Hundreds dead in Saudi hajj
January 12, 2006 9:09 AM   Subscribe

NewsFlashFilter: Hundreds killed in Hajj stampede in what is known as the Stoning of the Devil ritual earlier today. Sadly, this type of tragedy at a Muslim hajj is quite common given the huge crowds.
posted by OpinioNate (115 comments total)
 
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posted by brettski at 9:14 AM on January 12, 2006


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posted by furtive at 9:38 AM on January 12, 2006


There's an interesting crowd dynamics analysis for the Jamarat Bridge here.
posted by OpinioNate at 9:40 AM on January 12, 2006


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posted by Stynxno at 9:41 AM on January 12, 2006


This is idiotic. They need to find better rituals.
posted by thirteenkiller at 9:47 AM on January 12, 2006


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posted by slimepuppy at 9:49 AM on January 12, 2006


Gabriel said to him: “Pelt him!” so Abraham threw seven stones at him so that he disappeared from him. Then he appeared to him at the Middle Stone-Heap. Gabriel said to him: “Pelt him!” so he pelted him with seven stones so that he disappeared from him. Then he appeared to him at the Little Stone-Heap. Gabriel said to him: “Pelt him!” so he pelted him with seven stones like the little stones for throwing in a sling. So the Devil withdrew from him.

Looks like the Devil ain't taking it no more.
posted by three blind mice at 9:49 AM on January 12, 2006


Muslims worldwide should apply pressure on Saudi Arabia to have better crowd control. This thing happens with alarming frequency. Saudi Arabia has the money to develop better infrastructure.
posted by ori at 9:49 AM on January 12, 2006


This is idiotic. They need to find better rituals.



This oughta be good.
posted by OpinioNate at 9:50 AM on January 12, 2006


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posted by alumshubby at 9:56 AM on January 12, 2006


ori: what better infrastructure? it's a bridge, you enter at one end, go through and do your stone throwing and exit on the other. There's a level under it too, but the point is, when you have all these people going through in a mash, how do you know when they're going to panic? I guess they should be more proactive with barriers and turning people away during 'rush hour'.
posted by Firas at 9:57 AM on January 12, 2006


Weird.
posted by delmoi at 9:57 AM on January 12, 2006


I wonder how Pat Robertson will spin this one.
posted by caddis at 9:58 AM on January 12, 2006


How practical is it to improve the infrastructure, though? I thought the Stoning of the Devil was the cause of the deaths last year too. Is it in a particular location, or do they do the ritual anywhere?

I mean, if it has to be done in some venerated location, then Muslim sentiment mayn't be in favour of upgrading the safety at the cost of the holiness.

Although I must admit, I'm pretty startling in my ignorance of the whole thing.
posted by Swandive at 9:59 AM on January 12, 2006


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posted by rottytooth at 10:01 AM on January 12, 2006


Ah, it is at a specific, venerated location, sorry, should've read the second link.
posted by Swandive at 10:01 AM on January 12, 2006


What a shame. Was it a stampede or did it all start when all that luggage was dumped at the bridge?

Some of the comments on that BBC article are interesting. One guy mentions that it's possible to do the stoning part first thing in the morning, with nobody there. The big crowds gather later on.
posted by jamesonandwater at 10:02 AM on January 12, 2006


Not the first time its happened and it very likely will not be the last but it does not make it any less of a tragedy.

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posted by fenriq at 10:02 AM on January 12, 2006


It's three 'spots', where pillars have been built. You have to get your pebbles in near-ish to the spots.

There is no particular holiness around it, infrastructurally you can build whatever you want around the spots. The saudis built a bridge so the crowd flows.

The whole thing is supposed to be metaphorical anyway, not like the 'devil' is standing there. The standard joke is about pilgrims taking off their slippers and throwing them at the pillar with curses.
posted by Firas at 10:03 AM on January 12, 2006


At least it didn't happen at the stoning of the adultress
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:04 AM on January 12, 2006


jamesonandwater: yeah, the rational thing to do is to go early in the morning or late at night. It's most dangerous during the afternoon, what with the crowds and noise and heat etc. A lot of people die from natural causes (ie, eldery from heart attacks) during the hajj, the stress and heat takes its toll.
posted by Firas at 10:05 AM on January 12, 2006


The National Geographic special on the Hajj is very good if you want to see this area on video.
posted by smackfu at 10:08 AM on January 12, 2006



Saudi authorities had replaced the pillar, which had represented the devil before, with an oval wall with padding around the edges to protect the crush of pilgrims.

So they have made some improvements. I think it's a testament to blind faith when folks attempt this ritual year after year, knowing full well someone is going to die.

Also, shouldn't there be a mountain of pebbles, like, 50 feet high or something? Or do they drive in with the holy bulldozer to make way each year?
posted by OpinioNate at 10:08 AM on January 12, 2006


Well, it is 2 million people gathering in one place, which can be dangerous. Heck, we get similar bad stories and people dying when 100,000 people gather at concerts in the US.
posted by mathowie at 10:11 AM on January 12, 2006


Muslims worldwide should apply pressure on Saudi Arabia to have better crowd control. This thing happens with alarming frequency. Saudi Arabia has the money to develop better infrastructure.
posted by ori at 9:49 AM PST on January 12 [!]


I think they've built a couple of levels to allow more access. The problem is many people want to be in the very front row and probably push their way through (I wonder if anyone accidentally hits those folks with rocks they don't throw far enough).

