03.06.2020 Feature Article

Bala's Facebook Posts and Allegations of Racism

Mubarak Bala, the President of the Humanist Association of Nigeria, was arrested yesterday in Kaduna, Northern Nigeria.
LISTEN JUN 3, 2020
Mubarak Bala, the President of the Humanist Association of Nigeria, was arrested yesterday in Kaduna, Northern Nigeria.

Something is strikingly absurd in the petition brought against Mubarak Bala. That his said posts were forms of racist and xenophobic attack. Racist and xenophobic attack? Did the petitioners look up the meaning of these terms in a dictionary before using them? They said: "It should be noted that Mubarak's characterization of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) as a terrorist follows that his followers, The Muslims, are also terrorists" Does it follow? The petition further states: "and this is a racist and xenophobic attack within the meaning of section 26(1)C of the Cybercrimes Act 2015". Now let's take a critical look at this provision.

Before addressing the issue of racism, it is important to highlight another clumsy proposition in the complaint. The petitioners accused Mr. Bala of calling Muslims terrorists. But they failed to produce any post where Bala called Muslims terrorists. Instead. they made this proposition that Mr. Bala called Muslims terrorists because he designated Muhammad as a terrorist.

Now think about it. If someone calls Muhammad a terrorist, does that imply that all the followers are terrorists? I mean this is ridiculous. So if someone calls Muhammad a prophet, it implies that the followers are prophets? The petitioners used this non sequitur argument to mobilize Muslims against Mubarak Bala. Otherwise, there was no basis to draw such a conclusion except to incite hatred and get the Ummah to see Mr. Bala as an enemy. I hope some Muslims would see through the malicious intent undergirding this invalid and highly charged inference.

But that is by the way. Now how does a Facebook post translate into a racist and xenophobic attack? I checked section 26(1) C and it prohibits insulting publicly through a computer system or network including insulting persons publicly "for the reason that they belong to a group distinguished by race, color, descent or national or ethnic origin, as well as religion."

Indeed religion is mentioned in this provision. The clause "as well as religion" must have been added by those who wanted to use this section to outlaw criticism of religion. Think about it, religion, in this case, Islam, is not a race. Religion is a set of ideas and beliefs, not persons. And if criticizing a set of ideas is racist and xenophobic then everybody, Muslims, Christians, Hindus, traditionalists, Buddhists, atheists, etc is racist and xenophobic. All persons are constantly engaged in critical discourses. Christians are critical of Islam, Judaism, and African traditional religion. Muslims are critical of Christianity and traditional African beliefs, atheists are critical of theistic religions and supernatural notions.

Based on this provision, the petitioners are saying that Mr. Bala's alleged comment that Muhammad was a terrorist was an insult to Muslims. I mean, how does that apply? How does a statement about a prophet translate into an insult on those who profess a religion? Muhammad is not alive to confirm if this was an insult or not. So nobody can say for sure if Muhammad would deem the alleged post an insult. If Muhammad were alive, he could have said: "Don't mind Mubarak Bala, that was an atheist interpretation". How are the petitioners and their sponsors certain that Muhammad would feel insulted by the posts?

Now let's say that by some stretch of Mohammedan imagination, the alleged post was an insult. But is an insult on Muhammad an insult on Muslims? No, not at all. The petitioners should not forget that Christians consider the Islamic position that Jesus is the Son of Man, not the son of God, an insult on Jesus. Does that mean that Muslims are insult Christians? And going by the reasoning of the petitioners, are Muslims criminals by saying that Jesus is a human not a God? We should stop embarrassing ourselves, and making the police and justice system a laughing stock?

Based on the said provision and the meaning of racism and xenophobia contained therein, are the petitioners ready to consider all Muslims racist and xenophobic? If they do not consider Muslims racist for holding the position that Jesus is the son of man, they should disclaim this allegation that Mr. Bala was racist and xenophobic by making the said posts. To say what one thinks about a prophet or any religion is not a crime. It is not an act of racism or xenophobia by any stretch of legal reasoning. It is a human right.

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