Alliance Defending Freedom International Fights For Nigerian Singer Accused Of Blasphemy

The case of Yahaya Sharif-Aminu, a Nigerian singer, who was sentenced to death by hanging in August 2020 after being accused of blasphemy, was highlighted in the European Parliament in April.

Alliance Defending Freedom International has been providing legal support to Sharif Aminu, challenging the blasphemy law of Kano state, Nigeria, under which Sharif-Aminu was sentenced to death by a Sharia court for sharing the lyrics of a peaceful song via WhatsApp.

90 percent of Christians worldwide killed for their faith in 2022 were in Nigeria. Minority Muslims also suffer. Blasphemy laws in particular are repeatedly abused to justify violence and oppression against disfavored religious groups. These laws violate international human rights standards and should be abolished.

What is Alliance Defending Freedom?

Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, parental rights, marriage and family, and the sanctity of life. The organization has been involved in several high-profile religious freedom cases and has won 15 cases in the US Supreme Court since 2011.

Alliance Defending Freedom International is a faith-based legal advocacy organization that protects fundamental freedoms and promotes the inherent dignity of all people around the world. With offices globally, ADF International targets root causes of injustice and discrimination at the global level through engagement at high levels of law and governance and through raising up future leaders to bring about systemic change. Since its founding in 2010, ADF International has achieved over 1,700 advocacy victories in over 100 countries.

Working Toward Establishing Precedents

In Sharif-Aminu’s case, ADF International’s legal support for his Supreme Court appeal could establish a precedent to overturn blasphemy laws, not only in Kano State but throughout Nigeria.

ADF International has also advocated at the European Parliament, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and other international bodies to build pressure on Nigerian authorities. In April, the European Parliament passed a near-unanimous resolution calling for Sharif-Aminu’s release.

Kola Alapinni, the international human rights lawyer representing Yahaya Sharif-Aminu at the Supreme Court of Nigeria with support from ADF International, has asked all involved in the European Parliament’s urgency resolution calling for Sharif-Aminu’s release to maintain pressure on Nigeria. “We cannot forget Yahaya’s fate and that of countless others suffering under blasphemy laws,” Alapinni said.

Members of the UK Parliament also submitted an Early Day Motion in May, urging Nigeria’s outgoing President Muhammadu Buhari to pardon Sharif-Aminu.

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Georgia du Plessis, Legal Officer at ADF International in Brussels says that ADF International’s goal is not just to save Yahaya’s life and secure his release, but also to put an end to blasphemy laws everywhere. “Together with our Nigerian partners, we are committed to defend Yahaya and support his fight for freedom of expression and religious freedom at the Supreme Court of Nigeria,” du Plessis said.

This global advocacy is vital because Nigeria’s laws and policies have ripple effects across Africa and the Muslim world. As Alliance Defending Freedom notes, reform in Nigeria could inspire broader abolition of blasphemy laws that facilitate religious persecution.

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