Blasphemy law in Nigeria

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The Federal Republic of Nigeria operates two court systems. Both systems can punish blasphemy. The Constitution provides a Customary (secular) system and a system that incorporates Sharia. The Customary system prohibits blasphemy by section 204 of Nigeria's Criminal Code. Section 204 is entitled "Insult to religion". The section states:

Any person who does an act which any class of persons consider as a public insult on their religion, with the intention that they should consider the act such an insult, and any person who does an unlawful act with the knowledge that any class of persons will consider it such an insult, is guilty of a misdemeanour, and is liable to imprisonment for two years.[1]

Twelve out of Nigeria's thirty-six states have Sunni Islam as the dominant religion. In 1999, those states chose to have Sharia courts as well as Customary courts.[2] A Sharia court may treat blasphemy as deserving of several punishments up to, and including, execution.[3][4]

The Constitution[edit]

The prohibition against blasphemy in the Criminal Code and the prohibition recognized by Sharia may not be lawful because Section 38 of the Constitution entitles every Nigerian to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, and Section 39 gives every Nigerian the right to freedom of expression.[5]

Law enforcement[edit]

The system of law enforcement in Nigeria is beset by a lack of resources, sectarian loyalties, and corruption. As a consequence, vigilantism often goes unpunished.[6] Vigilantism frequently occurs after an accusation of blasphemy (See below.).

Selected cases[edit]

On 19 June 2009, a Muslim mob in the town of Sara in Jigawa state burned a police outpost and injured about twelve persons over an alleged blasphemy against the Islamic prophet Mohammed. The mob complained that someone was distributing blasphemous pamphlets, and it demanded that the police give up a man who had sought safety at the police outpost.[7]

On 9 August 2008, a Muslim mob in Kano state beat to death a fifty-year-old Muslim man who blasphemed Mohammed.[8]

On 20 April 2008, Muslim rioters in the city of Kano burned the shops and vehicles of Christian merchants after one allegedly disparaged Mohammed.[2]

On 9 February 2008, a Muslim mob rioted in the town of Sumaila in Kano state. The mob acted upon the alleged distribution of a leaflet that allegedly slandered Mohammed. The mob killed a Christian police inspector and two civilians, and wounded twenty others. The mob set fire to vehicles and destroyed the police station.[9]

On 4 February 2008, a Muslim mob besieged a police station and set it on fire in the city of Yano in Bauchi state. The police station was the refuge of a Christian woman whom the mob accused of desecrating the Quran. One report said that the woman had spurned an offer of marriage from a Muslim man, and that he and his companions had seized the opportunity to riot. In the ensuing violence, five churches were torched, Christian shops were torched, and policemen's homes were attacked. The police arrested forty-four rioters.[9][10]

In October 2007, a sharia court convicted Sani Kabili, a Christian and a father of six, of the town of Kano, of blasphemy against Mohammed. The court sentenced Kabili to three years in prison. In February 2009, an appeal court overturned the conviction.[11]

On 28 September 2007, a Muslim mob rioted at Tudun Wada in Kano state. The mob killed nine Christians, burned several churches, and destroyed the homes and businesses of some non-Muslims. The Muslims complained that Christian students had drawn a picture of Mohammed. The Christians reported that the violence erupted after they had prevented one of their number from converting to Islam.[2]

On 21 March 2007, a mob of Muslim students and neighbourhood extremists beat to death Christianah Oluwatoyin Oluwasesin, a mother of two and a teacher at Government Secondary School of Gandu in the city of Gombe. A student complained that Oluwasesin, a Christian, had touched a bag which allegedly contained a Quran, and had thereby defiled the Quran.[12]

In February 2006, thousands of Muslim rioters went on rampages in different states. The rioters burned churches, torched Christian shops and homes, and killed Christians. The reason for the violence was ostensibly outrage at the publication in the Danish magazine Jyllands-Posten of cartoons that some Muslims consider blasphemous.[13][14]

In February 2006 in Bauchi state, Florence Chuckwu, a Christian teacher, confiscated a copy of a Quran from a pupil who was reading it during an English lesson. The incident provoked rioting by Muslims. The riot killed more than twenty Christians and destroyed two churches.[15]

