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Mubarak Bala: Blasphemy Allegations, Religious Oppression and Muslim Majority in Northern Nigeria

USCIRF Condemns Arrest of Prominent Nigerian Atheist, Mubarak Bala

Where is Mubarak Bala?

It is now almost four weeks since the police arrested Nigerian atheist, Mubarak Bala following a petition that he insulted the prophet of Islam. The police have, in the quest to appease the petitioners and the Islamist base, held Mr. Bala incommunicado, without access to lawyers and family members. The police have yet to charge him in court. And in an apparent endorsement of the detention, the Islamic establishment has remained silent in the face of this outrage. There has not been any press statement from Islamic organizations regarding the case of Mubarak Bala. A few Muslim clerics have spoken out but in support of the arrest and detention of Mr Bala. The Ulama councils have yet to condemn the abuse and maltreatment of Mr. Bala including the several death threats that Muslims have issued against him. In this piece, I argue that Muslims are taking undue advantage of their numerical strength in Kano and other parts of Northern Nigeria to oppress and persecute Mr. Bala and other non-Muslims in the region.

According to Nigeria’s religious demographics, Muslims are dominant in Northern Nigeria. And most of them live in the Northeast and Northwest Nigeria. While some think that the dominance of the muslim population is real, others are of the view that Muslim majoritarian demographics are exaggerated; that they are due to lack of a credible census and the machinery of forced/violent Islam in the region.

Mr. Bala was born in Kano but he resides in Kaduna. Muslims claim to be the dominant population in these places. Mr. Bala allegedly made posts on his Facebook page. Meanwhile Facebook is a company that is headquartered in California, not in Kano or Kaduna. According to the petitioners, the posts suggested that Muhammad was a terrorist and a pedophile.

Now look at this, some Muslims lodged a petition with the police in Kano and police detectives came and arrested Mr. Bala in Kaduna and took him to Kano where he is currently held for allegedly committing a crime on Facebook. The Facebook company is headquartered in the US. By the way, the assumption is that Mr. Bala is still alive even though no one that I know has seen Mr. Bala since police detectives whisked him away on April 29. There are legitimate concerns over his life, health, and human rights. The police have yet to formally charge him. They have informally stated that Bala’s posts breached public peace.

Unfortunately, the police are subjecting Mr. Bala to maltreatment and abuse in an attempt to appease the Muslim majority base in Kano. If Bala were a Muslim and made critical comments about Jesus as Muslims do all the time, would the police have arrested and detained him the way they have done in the case of Mr. Bala? If Bala were a muslim cleric and posted on social media comments that incite hate and violence against nonbelievers, would the police have arrested him?

In fact if Bala were a Christian from the south and living in the south and made these posts on Facebook, it is unlikely that the police would have arrested him for breaching public peace.

If for instance, non-Muslims in Southern Nigeria post on their Facebook that the prophet of Islam is a terrorist, a pedophile, a rapist or a war criminal, would Muslims petition them for making those annoying and provoking comments? Would the police arrest all of them for blasphemy, for insulting the prophet of Islam and for breaching public peace?

Muslims are persecuting Mr. Bala because they are in the majority in Kano and most of the northern Nigerian states. His current predicament is a factor of islamic privilege. Bala is a victim of oppressive Muslim majority that holds sway in the region. Over the years, Muslims have capitalized on their dominance to impose sharia law and turn non-Muslims into second class citizens in their country.

They have gotten away with so many atrocities and crimes against humanity. For instance, they have killed and jailed those who made comments that were critical of Islam and the prophet. They have carried out extrajudicial murder of those who allegedly desecrated the Quran. They have provided a subsoil for the operation of vicious militant groups, such Boko Haram and their affiliates. Now Muslims in Kano are deploying their oppressive majority against Mr. Bala for making comments that were critical of the prophet of Islam.

Meanwhile as part of their everyday talk, Muslim individuals and Islamic scholars make comments that are critical of other religions and other prophets. They incite hatred and violence against non-Muslims and nonbelievers daily. Muslims post statements on Facebook that make a caricature of non-Muslim beliefs and practices. So it is important to remind Muslims in Kano that they are not always in the majority; and they should stop abusing their numerical strength in Kano and other parts of the region. In fact, in many parts of Nigeria, Muslims are in the minority and they make comments and posts similar to Mr. Bala’s. But no one arrests them. No one petitions them. No one threatens to murder them as Muslims have threatened in the case of Bala.

Muslims in Kano and other parts of Northern Nigeria should bear in mind that, as a saying goes: The majority will have their way, but the minority will have their say. Incidentally, Muslim majority in the region wants to have both their way and their say. They are unwilling to concede any say-space even on Facebook to the minorities. Nonreligious minorities like atheists should have their say online and offline. Muslims should not police their thoughts and expressions. Muslims cannot continue to deny minorities their right to freely express their ideas and beliefs. They should not criminalize expressions that are critical of Islam and the prophet. Muslims should not capitalize on their demographics to oppress and persecute non-Muslims including atheists with impunity.

Free Mubarak Bala.

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