This is Terrible, says the Owner. We must Write a Letter to support Mubarak Bala.
Why must we Do That? I ask.
He is the President of the Nigerian Humanist Association. Says the Owner. He was arrested for Blasphemy in April, says the Owner. He was transferred to the Islamic stronghold state of Kano, where Blasphemy is punishable by Death, says the Owner. He has not been heard from Since, says the Owner.
For being a Humanist? I say.
Yes, says the Owner. It appears that in Nigeria one does not have Freedom of Belief. Yet they have Signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. They are a member of the United Nations and the African Union. They have ratified many UN Human Rights Conventions and made Binding International Commitments to adhere to the Standards laid down in these Universal Human Rights Documents.
What is a Humanist? I ask.
I am a Humanist, says the Owner. Throughout History, says the Owner, there have been non-religious people who have believed that this Life is the Only Life we have, that the Universe is a Natural Phenomenon with no Supernatural Side, and that we can live Ethical and Fulfilling lives on the basis of Reason and Humanity. They have trusted to Scientific Method, Evidence, and Reason to discover Truths about the Universe and have placed Human (and Moral Dog) Welfare and Happiness at the centre of their Ethical Decision Making. They put their Faith in People and Moral Dogs and they see the Meaning of Life in Valuing Each Other as Moral Persons. These People are called Humanists.
That is the Philosophy of Dogs, I say.
Then we are also Doggists, says the Owner.
How could a Humanist or a Doggist Offend Nigeria? I ask.
By Not Believing, says the Owner, a Humanist may Offend Others who feel this Insults what they Believe to be True, says the Owner.
Was what he said Very Offensive? I ask.
It was to those who Disagreed with It, says the Owner.
Surely it is a Crime to Offend Others? I ask.
No, says the Owner, most Philosophers do not Accept that Mere Offense should be Criminalised. This is called Legal Moralism. Most Legal Philosophers argue that Public Outrage is an Unreliable Measure of Wrong, as it is Culturally Relative, as it Changes over Time, as it is not Grounded in Objective Harm, as it promotes Conservatism, and as it Disadvantages Minorities and cuts across Natural Rights. The Harm Principle tells us that the Liberties we enjoy are Limited by Harm to Others, but not by Offence to Others, not even if they are Greatly Offended.
Give me an Example, I say.
If I told the Moral Dog that he was a Big Sissy, says the Owner, then I might Offend him but I would not Harm Him. If I stood on his Toe I might Harm Him.
I am not a Sissy, I say.
It was Just an Example, says the Owner. Stop being a Sissy about it, says the Owner. I am writing a Letter to Nigeria, says the Owner.
They may be Offended by your Letter, I say. They may throw you in Jail too. I say. It may be better not to Write It, I say.
It is never Better not to Write It, says the Owner. Even if it offends Nigeria, says the Owner. Nigeria cannot throw Everyone in Jail, says the Owner. There are Too Many of Us, says the Owner. As John Stuart Mill said in 1867, Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that Good Men should Look On and Do Nothing.
And Dogs, I say, because we Dogs set Great Store by John Stuart Mill, who said that the Suffering, Pleasure and Happiness of All Animals should be included in the Moral Calculus.
And Dogs, says the Owner.
Can I Sign It? I ask.
If you do not Slobber on it, says the Owner.
The Moral Dog and the Owner Sign the Letter even though, in doing so, they may Both Offend Nigeria.
Then the Owner posts it and Steps Back. The Moral Dog lets out a Slight Whimper.
Do not Worry, says the Owner. Nigeria will not Come and Get You.
It is not that, I say. You are Standing on my Toe, I say.
The Moral Dog. Writing to Nigeria even when it causes Harm to Toes. Clearly Not a Sissy Now.
Join the Moral Dog, whose letter is below, and Contact the Nigerian High Commission here
Dear High Commissioner
Please take action to secure the safe release of Mubarak Bala, who has been arrested in Nigeria for alleged blasphemy. As you probably know he has been transferred to Kano and has not been heard of since April. As you of course know, Nigeria is signatory to the UN Convention on Human Rights, and has promised to protect Freedom of Religious Belief.
Please urge the Nigerian government to:
- show the world and his family that Mubarak Bala is alive and unharmed
- grant Mubarak Bala access to a lawyer
- transfer Mubarak Bala to a neutral Nigerian territory, such as Lagos, where any legitimate crime can be assessed
- consider whether blasphemy laws are compatible with international human rights obligations
- and please make the moral case that religious belief cannot be enforced, and that tolerance is the heart of Islam.
Hergest the Hound
I am a dog of many thoughts.