Dissenting Voices: Mapping Victims Of Religious Extremism In Northern Nigeria by Shehuyinka: 3:08pm On Aug 23, 2023
This investigation documents multiple cases of religious intolerance in northern Nigeria, providing insights into whether or not the holy scripture supports the death penalty for blasphemy and the position of the constitution and international frameworks on religious freedom.
USMAN* is in his early thirties, a Christian convert, resident of Kano state.
But he currently disguises each time he goes out. This is due to fears that he is still being tracked by persons who accused him of blasphemy.
Before he agreed to be interviewed by The ICIR on May 25, in a suburb town of the state, Usman had used a different phone number to share his location with this reporter.
It was a deliberate move to ensure he was not being set up. Yet, he was willing to meet with the right source, The ICIR reporter, who had visited to document real cases of religious extremism and intolerance in the state.
On arriving at the location, Usman kept a distance of about 200 meters apart, looking sideways, still in doubt.
He appeared as one still battling post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), owing to his horrible encounter in the past.
The ICIR would later discover Usman had suffered religious intolerance and had to relocate from one part of Kano to another.
“Sorry for keeping you waiting and staying this far,” he said, forcing a hard smile yet keeping his distance. “You know I’m just doing this for my safety because of my previous experience.”
Religious intolerance is a big issue in Nigeria. And it is not peculiar to a particular religion. It exists among the three major religions in the country – Christianity, Islam and Traditionalists.
By context, the Brussels-based research institute, the Union of International Association (UIA), described religious intolerance as “the acts denying the right of people of another religious faith to practice and express their beliefs freely.”
The ICIR earlier reported how religious intolerance and extremism resulted in 289 nationwide deaths across churches and mosques between January 2021 and June 2022. And these were from 65 attacks on Churches and 12 episodes on Mosques in the same period.
The genesis of Usman’s nightmares
Usman has a friend named Bello*, a new Christian convert whose decision was vehemently opposed by his (Bello’s) parents. He was threatened severely and, eventually, disowned by his family.
He would later seek refuge in Usman’s house after escaping from his parent’s residence through the roof. Multiple sources confirmed leaving Islam for any other religion is sacrilegious, especially in northern Nigeria.
Bello had to stay with Usman for a few months; unknown to the two, they were being tracked while his parents waited for the right time to strike.
Alas! It came.
It was on a sunny Monday morning towards the end of the lockdown in 2020. Bello needed to correct his bank account information, and both set out that morning to the bank. On approaching the financial institution, they got surrounded by Bello’s parents, relatives, and men dressed in security regalia.
“We were beaten mercilessly,” he told The ICIR. Usman said they sustained injuries.
“While they were beating us up, nobody around could help because they said I was why their son converted to Christianity.”
As he narrates his heart-wrenching story, he unconsciously looks around as one being watched.
“After beating us up like criminals, we were bundled into a tricycle and whisked to a vigilante outpost. We were detained for several hours and handcuffed at the leg as we bled while they went through our phones after forcing us to unlock them.”
He was later taken, with his friend – Bello, to Rijiyar Zaki Divisional Police station, along Bayero University Kano road, Ungogo L.G.A. of the state. “The vigilante officials abused me verbally, said harsh words about my religion, and we were taken to Rijiyar Zaki Police station in the evening.”
The argument from Bello’s parents to the Police was that he attempted to convert their son to Christianity, but “honestly, Bello came to me and told me about his decision to convert on his will.”
The Divisional Police Officer eventually released him.
Other instances of religious intolerance
In June 2015, a Sharia court in Kano sentenced nine persons to death for blasphemy. The victims allegedly rated Sheikh Ibrahim Niasse, a Senegalese Tijaniya sect’s founder, as “bigger than Prophet Muhammad.”
This would ordinarily mean demeaning the superiority of the highly revered Islamic clergy – Prophet Muhammad. But it eventually led to social disorder, and swiftly, judgement was passed over the nine victims – eight men and a woman.
Another cleric, Abduljabbar Kabara, was not so lucky despite being a cleric, and son of the deceased Nasiru Kabara, leader of an Islamic group – Qadariyya Islamic Movement in West Africa.
He was sentenced to death by hanging for blasphemy. The Upper Sharia Court in Kofar Kudu, Kano state, Thursday, December 15, 2022, found him guilty of a four-count charge, including blasphemy.
Umar Farouk, another victim, was also found guilty of blasphemy for reportedly abusing Prophet Mohammed while arguing with his friends. He was a 16-year-old teenager. He also got a-10-year jail term from the Sharia Court, though the judgement was later nullified by a superior court in the state.
READ MORE HERE: https://www.icirnigeria.org/dissenting-voices-mapping-victims-of-religious-extremism-in-northern-nigeria/
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