Nigerian man is locked up after saying he is an atheist
Campaigners call for release of 29-year-old Mubarak Bala, who lives in Kano in Nigeria’s predominantly Muslim north.
A Nigerian man has been incarcerated in a mental health institution by his family after saying he had lost his belief in God.
Mubarak Bala, 29, is said to have been forcibly medicated for “insanity” for nearly two weeks, despite a doctor’s opinion that he has no psychological problems.
Campaigners are calling for his release and say the case highlights the fact that atheists are a persecuted minority in many African countries.
Bala’s Twitter account uses the handle “ExMuslim”, and his profile says: “Chemical Process Engineer. I stand for Truth&Justice. Religion insults human conscience &reason, duped me that I hav another lifetime. AgnosticAtheist.”
He lives in Kano in Nigeria‘s predominantly Muslim north. The state adopted sharia law in 2000 and has a strict Islamic police force called the Hisbah.
When Bala told his family that he had renounced Islam, they took him to a doctor and asked if he was mentally ill, according to the International Humanist and Ethical Union, which has taken up the case. The doctor gave him a clean bill of health, but the family turned to a second doctor, who said his atheism was a side-effect of a personality change.
The family allegedly told the doctor that he had also made delusional claims that he was a “governor” and other “trivial lies”. Bala was subsequently admitted to the Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital on 13 June and has since been held there against his will.
He has pleaded to the outside world for help in emails and tweets from several phones smuggled into the institution. In one email, he said: “And the biggest evidence of my mental illness was large blasphemies and denial of ‘history’ of Adam, and apostasy, to which the doctor said was a personality change, that everyone needs a God, that even in Japan they have a God.