The blasphemy question and the gale of crocodile tears

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By Abdullah Abdulganiy

Ordinarily, I would have chosen to remain silent on a sensitive matter as this, especially in a Nigeria where emotions trump logic often. The crocodile tears shed in some quarters, however, will not let me be. Suddenly, those who refused to prevail on the young man, Sharif Yahaya Aminu, when he went gaga insulting the sensibilities of a religious group with a large following the world over are here propagating freedom of expression and human rights. In the first place, I want to believe that elementary law teaches that there are limitations to certain fundamental rights, and that freedom of expression does not tantamount to blasphemy, blackmail, unfounded stories, and outright falsehood.

Yahya, a Kano-based singer, ate to his fill on February 28, making disparaging and degrading audio statements against the prophet of Islam, describing him as an atheist, mushrik, who propagates shirk and whose position is lower than that of Shaykh Inyass in the hereafter. Sacrilegious! Such audacity!

Just like many people out there, my prayer is that the young man be pardoned and meted with a punishment other than death, even when both his death and life may not in any way benefit Islam. However, the cacophony coming from some elements who are trying to divert public attention from what the real issues are, is what baffles me. The real issues are about the rule of law, blasphemy and abuse of freedom, and not the religious cards they are trying to play. In fact, Islamic scholars are not agreed on death as a penalty for blasphemy. Nonetheless, this is the law in Kano State, and it binds on everyone living there. No amount of social media noise or crocodile tears can change it from being the law.

Suddenly, death penalty is now an abomination for most of them who advocated the castration, mutilation and killing of rapists. What’s the moral compass that suggests that rape is outrageous than blasphemy? This double standard is always the problem. For a people who were for a long time silent when this law was promulgated, and have suddenly found their voices at the time of making the law take its course. Is this not the height of hypocrisy and crocodile tears?

In most religions, blasphemy is a very big offence. As a matter of fact, in Christianity, those who commit blasphemy were condemned to death. We should appreciate it was not even a case of extrajudicial killing like my oga, Rasheed Abubakar posited. Yahya was given fair hearing, and made to follow trial procedure. Interestingly, he can also appeal the case if he so deems. The crooner cannot be ignorant of the weight of his insulting remarks. And if peradventure, he was given his “last chance”, the better for him. What he needs now is the persuasive skills and approach of the “calm down” boy, so that justice could be tampered with mercy. Not the usual social media outburst that does not solve anything. In any case, we thank God life was not snuffled out of him through jungle justice. So, he’s still very much around to appeal his case or resort to the “calm down” techniques.

This is also the case of those who will wake up, and in one corner of their room spread rumours and malicious lies about the government. I once told my friend that some government officials are gentlemen. For me, no one can, in the name of free press, initiate a politically motivated story to tarnish my image or government without bringing the full weight of the law on him. So emboldened are some people that even when made to realize the falsehood they are peddling, they remain adamant.

I think it’s time some people were taught the lesson of their lives the hard way within the ambit of the law, if they have chosen to be dishonorable with fake news, falsehood, sensational publications, blackmail, blasphemy, in the name of freedom of speech. Good riddance to bad rubbish! Yeyenatu!

Abdullah writes from Sokoto, Nigeria. Email: [email protected].

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