TO the relief and delight of peaceful and law-abiding Nigerians, more and more Muslim organisations have been condemning not only the lynching of Miss Deborah Samuel at the Shehu Shagari College of Education, Sokoto by Muslim extremists but also the crime of blasphemy killings or jungle justice.
Professor Lakin Akintola of the Muslim Rights Concern, MURIC, speaking on behalf of 12 other groups in Lagos, demanded for justice against the culprits “irrespective of the nature of their motivation or the justification they claim”.
Also, President of the Muslim Association of Nigeria, MAN, Alhaji Tajudeen Olajide and Secretary, Alhaja Mudirakat Ajibona, declared in a statement that such acts contradict Islam’s stand on the sanctity of human lives.
These and other declarations against blasphemy killings are truly encouraging. They debunk the notion that Islam condones this practice which is very rampant in the Northern part of the country.
In Nigeria, jungle justice is regularly witnessed. All it takes is for the alarm to be raised over someone being an alleged thief, kidnapper, ritualist and such crimes, and a mob will materialise and violently dispatch the victim extra-judicially.
In December 2017, a bill that sought life jail for perpetrators of mob lynching and five years or N500,000 for law enforcement officials who fail to prevent such was enacted.
Blasphemy lynching is more controversial because there doesn’t seem to be a common ground even among Muslims about it. While the moderate adherents distance the religion of Islam from it, the extremists are all for it. That a Professor of Law, Ibrahim Mansur, volunteered among 32 other lawyers to defend the killers of Deborah is food for thought.
We call on the National Council for Islamic Affairs, NCIA, under the Sultan of Sokoto, Sa’ad Abubakar III, to rally all Muslim groups to adopt a common stand against blasphemy killing which is against the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
We need an inter-religious understanding on how to handle this incendiary issue to minimise tensions. We reiterate that the Constitution is the grundnorm that binds all Nigerians together under our flag.
Though our Constitution recognises the two major faiths of Christianity and Islam, Nigeria does not have an official religion let alone one whose tenets supersede the Constitution and laws of Nigeria.
Blasphemy killing, like other forms of jungle justice, is an affront on the laws of this country.
We must avoid a situation where other peaceful religions which have borne the brunt of blasphemy killings will resort to vengeance and reprisals. There is a limit to human endurance of unrelenting attacks.
We must all work harder to foster moderation, tolerance, understanding and reconciliation. We need these for peace, and we need peace for progress.