Blasphemy laws, like many archaic laws in Nigeria’s spazzing justice system, is a relic of our colonial past. That this law, like its myriad useless cousins, no longer serves our reality has not made the justice system move to rectify it. People still get arrested and charged to court for blasphemy. As recently as April 27, 2020. This is why #FreeMubarakBala is trending on Twitter.
Some group of lawyers finally write petition against that animal Mubarak Bala pic.twitter.com/OHyILGijyy
— Yusuf Jnr (@MrZage) April 27, 2020
Mubarak Bala is not new to trending on Twitter, and hardly anything has changed about the ‘why’ in the years since he went viral for the first time in 2014. That first time he went viral when a wash of global support flooded Twitter NG. following his detention in a psychiatric hospital for being openly atheist. A #FreeMubarak social media campaign brought international attention to his predicament, which highlighted the predicament that is the everyday reality of non-conformists across the country. He was freed, lost friends, family and job, yet steadfastly moved on and remained vocal about Islamic oppression.
As if to say, we will hound you wherever you go, he was newly arrested in Kaduna State on April 27, over a Facebook post he made comparing the prophethoods of TB Joshua and Islam’s Muhammad (PBUH). You like to know the charges? A complaint filed by a group of Muslim lawyers based in Kano, which states that Mubarak, with his latest post (published in Hausa language), was in contravention Section 10 of the Penal Code, Kano State.
The section says:
Whoever by any means publicly insults or seeks to incite contempt of any religion in such a manner as it is likely to lead to a breach of the peace, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years or with fine or with both.
The complainants claim that Mubarak’s Facebook post has set the Northern cyberspace aflame and that many have started contemplating taking the law into their hands. That is not all, the claim went on, that by characterizing the Prophet Muhammad a terrorist, it follows that his followers also are terrorists, and “this is racist and xenophobic attack” within the meaning of Section 26 (1) of the Cyber Crime Act 2015.
A brief glance at the complaint shows a glaring disregard for facts, a stretch so long it is ridiculous to ponder. The facts are simple:
- Mubarak posted comparing Muhammad to TB Joshua
- He differentiated the two by saying one was a terrorist
A phone call to S. S. Umar & Co. the law firm that filed the complaint confirmed what we suspected, the Lead Counsel, S. S. Umar when asked if the claim about a racist and xenephobic attack is not too much of a reach considering the facts, admits that “Our own is to present a case, he will then present his defence and the court will decide who is in the right.”
Although blasphemy by its definition; “the action or offence of speaking sacrilegiously about God or sacred things; profane talk” does not include religious figureheads, the Penal Code invoked leaves enough room to allow for whatever interpretation suits the mood of whoever the presiding judge is, were this to make it to court.
The court, however, is the best-case scenario in this situation, no matter how fledgeling our justice system. The vitriol from some twitter handles in response to the barely legal arrest of the activist raises concerns that this is not so much a legal proceeding as it is a containment of a renegade to make for an easier target. Is Twitter user @elharsh perhaps onto something?
Bala made a post on Facebook.
Kano requested Kaduna to arrest him and send him to them.
Facebook is not a particular location. If anything, why can't he be tried in Kaduna? #FreeMubarakBala
— Maryam⚛️ (@elharsh) April 29, 2020
Mubarak’s colleagues at the Humanist Association of Nigeria, Leo Igwe and others have rallied around him as have over 14 thousand Nigerians who are actively tweeting the hashtag.
And what do we also say to those who have also come up with portions from the Quran that suggests that there is no offence for blasphemy after all and that legislating for same may be over reaching?
There’s no punishment for blasphemy in the Quran (The word of Allah), all the punishments you see are laws made by different leaders to oppress their people..You don’t have to take Allah’s battles #FreeMubarakBala pic.twitter.com/gcjVEmnHSJ
— Y.O. (@yojora) April 29, 2020
This should help too,
for those who still quote of out context . pic.twitter.com/OgfX8QJhh3
— Abolaji A. Lawal (@TherealAbefe) April 29, 2020
Hopefully, this latest saga will force Nigeria to look inwards at its justice system and bring it up to speed with the times we live in. There are many laws that need revisiting. In the meantime, perhaps the Federal Police force will consider taking action against those who threaten actual violence, rather than purveyors of ideas, who in fact, harm no one.
Hello, @PoliceNG you have endangered Mubarak's life and if you succeed in transferring him to Kano, you will be held responsible. These are the people that you should be arresting. There are several death threats online on his page everyday. #FreeMubarak #FreeMubarakBala pic.twitter.com/tZyL9Om0v5
— Ayobami (@dondekojo) April 29, 2020