The major problem is the crowds grow every year. The religion is growing and transportation is easier, so more people go to Mecca. Saudi Arabia tries to control the number of people allowed in by requireing a Hajj visa - each country has a max number of people that can enter. Trying to get one from the United States is easy because not many muslims here. But try from Indonesia or Malaysia or some other populous country and it may take years.

I think there is more pressure on the Saudis to increase the number of visas issued than to better control crowds.
posted by b_thinky at 10:12 AM on January 12, 2006


There was a picture of the bridge, after the last time this happened, littered with sandals in all kinds of sizes and designs.

It was an unexpectedly horrific image because the violence was so clearly implied.
posted by StickyCarpet at 10:15 AM on January 12, 2006


What does the . mean?
posted by Eyebeams at 10:22 AM on January 12, 2006


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(stupid and pointless deaths in the hundreds. whoever organises the safety of this event should be held accountable)
posted by lemonfridge at 10:25 AM on January 12, 2006


My friend and I were discussing the nature of Hajj, and why people continue to risk their lives in these gatherings. We decided that it's really no different than people getting in their cars everyday, in that the alternative to not driving---or making a pilgrimage---is inconceivable for many people.
posted by lunalaguna at 10:34 AM on January 12, 2006


The World Service had an interview the other day with the crowd control expert who designed the new wall, predicting that everything would be much better this year thanks to his design.

I must say he came across as pretty smug at the time, I guess he'll be less so now, poor guy. I suppose there's only so much you can do with that many people in one place.
posted by penguin pie at 10:47 AM on January 12, 2006


The periods in this thread look like little rocks.
posted by bonaldi at 10:49 AM on January 12, 2006


whoever organises the safety of this event should be held accountable
posted by lemonfridge at 10:25 AM PST on January 12 [!]


Someone get Beshi on the phone.
posted by The Jesse Helms at 10:50 AM on January 12, 2006


I'm trying to remember the last stampeding deaths at a:

Christian church
Jewish synagogue
Buddhist temple
Shinto temple

etc., etc., etc.

Thousands of people gather at the Vatican for various events, yet none of them ever stampede.
posted by Sassenach at 10:51 AM on January 12, 2006


Thousands of people gather at the Vatican for various events, yet none of them ever stampede.
posted by Sassenach at 10:51 AM PST on January 12


hurr because muslims are dumber than onther religious people
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:55 AM on January 12, 2006


Thousands of people gather at the Vatican for various events, yet none of them ever stampede.

OK, so what's your point? Inherent inferiority of Muslims? If they convert to whatever you are, will they come up with better crowd control measures? Really, what is your point?
posted by ibmcginty at 10:55 AM on January 12, 2006


It would really be awful to get trampled to death. Hot, dust everywhere, light closing, no way out.
posted by The Jesse Helms at 10:59 AM on January 12, 2006


Doesn't this happen every year?

They simply set up gates, and meter the number of people that flow thru per hour. The bridge would be the perfect place to install it as it is an existing chokepoint.

Pretty easy. Could be setup in a weekend if they were actually motivated.

On preview, the point being (badly) made above is that stampede deaths are not necessarily the natural outcome of large crowds gathering, but seems to happen quite frequently on this particular endeavor.

I'm not aware of any trampling deaths at the Million Man March or the DC Gathering of the Promise Keepers, or Christmas Eve at the Vatican or any other similar gathering.

When it does tend to happen in civic events (concerts etc) it is usually because something is on fire or someone is shooting a weapon.

It doesn't make muslims bad or stupid, (or at least any more stupid than any religious person who believes rituals are important) but it does make those responsible for this event, given the years and years of experience, terrible and incompetent planners.
posted by Ynoxas at 11:05 AM on January 12, 2006


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Thousands of people gather at the Vatican for various events, yet none of them ever stampede.

OK, so what's your point?


I think his point is that religious events like this need not be dangerous if they are properly planned and organized. The Saudis make a ton of money on the Haj, so it's not like they can't afford a better setup. Here's my idea: Replace the bridge with a circular building built around the stoning site. People can be on several levels all around, and you can accomodate more crowds. Secondly, put some turnstyles that count the number of people at the entrances. Shut down the turnstyles when needed to stop over crowding. Don't allow suitcases, and have provision for the handicapped on a seperate level of the building so they don't get caught in the crowds. There's nothing inherently dangerous about this ritual, it just needs to be managed and planned properly. Given that the Saudis have been doing this every year, you'd think that they would've fixed this problem by now.
posted by unreason at 11:07 AM on January 12, 2006


I'm trying to remember the last stampeding deaths at a:

Christian church
Jewish synagogue
Buddhist temple
Shinto temple


How about Hindus?

Or you could look at all these crazy South African . . . uh not-Muslims.

Saudi Arabia deserves blame for its handling of the event, but they chop people's fucking hands off, so it's not shocking or anything. Implying that Muslims are dumber or more violent than other religious people is nuts.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 11:08 AM on January 12, 2006


Thousands of people gather at the Vatican for various events, yet none of them ever stampede.

No, Christians reserve their stampedes for sales of cheap consumer goods.
posted by you just lost the game at 11:08 AM on January 12, 2006


I guess we could say rock fans are dumber than other people.

