[This weblog entry complements two others by the author: (1) "Hating Valentine's Day" reviews Muslim attitudes toward the day of romance up to 2004; (2) "Valentine's Day in Mecca" focuses on that special day in Saudi Arabia. The information below covers the topic of Valentine's Day updates outside of Saudi Arabia.]
Bangladesh: Outrage over Valentine's Day led to 12 people injured at Dhaka University. (February 14, 2005)
Egypt: How does "The Prophet Mohammed's Day" sound to you? Al-Watan newspaper reports that some Islamists in Egypt have suggested that Valentine's Day should be thus renamed, in a defensive measure as Valentine's gains in popularity. They would divest Valentine's of its eroticism and consumerism, turning turn it instead into a broader love of humankind. It might include such activities as collecting toys for orphans. In this spirit, Al-Masri al-Yawm newspaper published a special issue called "Beautiful Egypt" that told of altruism and kindheartedness by Egyptians. That said, red Valentine's Day roses and "I love You" teddy-bears filled the stores Egyptian today. Also, the traditional women's accessories in turquoise, black, green and pastel shades were supplanted temporarily by shades of red. (February 14, 2007)
Pakistan: Javeed Akhter, a Chicago-based physician, tells his surprise on going to Lahore, Pakistan on the evening of Valentine's Day, 2006.
The night was alive. Street vendors were selling heart-shaped balloons and roses in singles and dozens. Many of the shops were having Valentine's Day sales. Restaurants were announcing Valentine's Day parties. The Gymkhana Club, where my family was staying, had a Valentine's Day dinner where "enthusiastic couples" could win "fabulous prizes." The extent and level of the Valentine's Day celebration I witnessed that evening knocked my socks off! The celebrations were so huge they were like the Islamic holiday Eid.
He finds it remarkable "how fast Valentine's Day has gained popularity and how large it has grown." (February 18, 2007)
Jordan: Reformist intellectual Shaker Al-Nabulsi, puts in a rare good word for Valentine's in an article entitled "Happy Valentine's Day." Of particular interest is his recalling the Arabs' prowess at romance:
We are a nation whose men and women have loved as no other nation in history has loved. We are the nation that gave birth to the world's greatest love poets, to the extent that 70% of Arabic poetry consists of love poems. And in spite of this, our nation is forbidden to love, Valentine's Day is [considered] impure, love roses are cursed, and kisses of love are despised. The hostility towards love in the Arab world has grown so intense that it is forbidden to import red roses for this holiday, and [it is forbidden] to wear a red dress or kafiyeh, or to drive a red car on this day. The color red is despised on [Valentine's Day], even more than it was despised as the symbol of communism and the Soviet Union.
(March 1, 2007)
Kuwait: Supermarkets may sell Valentine's Day paraphernalia but the head of the National Assembly's Committee Monitoring Negative Alien Practices, an Islamist politician named Waleed Al-Tabtabae, seeks to censor all public displays concerning Valentine's Day. "We want to discuss measures that should be taken by these ministries to prevent such alien events from impacting Kuwaiti society and spreading corruption among the Kuwaiti youth." Another committee member, Jamaan Al-Harbash, contends that the holiday "spreads moral corruption." (February 11, 2008)
Gaza: Valentine's Day is forbidden but allowed in Gaza, according to Karin Laub:
The odds are stacked against Valentine's Day in Hamas-ruled Gaza: The holiday is considered "haram," or forbidden by Islam, most residents don't have money for frills and the requisite red roses are grown only beyond a closed border with Israel. Yet even Gazans managed to mark "Eid el Hob," or the Feast of Love, with a few splashes of red Thursday. Flower shops in Gaza City's better neighborhoods, displaying rows of flower-filled buckets and heart-shaped decorations, sold homegrown carnations to women in Islamic head scarves and dutiful husbands.
Mohammed Abdo, center, arranges flowers for Valentine's Day at a shop in Gaza City on Feb. 14, 2008.
Hamas police looked the other way despite the religious taboo, reflecting the Islamic militants' policy of not going against popular consensus when it comes to social norms. … Valentine's Day was introduced to Gaza about a decade ago by Palestinian exiles returning from more cosmopolitan places such as Beirut and Tunis, following interim peace deals with Israel. The Internet and Arab satellite TV helped spread the idea, mostly among the young, educated and secular. Yet in Gaza, the holiday of love remains a relatively modest affair, in part because few Gazans can afford to spend on extras, such as candy and flowers.
At a flower shop in Gaza City's Rimal neighborhood, 24-year-old Mohammed al-Wakid bought a rainbow-colored bouquet of carnations for his wife for $1.30. That's a steal, even for Gaza, mainly because the territory is flooded with carnations that had been grown for export to Europe. … Al-Wakid, a policeman who's stayed off the job since the Hamas takeover, said he began buying flowers for Valentine's Day four years ago, when he was engaged. Since then, his wife has come to expect the gesture, he said.
