Washington, DC — 04/07/2022
Ex-Muslims of North America (EXMNA) strongly condemns the recent sentencing of Mubarak Bala, who was given 24 years in prison by Nigeria’s Kano State High Court for posting “blasphemous” content to Facebook.
Bala, president of the Humanist Association of Nigeria, had been an active proponent of secularism and freedom of conscience. An atheist and ex-Muslim, his activism has focused on the rights and dignities of non-believers in Nigeria’s predominantly Muslim north.
“To call what has happened in Nigeria a miscarriage of justice does not come close to capturing the enormity of this travesty,” said Sarah Haider, Executive Director of EXMNA. “Freedom of expression and conscience are non-negotiable human rights, and jailing someone for more than two decades for exercising those rights is monstrously cruel and amounts to a crime in itself. Nigerian authorities must immediately clear Mubarak Bala’s name and release him from custody.”
Prosecutors argued that, because they could be construed as insulting to Islam, Bala’s Facebook posts represented a threat to the peace, something EXMNA sharply criticizes.
“Authoritarian states with blasphemy laws almost always frame convictions in terms of ‘incitement,’ when in reality any criticism of religious belief, no matter how benign, is considered a threat,” said Muhammad Syed, president of EXMNA. “The Kano State High Court has used this as a pretext to punish Mubarak Bala merely for expressing his views on religion.”
Bala, who long maintained his innocence, pled guilty to the charges of blasphemy only after a protracted detainment of nearly two years. His lawyer has said that Bala believed the judge presiding over his case was “compromised,” which EXMNA says raises concerns about coercion and fairness in the trial.
“In deeply zealous environments where lines between religion and state are not clear, it is near impossible for persecuted atheists, agnostics, and religious minorities to do anything other than submit to social and legal pressure,” said Syed.
EXMNA continues to advocate for and demand the release of all who have been jailed or placed on death row for blasphemy and apostasy, as well as the repeal of all laws criminalizing blasphemy and apostasy worldwide.
Since 2013, Ex-Muslims of North America (EXMNA), an IRS registered 501 (c)(3) non-profit, has stood for the rights and dignities of those who leave Islam. Ex-Muslims of North America advocates for acceptance of religious dissent, promotes secular values, and aims to reduce discrimination faced by those who leave Islam.