Michael's Dispatches

Tigers, Crocodiles, Korans and Superstitions


In the Sundarbans, when a man is killed by a tiger, his wife is believed to have brought bad luck and she and the children are vanquished:

“[T]he tiger widows…viewed as harbingers of bad luck among the superstitious local population…are avoided, expelled and, after the dramatic deaths of their husbands, thrown out by their husband's families, with which they have often been living since their weddings. Already poor, they have no choice but to provide for their families themselves.”  Spiegel: Bangladesh's Tiger Widows Fight Exclusion

Man is always looking for ways to make himself right by the Gods.  Today in Afghanistan, over the Koran burnings, that cleansing appeasement takes the form of bullets and car bombs.

In Africa and other places, babies often are sacrificed:

“His top teeth came in before his bottom teeth. That is how elders of the Kara tribe determined that a healthy baby boy needed to be killed.  The child was ‘mingi’—cursed, according to their ancient superstitions. With every breath, they believed, the boy was beckoning an evil spirit into their village.

“…[T]he decision to kill the boy was the easy part. It was the sacrifice of one infant for the good of the entire tribe—a rite that some of the elders had witnessed hundreds of times...the tribe’s leaders were less certain of what they should do about the boy’s twin brother, who had died of sickness shortly after birth. After some debate, including a pensive examination of a goat’s intestines, they decided the dead child must have been mingi…they dug up the corpse, bound it to the living boy, paddled a canoe into the center of the Omo River and threw them both into the murky brown water.” CNN: Is the tide turning against the killing of 'cursed' infants in Ethiopia?

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Mr. Tiger had a Bengal tiger on his back.  He struggled to survive but the cat was strong and was winning.  He said five or six other men attacked the tiger with sticks, but the cat fought back.

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Tiger teeth marks.

One can only imagine the suddenness of a tiger weighing hundreds of pounds sinking its teeth into your neck, pinning your head to the ground.  The sound of its panting in your ears, the smell of its meat-eating breath in your nose and mouth.  Those who have smelled tiger’s breath say it’s horrible.

If the cyclones, serpents, mosquitoes and tigers aren’t enough, there’s the Sundarban crocodiles.  We saw many, and the largest was bigger than most of the fishermen’s boats.  These are Estuarine Crocs and keeping in context with the Sundarbans, they are man-eaters.  They snatch people off the banks and boats.

2012-02-07-7525cc-1000Crocodile just near Tiger Man’s village.

There are stories around the world about sacrifices to crocodiles.  Along the Ganges, Hindu women of yestertimes were said to hold a baby by the arm until a crocodile came to take it, and then she would toss the baby to the croc and watch it devoured.

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Tiger scar.

Therapy-cat1000Tiger Man could try kitty therapy. This cat would be perfect; it sleeps with its claws extended and it can warn of Kraits.

Mankind uses therapy to assuage its fears.  Sometimes the therapy comes in the form of drowning babies, feeding them to the crocodiles, or in casting out the tiger widows.

Laws against human sacrifice are enforced only when those making the laws are more powerful than those who continue with human sacrifice.

There is no significant difference between this and what we see today in Afghanistan with the fanatical reaction to the Koran burnings.  Dozens of people have already died.  There was a large car bomb yesterday morning in Jalalabad, for which the Taliban claimed credit for killing at least nine more people.  Most of the killing is by Afghans of Afghans.

If those committing this human sacrifice were a small tribe in Africa warding off “mingi,” we would instantly recognize that their behavior is unacceptable.  If someone burned some papers, no matter how much offense it caused, and a tribe in Africa started a bonfire for babies, it would not be appropriate to apologize.

There is little difference in blasting off suicide bombs than in feeding babies to crocodiles.  Anthropological details vary but the essentials remain unchanged.

10D8122cc-1000Hindu shrine along a canal near Mr. Tiger's village and the crocodile.

Those committing the human sacrifices in Afghanistan hold sufficient power that they caused the President of the United States, and our Commanding General in Afghanistan, to buckle and supplicate themselves with apologies for offending the sensibilities of superstition.  Granted, it is unwise to gratuitously offend the beliefs of others, but when murder is being committed the apologies should cease.  We are not responsible for atrocities they commit.

I have repeatedly spoken up against the burning of the Koran, yet there comes a time to acknowledge that something is wrong for which we are mistaken to apologize.

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  • This commment is unpublished.
    scarface · 9 years ago
    Do you want to be an infidel in a Muslim-dominated country?

