Tourists on Mount Kinabalu, Malaysia, stripping down…very much against local law.
Hey! Remember the Boobquake of a few years back, when some silly mullah in Iran blamed women’s “immodest dress” for causing earthquakes in that land (which happens to be located on a number of major geological faultlines, and therefore, is prone to earthquakes no matter what)? Well, something happened in Malaysia recently that is kinda-sorta like that, and this time, it’s immodest foreigners being blamed:
Rescuers recovered the bodies of 11 more climbers from Malaysia’s highest peak on Saturday, a day after it was struck by a strong earthquake, bringing the total number of dead to 13.
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.”
According to a police report, the two Canadian tourists involved in the incident are Lindsey Petersen and Danielle Petersen. Along with two Dutch and a German national, they broke away from their entourage and stripped naked before taking photos at the mountain peak on May 30, officials have said.
Five of the tourists are believed to still be in Malaysia and will be barred from leaving on the offence of gross indecency, police have said.
Actually, silly naked tourists did NOT cause this disaster. Malaysia, like Iran, is situated on top of a VERY geologically active bit of the Earth’s crust, where several tectonic plates are in conflict with one another. This particular hotspot is one of the most volcanically active areas on Earth.
So it’s not too surprising that local natives, who probably don’t have a whole lot of modern geophysical knowledge at their disposal, would have evolved a set of beliefs and superstitions about the frequent earthquakes and volcanic activity that rock their homeland, causing death and destruction. And if the spirits and deities of the mountains aren’t appeased, so the logic goes, bad things happen. Or if uppity foreigners come in, all ignorant of local customs, and offend them — same thing.
Of course, nudity and immodesty don’t cause earthquakes. The ground under our feet doesn’t care what we wear. We could all go starkers anytime we wanted and it wouldn’t make a difference. The only thing that does make a difference is whether your particular patch of dirt is located on or near a massive subduction zone.
But try telling that to the local authorities of Malaysia, who are already none too keen on foreigners coming in and doing idiotic stunts on sacred ground just for the sake of some forgettable postings on Instagram or Facebook. These bozos came with the intent of creating some transgressive memories for life, and got a LOT more than they bargained for, thanks to the worst timing ever. But even if their timing didn’t suck, they still would have landed in deep shit. Why tempt a government that is already itching to prosecute foreigners for the slightest infraction? YOLO is the philosophy of the Hardcore Stupid.
Meanwhile, Mark Morford has the sanest take on the whole loopy tragedy. Read it, and if you take anything at all away from this incident, let it be that you, as a visitor in another country, should still be mindful and respectful of local customs…whether you agree with the beliefs behind them or not.
Aside from local customs, you should also be aware of the dangers if you’re travelling in a region known for its geological hazards, as Malaysia is. Scaling the highest mountain in the region on a lark, only to get blamed for an earthquake, is a seriously stupid way to round out your bucket list.
If you don’t end up kicking the bucket prematurely, that is.