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 a history of personal and professional punishment, imprisonment, even torture, based on the rejection of the supernaturalisms of the dominant cultures and communities.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: You were punished by religious believers. How long, and in what ways? Why is this permitted by the culture in Nigeria?
Mubarak Bala: Well Scott, I was punished not just with the dumping in a psychiatric asylum, I was out a year plus, having been closeted half a decade. I was sanctioned and counselled, carrots mostly, in hope, but I also stayed, hoping to normalize relations and my secular life.
When my replies always became same, bold, blasphemous and sincere, they now sought prayer and psych analysis, this is what religion demands, after which, you have a 3-day ultimatum, die, or recant.
As I was drugged and put in that hospital, my father picked my phone and recanted, apologized and posted to the public, my reconversion back to Islam. He hoped by the time I woke up, I would be back to normal sense, back to their normal. I woke up angry.
It was 18 days, and was allowed visitation by govt. officials, clerics, family, and lawyers, all due to your action online. I thank you.
Before long, even the leader of Boko Haram has heard, and threatened me, raining curses, that this is what education entails for the northern Nigerian elite… leaving lovely Allah, an Allah so dear to both Boko Haram and northern Muslims.
This is all permitted by the culture in the north, because the region is unique, operates outside of the world system. We were never colonized, just a contact by the British mostly to our emirates as an indirect rule, they never wanted to disturb much of the system and stability built by the Usman danfodio Jihad, a century earlier, the region is too far from the coast, too vast, and too many people to rule without a possible mob action, we still are too many, a century later, the largest despondent human concentration in the world, largest uneducated, largest number of poor, largest fanatical populace, largest unemployed, this is why even today, the federal govt. has to look away, when parents, husbands, and males own their kids, and determine their lives, even in adulthood. Emirates still hold slaves. Too much conservatism. A 12-year-old will marry a 53-year-old, just as the best life is to copy the best of mankind, dare make an arrest, and Nigeria may be no more…
Jacobsen: You were punished by the state. The state endorses religion in several countries, explicitly and implicitly. How long, and in what ways?
Bala: I was never punished by the state, the governor had a Federal ambition, so cannot be seen by southern voters as an Islamic zealot, and rightly so, they mostly see sharia as a political liability, for the poor, uneducated, which meant deep down, I relieved them.
I was however left unprotected, unhelped, forlorn, left for picking, either by mob or by poverty, I was an IDP with no friends and no help, running around from place to place. But it is my life, my land, my region, I made sure I survived, because I anticipated worse, and devised ways to survive over the closet years. I still am alive today, normalizing humanism, a thorn they hate, but unhindered.
There are only 12 states of 36 in Nigeria that implemented the Sharia in 1999-2002. Others are secular. I live in Kano (home) and Kaduna (work) and visit Abuja, (the safest), and eke out survival tactics everyday. I plan to be President someday in future. It is going well, even in the Sharia states.
Jacobsen: What were the justifications for the punishment of a nationally leading humanist with some international renowned?
Bala: If I had died, by family punishment, a committee may be set up, paper work and money would pass around, and no one would go to jail, none may die.
If sharia had acted on me, I will still be tried shoddy, though the clerics would spew it just so the mob behead me lawless, in court, or in police custody, or in prison, it has happened before.
If the mob did it, no one would be arrested, politicians would only make noise, you from far away Saner Climes, would write, fuss, blog, spew and haggle, but I will stay dead, life will go on, and I am not even a Khasshoggi, so I would be forgotten far sooner.
If poverty had killed me, it is only natural they’d say, but is it? When friends left, family absconded, help ceased, I went hungry alone in my room, licking dry pepper, sugar and water, just to balance the electrolytes in the blood, no one knew… I would even post funny jokes on facebook… Those were hard times, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016, with some respite time to time, with help from Saner Climes, individual and Organizations… I thank all.
I am very comfortable now, with a job and contingency plan. But the government did not help. I was mostly alone, still mostly alone, the internet is my lifeline, my small zoo gives me happiness, and made a few friends here and there. Times have changed.
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: Scott.D.Jacobsen@Gmail.com.
Canadian Atheist 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, Centre for Inquiry Canada, Kelowna Atheists, Skeptics, and Humanists Association.
Other National/Local Resources: Association humaniste du Québec, Atheist Freethinkers, Central Ontario Humanist Association, Comox Valley Humanists, Grey Bruce Humanists, Halton-Peel Humanist Community, Hamilton Humanists, Humanist Association of London, Humanist Association of Ottawa, Humanist Association of Toronto, Humanists, Atheists and Agnostics of Manitoba, Ontario Humanist Society, Secular Connextions Seculaire, Secular Humanists in Calgary, Society of Free Thinkers (Kitchener-Waterloo/Cambridge/Guelph), Thunder Bay Humanists, Toronto Oasis, Victoria Secular Humanist Association.
Other International/Outside Canada Resources: Allianz vun Humanisten, Atheisten an Agnostiker, American Atheists,American Humanist Association, Associação Brasileira de Ateus e AgnósticoséééBrazilian Association of Atheists and Agnostics, Atheist Alliance International, Atheist Alliance of America, Atheist Centre, Atheist Foundation of Australia, The Brights Movement, Center for Inquiry (including Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science), Atheist Ireland, Camp Quest, Inc., Council for Secular Humanism, De Vrije Gedachte, European Humanist Federation, Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations, Foundation Beyond Belief, Freedom From Religion Foundation, Humanist Association of Ireland, Humanist International, Humanist Association of Germany, Humanist Association of Ireland, Humanist Society of Scotland, Humanists UK, Humanisterna/Humanists Sweden, Internet Infidels, International League of Non-Religious and Atheists, James Randi Educational Foundation, League of Militant Atheists, Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, National Secular Society, Rationalist International, Recovering From Religion, Religion News Service, Secular Coalition for America, Secular Student Alliance, The Clergy Project, The Rational Response Squad, The Satanic Temple, The Sunday Assembly, United Coalition of Reason, Union of Rationalist Atheists and Agnostics.
Image Credit: Mubarak Bala.