At the inception of internet comedy, Gloria Oloruntobi became a forerunner under her stage name, Maraji.
Her videos were well envisioned and executed to tell inner-city Nigerian stories. She also created satires off sensitive situations and made ‘woke’ people laugh at things they would normally fume at. She might have tailed off, but the regularity of her multi-personality skits made her the toast of the internet - or the microwave - generation.
Since she participated in the mandatory one-year as a corps member of the National Youth Service Corps, she has steadily slowed down. She still makes skits, but the regularity and virality are no longer there. However, over the past few days, she has immersed herself in sensitive issues.
What did Maraji do?
Now 23, the Computer Science graduate appeared on Mercy Johnson-Okojie’s talk show, Mercy’s Menu and discussed what feminism means to her. But in the late hours of August 11, 2019 and in the thick of Eid-el-Kabir celebrations, she jumped on her Instagram page and posted her views on Islam, heaven, Jesus and Christianity on her Instagram stories.
The weight of what Maraji did
The first of seven Instastories stories reads, “There is only one way to heaven, no Allah, no Buddha, no Krishna and no evolution. ONLY JESUS.”
The post continues with a quote of John 14:6, “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life. No one come to the father, except through me.”
The second story showed a conversation presumably between her and a friend. She quoted the message with this, “Not trying to offend anyone, but the truth is quite offensive.”
The message then goes to reveal what she feels about Islam. While her presumed friend held the belief that Christians and Muslim serve same God, she rebutted that by drawing a line between Islam and Christianity.
Maraji clearly stated that Muslims and Christians do not worship the same God because Christianity is premised upon the existence and death of Jesus Christ.
That second story wasn’t as problematic as the first. With the second story, she was simply creating a dichotomy. To be honest, Islamic and Christian doctrinal beliefs differ. While some Muslims will state that God and Allah are just the same representation of a supreme being that we all believe in, some will say that both religions are fundamentally different.
These divisive Muslims who get fueled by purist beliefs are also likely to tell you that Heaven and Jannah are different things. They are also likely to believe in the superiority of Islam to other religions. A small fraction of them are also likely to subscribe to Qutbism and/or Wahabism.
But where Maraji errs is where she tries to position Christianity as superior to Islam and other religions with her seven stories asides the second story - the supposed chat.
The third, fourth, fifth and sixth stories show a chat from Hasti Gomes's page where a man discusses how the exclusivity of Jesus' declaration in John 14:6 is true and problematic for other religions.
On the face of it, that is her belief. She should not be knocked for what she believes in. But the risk we run as human beings with this supposed superiority of a certain religion is enormous. Religion is a powerful thing that inspires loyalty and service like almost nothing else.
It drives a metaphysical belief in unseen, intangible and illogical things. That is enough to drive any human to his or her limits.
Mythical concepts like love and religious beliefs are hard to knock in people. That is why the members of COZA have stupidly chosen to stick by their errant Pastor, Biodun Fatoyinbo.
But the weight and power of superiority of one’s religion or religious beliefs have led to some of the greatest atrocities in human history through terrorism, genocide and authoritarianism - we can’t have that.
Religion should not be used as a tool of superiority. We might differ in our doctrinal beliefs, but one thing that binds us is humanity and these religious beliefs were created by human beings - even if we want to believe that these human beings were ordained by God or Allah or Buddha or Krishna or Eledumare.
Opinion is personal, but opinion publicized becomes a consumable. For people with a huge following like Maraji, they need to be responsible. It’s fine to not care about censorship, but it’s also good to understand the weight of what you say before you say it. Maraji has been slightly irresponsible. It is her opinion, but opinions can also be incorrect and stupid.
In truth, Muslims and Christians will never be inclusively exclusive with the belief that we serve the same God under different doctrines.
Humanity has diluted religion to an irrecoverable extent for that to happen, but fostering that division is where the problem is. The answer to 'Islamic' terrorism - if that is her inspiration - is not to posit Christianity as superior.
Religion might inspire loyalty, but at the very root of it is a demand for humility. Trying to see Islam as inferior definitely reflects megalomania on a large scale and that we cannot have. In these trying times, we need unity and accord more than we need divisiveness.
Social media reaction and atheism as an object of cool
‘Maraji is canceled’ is now a trend on Twitter. Equally, some are mocking those canceling Maraji. To be honest, the cancel culture is both pretentious and reeks of megalomania. It also reeks of a need for your heroes/faves to behave in ways that constantly suit you.
Asides how ‘Maraji is canceled’ lacks thought and context, it will also not be remembered by this time tomorrow. It is ridiculous, pointless, ineffectual and worryingly hilarious. What Maraji needs is to understand her errors, but sadly, even that will not be achieved.
On the other hand, some people have been laughing - the atheists have also come out to celebrate the clash of heads amongst religious people. At this time and like always, they also feel superior to everybody else, which in itself represents megalomania.
Your belief should make you see the world clearly and rationally help you make the world a better place. If it makes you feel superior, you should throw your belief and yourself away. You are potentially as big a problem as religious terrorism once you are able to create a coalition and escalate your belief through preaching.
The truth is religion isn’t rational and quantifiable against reason. But whoever chooses to believe in a version of a supreme being should not be mocked. That is unless of course, they abrogate fundamental human rights.
Beneath the shadows and away from social media, some of the Christians criticizing Maraji as divisive and insensitive do not eat Sallah meat for fear of being ‘used.’ As much as Maraji might have erred, this is the time to test the authenticity and veracity of our individual cultures.
If it doesn’t foster unity, love, and empathy as well as safeguard fundamental human rights, throw it away.
I love people who are not afraid to dare political correctness. But you should dare political correctness to do good, not foster myopic megalomania.