A mob of aggrieved Muslims in Kono State, Nigeria, attempted to tear down the house of and kill a singer who they believe insulted Muhammed on Wednesday, leading religious authorities to release a call for public calm over the matter.
The angry mob also staged a protest outside the office of the Sharia police, known as the Hizbah, who they felt were not taking sufficient steps to punish the man for blasphemy. They also complained that similar incidents of people speaking freely in criticism of Islam regularly occurred across the state but were not fully investigated.
“Already the police are on top of the situation since the incident occurred,” Hizbah commander Harun Ibn Sina told Vanguard in an interview. “We have visited the residence where it took place.”
“The people were trying to demolish the house and kill the accused person involved in the blasphemy against Prophet Muhammad,” he continued. “The police were there but the person that sang the song had escaped.
Sina also tried to issue a call for calm, explaining that the Sharia police were handling the situation and urged the public not to try and take the law into their own hands.
“Those who came to show there concern felt like the government was doing nothing about it,” he explained. “I wish to call on the public to remain calm as the parents of the singer are with the police and they are on top of the situation.”
The singer, known as Yahaya Sharif-Aminu, is himself said to belong to the Tijjaniya sect of Sunni Islam popular across western Africa, many of whose members believe that its founder Ibrahim Niass was a more influential figure than Muhammed.
Family members of the singer are also facing retribution for their relative’s supposed crimes. Many have already been subject to violent attacks after protesters, the majority of whom are young men, set fire to his family home. His family since been forced to go into hiding.
Kano state, located in northern Nigeria, is one of the most densely populated Muslim areas in the country. Sharia law, therefore, applies statewide, with those found guilty facing sentences from life in prison to execution.
In 2015, the state’s Sharia High Court sentenced nine people also from the Tijaniya sect for blasphemy, after the group reportedly described Niass as “greater than the Prophet Muhammed,” making it the first time Nigeria had imposed the death sentence since the country returned to civilian rule in 1999.