Alternatively, it's probably more noble to get trampled to death during a religous pilgrimage than at a Wal-Mart over a $35 DVD player. I guess Wal-Mart shopping Americans are dumber than other people.
posted by sourwookie at 11:09 AM on January 12, 2006


You know, arguing that muslims are 'dumber' is stupid and ignorable; arguing that the Saudi authorities are not 'motivated' is just heinous. The Hajj is a marvel of civil engineering, planning and execution, and devotion by the authorities involved. I'm not saying that they've fucked up way too many times with regards to the stoning ritual, just to give them the benefit of the doubt with regards to motives. This is a whole makeshift city of 2.5 million people setup for three days that we're talking about, and the food, sanitation, transport from the sites, etc. all goes well.

Sassenach: there are no stampedes at the main two mosques, even when they're at full capacity. Try comparing like with like?
posted by Firas at 11:10 AM on January 12, 2006


I could get real snarky and say that the modern Xtian is far to docile and lacks the balls to worship with any real passion or risk.
posted by sourwookie at 11:12 AM on January 12, 2006


Above, I meant to say, "not saying that they haven't fucked up way too many times".
posted by Firas at 11:17 AM on January 12, 2006


Maybe the lesson here is that you shouldn't throw stones at the devil.
posted by 2sheets at 11:32 AM on January 12, 2006


I guess we could say rock fans are dumber than other people.

Hm. Perhaps a poor choice for reductio ad absurdum. Or maybe that wasn't sarcasm.

I would chalk it up more to the Saudis than Muslims in general... Saudi Arabia always struck me as basically being anarchy with a few really rich people filling in for whatever bits of government they feel like. No one in charge cares that people die there every year. Too bad.
posted by GuyZero at 11:34 AM on January 12, 2006


The periods in this thread look like little rocks.

That's because it's the regular Metafilter festival known as The Stoning of Witty.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:37 AM on January 12, 2006


It's a vast improvement on The Moaning of Witty.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:58 AM on January 12, 2006


Shame.

*refrains from making obtuse “Johnny Quest” snark*
posted by Smedleyman at 12:07 PM on January 12, 2006


I just wanted to point out something from the article that PeterMcDermott linked to:

An Iranian woman has been sentenced to death by stoning for adultery, local media reported on Saturday...[...] She was also given a separate 15-year jail sentence for helping her lover kill her husband.

Not to belabor the obvious: this is clearly a fundamentally different morality--and worldview--than most non-Muslims even begin to understand. Conspire to kill your husband? Bad, a fair amount of jail time. Cheat on him? Unforgivable, death by an incredibly painful method.

Hm.
posted by LooseFilter at 12:24 PM on January 12, 2006


Witty is only being racist by omission. To paraphrase Bender:

"When will you humans realise that all religious rituals are equally insane."

In fact scratch the word 'religious' there - all rituals are silly, period.
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 12:26 PM on January 12, 2006


my bad!
posted by wakko at 12:27 PM on January 12, 2006


There was an interesting Religious Policeman post about this, and what might happen in the future.

The current Muslim population is 1.6 billion. Even assuming no population growth, then at that date in the future when they can all afford the airfare, and generously assuming a 70-year lifespan, during 60 of which they can travel, and assuming that each Muslim makes the trip only once in their lifetime (the better-off currently do it several times), then that would generate 26.7 million pilgrims each year.

That compares to approximately two million at the moment


posted by TheophileEscargot at 12:30 PM on January 12, 2006


One thing to keep in mind is that lining up and waiting for your turn is really a British cultural behaviour that's only slowly trickling into the developing world (it's been adopted by most Westernised societies over the years). Interestingly, the vector by which it's transmitted there is fast-food restaurants like McDonald's etc. which will only serve customers if they line up in an orderly fashion and wait their turn. Since eating at an American fast-food restaurant is a form of conspicuous consumption in many parts of the third-world, people will act in a way they consider somewhat ludicrous for the sake of prestige.

What this all has to do with the Hajj is that most of the solutions proposed by the Mefi crowd seem to be operating under the impression that there is a line or lines of pilgrims that move in turn and that can be channelled, or that such lines can be easily formed by the authorities. In reality, one has a large amorphous mass with everyone shoving to get to the front all at once, and what's more, this is the crowd behaviour these pilgrims have generally been brought up to consider normal.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 12:35 PM on January 12, 2006


No, Christians reserve their stampedes for sales of cheap consumer goods.

Makes you wonder who their real gods are.

I could get real snarky and say that the modern Xtian is far to docile and lacks the balls to worship with any real passion or risk.

You don't give enough credit--you have to pay attention to where they really worship (see above).
posted by LooseFilter at 12:38 PM on January 12, 2006


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posted by winks007 at 12:41 PM on January 12, 2006


What does the . mean?

use clearasil.
posted by quonsar at 12:46 PM on January 12, 2006


I have heard that pilgrims who die during the Hajj are considered martyrs. True? That perhaps could explain the rather "understated" approach to safety.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:56 PM on January 12, 2006


What this all has to do with the Hajj is that most of the solutions proposed by the Mefi crowd seem to be operating under the impression that there is a line or lines of pilgrims that move in turn and that can be channelled, or that such lines can be easily formed by the authorities

But they have to gain access through some portal/gate/bridge/hallway/road/thoroughfare/something.

That is where you put crowd control devices.

They have to GET there somehow, they don't just magically teleport in.
posted by Ynoxas at 1:10 PM on January 12, 2006


One thing to keep in mind is that lining up and waiting for your turn is really a British cultural behaviour that's only slowly trickling into the developing world

Great point. Ever use an elevator in an asian country? When the doors open up the people getting on board before allowing others to get off. I don't want to sound intolerant, but this is sheer idiocy.

