In a stark illustration of the state of free speech under Islam, a Nigerian musician has been sentenced to death by an Islamic court in north Nigeria for blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammad.
Did Yahaya Aminu Sharif, 22, call the prophet names or tell lies about him, or even speak too lightly of him? No; he merely praised another imam to the point of giving him higher status than Muhammad, the BBC reported, in a song the musician circulated on WhatsApp.
In not-atypical Muslim fashion, crowds in the city of Kano rioted after the song was shared on the messaging platform in March. Sharif was condemned on Aug. 10 to death.
Protesters also burnt down his family home, demanding his prosecution, before his arrest. The singer had gone into hiding after sharing the song.
Prosecutor Aminu Yargoje described the verdict as fair, and said it would prevent future blasphemy.
Islamic gospel musician Sharif belongs to a separate branch of Tijaniyya Sufi order, which is considered dissident because of their different interpretation of basic Islamic principles.
Guards at the court barred journalists from speaking to Sharif after the sentencing.
Kano, in mostly Muslim northern Nigeria, has Islamic sharia courts that exist alongside civil courts and introduced sharia law in 2000. Death sentences for blasphemy are unusual, though death sentences have been imposed for adultery, murder and homosexuality.
To date, no executions have been carried out.