Thursday, January 12, 2006

stone the devil

To me, this represents one of the worst potentials in humankind, or in the practice of any religion: where the personal desires of the individual (in this case, the benign goal to complete the hajj, to cleanse spiritually) mindlessly override - in this case, literally stampede - common sense and respect for others, with horrifying and tragic consequences.

It's not like this is some fluke, like it's never happened before. So who forgets, and then gets into such a frenzy to stone the devil that they can't be gentle and patient with others sharing in the spiritual pilgrimage? Who doesn't understand that their single-minded persistence in a large chaotic crowd could trigger a chain of events that will result in the trampling deaths of hundreds of their spiritual brothers and sisters?

It could be you, it could be me. Religious or not, who hasn't ever lost sight of the greater good when consumed by a sense of deep personal purpose, (even if it didn't have such horrible consequences)? You're lying if you say you haven't. It's human to be self-centered, to be myopic, to occasionally dissociate.

To me, the kind of thoughtlessness that killed 245 people on the hajj this year (and over 1000 in 1990!) is kissing cousin to the sometimes present scary side of personal religious agendas: the deliberate act of violence in the name of God.

Random examples from my gap-ridden historical knowledge: First Crusade where Christians slaughtered and tortured Muslims in Jerusalem under the cry "Deus vult!" (God wills it!) and the streets were said to run knee-high with blood; Sikhs blowing up planes (did I miss the part in the Granth where Guru Nanak endorsed the use of explosives?); fanatical Jewish military personnel (I guess the secular ones don't count for this example) terrorizing and beating Palestinians in their homes; Saddam using mustard gas on the Kurds in God's name; Bush doing all kinds of crazy shit in the name of the Lord (my guess is Jesus would not be too keen about air strikes on civilian areas). The list goes on and on.


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