Not to belabor the obvious: this is clearly a fundamentally different morality--and worldview--than most non-Muslims even begin to understand. Conspire to kill your husband? Bad, a fair amount of jail time. Cheat on him? Unforgivable, death by an incredibly painful method.

Adultery is punishable by death in the Qu'ran (as in the Bible), but a proper conviction requires a confession or four eyewitnesses. This lady confessed. I wonder what the specifics of the murder are. Did she help by keeping a secret or did she aid in the actual killing? Was there a confession/eyewitness? Those could be reasons for the sentencing discrepencies.
posted by b_thinky at 1:12 PM on January 12, 2006


Definitely, the religious traditions have the same points of view on adultery (given their shared heritage, esp.), but I was referring more to the fact that, in many Muslim countries, this is a matter of law.

That's a public, legislated morality that is radically different than what most non-Muslim westerners really understand. It actually makes the whole scarlet letter thing seem tame by comparison.
posted by LooseFilter at 1:25 PM on January 12, 2006


this is clearly a fundamentally different morality--and worldview--than most non-Muslims even begin to understand.

Because the punishment of death for adultresses has never occured among Jews, or Christians, or in Hinduism, or in tribal religions . . .
posted by schroedinger at 1:26 PM on January 12, 2006


Ah, sorry LooseFilter, should've previewed.
posted by schroedinger at 1:27 PM on January 12, 2006


But they have to gain access through some portal/gate/bridge/hallway/road/thoroughfare/something.

That is where you put crowd control devices.

They have to GET there somehow, they don't just magically teleport in.


They do charge through shoving with a large mass forming on either side of the crowd control device. At best, you're forming a bottleneck. I would recommend just the opposite, in fact - maximising the space and access from any given point. The suggestion earlier of a large, multi-tiered stadium-like area sounds ideal, preferably with many smaller entrances and exits to disperse the crowd without concentrating it on one side of a barrier. A similar space is used successfully to display the Qaaba to large numbers of pilgrims at once, and also to successfully coordinate all sorts of large congregations of people in the Western world.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 1:29 PM on January 12, 2006


I've not heard that they're considered martyrs, but perhaps (like pilgrimage in Xty) being on Hajj is an especially holy time, so it's better to die then than at other times.

Like the last rites with Xians - purge your sins juuuust before you go, then you won't commit any more.
posted by athenian at 1:40 PM on January 12, 2006


"One thing to keep in mind is that lining up and waiting for your turn is really a British cultural behaviour that's only slowly trickling into the developing world"

Michael: That was right around the time I invented standing in line.

Dorothy: You invented standing in line?

Michael: Before that everybody just milled around. It was a big mess, so one day I said "Why not make a line?"

Frank: Oh yeah? What was the line for?

Michael: To get in.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 1:53 PM on January 12, 2006


I'm trying to remember the last stampeding deaths at a: Christian church

Christians prefer to kill each other with semi-automatic weapons.
posted by soiled cowboy at 1:54 PM on January 12, 2006


Yeah crazy crowd dynamics isn't a uniquely Muslim phenom. Hell, ever been to a soccer game in Italy?

However the difference is in the level of fatality and the frequency of these things. This happens in the third world a great deal.

As somebody pointed out particularly in Asian and in near east cultures there is no such thing as patiently waiting in a line. I can attest to that personally in Thailand, India and Turkey.

This is an obvious cultural flaw, a flaw at times certainly shared by a number of first world cultures, yet not to the degree suffered by most third world cultures who rarely even recognize it as such. It is NOT racist or some form superiority or hubris to point this out. It is a fact. And if nobody does anything about the cultural element it WILL keep happening over and over.

I think you combine these cultural predilections of impatience with religious zealotry, massive crowds, and out numbered organizers and you have a recipe for disaster that will reoccur time and again. And does. So why DON'T they do something about it?

The answer is simple. The people are from cultures who will not except the kind of intrusion into the experience that serious crowd control organization for 2.5 million frigg'n people would require.

They don't except it in lines for trains why do you think they would to go talk to god?
posted by tkchrist at 1:59 PM on January 12, 2006


On the BBC news forum there's lots of comments from people who've been there.
posted by funambulist at 2:11 PM on January 12, 2006


A point and a couple of questions.

Isn't discussing the 'idiocy' of the mechanics of this pilgramage missing the general 'idiocy' of an institution that teaches that it is important to travel across the world at least once in your life and throw stones at pillars or else you'll go straight to hell?

Po-fucking-jama people. Arf. I wish they'd all go away.

schroedinger

Political correctness notwithstanding, where in 2006 do you have adulteresses being put to death? Israel? Nope. US? doubtful. Europe? uh. Nein. Australia. I think not. Russia? Nyet. Japan...NO! Saudi Arabia. Yes. Iran. Yes. I'm sure there are others. While you are probably right in fact, what's your point? That killing adulteresses is ok because other cultures MAY have done it?

b_thinky, please quote me a chapter and verse about where in the Bible it suggests adulteresses should be put to death.

Shouldn't we as moral human beings be able to say, in fact be compelled to stand up and say that something that is fucked up, is in fact fucked up. I'll say it out loud. Killing people because they have sex with someone that you don't want them to is wrong. Putting people in a position where they can be killed because they are in your way on your pilgrimage is wrong. It has nothing to do with religion. Its just right and wrong. Just because its part of a large culture, doesn't make it right. It just means that its culturally accepted wrong.

