Man held in psych ward for being an atheist

Change.orgMubarak Bala

A man is being held against his will at the Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital in Kano state, Nigeria for being an atheist.

Mubarak Bala has been forcefully detained and medicated since June 13 after his family reported his atheist statements to authorities.

Mubarak told the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) that he was raised Muslim but recently became an atheist. His family reported this development as a "personality change," and had him committed.

After doctors could not find any psychological disorder, the family then told the hospital that Mubarak was claiming to be a governor, and "other trivial lies they could come up with." They also called his blog posts on the corrupt Almajiri educational system a symptom of "madness."

Mubarak was able to smuggle a smartphone into the hospital with him, and communicated with the IHEU through email and Twitter.

"And the biggest evidence of my mental illness was large blasphemies and denial of 'history' of Adam, and apostacy [sic], to which the doctor said was a personality change, that everyone needs a God, that even in Japan they have a God," he wrote. "And my brother added that, 'All the atheists I see have had mental illness at some point in their life.'"

The IHEU reported that shortly after Mubarak's commitment, posts appeared on his Facebook page purporting that he had converted back to Islam. Mubarak said the posts were not written by him.

"The fact that immediately I'm sedated they could take my phone and post [on Facebook] the Islamic Shahada proved their real intent, and family members (females) have been wailing that I'm bound for hell, so they had to make a move," he said.

The Shahada is the Muslim profession of faith.

IHEU spokesman Bob Churchill called Mubarak's case a travesty.

"It appears that a warped notion of family honour is the motivation to pressure Mubarak in this appalling manner, to conform to religious views that he simply doesn't hold," he said on their website. "This is an abhorrent violation of his freedom of thought and belief.

"We are joining with humanists and human rights advocates in Nigeria and the activists who have worked to highlight this case, in calling for an immediate re-evaluation of Mubarak's case by a doctor who is entirely independent of the family, and for his swift release."

A petition calling for Mubarak's release has ganered over 2,500 signatures.