A 5.9-magnitude earthquake hit Mount Kinabalu in Malaysia on Friday. The death toll is already at 16 and it may go higher in the coming days. It’s a devastating tragedy so officials are trying to figure out if this is a natural disaster or something they could’ve prevented. And the answer they’ve stumbled upon is what happens when irrational thinking mixes with a desperate need for an explanation:
Sabah Deputy Chief Minister Joseph Pairin Kitingan blamed the tragedy on a group of 10 foreigners who “showed disrespect to the sacred mountain” by posing naked at the peak last week. He said a special ritual would be conducted later to “appease the mountain spirit.”
He totally saw this coming, too:
Pairin said he had a premonition that something bad was going to happen earlier this week when he saw a flight of swallows circling outside his house during breakfast.
“At first I didn’t think anything of it, but after it went on for more than half an hour I knew something was not well. I brought it up with my wife and we bought agreed that something bad was going to happen.
“The next day, I was on the way to the airport when the earthquake occurred. To me, when something like this happens, it is a clear connection of the incident to the earthquake that has brought about so much damage and loss of lives,” he said.
That’s not just a bad, faulty explanation with no scientific heft behind it. Kitingan wants to press charges against the foreigners.
The Huguon Siou (paramount leader of the Kadazandusun) condemned the “uncivilised” and disrespectful actions of the 10 Europeans, and called for the culprits to be brought to a native court and charged according to local customs.“Whether other people believe this or not, it’s what we Sabahans believe. When the earthquake happened, it’s like a confirmation of our beliefs.
“It is a sacred mountain and you cannot take it lightly,” he said in a press conference to announce the latest death toll at the Sabah Parks headquarters here today.
If they broke any rules, go ahead and fine them. Ban them from ever returning to the mountain again. But to argue that they caused an earthquake of this magnitude by “disrespecting” the mountain is kind of like a blasphemy law: It’s an irrational overreaction to something that hurts nobody. (Plus, we already know what causes earthquakes: Gay people.)
Hell, the nude pictures didn’t even hurt anybody’s feelings until the government blew them out of proportion. Now, any of the tourists who are still in the country may not be allowed to leave until all of this is settled.
Look: The tourists don’t have the deaths of 16 people on their hands (or any other exposed limb, for that matter). You don’t have to condone their actions to know they shouldn’t be changed with any real crime. Let’s hope the Malaysian people aren’t dumb enough to fall for the explanation they’re being given.
(Image via Facebook. Thanks to Chantal for the link)