MEMBERS of HAPI Scholars, a humanist organisation established in Philippines, have added their voices to international calls for the release of Mubarak Bala, who has been held in custody since April after being accused of insulting the prophet Mohammed.
The young humanists’ campaign for the release of Bala, President of the Humanist Association of Nigeria, was ramped up after Humanists International reported this week that Bala’s Fundamental Rights case was heard this week in Abuja, but the case was provisionally adjourned until December 10.
Humanists International and other organisations continue to call on the authorities to guarantee Bala’s fundamental rights, saying Bala must have unimpeded access to his lawyers and that he should be charged with a crime or released. If charged, he should be transferred to a neutral territory in order to ensure his right to a fair trial.
Speaking after the hearing, the lead lawyer for the Free Mubarak Bala campaign, James Ibor, said:
Our hope is rekindled and we are optimistic that justice will be served.
In calling for Bala releases, and the scrapping of blasphemy laws wherever they exist, HAPI reported that Bala became a cause célèbre in 2014 when he was detained and put in a psychiatric ward for his disbelief of the in the Islamic faith.
HAPI Scholar’s Chief Officer Javan Lev Poblador said:
We cannot just stand back and allow our fellow humanist to be stripped of his human rights just because he exercised his freedom of belief and freedom of expression.
Poblador also emphasised that it is high time to put an end to blasphemy laws and ensure that everyone’s rights are upheld no matter who and where they are.
HAPI Scholar Dane Haro added:
I want to say blasphemy laws belong in the bronze age but that wouldn’t be right… they don’t belong in any era, ever.
Glemir Sordilla, a scholar from Bacolod City and the Assistant Editor-in-Chief of HAPI posted an indignant rhetorical question on Facebook saying:
Where does blasphemy laws end and where does freedom of speech start?
Meanwhile Johnny Denden accused religious authorities of robbing people of their ability to reach their full potential.
Nigerian humanist and human rights advocate Leo Igwe, above, provided an in-depth analysis of the background to the case, pointing out that:
Bala came out as an ex-Muslim in 2014, and his family did not take it kindly. Bala’s father is a foremost Islamic scholar and one of those behind the implementation of sharia in Kano.
In response to his renunciation of Islam, Bala’s family consigned him to a mental hospital in Kano where he was treated as a psychiatric patient. Information about Bala’s maltreatment and persecution reached humanists and atheists who campaigned and rallied support. Humanists pressured the Nigerian authorities until Mubarak Bala was eventually released from the hospital.
Since Bala left the mental hospital in 2014, he has been the face of humanism, skepticism, and freethought in Northern Nigeria. Bala has been vocal in his criticism of Islam especially the violent campaign of jihadist groups such as Boko Haram.
In his posts comments and articles, Mr Bala continued to draw attention to the link between Islam as practiced in Nigeria and terrorism, poverty, and underdevelopment in Northern Nigeria.
Islamic authorities found Bala’s writings annoying and irritating. Bala was becoming a rallying point for many young critics and dissidents in the region. He was identified as the arrowhead of the emerging atheist, skeptical movement in the area. Until the emergence of Mubarak Bala, ex-Muslims have been in the closet and seldom go open and public with their views.
Hat Tip: Marissa Torres Langseth (Philippines report). Marissa is the Founder and Chairwoman Emeritus at HAPI – Humanist Alliance Philippines, International.