Atheists Try to Help Locked Up Nigerian Atheist #FreeMubarak

Mubarak Bala
Mubarak Bala

29-year-old Mubarak Bala, a Nigerian man, has been locked up inside a mental health institution after he told his family members he had no faith in God and he is an atheist. Campaigners have been circulating a petition to garner votes that will ensure Bala is released from the institution, where he has been admitted forcibly against his will. According to the campaigners, this case is only one of the several examples that highlight how atheists are a persecuted minority in Africa.

Bala, whose Twitter handle is ExMuslim, is a resident of Kano, a predominantly Muslim locality in north Nigeria that adopted the Sharia law in 2000 and deploys Islamic police known as the Hisbah.

The International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) has taken up Bala’s case and according to them, after Bala told his family that he had renounced Islam, they forced him to a doctor to ensure he was not mentally ill. The doctor said Bala was perfectly healthy but his family members refused to accept that and turned to a second doctor for advice, which is when they were told that Bala’s atheism was the result of his split-personality. Thereafter, Bala was admitted to Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital on June 13, where he has been since, without good reason. However, he managed to use several phones that were smuggled into the institution to send emails and tweets to the outside world, seeking immediate help.

“And the biggest evidence of my mental illness was large blasphemies and denial of 'history' of Adam, and apostasy, to which the doctor said was a personality change, that everyone needs a God, that even in Japan they have a God… And my brother added that all the atheists I see have had mental illness at some point in their life,” he wrote.

In different tweets, Bala has described how he was strangled by his father, beaten by his uncles and sedated by his brother. He explained in another tweet about his father’s stance: “Being a leader, in the forefront of Islami movement in Nigeria, he can't afford to have a nonmuslim family member, so he declared me insane.”

However, Bala’s father has a different story to tell. According to him, he was aware of Bala’s renouncing of Islam and did not have a problem with it but, he grew concerned when Bala started going public about his atheism, fearing people in the neighbourhood would harm his son or lynch him to death.

Mohammad Bello Shehu, the father’s lawyer, said there is some doubt over Bala’s mental state so they are awaiting an independent psychiatric analyst to assess the situation. Reportedly, Bala has been shifted from a private room to the public ward and the authorities at the institution have confiscated his latest phone as well.

Bamidele Adeneye, secretary of the Nigerian Humanist Movement, said, “I met Mubarak online a while ago and he seemed very lucid, intelligent and witty as well as bold and courageous. What amazed me was that he's a Muslim atheist, which is very rare in Nigeria… If you speak to Mubarak you'll know there is nothing wrong with him… Basically, he told them he didn't believe in the Adam and Eve story or in Allah. The constitution clearly states that you have a right to be religious or non-religious. It is a violation of human rights… There are Islamic police in Kano. I fear for his life. Somebody might go to the hospital to attack him. We are trying to get him out. I'm scared because if it can happen to him it can happen to me.”

IHEU has expressed concern over Bala’s condition, noting that he has grown weak over the last few days. The organization has joined human rights advocates and humanists in Nigeria to ensure a doctor reassesses Bala’s situation immediately and recommends his release at the earliest.

“It appears that a warped notion of family honour is the motivation for pressuring Mubarak in this appalling manner, to conform to religious views that he simply doesn't hold. This is an abhorrent violation of his freedom of thought and belief,” said Bob Churchill, spokesperson for IHEU.

Below is the link to the petition that will help set Bala free:

Petition to Free Mubarak Bala -

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