I want to be open-minded about different cultures and all, but you'd have to be pretty gutless not to accept that simple fact, regardless of your religion.
posted by sfts2 at 2:16 PM on January 12, 2006


One thing to keep in mind is that lining up and waiting for your turn is really a British cultural behaviour that's only slowly trickling into the developing world

As somebody pointed out particularly in Asian and in near east cultures there is no such thing as patiently waiting in a line.


I thought Japan was famous for its ridiculously long lines? Is that a recent development?
posted by mdn at 2:20 PM on January 12, 2006


Because the punishment of death for adultresses has never occurred among Jews, or Christians, or in Hinduism, or in tribal religions . . .

Sure. historically or if you look to sects, etc. However, name where that --- death for adultery--- is official legal doctrine in a western country? There are a few in Muslim countries where it IS completely legal. I think that is what he was trying to clumsily address.

This tit for tat thing is silly (Oh yeah whaddabout da Xtians!!!OMFG!!). We can rationally address the flaws of one culture separately from another, ok. We are adults.
posted by tkchrist at 2:25 PM on January 12, 2006


sfts2:
killing someone for revenge is Just Wrong.
killing someone for revenge because they killed someone else is Just Wrong.
killing someone for revenge for killing a family member of yours is Just Wrong.
killing in war is Just Wrong.
killing is always Just Wrong.
killing animals for no reason is Just Wrong.
killing animals to eat them, when you have access to other equally nourishing food is Just Wrong.

(i dunno... i guess we could argue all day about the fact that we all find some things Just Wrong. we'll also disagree about responsibilities, cultural differences and the simple inclusions into the group of Wrongs. i may agree with you in general, but when we get down to it, there are lots of things i think are Just Wrong that i'm sure you will say are somehow just. thus, methinks your argument is still Point of View, whether you likes it or not.)
posted by RedEmma at 3:00 PM on January 12, 2006


If we're all adults, perhaps we can also try and consider the case of hundreds of people dying in an accident of failed massive-crowd control and irresponsible behaviour of people in the crowd separately from the issues of stoning people to death, religious fundamentalism, violence, and other cultural shortcomings and general suckiness of the vast billion-strong group to which the dead formally belong, without that membership making them any less individuals who may even, gosh forbid, not have anything to do with stoning people to death and not support it. How about that?

Otherwise, why not bomb the whole Middle East?
posted by funambulist at 3:03 PM on January 12, 2006


p.s. i sound a bit obscure in my little bit there... i'm obviously not arguing that killing anyone is right. only that the collective we humans will disagree on the point all over the place. i don't think "killing" a fetus is wrong, for instance. and i think that my fairly extreme views on animal rights is unlikely to hold much sway... therefore our ethics are always arguable.
posted by RedEmma at 3:05 PM on January 12, 2006


b_thinky, please quote me a chapter and verse about where in the Bible it suggests adulteresses should be put to death.

Leviticus 20: 10: And the man that committeth adultery with another man's wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour's wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 3:17 PM on January 12, 2006


(That was in response to sfts2's jawdroppingly stupid question.)
posted by Optimus Chyme at 3:19 PM on January 12, 2006


please quote me a chapter and verse about where in the Bible it suggests adulteresses should be put to death.


Leviticus 20:10 (King James Version)
King James Version (KJV)
Public Domain

10And the man that committeth adultery with another man's wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour's wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.
posted by Ynoxas at 3:20 PM on January 12, 2006


mdn> Japan went through two periods of dramatic Westernisation, the Meiji Restoration and post-WW2. They're much more Westernised than anyone else in the area. Somewhere along the way, they picked up the behaviour (presumably the Meiji Restoration, which involved large numbers of British-educated Japanese returning from their educations abroad).
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 3:23 PM on January 12, 2006


dammit optimus :p

In return, I quote you my favorite passage in Leviticus:

Leviticus 19:19 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

19 " 'Keep my decrees.
" 'Do not mate different kinds of animals.
" 'Do not plant your field with two kinds of seed.
" 'Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material.

So if you are a mule breeder, who grows both corn and soybeans, as well as wear cotton and polyester at the same time, you might as well start breaking out the burnt offerings. Or would that be a guilt offering? Better do both, just to be safe.
posted by Ynoxas at 3:33 PM on January 12, 2006


The social dynamics of lining up are interesting because everyone has to buy into the theory and follow it all at once. What I mean is, minority behaviours can often be expressed without the involvement of the group (eg. vegetarianism), not so with lining up.

I'm trying to think of a particular situation outside of a shop in India where you swarmed around the opening window and shouted to the guy to make your breakfast order. The reason lining up just isn't feasible is that (a) doing it yourself and ignoring everybody else will ensure that you never get served till the crowd has dispersed and (b) advocating others to do it will get you stared at, made fun of, etc. Damned if you do it yourself regardless of others, even more damned if you attempt to impress it upon others in a conventional environment where they were brought up thinking that pushing their way in is the 'macho' way.
posted by Firas at 3:34 PM on January 12, 2006


Reason # 33,124,998 religion is a stupid
posted by gagglezoomer at 3:40 PM on January 12, 2006


More on lining up. There's a lot that does happen during the Hajj, eg. lining up outside makeshift lavoratories. With respect to the main holy mosque, there's a black stone in there that's said to be of paradise, to kiss it you line up along the side of a wall (of a large cube called the Kaabah). However, as you advance along the edge to the corner of the cube that holds the stone, the line turns into just another 'group of heaving bodies' trying to advance to that little stone (the opening to which is about the side of two human heads, I guess).

