Ask Mubarak 2 – This is Nigeria: Freedom of Expression for the Secular

by | April 4, 2019

By Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Mubarak Bala is the President of the Humanist Association of Nigeria. We will be conducting this educational series to learn more about humanism and secularism within Nigeria. Here we talk about Nigerian freethought and freedom of expression.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: In a song by Falz, inspired by the work of Childish Gambino, entitled “This is Nigeria,” one of the reactions to the video reflects something interesting around the world.

The religious preachers, pastors, imams, and others, at times, can simply spread falsehoods without consequence, e.g., legal action or other threats. Then someone – Falz – speaks, in an artistic production, on organized religion and gets a threat of legal action by a religious organization, the Muslim Rights Concern.

Does this reflection a typical double standard in the discourse towards Nigerian society’s arts and culture community by the religious? Does this reflect other issues around freedom of expression for secular compared to other Nigerians?

Because they have this right to freedom of expression in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights Article 19 and the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria in Section 39(1).

Mubarak Bala: Typically, secularists and atheists the world over, are quiet misunderstood and often misrepresented. 

The more the society is religious the higher the contempt and disdain. They think it’s a favor to befriend or even allow you live, have a job or date you. 

The video by FALZ drew their ire, but they quickly realized, that they were giving the song more popularity with the controversy and withdrew their threat of litigation. 

There are funnier incidences, sometimes they win, other times they lose. But the positive outcome of it is that our community gets more analysis by the typical, normal citizens, and they now see us for who we are. 

Just this morning, see what I woke up to:

In fact, this incidence you mentioned was not the first, two years ago, Akon and a few other Hollywood stars intervened in a case of a Muslim actress from northern Nigeria, after we publicized her case online, so vigorously that the clerics were forced to swallow their fatwa.  

They decreed that she should marry, and banned her from Kannywood, the local film industry. Her crime: singing and holding hands with a male teenager. Her name is Rahma Sadau, her co-singer, Classiq. A Christian male from the region. 

Her case gave them the shivers because he is controversial, does not conform to the conservative rules they imposed and fights misogyny in the industry. A Muslim girl with a nonMuslim associating even if on camera is strictly frowned upon. 

When Goodluck Jonathan (President 2010-2015) provided seed money in billions of naira, millions in dollars, to fund the booming northern Nigerian film industry dominated by Muslims, the clerics moaned and fought it with all their might, until it was scrapped. An attempted revival by the current President also hit the rocks, as the clerics lobby has great voting blocks in the region. 

Ironically, a few months after their jihad against this ‘Zionist agenda’ to dilute Muslim morality with joy and entertainment, the Saudi Prince, MBS launched his cinema and entertainment industry, so huge that Hollywood would be jealous. The clerics were now confused. 

So all in all, in this region of the world, conservatives try hard to fight art, liberalism, secularism as well as anything new. They mostly target the female more, FALZ just happened to show girls in hijab dancing the ‘Shaku Shaku’, which is what really caught their attention. 

He was drawing attention to recent abductions and forceful conversations to Islam, of Christian students in northern Nigeria. Those that did not, are killed or enslaved, as Islam would have wanted. 

Just this week, my long term friend and Humanist publicly discarded humanism and converted to Islam at the national Mosque in the capital, when online zealots raised ire, that she was promoting sex education by selling sex items and or providing counsel about male and female orgasm. 

The online Mullahs of the fanatic sect of Islam called for her boycott, and sternly warned her, her apologies only drew more to call for her head. She then decided to seek the best protection around, since we could not help her with anything beyond online defense, neither would the government. 

She is now donning the ‘Proud to be a Muslim’ tag on her Facebook page, Muneerat Abdussalam, and the region, is celebrating her, including those that just a few days ago posted that they would mob her and behead her. 

It is either a case of genuine conversion through Stockholm Syndrome, or a ploy to be safe, as all the other atheists do in this part of the world, be safe, just to survive. 

I knew what she’s going through when she says they almost made her commit suicide due to the threats. I knew exactly how it feels. Then I know, at least I’m male, it is why I was spared. They hate women more. 

Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Mubarak.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He authored/co-authored some e-books, free or low-cost. If you want to contact Scott:

Do not forget to look into our associates: Godless Mom, Nice Mangoes, Sandwalk, Brainstorm Podcast, Left at the Valley, Life, the Universe & Everything Else, The Reality Check, Bad Science Watch, British Columbia Humanist Association, Dying With Dignity Canada, Canadian Secular Alliance, and Centre for Inquiry Canada.

Other Resources: Recovering From Religion.

Photo by Habila Mazawaje on Unsplash

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