A Nigerian Christian student was murdered on her university campus yesterday by a mob of Muslim students who accused her of blaspheming Islam.
The murdered woman, Deborah Samuel Yakubu, was a 200-level student at Shehu Shagari College of Education in Sokoto in northern Nigeria. She was the leader of a women’s Christian fellowship group on campus.
Two videos posted online show the aftermath of the killing. In one, a half dozen men beat Deborah’s lifeless body with sticks while they shout “Allahu Akbar” (God is great). A second video shows her body burning while her killers boast about killing her.
According to multiple sources, on Wednesday, May 11, Deborah sent a message to a student Whatsapp group asking people not to post religious messages to the group. A rumor circulated that she had insulted Muhammad, the prophet of Islam. The next day, she was killed.
It is unclear whether her killers will face justice. One of the imams of Nigeria’s National Mosque defended the killing, saying that “if our grievances are not properly addressed, then we should not be criticized for addressing them ourselves.” Nigeria’s former vice president, Atiku Abubaker, tweeted a condemnation of the murder, then deleted his tweet. The Sokoto state government did not condemn the murder, and only promised “investigations into the remote and immediate causes of the incident.”
Sokoto state is one of twelve Nigerian states that have adopted shari’a law, in defiance of Nigeria’s constitution, which guarantees secular government and freedom of religion. Under shari’a, “blasphemy” is a capital offense. In neighboring Kano state, a 13-year-old Muslim boy was imprisoned after being accused of blasphemy, and fled the country after his sentence was dropped. Also in Kano, a singer has been sentenced to death for blasphemy. Nigeria’s current president, Muhammad Buhari, who was also the country’s military dictator from 1983-1985, is a supporter of shari’a law.
Deborah Yakubu is not the first Christian woman to be murdered in Nigeria after being accused of blasphemy. Bridget Agbahime was killed in Kano in 2015, and Eunice Olawale was murdered in the capital city of Abuja in 2016. No one was ever convicted for their murders.
Deborah’s murder comes after a particularly bloody week for Nigerian Christians. On May 11, ISIS’ affiliate in Nigeria released a video showing 20 Christians being executed. On May 5, eight Christians, including two children, were murdered by Fulani militants in Plateau state. Hundreds of Christians have been killed in Fulani militia attacks in Plateau and Kaduna states in the last two months.