Tag Archives: politics

Wole Soyinka : A Letter to Mubarak Bala

On August 6, 2020 Humanists International published a letter by Nobel Prize winning writer Wole Soyinka in support of Mubarak Bala.

According to Humanists International’s campaign website, Mubarak Bala, President of the Humanist Association of Nigeria, was arrested on April 28, 2020 following allegations that he insulted Islam’s Prophet Muhammad on social media. Bala’s current arrest is not his first experience of systemic faith-based oppression. In 2014, Bala was detained on the grounds that he was an atheist.

In his letter, Soyinka wrote, “As a child I remember living in a state of harmonious coexistence all but forgotten in the Nigeria of today, as the plague of religious extremism has encroached.” Throughout Soyinka’s life, he has been a leading voice opposing injustice and corruption in Nigerian Society. Following a military coup in 1966, Soyinka sought to avert a Nigerian civil war. This attempt to work toward peace resulted in Soyinka’s imprisonment for 22 months.

Soyinka continued in his letter to Mubarak, “When I accepted the International Humanist Award at the World Humanist Congress in 2014, I spoke of the conflict between Humanists and Religionists; one of enlightenment versus the chains of enslavement. Your arbitrary incommunicado detention over the last 100 days is the cruel reality of this conflict. All too often these chains of enslavement lead directly to the gallows or a prison cell.

Harassment, imprisonment and other forms of violence and oppression by authoritarian ideological regimes is both an ancient and a contemporary theme. In recent years, one need only recall the cases of Raif Badawi, Noreen “Asia” Bibi, Avijit Roy and a long-list of others from nations around the world to recall that freedom of expression may be contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but it is far from universally protected.

Mubarak’s legal team claims that they have been unable to access Mubarak and have asked Nigerian authorities to clarify where he’s being held.

Why Activist Mubarak Bala Was Arrested For Insulting ...
Mubarak Bala

Humanists International has stated that their perspective that Bala is being targeted solely for exercising his rights of freedom of belief and freedom of expression, as contained in international and regional instruments to which Nigeria is a signatory as well as enshrined in the Nigerian Constitution.

Despite the modest media attention that Mubarak Bala’s case has created and may continue to receive, the plight of a Nigerian humanist and human rights activist is still quite far from the attention or concern for those who may currently be living in ideologically comfortable settings. Perhaps letting this situation slip one’s notice is a dangerous apathy. We may not be so very far removed from extreme embodiments of ideological cancel cultures as we would like to think.

Signing Humanists International’s statement regarding Mubarak Bala could be an excellent place to show support for global freedom of expression and opposition to all forms of ideological oppression.

Citations and References

  1. https://humanists.international/2020/08/wole-soyinka-sends-message-of-solidarity-to-mubarak-bala/
  2. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2020/aug/06/wole-soyinka-protests-imprisonment-of-nigerian-humanist-mubarak-bala
  3. https://freemubarakbala.org/
  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wole_Soyinka

The views, opinions and analyses expressed in the articles on Humanist Freedoms are those of the contributor(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the publishers.

Featured Photo Courtesy of Humanists International.


Version History: This article was originally published on August 8, 2020 and was updated on August 9, 2020.

Profile: Andrew West

According to his website, Andrew West is a lawyer in the Ottawa area with specialization in Environmental Law and dispute resolution. He’s also the Green Party of Ontario’s Attorney General Critic. Currently, West has his sights set on leading the Green Party of Canada.

Following a career in the television industry working mostly as a sole proprietor/independent contractor, West attended Ryerson University (B.A. (Hons) in Politics and Governance) and University of Ottawa (Faculty of Law). West has volunteered for several NGO’s including a committee chair role for Amnesty International’s annual fundraiser, “Taste for Justice” – raising money to help stop violence against women.

West has run for office as a Green Party candidate in four election since 2014, most recently in a provincial by-election in Orleans (February 2020). When asked during a candidate debate whether education should be considered an essential service, West stated

“I think education is the most important thing we can do in this province.rather than making cuts and slashing…proper investment back in to the most important resource we have, our children.” The format of the debate did not provide adequate time for West to immediately elaborate on how investing back into children’s education might be achieved. Later, however, he stated that helping to create appropriate funding would be “to merge the public and Catholic school boards.

Ontario’s Ministry of Education is one of the province’s biggest Ministries. This massive ministry happens to house one of Canada’s greatest human rights embarrassments, the ongoing privileging of the Catholic religion via public-funding of Catholic school boards.

There are many individuals and organizations in Ontario who oppose the ongoing public privileging of the Catholic religion. Andrew West appears to be one of the few politicians willing to talk about ways and reasons to bring the Ministry of Education’s spending into line with principles of equal human rights.

Candidates for the leadership of the Green Party of Canada must raise $10,000.00 as part of their leadership campaign by the first week of June.  While it appears that the Party has a system to track credit for generating donations, the money does not go to an individual candidate, but to the Party. As of May 28, 2020 West does not yet appear to have reached the mile-marking of having his portrait appear as a candidate. Whether he progresses or not, advances in human rights will rely upon politicians like Andrew West who develop and communicate policy that is consistent with a common and shared humanity.

At www.humanistfreedoms.com we do not endorse any specific political party nor any candidate. However, from time to time, political parties and/or individual politicians take positions on issues that deserve to be recognized and analyzed. We are particularly interested in issues related to defending human rights and our common humanity. If think that a position taken by an individual politician or a political party deserves to be covered – contact us.