Nigerian Police Arrest Humanist Leader Mubarak Bala for Alleged “Blasphemy” April 28, 2020

Nigerian Police Arrest Humanist Leader Mubarak Bala for Alleged “Blasphemy”

Earlier today, Nigerian police arrested Mubarak Bala (below), President of the Humanist Association of Nigeria, for “blasphemy” after he allegedly posted criticism of Islam on his Facebook page.

This is the same Bala who was placed in a mental hospital in 2014 for the “crime” of being an atheist. He was later released, but that didn’t stop the threats on his life.

Today’s arrest apparently stems from a petition sent to local police saying that Bala characterized “Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) as a terrorist.”

… this is [a] racist and xenophobic attack…

We therefore humbly lodge this complaint to you with the hope that the said Mubarak Bala will brought to book so that he will know and understand that Nigeria is not a lawless society

To be clear, Nigeria’s Constitution guarantees freedom of religion and expression. His comments didn’t block anyone from practicing or expressing their faith. The problem is that Nigeria doesn’t even care about its own Constitution in these cases. Despite promoting religious freedom, the Constitution also allows Nigerian states to create Sharia courts. Under Sharia law, blasphemy is punishable by death.

Leo Igwe, who chairs the Board of Trustees for the Humanist Association of Nigeria, said he’s worried about what could happen to Bala:

All of us at the Humanist Association of Nigeria are deeply worried by the arrest and detention of our president, Mubarak Bala. Mubarak Bala will likely be handed over to the Kano state police command, that will prosecute him for blasphemy, a crime that caries a death sentence under sharia law.

The Center for Inquiry (which runs an international assistance program for activists called Secular Rescue) released this statement:

The Center for Inquiry supports and defends freedom of conscience, freedom of speech, freedom to criticize religion and dogma, and freedom of religious choice — including the choice not to be religious. We condemn in the strongest possible terms the arrest of Mubarak Bala and call for his immediate release.

People deserve protection, not beliefs. Ideas don’t need rights. People do.

The Center for Inquiry stands in solidarity with the Humanist Association of Nigeria. As President of HAN, Mubarak has been a courageous proponent of humanist values, equality, and freedom in his country. Nigerian authorities must drop these ridiculous charges and release Mubarak from the Gabasawa holding center.

This isn’t just posturing. Bala is in serious danger. You don’t have to celebrate what he said to know that offensive speech isn’t a crime. No government should be prosecuting people for merely offending others.

There’s a separate petition calling for Bala’s Facebook page to be removed. I’m not sure that petition will accomplish anything, but more than 16,000 people have already signed it.

***Update***: There is a fundraiser for Bala here, courtesy of a non-profit group called the International Association of Atheists.

(Thanks to Melissa for the link)

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