FFRF lambastes government persecution of Nigerian atheist

Mubarak BalaThe Freedom From Religion Foundation demands that Nigeria release a freethinker, arrested in late April for blasphemy, who has vanished from view.

Mubarak Bala, head of a humanist association in Nigeria and an outspoken atheist and organizer, criticized the prophet Muhummad on Facebook on April 25, was detained three days later and has not been seen since, reports the New York Times. Anti-blasphemy penalties in Nigeria include the death sentence.

Nearly 70 countries have blasphemy laws, with more than a third of those countries located in Africa. These laws violate our most essential rights: the freedom of thought, freedom of religion and freedom of speech.

Bala’s wife, Amina Ahmed, just gave birth to their first child six weeks before Bala’s arrest and has been working to find out any information about her husband since, including petitioning the Nigerian Senate and visiting the national police — all while fearing for her own safety.

The U.S. government has not done much to help Bala. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (an independent bipartisan federal entity) condemned his arrest in May, but the State Department has been publicly silent, as far as FFRF can tell.

“If Mike Pompeo would do his job as secretary of state, rather than spending his time promoting a Christian Nationalist agenda and compiling absurd reports that privilege conservative Christians over every other citizen, countries might be more hesitant to disappear atheists, humanists and other nonbelievers,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor, referring to Pompeo’s Commission on Unalienable Rights. The commission’s recent report effectively created a hierarchy of rights, favoring religious belief and actions that stem from conservative religious belief above every other right.

FFRF has documented the history of blasphemy law in the United States, including the fact that several states still have blasphemy laws on the books (though none are enforceable).

“Blasphemy is the original victimless crime,” says FFRF Co-President Dan Barker, “If an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent being can’t handle a little criticism and needs human laws for protection, well, that’s an excellent argument against the existence of such a being. By their own warped standard, blasphemy laws are inherently blasphemous.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is urging the Nigerian authorities to release Bala — and the Trump administration to do its utmost to ensure Bala’s well-being.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity, is the nation's largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics), and has been working since 1978 to keep religion and government separate.

FFRF is a non-profit, educational organization. All dues and donations are deductible for income-tax purposes.

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FFRF is a member of the Secular Coalition for America

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