President of Nigerian humanists arrested for humanist activism

29 April, 2020

Humanists UK has called for the urgent release of the President of Nigerian Humanists, Mubarak Bala, who has been arrested and charged on account of his humanist activism in the Nigerian state of Kaduna.

The arrest comes following a pattern of online and physical harassment, culminating in a legal petition to the police accusing him of being ‘provocative and annoying to Muslims’ on Facebook.

There are intense fears that Mubarak Bala could be handed over to police in the state of Kano, a Muslim stronghold where, if charged with blasphemy, he could face the death penalty under sharia law. Human rights activist Leo Igwe, chair of the Nigerian Humanist Association, has urged the governor of Kaduna and the chief inspector of police to release him.

Humanists UK along with Humanists International has written to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the relevant UN Special Rapporteurs to raise Mubarak Bala’s case and apply pressure on Nigerian authorities to request his safe release.

Humanists UK has been among the most active organisations campaigning for the repeal of global blasphemy laws, helping co-found the End Blasphemy Laws coalition with Humanists International in 2015.

Andrew Copson, Chief Executive of Humanists UK, commented:

‘Persecution of humanists for expressing their beliefs is a violation of international law and of the human right to freedom of religion or belief.

‘Mubarak Bala is a colleague, friend, and fearless activist whose association does important work to champion freedom of expression, rational thinking, and Enlightenment values in Nigeria – his life should not be put on the line simply for sharing his humanist convictions.

‘We are confident that the UK Government will do all it can to uphold freedom of religion or belief in Nigeria through its diplomatic relations with that state.’


For further comment or information, please contact Ruth Wareham at or phone 020 7324 3000 or 0772 511 0860.

Read more about Humanists UK’s work on international freedom of religion or belief.

Earlier this week, Scotland vowed to repeal its blasphemy law.

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by over 85,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all