Are mountains offended by nudity? Can an earthquake be caused by insulting local legends? Will the charges hold up in court? Those are some of the questions being asked in Malaysia where a magnitude 5.9 earthquake on June 5 is being blamed on up to ten tourists who posed for naked photos on May 30th on top of Mount Kinabalu on the island of Borneo. The earthquake killed at least 13 people with more missing. Two Canadian tourists and possibly three others in their group, are being detained in Malaysia for showing disrespect to “the revered place of the dead” and triggering the massive earthquake and landslides.
The legend of Mount Kinabalu is tied to the story of “Cina Balu” which means Chinese widow. A Chinese prince whose boat sank was rescued by Borneo natives and fell in love with and married a local woman. After raising a family on the island, he went back alone to visit his other family in China, promising to return. His lonely wife climbed Mount Kinabalu to look for his ship, which never came back, and she eventually died on top of the mountain where her face was turned into a stone that points towards the South China Sea. The mountain was renamed for her and is a symbol of everlasting love to the locals.
Lindsey Petersen and her brother Danielle Petersen were part of a group of ten tourists on a two-day hike of the mountain that decided to take the naked photos and allegedly urinate on it as well. The tour guide asked that they refrain out of respect but they did it anyway. He apparently reported them to authorities and, when the earthquake hit on June 5, Datuk Masidi Manjun, the minister of tourism, culture and environment in the state of Sabah, had them charged with gross indecency and violating local native laws and detained them in Borneo with three others in the group.
In a statement, Sabah Deputy Chief Minister Joseph Pairin Kitingan blamed the nude tourists for the earthquake.
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. [A ritual will be performed to] appease the mountain spirit.
Can they be convicted and imprisoned? Quite possibly. Did they cause the earthquake? Before you say “preposterous,” here in the U.S., some politicians running for president blame natural disasters on the actions of individuals.
What do you think?