I see the British tabloids are up in arms again.
It seems that a British tourist called Eleanor Hawkins was arrested for baring her boobs at a sacred mountain, Mount Kinabalu in Borneo.
Apparently this behaviour disrespected the Mountain Gods and caused an earthquake that was 5.9 on the Richter scale and killed eighteen people.
But that’s not the whole story, and certainly not what bothers me about the whole thing.
Miss Hawkins and three other people – Canadian sisters, Lindsey and Danielle Petersen, and Dutch national Dylan Snel – were arrested at Sabah airport as they attempted to leave the country after their holiday.
When I saw the headlines, I immediately thought to myself, “Fucking religion! For fuck sake!” and other, equally exasperated things. But then, I looked into the story a little deeper.
It seems that she and her cohorts were not arrested for angering the mountain gods, but rather for the entirely secular offence of public indecency. According to the police:
Reported by Sabah Parks staff, 10 tourists were alleged to have stripped and posed naked for photos on Mount Kinabalu’s peak on May 30 and reportedly rebuffed their local guide who tried to stop them, telling him to “go to hell”.
Regardless of whether you believe their behaviour to be worthy of arrest, you must agree that if you are visiting a foreign country, then it’s only polite to follow their laws. And in Borneo, they tourists were accused under Section 294(a) of the Penal code for public indecency, an offence which is punishable by a maximum three months’ jail term or fine or both.
Their paddling pool, their rules. Besides, if they were to publicly strip completely naked at a popular tourist destination in any country in the western world, I suggest that they would probably be facing charges there too.
My issue with the whole thing is not that they have been arrested. My issue is that the tabloids went with the whole ‘anger of the mountain gods’ thing… And I was so quick to believe them.
I was quite ready to start tweeting about “fucking religion again!”
Why is it, that in the 21st Century, a story like this is so easy to believe? Could it be that it’s because religion is and has been been responsible for such egregious arrests and punishments that it isn’t beyond the realms of believability.
It is sad isn’t it?
Religion, the cause of so much human suffering for the most ridiculous of reasons, that it only has itself to blame when it is held responsible for something like this.