We’ve written to Winston Peters, Minister of Foreign Affairs, to interceed on behalf of the President of the Humanist Society of Nigeria, Mubarak Bala, who has been detained and accused of Blasphemy after he allegedly posted criticism of Islam on his Facebook page.

Read our letter to the Minster below:

The Honourable Winston Peters
Minister of Foreign Affairs

Dear Minister

We thank you for your letter of 25 April 2020 in response to our concerns for Professor Mahmoud Jama Ahmed in Somalia facing the accusations of blasphemy. Thank you for the action you have taken. We have advised Humanists International, who are also appreciative. 

Unfortunately and with urgent concern, we need to contact you again as today, 29 April 2020, we have had the news that another African human rights activist and the President of the Humanist Society of Nigeria, Mubarak Bala, has been detained and accused of Blasphemy after he allegedly posted criticism of Islam on his Facebook page.

In 2014 Mubarak Bala, was committed to a psychiatric hospital for being an atheist. After an international campaign, Mubarak was freed. When he was freed from the psychiatric ward a second campaign was launched to enable Mubarak to seek asylum in North America, where he would be safe from further accusations. However, Mubarak refused this life-line knowing that his activism was needed more in Nigeria. Mubarak stayed in Nigeria despite the willingness of many people to fight for him to obtain asylum, and despite the danger, because he knew someone had to do something to change the atmosphere in Nigeria. In the last six years, Mubarak has become a prolific humanist activist in Nigeria, helping the secular movement grow there.

As we have previously said, HSNZ is proud that in March 2019 our Government repealed New Zealand’s archaic Blasphemy Law. People must not be condemned for expressing an idea. Ideas must always be able to be discussed in a rational and informed manner. Blasphemy laws are not and never have been hate speech laws.

Nigeria’s Constitution guarantees freedom of religion and expression and Mubarak’s comments did not block anyone from practising or expressing their faith. However, despite promoting religious freedom, the Constitution also allows Nigerian states to create Sharia courts. Under Sharia law, blasphemy is punishable by death.  

Below are two links to news reports of Mubarak Bala’s arrest:

Activist Arrested In Kaduna For ‘Insulting Prophet Muhammad’ On Facebook

We ask that the Government of New Zealand intercede with the Nigerian Government or take whatever possible action to urgently ensure Mubarak Bala’s safety.

Sincere regards

Gaylene Middleton
Humanist Society of New Zealand