The respect shown to the Black Stone is nothing to do with idols. Idol worshipers used to consider their idols as mediators between Allah and themselves, and believed that they would make them closer to Allah and intercede for them. The Black Stone is not attributed such qualities. It simply shows the beginning of circumambulation of the Ka’bah. Our act of kissing it is because our Prophet (pbuh) did so.
The following saying of Umar (r.a.) about the Black Stone is famous:
“I know that you are a stone, you do not cause benefit or harm; and if it were not that I had seen Allah’s Messenger kiss you, I would never have kissed you” (Bukhari, Pilgrimage (Hajj) 50, 57, 60; Muslim Pilgrimage, 248, 120; Muwatta, Pilgrimage 36, (1367).
Hanzalah says: “I saw tawus pass (while doing tawaf) by the Corner. If he saw it crowded, he would pass by and he would not push his way in. And if he way it was free, he would kiss it three times, then he said: ‘I saw Ibn Abbas doing that. Ibn Abbas said: ‘I saw Umar bin Al-Khattab doing that, then he said: You are just a stone that can neither cause harm or bring benefit; were it not that I saw the Messenger of Allah kissing you I would not have kissed you.’ Then Umar said: ‘I saw the Messenger of Allah doing that.” (Sunan an-Nasa’i, Pilgrimage 148)
Our Prophet (pbuh) told Umar (ra): “O Abu Hafs, you have too much strength, do not harm the weak. If you see the corner free, get closer and kiss (the black stone), if not, pass saying Allahuakbar(Allah is the greatest).” (Ahmad B. Hanbal 1/23)
Today, some pilgrims regard kissing the Black Stone not as a sunnah of circumambulation, but as the most important worship for themselves. This is what is wrong. What needs to be done is educating people on this matter.