The killing of a 200 level student of Shehu Shagari College of Education Sokoto, Miss Deborah Samuel Yakubu by Muslim youths last Thursday on the allegation that she blasphemed Prophet Mohammed(SAW), has brought to the fore the long held belief in some quarters that the peace that appears to exist between Christian and Islamic religions in the country all these years is more of grave yard peace.
It is not as if Deborah’s case was the first incident of religious extremism by Islamic worshippers against Christians alleged to have blasphemed Prophet Muhammed(SAW), but one would have thought that Western education and preachment of peaceful co-existence by sincere leaders of both religions could bring some civility on the horizon.
The beastiality that came to play against an innocent Christian student in a higher institution of learning readily comes as a sad reminder that no lesson was learnt from previous incidents of gruesome attacks on alleged blasphemers. The brazenness with which the Muslim students and their accomplices outside the campus mobilised to attack and lynch Deborah even while the school security had taken her into protective custody speaks volumes of the dangers that await Nigeria in time to come if the madness is not nipped in the bud.
From records, it is revealing that many Muslims both adults and youths in the Northern part of Nigeria take it as their right to kill anyone whom they suspect of having said something or behaved in a manner considered blasphemous to Prophet Muhammed.
In 2007, Mrs. Christiana Oluwasesin was lynched by Islamic extremists in Gombe State after a female student in the school where she was teaching, accused her of touching the Qur’an during an examination she was invigilating. She was dragged, stoned and stabbed to death by the extremists who subsequently set her corpse on fire as they believed that she did not deserve a befitting burial.
Ironically, investigation was later to prove her innocence. Her killers who were arrested during the uproar and even confessed to the killing were later released and set free!
On March 30, 2021, irate Muslim youths backed by some Islamic leaders in Sade Community in the Darezo Local Government Area of Bauchi State, burned a man identified as Talle Mai Ruwa, a Christian to death for allegedly insulting Prophet Muhammed(SAW).
He was reportedly dragged from his house by a mob who took him before some Islamic clerics who after questioning him, sentenced him to death. He was set ablaze by the extremist youths who contributed money to buy petrol with which he was burnt.
There have been some incidents of extra-judicial killings of Christians in the North on the flimsy accusation of blasphemy.
Talking about blasphemy, what is blasphemous in the case of Deborah who simply acknowledged Jesus as one who made it possible for her to pass her examination? She was a Christian who believed in Jesus Christ just as Muslims believe and have their faith in Prophet Muhammed(SAW).
Even if the use of the name of Jesus Christ was offensive to the Muslim students who were course mates of Deborah, what constitutional right do they have to pass death sentence on her? Even if she blasphemed Prophet Muhammed(SAW) as they alleged, what religious right do they have to fight for Prophet Muhammed?
Deborah’s incident if anything, has begun to throw up some challenges among Islamic scholars as it is becoming quite obvious that while the liberals among them would go to any length to fault the killing by muslims of anyone perceived to have blasphemed Prophet Muhammed, the hardliners and obvious supporters of extremism do not see anything wrong killing in the name of the Prophet.
While the likes of Imam Nurudeen Mukhtar Isalekoto would make us believe that “the general answer to blasphemy as commanded in the Qur’an is to respond with patience, beautiful preaching and graceful avoidance,” the likes of Professor Ibrahim Macquarie, an Abuja based Islamic scholar come with ambivalence that tilts more to extremism.
Reacting to the killing of Deborah, Macquarie in an online publication interview on one hand, condemned the killing of Deborah but on the other hand justified the death saying she deserved to die by crossing certain redlines that amounted to blaspheming Prophet Muhammed(SAW). The Islamic scholar obviously postulating from a warped intellectual premise, could not clarify the extent of the so called blasphemy. It is a great disservice to intellectualism.
With this kind of scenario where some Islamic scholars like Macquarie are standing the Qur’an on its head, it becomes very worrisome that Nigerians have worst days to contend with, in the years to come as far as blasphemy is concerned.
It is now quite obvious that while Muslims with liberal tendencies that align with the pure teaching of Holy Prophet Muhammed(SAW), those who have chosen extremism with the false belief that they are the ones doing the will of Allah, are bent on radicalising the Islamic space with their false teachings and such perverts appear to be more in number.
The audacity with which Muslim youths in Sokoto organised themselves on Saturday, protesting on the street, calling the police to release the two arrested suspected killers of Deborah has clearly demonstrated the fact that the radical Islamic scholars are upping their game as their foot soldiers are as bold as the lion.
In all of this, the leadership of Nigeria takes the blame because if the rule of law has been allowed to strictly take its place without interference from the leaders both as executive, legislative and judicial agents of the state, it would be extremely impossible for any person or group to rise up in arms to extra-judicially take the life of another person.
If former perpetrators of such heinous acts in the past were duly prosecuted without fear or favour and punished appropriately in line with the provisions of the criminal or penal code, those who killed Deborah Samuel Yakubu and other victims of blasphemy allegation would have thought twice before embarking on their madness.
It is regrettable that we live in a country where some people are treated as sacred cows. The country is today witnessing Babel of voices much in condemnation of the gruesome killing of Deborah, but ironically it will be treated worse than the cases before it, because our leaders are lacking in integrity and fear of God.
The matter may soon be swept under the carpet given the snippets from the police that the killers of Deborah were not Nigerians. How did they come to such early conclusion?
The Inspector General of Police, Usman Baba Alkali and the Governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwwal, should see this, as a test case for them. Let them prove that they could not pander to religious or ethnic sentiment. They must show that nobody can embark on this kind of wreckless act and get away with it.
The investigation must be diligent to enable the prosecution succeed before the court of law.
Above all, there must be speedy trial to ensure that justice is not delayed because justice delayed could be justice denied.