USCIRF Condemns Death Sentence for Yahaya Sharif-Aminu on Blasphemy Charges

Aug 11, 2020

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

USCIRF Condemns Death Sentence for Yahaya Sharif-Aminu on Blasphemy Charges

Washington, DC – The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today condemned the death sentence announced on August 10 of 22-year-old Nigerian singer Yahaya Sharif-Aminu for allegedly insulting the Prophet Muhammad in a song he circulated on the messaging platform WhatsApp in March.

“Blasphemy laws are inconsistent with universal human rights standards because they fail to respect recognized rights, including freedom of religion and expression,” said USCIRF Vice Chair Tony Perkins. “The Nigerian government must overturn Sharif-Aminu’s death sentence and repeal blasphemy laws still present in state-sponsored courts.”

Sharif-Aminu’s verdict was passed by a Shari’a court in Kano state, which is one of twelve states in Nigeria where Shari’a courts operate in parallel with secular state courts. These courts have periodically handed down death sentences, including for blasphemy, though these rulings are rarely carried out.

USCIRF Commissioner Frederick A. Davie stated, “It is unconscionable that Sharif-Aminu is facing a death sentence merely for expressing his beliefs artistically through music. The U.S. Senate should work swiftly to pass S.Res. 458, which calls for the global repeal of heresy, blasphemy, and apostasy laws.”

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.

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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 Media@USCIRF.gov or Danielle Ashbahian at dashbahian@uscirf.gov.