Pressure button buzzes endlessly on the Nigerian government, the police authorities and Nigerian Muslims for the release of Mubarak Bala – a Religion Activist.
The pressure comes from civil societies, Humanist groups, Nigerian Muslims (who decry the arrest), sympathisers on the social media and activists, amongst others.
Bala is a vocal Nigerian humanist accused of blasphemy and has been arrested and taken to the northern city of Kano, with police not disclosing where he is being held.
He’s the son of a respected Islamic scholar. He has been audaciously vocal about religion in the conservative northern Nigeria where Islam is held in high esteem.
Bala had posted comments critical of Islam and religion on his Facebook profile recently and he had received a surge of online accusations of blasphemy and threats. Then he later said he’d resort to more mildly critical posts and humour.
He renounced Islam in 2014 and his family forced him into a psychiatric facility in Kano but was later discharged. Renouncing Islam is perceived as ‘lunacy’ in some Islamic quarters in Nigeria.
He is the president of the Humanist Association of Nigeria and was reportedly taken from his home on 28 April in neighbouring Kaduna state and taken to Kano.
A a warrant for his arrest was issued in Kano as reported by Leo Igwe, a fellow Nigerian humanist and human rights advocate.
Igwe said: “We condemn his arrest and are extremely worried because this came after several threats made by the religious community in Kano. They are likely to try him under sharia law in Kano, which could lead to capital punishment.”
Sharia law holds in 12 states of Muslim dominated northern Nigeria. Blasphemy is punishable by death in Kano – one of the twelve states.
Igwe said police had denied Bala access to a lawyer and had not said what the charges were, heightening fears for his safety. He revealed further Bala had received lots of death threat from highly placed people in northern Nigeria, as he is perceived to be desecrating Islam.
Humanist UK, the leading British humanist society condemns the arrest in strong terms .
Speaking against Islam or claiming to be atheist is ‘suicidal’ in northern Nigeria. Nigeria is a very ‘hypocritically’ religious society.
Northern Nigeria is largely dominated by Muslims and southern Nigeria by Christians.