Sep 17, 2020
USCIRF Commissioner Frederick A. Davie Adopts Mubarak Bala and Yahaya Sharif-Aminu of Nigeria through the Religious Prisoners of Conscience Project
Washington, DC – United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) Commissioner Frederick A. Davie announced today his adoptions of Mubarak Bala and Yahaya Sharif-Aminu, both of whom he will advocate for as part of USCIRF’s Religious Prisoners of Conscience Project.
Mubarak Bala is a prominent atheist activist and President of the Nigerian Humanist Association. He was arrested on April 28, 2020 and transferred to Kano state police custody, reportedly for insulting the Prophet Muhammad in a Facebook post. He allegedly posted: “Fact is, you have no life after this one. You have been dead before, long before you were born, billions of years of death.” Bala remains detained without charge, and has not been allowed to communicate with his lawyers or his family. His whereabouts and well-being remain unknown.
“There is absolutely no reason why Mubarak Bala should continue to be held in detention without charge, seemingly for nothing more than exercising his right to freedom of belief and expression,” Commissioner Davie said. “His incommunicado status is particularly alarming. The Nigerian government must take all steps necessary to confirm his whereabouts and safety, and ensure that he is afforded a fair trial in a secular court. If his only alleged crime is blasphemy, he must immediately be released and allowed to return home to his family.”
Yahaya Sharif-Aminu is a 22-year-old Islamic gospel singer belonging to the minority Tijaniyya Sufi Islamic sect. On August 10, 2020, he was convicted of blasphemy and sentenced to death by a Kano state Shari’a court for reportedly insulting the Prophet Muhammad in a private WhatsApp message. He was accused of praising an imam from the Tijaniya Muslim brotherhood to the extent it “elevated him above the Prophet Muhammed.”
“Sharif-Aminu’s blasphemy conviction and death sentence are a violation of international human rights law and Article 38 of the Nigerian Constitution,” Commissioner Davie added. “Authorities must overturn this sentence and ensure that Sharif-Aminu’s right to religious freedom is protected.”
In its 2020 Annual Report, USCIRF recommended Nigeria as a “Country of Particular Concern,” or CPC, under the International Religious Freedom Act for engaging in or tolerating systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom. USCIRF has also expressed concern about blasphemy laws in Africa and state enforcement of Shari’a laws in northern Nigeria. To learn more, read the reports: Blasphemy, Apostasy, and Hate Speech Laws in Africa and Shari’ah Criminal Law in Northern Nigeria.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is an independent, bipartisan federal government entity established by the U.S. Congress to monitor, analyze, and report on threats to religious freedom abroad. USCIRF makes foreign policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress intended to deter religious persecution and promote freedom of religion and belief. To interview a Commissioner, please contact USCIRF at firstname.lastname@example.org.