Friday, January 13, 2006

What’s with these people?

Despite my scepticism, I really have no objection to religion on principle.

Religion isn’t for me, I think it’s outdated and silly, but I am part of a small minority who no longer need that sort of thing in our lives. Most humans still need to believe in some supernatural force, and need to meet weekly with like-minded people to do silly things in the name of said supernatural force.

That’s fine… if religion can motivate people to perform charitable and productive acts then I think it has served its purpose.

I have a problem when people are harmed in the name of religion.

Admittedly I don’t know a lot about Islam. Of course I know about the fundamentalist Muslim terrorist factions, but I also know that their brand of Islam isn’t in line with what is practiced by the vast majority of Muslims. They are to Islam what people like Pat Robertson and Fred Phelps are to Christianity… only with bombs.

I also know that Islam is an inherently peaceful and quite beautiful religion, and because of that I usually have no cause to criticise it.

The Hajj is an exception.

Apart from the apparent silliness of the ritualistic nature of the Hajj pilgrimage, it is, in theory, harmless. Except that it isn’t.

Almost every year I hear about another stampede in Mecca resulting in so many hundred deaths. This year it was 345. Now I know it’s not a direct result of the nature of the rituals, just a by-product of the sheer number of people doing it all at once.

My concern is this: I’m assuming there is some sort of organization that is responsible for administrating the events at the Hajj. Surely, after so many times, they would have cottoned onto the fact that their festival is a catastrophe waiting to happen and would have implemented some sort of basic crowd-control by now?

Come ON people, this isn’t rocket science! All they need is some marshals, some roped-out queues and the occasional sign saying “Please don’t trample other people to death. Have a nice day.”