Sunday, January 15, 2006

Mecca stampede - God's will or crappy bag-check?

Almost 350 Muslim pilgrims were trampled to death in Mecca this week, a story you've no doubt read or heard about elsewhere. As you probably also already know, this isn't the first, or worst, incident at the stone-throwing ritual, which is an important part of the Hajj.

Reaction from the Islamic press is worth a read. There's very little in the way of the "God's will" sort of explanation. There's also very little condemnation of the Saudi government, which is responsible for Mecca, Medina, the Hajj, and those millions of annual pilgrims. Not too surprising, when you consider that "freedom of the press" is not a concept embraced by most Islamic governments any more than queues and luggage checks are embraced by their populations.

Another surprising (sort of) component of the press roundup in the BBC today is the lack of compassion expressed for the victims and their families. I'll leave it to your imagination to figure out what that means. Simply left out of the quotes, but expressed elsewhere in the source pieces? One hopes...

It's difficult not to come across as intolerant and/or flat out anti-Islam in a situation like this. At least, it is for me. For that reason, I will conclude with these two final thoughts:

1. As long as you're not hurting anyone and not shoving it down my throat. I respect everyone's right to worship as they believe.

2. Many Muslim countries, especially host-country Saudi Arabia, are among the wealthiest states in the world. Given that, why can't they solve a problem that is completely predictable, getting more severe each year, and not going to get better on it's own?

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