There's a cop desperately hanging from a rope on the edge trying to make sure nobody gets killed, but again, it's the 'jeez lemme in' behaviour that leads to horrid squishing.

Sooo. Lining up is not alien to the environment but needs strict enforcement because the selfish behaviour of individuals who want to be in and out of wherever they're going quickly upsets the group dynamics of lining up.

With regard to the stoning stampedes, I'm much more given to blaming the stupidity of people rather than the incompetence of the authorities, but I guess each has their share of the blame.
posted by Firas at 3:41 PM on January 12, 2006


Ynoxas: I grow weary of making this point, but I'll muster the strength for another encore:

A religion is not just the text.

If you're going to critique a religion, you must also consider the issue of interpretation, both historical and contemporary.

All these citations from the Hebrew Testament are especially moronic since Rabbis have been insisting since late antiquity that:

(a) to read the scriptures literally befits only an infant.
(b) the scriptures are incomplete without the oral tradition
and (c) their true meaning requires exegesis.

I cite Judaism simply because its most familiar to me, not to lord it over Christianity or Islam. I know that all three religions have complex issues of interpretation.

Try to have a modest understanding of the religion before you chortle and chuckle at its texts.
posted by ori at 3:52 PM on January 12, 2006


Who wants to bet that sfts2 won't post in this thread again?
posted by Optimus Chyme at 3:55 PM on January 12, 2006


Personally, I hope he never posts on this site again. He made a valiant attempt to drag this thread down to the level of moronic bigotry I had feared when I entered it.
posted by languagehat at 4:01 PM on January 12, 2006


tkchrist: However, name where that --- death for adultery--- is official legal doctrine in a western country? There are a few in Muslim countries where it IS completely legal. I think that is what he was trying to clumsily address.

No, that's not what I was clumsily trying to address. What I was clumsily addressing is the fact that most westerners (Americans, esp.) have little clue just how far apart these two cultures really are. The death-penalty-for-stoning was just a fer-instance.

(Hopefully that's more clear.)
posted by LooseFilter at 4:03 PM on January 12, 2006


Of course, upon further reflection, while we might be shocked that Muslims' fervor to participate in the Hajj causes them to trample each other to death, it's really just the tip of this particular iceberg. I'm not really shocked or outraged at this--that's how people are.

I'm also not shocked that people get trampled at a Wal-Mart for $35 DVD players or whatever. Maybe my outrage-meter needs recalibrating, but how is this any different from how people have always been? People are selfish. It's how we're wired.

(The irony being that our religions are in part supposed to temper that wiring, make us reconsider our hard-wired perspective, but are then used to reinforce that which they are meant to diffuse.)
posted by LooseFilter at 4:08 PM on January 12, 2006


I wonder how Pat Robertson will spin this one?
I know, I know! Tie him to the first pillar. This will give them all something concrete to throw their stones at. (Pun, well, intentional...)
posted by nlindstrom at 4:19 PM on January 12, 2006


ori, I am much more familiar with both the old testament and new testament than I wish I were. I consider many of those years wasted.

There are still jewish sects that believe old testament law, and follow it. Don't cut the sides of your hair, or cut the end of your beard. Sound familiar?

There are entire christian sects that believe and follow much of it, which is inane considering the significance of the new testament vs the old. You have amish people not using electricity to prevent being "unequally yoked". You have some Pentecostals having women cover their head in church. You have baptist churches participating in ritual cleansing (foot washing). People speaking in tongues. People annointing with oil. People casting out demons. And these are all PEOPLE I KNOW.

Virtually all christian denominations codify and fetishize the 10 commandments, the actual words, the actual arrangement, the physical representation of them. Most christian denominations still follow the gospel directives for who can serve in their church.

Your own experience may be insulated, but rest assured there are people who very much believe and follow (or at least attempt to) the literal admonishments in the Bible.

Perhaps you should expand your horizons a bit before you question the knowledge of others.

In America today, most christian denominations fetishize the text to a fantastic degree. You should know this.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Amen.
posted by Ynoxas at 7:19 PM on January 12, 2006


You have amish people not using electricity to prevent being "unequally yoked".

Err, that's not the main reason that most Amish don't use electricity. It has more to do with wanting to keep a simple life so that there's more room for God and less for earthly things. That's why the Amish usually allow electricity in emergencies, and some allow it under certain circumstances in everyday life. It has very little to do with the "unequally yoked" thing.
posted by unreason at 7:41 PM on January 12, 2006


Reason # 33,124,998 religion is a stupid
posted by gagglezoomer 4 ¼ hours ago


Reason #1 why some members sound so tedious and puerile when it comes to religion.
posted by caddis at 7:57 PM on January 12, 2006


Who wants to bet that sfts2 won't post in this thread again?

Uh. I will. How much was that bet, chum? So you're feeling proud about a personal insult and a completely ambiguous link. Good for you, you pathetic putz.

My stupid question was exactly what? I'm going to assume, given your complete lack of clarity that you were refering to my request for the specific bible quote that the poster alluded to. As I am not exactly someone who appreciates the all of the nuances of most organized religions. I was looking for some clear statement rather than a general statement without any backup, that conflicts pretty clearly with most of what I thought I knew about Christianity. It was, as I thought, just a provocative use of a literal quote, disregarding the poster's clear knowledge that killing adulteresses is not a tenet of any aspect of Christianity, while it is a major tenet of Sharia, today in 2006.