    Honor killings are happening — not just in Iran, but in the United States of America! A raped woman is stoned for not being a virgin. A man kills his daughter for dating an infidel. A girl is sold into slavery to her cousin...by her father. A Christian police officer is fired for rejecting training on Muslim faith. A US university professor is forced to quit when Muslim students persecute him for speaking the Koran in his comparative religions class...because he is an infidel. The media is not allowed to tell us when murder and terrorist acts take place "in the name of Allah." Muslims have infiltrated various arms of government. The daughter of the founder of The Muslim Sisterhood is an assistant to our nation's Secretary of State.... The largest growth in America by percentage is those of the Muslim "faith." 18,000 people have been killed worldwide by Islamist terrorists JUST SINCE 9/11. In 1,400 years 240,000,000 have been slaughtered at the command of over 100 verses in the Koran that require conversion to Islam or death.
    Can Christianity and Islam coexist? You decide!
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Paul H. · 9 years ago
      Why don't we just all drop belief in our modern mythology and live in the peace of a world without superstition and religion. Killing and dying in the 21st century from such idiotic and nonsensical belief systems is beyond understanding.
      • This commment is unpublished.
        Chris C · 9 years ago
        What is beyond understanding is that you really -believe- it's even possible to have peace on the terms you mention.
        • This commment is unpublished.
          Paul H. · 9 years ago
          Oh I do indeed believe its possible to have peace without the influence of the inventions of the minds of men called "gods". Why do you suppose these beings were 'created' in the first place? Control. Control of how people think, behave and create. How much faster would the world have recovered from the destruction of the Roman Empire had intelligent men and women been allowed to progress science without the fear of being burned at the stake?

          If the delusions of humankind did no harm I'd be happy to leave such things to those gullible enough to believe them. But such belief systems have and currently cause incredible harm. Burning children because they have demons in them, stoning a woman to death because she was raped by one other than her husband, killing people because a book was burned. How can intelligent educated people support structures and systems that perpetrate these crimes against basic human dignity? These things are done because people are IGNORANT. Ignorant of the simple truth that humans are responsible for the treatment of other humans. I want to see a world where people cannot hide behind a fictional godhead and claim the sick twisted things they do are the will of that god. As long as religions are acceptible the actions of these people will find supporters who will support and condone their actions.

          Everybody on this planet needs to learn to take personal responsibility for what they do.

          All societies would then have no qualms condemming those who perptrate crimes as criminals, not 'believers'.

          Explain why a 'believer' should be given free reign to kill, maim, and destroy merely because he professes a belief in a manufactured entity? It's past time for human society to grow up and disposses itself of it's 'father' figures and stand on its own. Those who believe, many who say morality does not exist without god, I ask you, what are you afraid of?
      • This commment is unpublished.
        Tommy Barrios · 9 years ago
        Of global proportions so you can color in the fantasy belief of your choice!

        Besides this whole thread being OT and not addressing the fact that "superstitious beliefs" are a world wide problem, saying religions are the reason for world unrest is patently false.

        It always those who seek power and wealth through the "use of religions" that are the real problem throughout history!!

        "Religions" that "seek" the purity of man in his context with the power of the universe through "good deeds and actions" will always triumph over evil men!

        "Religions" that "seek" the control of man will always be cults of death, destruction and concurrent mental and physical slavery to those false ideals.

        The Devil may not exist to some of you, but he'll sure have a lot of followers if he ever shows up!
        • This commment is unpublished.
          Paul H. · 9 years ago
          Indeed, religions that seek 'purity' and enlightenment such as Buddhism are beneficial. You are correct, its those who seek power and wealth that cause the problems but they cause the problems by manipulating the ignorant 'believers'. Each of whom believes their particular religion is the right one...worth defending and killing for. You are correct, if the devil showed up, he would have followers but I don't think as many as you might believe.

