I respect other people's religions. Each man has a right to formulate his conception of the Divine, principles of belief, patterns of worship and I cannot deny that religion can attract irrational thinking and even worse behavior.
Nevertheless, year in and year out, we learn of the happenings at Mecca and this year, it has happened again.
Below is an excerpt from the AP report:
At Least 345 People Die in Hajj Stampede
By SALAH NASRAWI, Associated Press Writer
Thousands of Muslim pilgrims rushing to complete a symbolic stoning ritual during the hajj tripped over luggage Thursday, causing a crush in which at least 345 people were killed despite Saudi attempts to prevent stampedes that have plagued the annual event.
The stampede occurred as tens of thousands of pilgrims headed toward al-Jamarat, a series of three pillars representing the devil that the faithful pelt with stones to purge themselves of sin.
Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Mansour al-Turki said 345 people were killed. More than 1,000 people were injured, said Dr. Abbasi with the Saudi Red Crescent.
The site is a notorious bottleneck for the massive crowds that attend the annual hajj pilgrimage and has seen deadly stampedes in the past, including one in 1990 that killed 1,426 people and another in February 2004 that killed 244. Seven of the past 17 yearly pilgrimages have seen deadly incidents at al-Jamarat.
The stampede took place despite Saudi efforts to improve traffic at the site, where all 2.5 million pilgrims participating in the annual hajj move from pillar to pillar to throw their stones, then exit.
Saudi authorities replaced the small round pillars with short walls to allow more people to throw their stones without jostling for position. The walls extend down through the bridge and protrude underneath, so pilgrims below can also carry out the stoning without going above.
I have studied various religions and I do not think anything can truly compare with the above described rock-throwing act (although throwing stones at Jews is more wicked) and the self-flagellation on Ashoura.
Yes, in Judaism's history there have been persons who have fasted, rolled in the snow and even had themselves whipped symbolically. But this was not the norm. This was not a mass phenomenon.
I somehow feel that a people that can do this to themselves in such a way, can do much worse to others.