Jewish Journal

Nigeria reportedly locks up man, treats for “insanity” after he decides he’s an atheist

by Brad A. Greenberg

June 28, 2014 | 12:46 pm

Where to begin:

A Nigerian man has been incarcerated in a mental health institution by his family after saying he had lost his belief in God.

Mubarak Bala, 29, is said to have been forcibly medicated for "insanity" for nearly two weeks, despite a doctor's opinion that he has no psychological problems.


He lives in Kano in Nigeria's predominantly Muslim north. The state adopted sharia law in 2000 and has a strict Islamic police force called the Hisbah.

When Bala told his family that he had renounced Islam, they took him to a doctor and asked if he was mentally ill, according to the International Humanist and Ethical Union, which has taken up the case. The doctor gave him a clean bill of health, but the family turned to a second doctor, who said his atheism was a side-effect of a personality change.

That's from the Guardian. It's shocking, but it shouldn't be. This is no rare occurrence or unprecedented legal action. The facts are a little different, but we've heard these stories before.

There is the parallel story of the Sudanese woman who has been sentenced to death for refusing to renounce her Christian conversion and recently was kept in leg restraints while giving birth in jail. (Just freed.) There also are numerous reports of similar actions against Christians outside the West.

And, of course, 3,000 years of Jewish history are marked by state action against Jews because they are Jews.

Stories like the atheist being sent to prison get attention not because they are unheard of, but because they still shock the conscience when they actually are reported in the first place.

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