Muslim Mob Attempts To Kill Christian for Merely Sharing "Blasphemous" Text

A Christian woman is on trial for blasphemy after forwarding a WhatsApp message. Her actions sparked Muslim riots in northeast Nigeria.

Rhoda Ya'u Jatau, a 45 years old Christian health worker, was arrested on May 20 in Bauchi state. Her crime was receiving and forwarding a WhatsApp message from Ghana denouncing the horrible murder of a university student from the Sokoto state, Deborah Emmanuel Yakubu, who was also wrongly accused of blasphemy.

According to the sources, Deborah was a 25 years old Christian student. She had been severely beaten and stoned to death, and later her body was set on fire by an angry Muslim mob for the claim that she disrespected the Prophet Muhammad by refusing to date a Muslim man on May 12, 2022.

After learning about the tragic death of Deborah, Jatau shared the message with her colleagues through WhatsApp to raise awareness. However, the Muslims interpreted this message as an act of blasphemy and went out on a hunt to kill her. When Muslim mobs surrounded and attacked her house, the Nigeria Secret Police from the Department of State Services (DSS) arrested her and whisked her away.

Jatau's lawyer, Joshua Nasara, said in a press statement that since the arrest, Mrs. Jatau has been confined in prison over false allegations of blasphemy and charged with "inciting public disturbance, exciting contempt of religious creed and cyber-stalking." The charges state that Jatau disrespected many religious figures of Islam and the entire Muslim community in a WhatsApp group "with the intent to cause religious crisis," he added.

The struggle to secure bail for Jatau, a health worker from the Warji Local Government, ends in vain as the government authorities and leaders of the Islamic groups in the state will not back down from their decision.

The charges placed upon Jatau are breaching Sections 114, 210 of the Penal Code Law and Section 24 subsection 1b(i) of the Cybercrime Prohibition Prevention Act 2015.

Nasara said that Jatau was detained for two weeks before the charges were placed. After that, she was held incommunicado in prison as Muslim leaders and higher state authorities intentionally postponed her trial.

After Jatau was detained for two months without a trial, which is the legal limit, on July 20, an application for her release was filed. However, the application was not assigned to any judge until July 26; by then, the judges were on vacation, Nasara added.

"It was in August that the application was reassigned to a vacation judge who heard it for the first time on Aug. 11," he added.

The Reverend of the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) in Warji County, Ishaku Dano, claimed that the message Jatau sent to the Whatsapp group was only a word of caution against further violence in Northern Nigeria, where Muslim mobs are running rampant.

"Information we obtained from Mrs. Jatau shows that the WhatsApp message she received and shared in her group was for caution against violence and against the use of derogatory language in addressing other people's faith, but that was not the interpretation by the Muslims," Pastor Dano said. "And since the occurrence of the incident in May 2022, there have been campaigns by Muslims for Mrs. Jatau to be killed for blasphemy against Muhammad."

Vice President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Reverend Joseph John Hayab, said allegations of blasphemy had become the new excuse by fundamentalists in northern Nigeria “to kill the remnant that bandits and terrorists have not yet killed.”

“We know and have evidence of how some of these allegations of blasphemy are false and are just for blackmail or settling scores with passive enemies or well-mannered young girls who have refused sexual advances by the opposite sex from another religion. The challenge now is for government authorities and security agencies to act fast to address this abuse of our constitution before it leads to a more serious conflict that cannot be handled,” said Hayab.

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