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Monday, December 4, 2023

The dark shadows of mob action: Sokoto State’s tragic blasphemy victims

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By Abdulrauf Aliyu

In the hallowed realm of Sokoto State, where piety and devotion to religious principles have long been a source of pride, a chilling darkness has descended upon the land. The frequency of mob actions resulting in the heinous murders of individuals accused of blasphemy has shattered the peace and harmony that once defined this sacred place.

In recent times, the names of Deborah, a promising student of the Sokoto State College of Education, and Usman Buda, an innocent butcher, have tragically joined the ranks of those who fell victim to this senseless violence. As we confront the implications of these grievous acts, it becomes evident that religious clerics who support such brutality must urgently reconsider their stance. The sanctity of life demands that we uphold the principles of justice and follow due process, even if the allegations of blasphemy are proven true.

The murder of Deborah, a young student, sent shockwaves through the hearts of all who cherished the pursuit of knowledge and the promise of the younger generation. She was a symbol of hope, someone with dreams and aspirations that were brutally cut short by the hands of those driven by religious fervor. Similarly, the recent slaying of Usman Buda, a butcher known for his craftsmanship and commitment to his trade, highlights the indiscriminate nature of these mob actions. Innocent lives are being lost, their families left to grapple with unfathomable grief, while a pall of fear and insecurity descends upon the community.

The consequences of these recurrent acts of mob violence extend far beyond the immediate victims and their families. Sokoto State, once a beacon of religious tolerance and peaceful coexistence, now stands on the precipice of turmoil and social fragmentation. The rule of law, the very foundation of any civilized society, is being supplanted by the law of the mob, where vigilante justice prevails over due process. This erosion of the legal system threatens the fabric of the state, undermining the trust of its citizens and tarnishing its image both nationally and internationally.

Religious clerics, revered as moral compasses and spiritual guides, possess immense influence within their communities. It is therefore incumbent upon them to exercise this authority responsibly and advocate for a return to the principles of justice and compassion. While it is understandable that the deep-seated religious beliefs of individuals may make them more sensitive to perceived blasphemy, the endorsement or tacit support of mob violence is a betrayal of the very teachings they are meant to uphold. It is the duty of these clerics to remind their followers of the importance of dialogue, forgiveness, and the primacy of the legal system.

In the face of such grave allegations as blasphemy, it is crucial to emphasize the need for a fair and impartial legal process. True justice can only be served when accusations are thoroughly investigated, evidence is presented, and a transparent trial is conducted. By bypassing this essential course, mob actions not only deny the accused the right to defend themselves but also perpetuate a cycle of violence that breeds further resentment and division. The preservation of social order and the restoration of peace necessitate that we adhere to the rule of law, even in the face of deeply emotive issues.

Sokoto State must undertake urgent measures to address the escalating crisis. The government, in collaboration with religious leaders and civil society organizations, should launch comprehensive awareness campaigns that promote a culture of respect, tolerance, and adherence to the legal system. Education, both in schools and within religious institutions, should play a pivotal role in fostering understanding, dispelling myths, and promoting critical thinking. Only by nurturing an environment of open dialogue and inclusivity can we hope to eradicate the scourge of mob violence and rebuild the social fabric of Sokoto State.

Abdulrauf Aliyu, a policy analyst writes from Kaduna

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