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 Christian and Islamic leaders.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: The context for social work and political engagement can come from the religious sectors of society. Often, though, societies create an environment more or less inhospitable to normal democratic processes for the secular. How can this improve in Nigeria?
Mubarak Bala: The secular system enshrined in the constitution also allowed for religious freedom, allowing the religions to also operate within the system, as long as the constitution remains supreme, sadly, its not the case.
We, the secular however, have operated with a mandate also extracted from the same constitution, we have for instance, helped not just the secular, in our social work, but all across the social strata, Humanists Global for example, has carried out several humanitarian works within Nigeria, even in Madrassas, where boys called the Almajiri are groomed to be exclusively Islamists, but we tutor them with secular values of humanism and education, with often gifts of pillows, blankets, shoes and food, which normally, they have to beg for on the streets.
Apparently, even the theological system could be bought over with aid and free education, and the clerics would normally look away, since they also are lacking in resources, in the poverty capital of the world, northern Nigeria.
Political engagements however, are a trinket of alternating buttons of secularism, theology, democratic, and attimes, dictatorial trumpism, it is normal in Nigeria, to have a politician or a political party, to have several voices and manifesto, depending on where or which community they seek votes. They preach the bible and or the koran when and where it suits them, especially in the local languages during townhalls, and preach secular democracy when abroad, or in International engagements. They preach tolerance at the centre, and play the tribal cards in the extreme regions. Certainly, we have a long way to go.
Jacobsen: How can the Christians and Muslims of the country be allies in this?
Bala: So far, funny enough, only humanist and atheistic activities seem to unite both divides that otherwise aim to eliminate the influences of one another, sometimes physically clashing in bloodshed.
The political class however, from either divide, tend to unite in looting and plunder, leaving both Muslim and Christian downtrodden to oppress one another as well.
It is our vision, to unite the divides with education, tolerance, rational thought, humanism and economic emancipation, we made headways… mostly on the internet. We however, suffer big big setbacks on the same platforms that are supposed to uphold free speech and liberal rights. Currently, many of our voices on facebook and twitter are under suspension, over ‘community standards’, hate speech allegations. The robots and algorithms hardly distinguish between criticism of religions and dogma, and actual intolerance and hate speech by religions and their zealots. We get reported often, and we get suspended, while Boko Haram propaganda accounts in Hausa/Arabic, still flourish and recruit.
Jacobsen: What Islamic leaders prevent social progress? What ones help it?
Bala: The clerics that laid the foundation of Boko Haram, sponsored by Saudi Arabia, the Wahhabists, and their counterparts the Shiites, sponsored by Iran, are still active. The government need their massive votes and so look away, unless faced with a real confrontation, such as the Abubakar Shekau Wahabism of Boko Haram and Ibrahim Zazzaki Shiism. Both are at war eith the government, for a decade, and half a decade respectively.
Other smaller actors are backed up by state legislature, such as the 12 states that operate with Islamic sharia law, and so, do their fanaticism legally, such as seizure of alcohol from resident Christians, banning cinema and merriment, arrest and forcible confession of liberal persons with funky hairstyle or indecent nonveiled dressing, because the keratinous hair and nail arouse virgin-seeking mullahs.
Those helping it to some degrees are the traditional rulers, speaking out loudly against conservative barbarism, such as orders by Quran to hit the wife, or locking up women in the kitchen, the Kano emir almost lost his seat to his liberal views, and the President embarrassed himself with a joke to Merkel in Germany, that his wife’s duties remain in his bedroom and kitchen.
Jacobsen: Same for the Christian leaders. What one hinder progress? What ones help move it? I mean progress for the secular and the religious not simply maintaining privilege for the religious.
Bala: They are mostly entrepreneurs, hardly hindering social progress, they just pay more attention to how to milk the ‘sheep’, and how to counter herdsmen and Boko Haram attacks, as well as how to give folks bigger manhoods at Church sermons, or how the woman could bear children… And other archaic stupidities Europe saw in the 1300s.
The political class, also delve into ‘the word’ to pick a word or two just to get acceptance, and sound as ancient Israel as possible. The lot are all funny not really a threat to social progress. So they extract legitimacy and privileges that benefits mostly themselves as the flock wallow under insecurity and poverty.
Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Mubarak, keep up the fight, I’m watching – for what it’s worth.
Bala: Thank you.
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: Scott.D.Jacobsen@Gmail.com.
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.
Image Credit: Mubarak Bala.