Mubarak Bala is one of the most articulate and intelligent humanists in the world today. Not heard of much in the mainstream of some of the secular discourses for several reasons, as Dr. Sikivu Hutchinson has been noting for years, Humanism remains Euro-centric, as in Caucasian and Western culture; nothing wrong with either the ethnic groupings or the culture, but the over-emphasis can exclude other voices deserving a platform, due respect and dignity, and a presentation of a different side of problems, experiences, and, thus, manifestations of Humanism in order to make Humanism true to the universalist visions and aims of Humanism and humanists. Here’s the catch if you’re not aware: Bala is in jail.
Or so we think, he could be dead. We really don’t know. And that’s another reason for considering this a crime and a human right injustice (violation). As the innovator and freethinking leader of Nigeria, Dr. Leo Igwe, has noted repeatedly, there is a long-term trend of persecution of atheists and humanists throughout Nigerian society with one of the biggest manifestations in the northern parts of Nigeria, especially places like Kano because of the strong adherence to fundamentalist versions of Islam. Igwe and Bala are brilliant people. They’re extremely well-known and articulate, in life and word, humanists. There’s no doubt some fundamentalist believers are relishing this persecution of Bala. Many humanists, around the world mind you, are not enjoying this one bit.
As this is part of an ongoing series of opinion pieces, as with Igwe and several others, we won’t stop until there is justice for Bala. We’ve won the media war on a number of fronts. Don’t doubt international humanists’ resolve in this matter, the religious fundamentalist have messed up on all fronts in handling this case; if they want even a semblance of ass-covering, then one way in which to do this would be the release or fair trial in a secular court of Bala. Even in those cases, there would be failure on their parts. There’s only damage control left for this fundamental mistake on the part religious fundamentalists to try to subvert proper law and order, and international human rights, and the rights due to the President of the Humanist Association of Nigeria as stipulated in the Nigerian constitution.
We didn’t want this campaign; we didn’t want this fight. It was thrust on the community based on the bigotry, fear, prejudice, and superiority complex inherent in some religious minds, usually fundamentalist, about the non-religious. For this post, I want to focus the penal code of Kano in brief. Because this was part of the longer article the day of the arrest of Bala, unjustly. S.S. Umar & Co. were the ones filing the complaint to the police from Kano about a Facebook post by Bala in Kaduna. Bala was dragged out of his own place of residence by two out of uniform cops and then placed in jail. This entire situation is unfair and should be openly condemned from the outset. I know moderate and ordinary Christians in southern Nigeria and moderate and ordinary Muslims in northern Nigeria know the justice due to Bala because of the outrageous acts being demanded in order to appease religious fundamentalists in northern Nigeria.
We have international humanist support. We have ordinary religious believers’ support. It is only a small minority of religious fundamentalist believers who have proclaimed themselves the arbiters of the faith for all Muslims, which, in and of itself, should be seen as, and probably is perceived as, a blasphemous act or behaviour within the conceptualization of the ordinary Muslims and Christians in northern Nigeria and southern Nigeria, respectively. Nigeria, technically, has a secular constitution; as a fundamental tenet of Humanism, in some regards, is a separation between religion and state, or faith and governance.
The Penal Code of Kano State has a subtext of being a Sharia law-based legal code in which religion becomes imposed on the entirety of the population of Kano while within a larger context of Nigeria’s secular or humanistic constitution. How is this not wrong? How is this not unfair and unjust, and illegal in some manner? Because it has a larger secular law for all and then a secondary religious law precisely for the religious only; a religious or faith-based law that many want to impose on Mubarak Bala in which a humanist, an atheist, and a former Muslim would be subject to the death penalty because of the religious zealots who a) cannot handle open criticism, b) cannot handle an open and extremely intelligent and articulate humanist, c) cannot handle a prominent leader within the humanist communities, and d) cannot handle a individual who uses freedom of expression guaranteed within the constitutional setup of Nigeria. This is, fundamentally, unjust and shall be challenged by humanists, whether Humanists International, or the Humanist Association of Nigeria, or individual activists like Dr. Sikivu Hutchison, Mandisa Thomas, and others.
There are towering figures like the aforementioned and Professor Anthony Pinn who have provided an in-depth and rich intellectual analysis and contextualization for comprehension of the issues facing us as humanists. It is useful here. And to all humanists young and old, how ever much they may make you feel unwelcome and as if you’re not deserving of and granted the same human rights as them, these are your societies and your global community and, therefore, your identical rights too.
As per the complaint from S.S. Umar & Co., they stated, Bala “publically [insulted] Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) on his Facebook page contrary to Section 210 of the Penal Code of Kano State ad Section 26(1)(c) of the Cybercrimes (Prohibitions, Prevention, Etc.) Act of 2015.”
Cybercrimes (Prohibitions, Prevention, Etc.) Act of 2015 Section 26(1)(c) states:
26. (1) Any person who with intent –
(c) insults publicly through a computer system or network–
(i) persons for the reason that they belong to a group distinguished by race, colour, descent or national or ethnic origin, as well as religion, if used as a pretext for any of these factors; or
(ii) a group of persons which is distinguished by any of these characteristics;
What does this complaint mean? It implies a dead man, a man six feet under (or purportedly in heaven), has been insulted. How can someone know this? By principle of parsimony, a more pragmatic interpretation is a select group of Muslims claiming to speak for all Muslims feel insulted over a Facebook post and, thus, declare this an insult to a dead man – leaving aside the idea of a religion being insulted.
I have seen on social media numerous death threats against Bala because he is an atheist (or a humanist and a former Muslim). In this, the real crime radar should be utilized to focus more rightly on real individuals making more than insulting claims and, in fact, declarations of public intent to murder against an individual because of a set of beliefs and a particular rejection of a systematized religious series of beliefs. Who is this justice system kidding? Bala should be released without question or given a fair trial in a secular court; otherwise, the logical implication, by the penal code and the cybercrimes bill would imply a far more grievous and larger set of open charges, by their own stipulations, of the need to jail and potentially charge numerous individuals proclaiming open harm against a living individual, Mubarak Bala.
Free Mubarak Bala.
Image Credit: Mubarak Bala.