A leading Catholic prelate in Nigeria has denounced so-called “blasphemy laws” as a violation of basic freedoms after one woman was killed by a mob and another is set to stand trial for allegedly blaspheming Islam.
Twelve states in the Muslim-dominated northern part of Nigeria have implemented some form of Islamic sharia law, under which blasphemy is a crime which can be punished by death. Critics object that such laws are often used to target and harass religious minorities.
“No person should be silenced or imprisoned for peacefully sharing their views,” said Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of the national capital of Abuja.
The comments came in the wake of the lynching of Deborah Emmanuel Yakubu, a university student, who had been accused of blaspheming Islam, and the arrest of 45-year-old Rhoda Ya’u Jatau for sharing a WhatsApp message that condemned Yakubu’s death.
“What has happened to Rhoda should never have happened,” Kaigama told Crux.
“Freeing her from incarceration now will help greatly in moving our country to a direction where the rights and lives of its people are truly valued and this will be an important first step to restoring that hope,” he said.