Mubarak Bala, an atheist detained and medicated in a psychiatric ward in Kano state, Nigeria, claimed – while he still had access to a phone – that his family put him in hospital because of his outspoken atheism. Mubarak’s father, Muhammed Bala, has now denied this. In a statement in the Daily Trust, in which Muhammed Bala also happens to write a weekly column, the father says his son had shown unspecified signs of “abnormality” and that religion (or lack of it) had nothing to do with Mubarak’s committal to the hospital.
After all, says the statement, he is free to “believe and practice whatever he chooses”. Nice sentiments indeed! However, these liberal sentiments are rather in tension Muhammed’s role at the Islamist “Directorate of Societal Reorientation”, and they are certainly in conflict with both his earlier statement s to Mubarak’s lawyer, and to his writing for the very newspaper that now trumpets his liberal attitude.The protestations of liberalism come from an article in today’s Daily Trust (30 Jun 2014), under the headline, “Family denies holding son captive for renouncing Islam”. It quotes the lawyer representing the father of Mubarak Bala, who offered the following information:
<blockquote”Before any issue of belief came up, Mubarak had shown abundant signs of abnormality subsequent to which competent medical professionals have diagnosed him with a challenging psychiatric condition (details withheld to protect patients confidentiality, as contained in the hospital’s press release),” said the family statement. It said as an enlightened family, it “understands and respects individual human rights” and that as an adult, Mubarak is free to “believe and practice whatever he chooses” in accordance with the Nigerian and international human rights instruments. The family requested the public to respect its privacy and that of the patient as he continues with medical treatment saying no one could love him more than his family.”
At first glance this appears to show a family that is doing the best they can to help treat a young man suffering with mental illness. However, I have done a little digging into the background of Mohammed Bala, Mubarak’s father and the picture painted in his own words shows a man who is far from understanding when it comes to religious freedom, especially if that means renouncing Islam.Muhammed Bala is the Director General of the Kano State of Nigeria’s Directorate of Societal Reorientation. This is an organization the main function of which is to administer the enforcement of Shariah law.I will now quote Al Alam, King Hassan II of Morocco from a statement to a commission on human rights in 1990:
“If a Muslim says, ‘I have embraced another religion instead of Islam,’ he — before he is called to repentance — will be brought before a group of medical specialists, so that they can examine him to see if he is still in his right mind. After he has then been called to repentance, but decides to hold fast to the testimony of another religion not coming from Allah — that is, not Islam — he will be judged.”
Under Sharia law, the judgement is death.I’ll let that sink in for a moment.Mubarak Bala’s father heads an organization that enforces the death penalty for apostasy. Does that sound like the head of an enlightened family? I suppose Mohammed Bala could be given the benefit of the doubt, if only I hadn’t found these little nuggets of wisdom. All of which are his own words (from his weekly newspaper column in the paper now running one-sided stories in his defence):
“There isn’t much left to say except that for a Muslim home the most dangerous part about the TV is that it corrodes Islamic values. All the rotten attitudes of characters on TV have turned generations of innocent young children into monsters which even their parents cannot recognize. Added to that, the TV is without doubt the most powerful propaganda machine ever created by man. Want to make the masses believe in something? Show it on TV. In this way our children accept the worked ideologies of the atheists and liberals without even being consciously aware of it!”
Clearly, Mohammed Bala is at odds with the modern world and sees even television as an attack on his fundamentalist world view. Moreover, this man who supposedly doesn’t mind what beliefs his son has, takes it as a fundamental axiom that atheism is wrong, something that one’s children shouldn’t hold. But it gets better, go back a few years and you can find this article entitled, “Remembering Imam Hasan al Banna”. This was the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, the transnational political Islamist movement whose stated goal is to instill Islamic texts as the “sole reference point for …ordering the life of the Muslim family, individual, community … and state.” Muhammed Bala describes him as a “hero”, which is true for many, perhaps, for whom Islam is a political recipe. But the article is a weird tangle of justifications for why “Muslims are angry with the West”, the usual Islamist tropes about colonial powers “hobnobbing with Zionists” and what appears to be a plea “to understand why Al Qaeda had to evolve”.
“one need to understand the impact of the teachings of Imam Hasan Al Banna on the Ikhwan’s leading ideologue, Sayyid Qutb. And then contemplate the influence of Sayyid Qutb on his brother Muhammad Qutb. And then reflect on the impact of the younger Qutb on Ayman Al Zawahiri, ideologue of Al Qaeda, and then Zawahiri’s influence on Osama bin Laden, who needs no introduction, and finally Osama’s impact on Mullah Muhammad Umar and the Taliban.”
Another article entitled, Hamas, The Faith Triumphant contains the following:
“With each passing day of the Israeli aggression against the Palestinians, with each additional death of a child or mother, Muslims all over the world are becoming more militant, more fundamentalist, more jihadic. This is very ominous for the West, on whose behalf Israel is doing what it is doing. Samuel Huntington, who died on December 24 last year, wrote Clash of Civilisations. Now, more than ever before, this Clash is at hand. The call a few days ago by Osama bin Laden for Muslims to take up arms against Israel has been ayed [sic]by many all over the world. But for the Western-propped Arab regimes encircling Gaza, many young people would have gone into the Strip to join the martyr army of Hamas.”
Am I the only one to think that Mohammed Bala is looking forward to it? He does seem rather enamoured of the idea of a Jihad.
Within the same article, he compares the state of Israel to a “shark in the arab tank”. So I ask you, do you honestly think we can reasonably be expected to accept that Mohammed Bala is the head of an enlightened family that respects freedom of religion or freedom from religion?
Mubarak Bala has been beaten by his family, drugged and imprisoned in a secure psychiatric ward for no other reason than for daring to declare himself to be an atheist and renouncing Islam. These are the words of Mubarak himself, and his story has been corroborated to the #FreeMubarak campaign by hospital sources, his lawyer, and visiting friends who deny any notion that he has mental problems, let alone that he could be so dangerously psychotic that he must be detained against his will!
One last point: I know from the #FreeMubarak Bala campaign that the lawyer was told, person to person by Muhammed Bala, that the reason they forced him to the hospital, and convinced the doctors to take him, was “for his own safety”. Not because he was psychotic. Not because he should be medicated (as a healthy person he absolutely shouldn’t be receiving anti-psychotic medication, or whatever unspecified drugs he is being suppressed with!).
Rather, he was committed for his “safety”. Now, maybe that is part of the story. Maybe, as well as being an Islamist leader embarrassed by his son’s outspoken criticism and dissent from religion, maybe partly Mubarak’s committal is also an attempt to keep him safe from other Islamists who would threaten the life as an “apostate”. But if that is the reason – as stated to Mubarak’s lawyer – then this only confirms that Mubarak is not psychotic. He should not be drugged. He should have his freedom of movement and his right to freedom of religion or belief.
None of those rights is easy to uphold for an atheist, in a state rife with the kind of Islamism promoted by Mubarak’s own father!
It is not easy to protect the non-religious and religious minorities from the outright persecution they are subjected to. But medicating him and holding him against his will is not a solution! It is just another form of persecution.
Co-Authors: Virtual Atheist and Bob Churchill (IHEU).