On 20 November 2002, Muslim and Christian mobs rampaged in the cities of Kaduna and Abuja. The rampage began after an article in a daily newspaper, Thisday, suggested that Mohammed would have approved of a Miss World pageant that was taking place in Abuja. Thisday columnist Isioma Daniel wrote that Mohammed would probably have taken a wife from among the contestants. Muslim mobs accused the newspaper of blasphemy, and burned down its office building in Kaduna. Then the mobs attacked churches and properties owned by Christians. Christian mobs confronted the Muslim mobs. Soldiers and police intervened. About two hundred and fifty people died.[16][17] Isioma Daniel fled Nigeria ahead of a fatwa that called upon Muslims to kill her.[18]

On 14 July 1999, in the village of Randali in Kebbi state, a Muslim mob beheaded Abdullahi Umaru. The mob accused Umaru of blasphemy against Mohammed.[19]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Criminal Code Act". Chapter 77 (Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1990). Nigeria. Retrieved 2 August 2009. 
  2. ^ a b c "Nigeria: International Religious Freedom Report 2008". U.S. Department of State. 2008. Retrieved 2 August 2009. 
  3. ^ http://www.amnestyusa.org/document.php?lang=e&id=4FBA416ABC8805C2802569A600603109 Amnesty International Report on Saudi Arabia 2007.
  4. ^ http://thereport.amnesty.org/en/regions/middle-east-north-africa/saudi-arabia Amnesty International Report on Saudi Arabia 2009.[dead link]
  5. ^ "Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999". Nigeria. Retrieved 2 August 2009. 
  6. ^ "2008 Human Rights Report: Introduction". U.S. State Department. 25 February 2008. Retrieved 2 August 2009. 
  7. ^ Ibrahim, Yusha'u A. (20 June 2009). "Nigeria: Blasphemy - Rioters Burn Police Outpost, Injure 12". Daily Trust. Retrieved 30 July 2009. 
  8. ^ Ibrahim, Yusha'u A. (11 August 2008). "Nigeria: Mob Kills 50-Year-Old Man for 'Blasphemy'". Daily Trust. Retrieved 30 July 2009. 
  9. ^ a b "Nigeria Christian Killed In Riot Over Blasphemy; Dozens Injured". BosNewsLife. 13 February 2008. Retrieved 1 August 2009. 
  10. ^ "Nigeria: Deadly sectarian riot over alleged blasphemy". Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN). 4 February 2008. Retrieved 30 July 2009. 
  11. ^ Blake, Daniel (16 February 2009). "Nigerian Christian freed after false imprisonment for 'blasphemy'". Christian Today. Retrieved 30 July 2009. 
  12. ^ Minchakpu, Obed (March 2007). "Muslims in Nigeria Club Christian Teacher to Death". Compass Direct News. Retrieved 30 July 2009. 
  13. ^ "16 die in cartoon protests in Nigeria". CNN.com. 19 February 2006. Retrieved 11 April 2010. 
  14. ^ "Nigeria Christians Mourn, 16 Killed In Cartoon Violence". Worthy News. 19 February 2006. Retrieved 30 July 2009. 
  15. ^ Minchakpu, Obed (29 March 2006). "Teacher Accused of Blasphemy in Nigeria Disappears". Compass Direct News. Retrieved 30 July 2009. 
  16. ^ Mbachu, Dulue (22 November 2002). "100 Killed in Nigeria Riots Triggered by Miss World Pageant". The Washington Post. Retrieved 31 July 2009. 
  17. ^ "Nigeria: No justice for Kaduna killings". Issue 120. Pambazuka News. 24 July 2003. Retrieved 31 July 2009. 
  18. ^ Jackson, Iain (November 2002). "Nigeria, Redux". After-Words.org. Retrieved 31 July 2009. 
  19. ^ "Nigeria: ‘Blasphemy’ Issue Surfaces in Legal Tensions". Compass Direct News. 2 May 2008. Retrieved 30 July 2009.