BTW, langaugehat, perhaps you have misinterpreted what I said, or perhaps I did not take the time to craft my words. Its not about bigotry against any particular religion. My brother is an Islamic cleric, reads Arabic, and reads the Quran about 4 hours a day and started the Islamic Peace Center in Carlysle PA. He has talked to me for hours at a time about Islam, in an effort to convert me. My sister is born-again Christian. Me, I just have a hard time with organized religion, not Islam, not Christianity, all of them. I studied comparative religions in college, a long time ago. So, if I'm a bigot, at least I'm an relatively informed bigot. What's your knowledge of the subject?

When participation in a religious ritual routinely kills hundreds of people. Don't you think its time to stop worrying about being politically correct, and shouldn't the leaders of these religions advocate behaving with some sense?

As far as saying something 'is just wrong' Of course, this is my opinion. I knew that it was a provocative statement when I wrote it. I meant it to be. Is someone going to make a case that either of these behaviors are positive? I just don't think there is much gray area here.

For me, here, its about having the courage to say and stand up for whats right, regardless of popular opinion holds, or what the majority feels. Islam and Christianity have no monopoly on fucked up behavior, far from it, it just the behavior we are talking about here. There are aspects of all religion that are good and positive, but encouraging, no requiring, that 2.5 million people to crowd into 2 or 3 acres so that they can throw stones at pillars, just doesn't seem to be one of them.

I guess what I'm trying to say, is that if people want to make their pilgrimage, thats fine, Ins'allah. And if their zeal for their ritual causes hundreds of people to die, thats ok too. If they're cool with it, I'm cool with it. I'd just like to see a few less dead folks. Sorry.
posted by sfts2 at 8:19 PM on January 12, 2006


"There are aspects of all religion that are good and positive, but encouraging, no requiring, that 2.5 million people to crowd into 2 or 3 acres so that they can throw stones at pillars, just doesn't seem to be one of them."

Well said!
posted by ParisParamus at 8:49 PM on January 12, 2006


People are herd animals. Stampedes happen.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:10 PM on January 12, 2006


I remember seeing pictures of that place in 10th grade history (social studies?) class. Scared the hell out of me; looked like some 2001-ish science fiction thing. More scary than the Mormons? A tie!
posted by ParisParamus at 9:17 PM on January 12, 2006


Hey paris, Is it as scary as the wailing wall?
posted by mulligan at 9:19 PM on January 12, 2006


Nope. That's just a wall, although I guess the idea of people praying toward it is kinda odd--Black Hat jews are certainly odd, but not so extreme in their oddness.
posted by ParisParamus at 9:22 PM on January 12, 2006


Lest we forget, Muslims go to the Ka'ba because it was supposedly built by Abraham.

Can't we all get along now?
posted by bardic at 9:33 PM on January 12, 2006


How much was that bet, chum?

Two fine fat geese, payable immediately to languagehat.

So you're feeling proud about a personal insult and a completely ambiguous link. Good for you, you pathetic putz.

What's ambiguous? You said b_thinky, please quote me a chapter and verse about where in the Bible it suggests adulteresses should be put to death.

Clearly, you thought such a chapter and verse did not exist. You were wrong.

"Leviticus 20:10: And the man that committeth adultery with another man's wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour's wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death."

Shit, it even uses the same phrase: "put to death." Your presumption that such punishments don't exist in the Bible were eactly wrong. Who's the putz, here?

As I am not exactly someone who appreciates the all of the nuances of most organized religions. I was looking for some clear statement rather than a general statement without any backup, that conflicts pretty clearly with most of what I thought I knew about Christianity.

Uh, "shall surely be put to death" is crystal fucking clear, my man. Your knowledge of Christianity is apparently pretty trivial.

It was, as I thought, just a provocative use of a literal quote,

And it was exactly - exactly! - what you asked for.

disregarding the poster's clear knowledge that killing adulteresses is not a tenet of any aspect of Christianity, while it is a major tenet of Sharia, today in 2006

Don't be so hasty, buddy. There are tons of Christian Reconstructionists in the U.S. who are dying to "restore" Biblical law. That includes insane shit like stoning people to death. Fortunately, our secular and deist founding fathers put protections into the Constitution against just this kind of nuttiness. But make no mistake: there are plenty of Christians who think that homosexuality, adultery, and hell, maybe even poly-cotton blends, that should be punishable by death.

Me, I just have a hard time with organized religion, not Islam, not Christianity, all of them.

Me too, which is why I find it mind-boggling that you thought Christianity didn't have draconian punishments in store for sinners. For fuck's sake, it was the Christians, not the Jews or Greeks, who invented the idea of Hell as neverending, infinite torture forever.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 9:34 PM on January 12, 2006


Poly-cotton blends are bad, but not as bad as adultery.
posted by ParisParamus at 9:54 PM on January 12, 2006


Shellfish are the real problem.
posted by bardic at 10:02 PM on January 12, 2006


Leviticus is not a Christian text. The laws it contains are not Christian laws. The so-called 'Christians' in the United States that wish to have 'biblical' laws are apostate pretenders. They live in contest with eachother, trying to prove themselves holier-than-thou. They are the very people whom the guy we call 'Jesus' warned us about.

I can not help but think that some of the Muslims may very well think that death at Hajj only takes the weak. Certainly it aids in providing mass hysteria, which can be very satisfying, giving the flavor of a 'true' religious experience.
posted by Goofyy at 2:11 AM on January 13, 2006


I remember hearing that inside the cube is a meteorite. Which is revered so slavishly because it came from heaven, natch.

Our species was never meant to be in such huge crowds. We're just not equipped to handle it.

