Nigerian put in mental hospital for atheism

By Why Evolution Is True

While I was watching Nigeria play Argentina (a superb game), another drama was unfolding in that African nation. The Independent and the BBC report that perfectly healthy man has been confined in a Nigerian mental institution simply because he claimed that he doesn’t believe in God.

The Independent notes:

A Nigerian man has been committed to a mental institute in Kano state despite being given a clean bill of health because he declared he did not believe in God, a humanist charity has said.

Mubarak Bala is being held against his will and forcibly medicated at the Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital, where he has been kept since 13 June, the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) reports.

The chemical engineering graduate is allegedly being held on the grounds of a “personality change” because he declared himself an atheist despite being raised in a Muslim family in Kano, which is a mainly Muslim state.

The organisation says that when Mr Bala told his family he did not believe in God, they took him to a doctor and asked if he was mentally ill.

When this doctor found him to be fit and well, the family are then believed to have taken him to a second doctor who claimed he was suffering with a personality disorder. The family allegedly told this doctor he also made delusional claims that he was a “governor” and other “trivial lies”.

25 COMMENTS

    • Sean_W Jul 15, 2014 at 12:23 pm

      What do you mean his family took him to a doctor after he claimed to be an atheist?

      It was worse than that! They took him to a second doctor when the first one said he was fit! ( You know – religious cherry-picking the answer your “faith” tells you is “right”!)

        • Sean_W Jul 16, 2014 at 11:58 am

          How did they do this Alan? How did they force him to go with them?

          This account is given in an earlier BBC news item.
          http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-28010234

          A Nigerian man has been sent to a mental institute in Kano state after he declared that he did not believe in God, according to a humanist charity.

          Mubarak Bala was being held against his will at the hospital after his Muslim family took him there, it said.

          The hospital said it was treating Mr Bala, 29, for a “challenging psychological condition”, and would not keep him longer than necessary.

          Kano is a mainly Muslim state and adopted Islamic law in 2000.

          The International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) says that when Mr Bala told relatives he did not believe in God, they asked a doctor if he was mentally ill.

          Despite being told that he was not unwell, Mr Bala’s family then went to a second doctor, who declared that his atheism was a side-effect of suffering a personality change, the group says.

          Mr Bala, a chemical engineering graduate, was forcibly committed to a psychiatric ward at the Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital, but was able to contact activists using a smuggled phone, it says.

  1. Miserablegit Jul 15, 2014 at 3:04 pm

    Says all we need to know about Africa, which of course is the continent that the west should aspire to be like according to the RCC.

    Well, Nigeria has OIL!
    Don’t you know that that trumps everything to do with consideration of PEOPLE!!!!

  2. Oh if only this was limited to “others”.
    I practised as a lawyer (still am) for 8 years in a community with both an acute mental health unit and a chronic treatment facility.
    Because it takes so long to become a psychiatrist (here: university + post grad + medical practice + 7 years as a psychiatric registrar) they tend to be not-so-young. Many started when homosexuality was not only a crime, but a diagnosable mental illness. Consequently some still diagnose genuine trans-gender persons as delusional; believing they are of one gender when physically of the other.
    Religious delusions are also a very common diagnosis. I have successfully advocated for the release of patients diagnosed as psychotic based on divergence from social norms including wicca, stigmata and deism, though admittedly not atheism.
    It is not at all surprising that the religious norm of that country would influence psychiatric diagnosis in exactly the same way it does here, and probably in your countries too.

    • hi Chris,
      thanks for the insightful analysis above but honestly as a Nigerian and one has in the past lived in the region where this man was admitted i,d like to ask him what was he smoking before he could actually say to people in that side of the world he does not believe in God. he was very lucky his family were actually good folk and did not lynch him. yes he has a right to his own opinion but did he have to share it , would you voice your true opinion of the late ayatollah Khomeini if you had to travel through Iran or even Islam in Saudi Arabia? let,s put speaking ill of Kim jong il while in north Korea in the mix . in northern Nigeria Islamic religion is the basis of the societal fabric . he should know that such a view will not be dignified with a debate but only an irrational response as he got to experience . to me he was truly in need of psych evaluation , maybe he has a latent attention seeker/martyrdom complex . to believe or not believe in God can be debated in some societies with positive results but not in Nigeria Nigeria . As idi Amin the jolly mad despot said “There is freedom of speech, but I cannot guarantee freedom after speech” not in northern Nigeria.

      • @Bena
        . i,d like to ask him what was he smoking before he could actually say to people in that side of the world he does not believe in God. he was very lucky his family were actually good folk and did not lynch him. yes he has a right to his own opinion but did he have to share it would you

        Not a prudent move it would seem, though where would we be if individuals refused to buck the trend and say what they actually thought? We would not have progressed from the dark ages. Of course I would not be the one to shout my disbelief from the rooftops or preach for the rights of women in Tehran, but I’m a coward.

        • You are not alone there. We can be brave in Britain and America and other European countries
          because we live in a reasonably fair society. I can say what I mean, but like you, would not stand up in an unsafe place to break new ground. I suspect that nearly all of us are in the same category.
          What really pisses me off is that one section of humanity which is spreading fast and growing, can dictate what others do in their own native land. This is not news to anyone, it is the old story of our people bending over backwards to please interlopers, but try the same thing in their countries of origins – and you would be stoned to death.

        • Nitya Jul 16, 2014 at 4:38 pm

          Not a prudent move it would seem, though where would we be if individuals refused to buck the trend and say what they actually thought? We would not have progressed from the dark ages.

          Unfortunately some people in some places still haven’t progressed from the dark-ages, and still see the world through faith-blinkers!
          http://www.atheistmemebase.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/083-Religion-of-peace.jpeg

      • Just once in a while, somebody has the guts to confess to this crime of non belief in Allah.
        We know it is a capital offence to be un-Islam.
        Common sense says to shut up about it, but now and then somebody like this man can’t stand it any longer and gives in to his personal need to speak the truth. If more people could do this together they may get somewhere, but if you are on your own you could just disappear. Insanity doesn’t come into it, it is only a matter of common sense versus the compulsion to tell the truth. This is a brave man and perhaps a little foolish like all the so called martyrs of history.

  3. I am pleased to see that the Richard Dawkins Foundation has chosen to help publicise this story, two weeks AFTER we managed to get him free and to a safe location.

    We few who ran the #FreeMubarak campaign have not forgotten the almost complete lack of support we got from the secular community when we needed it most.

    To be fair, three people made a passing mention of his plight, Richard Dawkins, Lawrence Krauss and Sam Harris. Sam was also the only atheist of note to sign our petition.

    We relied on the rank and file within the twitter community and several followers on FaceBook to bring the world’s attention to Mubarak Bala’s beating, drugging and false imprisonment.

    It must be said, that during the running of our campaign, we lost a lot of respect for many, many notable ‘names’ in atheism!

  4. Andrew, I think there’s been a misunderstanding regarding RDFRS’s coverage of this, but I only know that I don’t remember having seen it posted here before; and it’s such a bizarre story I would have remembered seeing it had I done so.

    Anyway, I’m glad to hear that he’s now alright, albeit in hiding I suppose.

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