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. Humanists in Nigeria and some other African states have some of the toughest sensibilities built on real hardship unseen by much of the rest of the humanist movement. I like them, a lot. This makes their writing, often, cutting, direct, and no-nonsense with a sharp wit to boot. Here we talk about some more history of personal and professional punishment, imprisonment, even torture, based on the rejection of the supernaturalisms of the dominant cultures and communities, of Bala.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: What was the reason for the punishment by the religious fundamentalists against you?
Mubarak Bala: I was mostly threatened in the hope I recant and convert, the punishment was largely medical, with false diagnosis; I was administered epileptic drugs even as I was not.
The other punishments meted were isolation, boycott, seizure of assets by parents, and disinheritance, in hope that the elements get me. Several times I had nothing, and no friends, but other times, a few loyal friends and relatives come to the rescue.
The cultures are never tainted nor refined by the colonists here in the north. So, they are in their pristine forms, with all the accompanying misogyny and patriarchy, as well as elements of slavery and archaic punishments.
But I was lucky to be economically above the mob class, the middle class are mostly respected, as they have something to offer financially, which I did at most times, to be safe from those around me, of the lower socioeconomic class, which produces most of the mob.
Jacobsen: More on the state and punishment of nonbelievers. How did religion and state converge for the punishment of you?
Bala: The Kano government practices sharia, and when I left Kano, they announced that I have converted back, and that I have apologized for my blasphemy. The laws of the Federation are secular, and superior to the state’s laws, and as such, secular cities such as the capital, provided an escape.
The society mostly copies from the cultures of the Middle East and North Africa, and even though these cultures have long weaned off Islamism and are fighting it, in many fronts, the region here, makes sure no one wakes up, by tagging any progressive ideas as alien, western, satanic, bound for hell, and dangerous.
The real emancipation came with the internet, for this landlocked region, with the highest number of out of school children, highest birthrate globally, and the highest poverty rate.
The internet, not only brought home the information catalyst; no, it also allowed for secularists and rationalists to come together, form a community, socialize, help each other, befriend and network, as well as safely debate without actually meeting people, or jeopardizing their location and privacy.
Although, the big media locked us out; and the social media shuts down many of our accounts, based on the number of complaints over blasphemy and anonymity for those who could not really reveal their real identity. We endure, and forge ahead.
Atheist, agnostic and humanist ideals are now normalized even if not accepted. Instead of threats of actual violence, over the years, all we now endure is hate speech and threats of imagined monsters supposedly after we die naturally. A lot has been done, and there is progress…
Jacobsen: What were the justifications for the punishment of a nationally leading humanist with some international renowned?
Bala: Honor, prestige, conservatism, puritanism, narrow mindedness, fear of imagined gods, lessons to be set so others would not tread such path of apostasy.
In the end, they succeeded in only earning the cause more publicity, embarrassing themselves and rubbishing the system since they actually are corrupt, and also do such sins they caution against, sins they fear would be normalized, such as adultery and fornication, even as videos of their sexual escapades emerge online, with even little children.
In the end, though, something good happened, even theists now tilt aware from the hitherto trendy fanaticism, jihadism and fundamentalism, online, on-air and even in town hall gatherings.
It is all a new phenomena, a new social revolution, overturning the age-old system on itself. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter trends from northern Nigeria, is now awash with #MeToo like narratives, #NewIdeas as well as #SocialChange tags which most importantly, is led by young ladies, under 30, defiant and progressive. There is hope for the next generation.
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.