While efforts are being made to save the life of a 22-year-old Muslim singer, Yahaya Aminu-Sharif, who was sentenced to death for blasphemy, the world should not forget Umar Farouq. The international community should pressure the governor of Kano state, Abdullahi Ganduje, to free this 13-year-old boy from prison because he committed no crime. Like Aminu-Sharif, Farouk was accused of blasphemy and tried in a sharia court. While Yahaya was prosecuted for insulting Prophet Muhammad, Farouq was convicted for insulting the Islamic god. Yahaya was sentenced to death while Farouq was given a 10-year prison sentence. Now, a lot has been said about the death sentence on Yahaya, but there has not been enough focus on the outrageous prison sentence of Umar Farouq. There is no move to appeal and get the sentence overturned. Now does that mean this boy will spend the next ten years in jail? Let us take a closer look at Farouq's case.

Leo Igwe

According to the news report, Farouq made derogatory statements about the Islamic god. That was all. Unfortunately, the report did not state what this 13-year-old exactly said. It is not clear how the prosecutor proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the said statement insulted the Islamic god. Allah did not attend the trial. The Islamic god did not testify before the court. But whatever the remark that he might have made, there is nothing that warrants this harsh sentence that the Upper Sharia Court in Kano handed down to an innocent boy. There is no justification for the imprisonment of Farouq. So one wonders what made the sharia court judge decide to penalize this boy. How is this sentence compatible with Islamic jurisprudence? What legal reasoning informed such a despicable verdict? What does a boy at that age know about Islam or the Islamic god? At 13 years, most Nigerian children are finishing their primary school or are starting secondary school. Most children have little or no knowledge about god or religion, except what they have been told. A 13-year-old has not attained the age of reason. Has he? So how could a sharia court be so mean, ruthless and shrewd in adjudicating a case that concerned a minor? What is the basis in conscience to inflict this punishment on Farouq?

I mean, Farouq cannot vote and, at his age, can seldom make a distinction between derogatory and non-derogatory remarks. Meanwhile, as a human being, Farouq has a right to freedom of expression. It is in freely expressing their thoughts and beliefs that children intellectually grow and develop. So how could a sharia court judge that worths his (or her) salt justify penalizing a child for some god related comments? What stretch of Islamic wisdom informed this obscene ruling? 

Farouq is an Islamic prisoner of conscience. He is a victim of a vicious form of Islam that rages in Northern Nigeria. Blasphemy is a victimless crime because the entity that is supposedly hurt or insulted is a chimera. And it is unconscionable and unjust to imprison a child on such a ground. 

So, I urge the governor of Kano state, Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, to free Umar Farouq Now!

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