          As to this thread being OT, I disagree. Religion is just superstition writ large. Nothing more.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Mike Barnett · 9 years ago
    Michael, this is, in my opinion, one of the most powerful articles you have written. I'd like to see everyone from secondary school on up read it, and I'd like to think that many families will read it together and have intelligent discussions about it afterwards. You've tied things together in an extremely poignantly insightful way. Thanks.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    TomC · 9 years ago
    Michael how do you avoid having a fatwah declared on you? Or am I just not up to date and there is one?
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Scott Evans · 9 years ago
    Based on how the Koran tells its followers to treat others, every one of them should be burned. Speaking out against its burning is a slap in the face to the families of everyone who has been murdered due to someone reading and believing its message.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Jbad04 · 9 years ago
    Damm good, Michael,damm good. Seeing the bomb go off in Jbad and the two officers killed at the MoI fill me with a sense of disappointed resignation. I left Jbad in '05 with a sense of hope that things would improve. That hope is now gone. Thanks for your insight and take care.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Jim Delaney · 9 years ago
    I worked in Bangaldesh "72-'75 and hopped the ferry thru the Sundarbans a few times. Intensely interesting place. Definitely felt vulnerable during the passage. They told me that with so many sinkings of overcrowded ferries over the years, that the tigers came to rely on human corpses as their main and most convenient source of food. Which made the trip even creepier. Despite gruesomeness it all, sure hope the tigers are able to survive all the poaching. The Sundarbans offer their last real hope.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    TimJ · 9 years ago
    Fascinating post - you are a great story teller.

    I highly recommend a related book about tigers and a place very different from suburbia - "The Tiger" by John Vaillant. It has a similar theme to this report.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Leyla Najma · 9 years ago
    At this point Michael, we should all just hire you to come and give talks and show photos of all your experiences! You are an amazing man with amazing photos and stories! Thanks for sharing!

  • This commment is unpublished.
    rainisfree · 9 years ago
    Thank you for the illumination of logic, you are a valuable force.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    a&n · 9 years ago
    Loved you story Mike. You know...sometimes you don't have to have some political point to prove....you just enjoy the story. This was one of those times. Thanks Mike. Very interesting...
  • This commment is unpublished.
    James L. Owens · 9 years ago
    I have to agree with "Wow". I was thinking what a great parallel you were making and how aptly it described waht we think of as retaliations.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Heywood Jablomi · 9 years ago
    Outstanding storytelling, Mike!

    Really fine. The article flowed nicely, I never felt a need to skip ahead, your descriptions were clean, and not overwrought, and the subject-matter.....well, I had no idea.

    You know that I am fascinated by the topic of superstitions and comparative anthropology. You also know that I am supremely superstitious myself. So this writing of yours really spoke to me.

    Nice work. Thanks for doing it.

    All my best,

  • This commment is unpublished.
    Peter · 9 years ago
    great, spoken like it should be. Keep it up, even if it seems fruitless. Someday it will be clear.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    James F. McClellan · 9 years ago
    We have friends who are missionaries in the Congo. So far this year, they've killed 72 Cobras in their home. The wife told me; "It's beginning to get a little unnerving."
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Chieftain · 9 years ago
    Michael, I agree with one of your earlier posters -- this is one of the most powerful articles and photo essays you have ever produced.

    It is brilliant work!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Titan 1 · 9 years ago
    You rode with us in Diyalah back in 05. I still follow your articles. I couldn't agree more with this article. Human sacrifice is centuries old, Allah has replaced Baal and Moloch and is the only change in this centuries old problem in that region.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Pat · 9 years ago
    A most fascinating article. You have a great sense of adventure.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Tommy Barrios · 9 years ago
    From the wildest corners of the planet to the most terrifying scenes of modern combat, no other modern scribe has come close to communicating the power of the moment like Michael Yon.

    Yet he remains a virtual obscurity to most of the world, and that in some sense is good;-)

    I agree wiht a previous poster about students, that students who are interested in real life investigative reporting follow Michael's work from start to finish.

    While his articles many times are opinionated, they are pure from the heart and truthful in intent and focus!

    The words, the pictures, the message, always outstanding and gripping!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Joey Dern · 9 years ago
    Wow that dude just looks cool!

  • This commment is unpublished.
    robin yates · 9 years ago
    I read somewhere one way of stopping tiger attack is to wear a mask but on the back of your head.Tigers only attack from the rear. Worth a try
  • This commment is unpublished.
    scotch7 · 9 years ago
    Gotta pile on. Great Storytelling, great pix. Thanks for sharing your "vacation."
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Sabuj · 6 years ago
    You seem to be a perfect racist. Visiting the countries and hating them. Shame shame. What is a Tiger Man, Tiger Eyes ?! You should have respect for any human being black or white. And you still have many things to learn, for example loving human being irrespective of colour and race,and respect others religions. We have respect for your "Atheist Religion" . Otherwise it was a good writing. Cheers.
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