What they need is a MMPORG of Mecca so you can have 2343242342 servers where they can each throw virtual pebbles without killing anyone.
posted by beth at 2:36 AM on January 13, 2006


For me, here, its about having the courage to say and stand up for whats right, regardless of popular opinion holds, or what the majority feels.

Perhaps you have confused this site for Religions'R'Us. It takes less than no courage to slam religion here on MeFi. Which doesn't mean you shouldn't do it, god knows, but try not to 1) be moronic about it and 2) beat your chest about your courage in doing it.
posted by languagehat at 5:18 AM on January 13, 2006


Satan 345, Allah 0.

This happens pretty much every year, right? Allahu Akbar. Or not.
posted by Decani at 7:12 AM on January 13, 2006


I'm trying to remember the last stampeding deaths at an atheist ritual.

Oh wait...
posted by Decani at 7:14 AM on January 13, 2006


Goofyy: the physically weak? Mortality does have a way of picking out the infirm. That's not a religious concept, it's medical science.

As far as dying during Hajj concerned on a religious level, I suspect mrgrimm is kinda right, it's viewed as a more venerated thing than 'ordinary' death. As in, if you're going to kick the bucket, what better time than during pilgrimage?

Guys, this series of rituals is not all that weird. We think the meteorite is from heaven, Roman Catholics think it's useful to dunk babies in 'holy water' and 'eat the blood of christ', that Christ took on 'the sins of man' (a pretty bizarre notion, which, like the 'holy trinity' seems to be born of theological arguments over centuries rather than rational thought.) No religion holds a monopoly on superstitiousness.
posted by Firas at 7:27 AM on January 13, 2006


Leviticus is not a Christian text. The laws it contains are not Christian laws. The so-called 'Christians' in the United States that wish to have 'biblical' laws are apostate pretenders. They live in contest with eachother, trying to prove themselves holier-than-thou. They are the very people whom the guy we call 'Jesus' warned us about.

Your last sentence may be true, but it's ludicrous to pretend that Christianity does not have a history of following Levitical laws. Surely you recall the thousands burned as witches in the U.S. and Europe around the 15th century. None were spared. Infants were burned as surely as the old. If you were too ugly, you were a witch. If you were too beautiful, you were a witch. If you denied being a witch, you were a witch. The greatest tool of the witchhunters was not the Malleus Malificarum, but the Bible, which both required and justified the murder of literally thousands.

The accusers and the witchhunters were not isolated crazies; they had the full support of the Catholic Church; indeed, the very reason that witches were burned rather than run through with steel was the official statement that "the Church abhors bloodshed."

There may be progressive and sane Christians who reject Levitical laws, but they are no more "true Christians" than those who wish to see a return to ancient ways and punishments.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 8:56 AM on January 13, 2006


A few things:

1. I believe that the stoning of the idols is a revolting ritual, the only revolting one of the Hajj. To pelt pebbles at 3 idols is not very practical when you have over 2 million pilgrims. While the ritual could be better managed [and the Saudis are building 4 ramps to better help the flow], I think the ritual should just end. I'm clearly not religious but for me the Hajj represents the unity of Muslims from all over who congregate. All they need to do is pray and meet each other. Why pelt pebbles at symbols of Satan? It's a violent act and does not belong in a time of prayer, unity, celebration. During the Hajj, you're meant to be in a state of ihram (of ritual consecration) ... which is how men and women can mingle so freely etc. ... It's meant to describe a state of purity and abstinence. To me, the pelting of stones at pillars contradicts the essence of ihram.

2. That said, unlike in the Old Testament, apparently there is no mention of stoning for adultery in the Koran. The Koranic punishment is 100 lashes; death by stoning was added after the fact, and is a form of Hudood [scroll down to Anon's Addition] punishment (the most extreme form).

3. I am a Muslim and believe that both stoning as a form of punishment and the stoning ritual at Hajj are abhorrent, and should end. In most Muslim countries, stoning is not a part of any legal punishment, and it's legal/textual basis seems far stronger in the Judeo-Christian tradition than the Islamic one. But I also believe the death penalty in general is abhorrent, whether executed (excuse the pun) through electric chair, lethal injections or through hanging.
posted by Azaadistani at 12:13 PM on January 13, 2006


What they need is a MMPORG of Mecca so you can have 2343242342 servers where they can each throw virtual pebbles without killing anyone.
posted by beth at 4:36 AM CST on January 13 [!]


What's that? I feel a little tremble in my pinky finger over the ENTER button. I feel kinda queasy too.

Oh My God... I just had my first internet crush.

Call me!
posted by Ynoxas at 7:05 PM on January 13, 2006




ParisParamus...

Those stones thrown aren't for an immediate destruction of Satan or else it wouldn't be done again next year.

So your customer service idea is sort of Ashkenazi.
posted by stirfry at 8:31 PM on January 13, 2006


stirfry, I commend you on your sense of irreverence and, possibly, humor. I just thought it was a funny quote. And, I have only contempt for mass religious gatherings of any kind.
posted by ParisParamus at 8:36 PM on January 13, 2006


I think it’s interesting that when you pray to God for a new bike, it hardly ever materializes in your bedroom within seconds. But when you throw stones at the devil, quite often you get an immediate response. That’s an example of good customer service.

Posted by ParisParamus, found via Little Green Footballs, and written by Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert, and somehow that's the funniest fucking thing I've heard in a month.

It's going to be a weird day.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 8:04 AM on January 14, 2006


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