Across the street at the Rose Flower Shop, two young women, one dressed in a black Islamic robe and head scarf, bought a bouquet of roses, a rare sight in Gaza. The shop had managed to bring in 500 roses from Israel, using Gaza medical patients treated in the Jewish state as "mules," and had about 50 roses left. Salesman Mohammed Sussi, 30, said he hadn't received any complaints about his business. "They didn't tell us anything, whether from the government or anyone else, that it is haram," he said.
But at a third flower shop, a TV crew earned angry glares from salespeople, and shoppers adamantly refused to be interviewed on camera. Asked why the reluctance, one salesman said his customers didn't want to be filmed doing something haram.
(February 14, 2008)
United Kingdom: Anjem Choudary, a high-profile extreme Islamist, has penned an article, "Valentine's Day Of Fornication." that announces:
- Valentine's Day is "a futile and evil festival, used to justify sinful actions such as free-mixing, promiscuity, vain sexual talk and even fornication".
- Whoever celebrates it will rot in Hell.
- Exchanging cards, sending roses or enjoying romantic candlelit dinners are "sordid acts influenced by the Devil."
- It is a "Pagan festival" that "diverts" people away from "the submission and worship of Allah."
Instead, he suggests, "People should not succumb. Instead we should endeavour to attain the best form of love, which is exclusive love for Allah." (February 3, 2009)
Egypt: A religious leader named Hazem Shuman offered his views on Al-Rahma Television on February 6; MEMRI makes it available today in video form or transcript:
In a few days' time, Planet Earth will turn red. We will become the reddest planet in the universe. Everything red will become more expensive. Red teddy bears, red candles, red pens – they will all become more expensive. Only one red thing will become cheaper: The blood of Muslims. All this is the result of the sins committed by Muslim youth. In a few days time, a very dangerous virus will attack the body of the nation. … I am talking about the Valentine virus, people. I have come tonight to warn all boys and girls about an extremely dangerous virus, which is about to attack the hearts of the nation's youth, and to destroy our relations with God. We must confront this Valentine virus! ...
The more you celebrate Valentine's Day, the more the Jews and Christians are happy, and the more the Prophet Muhammad is sad. The more you do this, the more the Jews and the Christians gloat at us, while tears flow from the Prophet's eyes. Do you want to make the Prophet sad and the Jews and Christians happy?! … You can't tell the difference between a Fatima and a Mary [i.e., a Muslim and a Christian] anymore. Fatima wears the same clothes as Mary, listens to the same songs, she loves the same singers, and she watches the same TV channels. How long will we go on living this lie?"
(February 10, 2009)
Middle East: Walid Phares surveys changes underway at "Jihad against Love: Valentine's Day Enflames the Middle East," a reprint from 2005. Phares discerns a "revolution is rising."
The "love guerrillas" are spreading on the street and on the internet. In liberated Afghanistan, transistor radios air love songs. In Iran, boys and girls have waged the revolt of "kissing in public." Tracked by the militia, the teenagers perform the kiss-and-run tactic. In Kuwait, tactics are evolving. In this oil-rich state, young Arabs buy two cell phones, and as they see their beloved driving by, they throw one of the mobiles in her car; then the telephonic romance can begin.
In West Jerusalem, young Palestinians who want to stroll freely with their girlfriends, walk up the Yehuda street speaking Hebrew. In Egypt, soap operas compete with their Mexican counterparts. Love warfare has become the boldest threat that can roll back jihad. On the internet, Arab, Persian, Kurdish, Aramaic, and other love and music chat rooms attract ten times the al-Ansar-crowded rooms. There, you read and hear discussions of love; they seek not decadence, but the early stages of a romantic revolution.
Lebanon's TV has taken the freedom for love to sophisticated artistic expressions. With shows seen by millions, the LBCI has been shaking off the fundamentalist quarters of the region. On al Jazeera, clerics are horrified by the scenes. Their deepest nightmare is to see young Saudi men singing the beauty of human love, while their jihadist counterparts are assassinating young Iraqi women for not wearing the hijab.
(February 14, 2009)
Russia: A council of Muslim leaders in Russia's Nizhny Novgorod region wants "all believers and sensible people" to ban celebrations of Valentine's Day because the holiday "preaches universal permissiveness, amorality, and nihilism." Say no, it advises, "to celebrating this day, since it contradicts not only the norms of Islam, but also recognised human morality." (February 11, 2009)
Iran: In the run up to Valentine's Day, the Iranian regime has banned the production of Valentine's Day gifts and any promotion of the day. Reuters reports:
The printing works owners' union issued an instruction on the ban, imposed by Iranian authorities, covering gifts such as cards, boxes with the symbols of hearts and red roses. "Honoring foreign celebrations is the spread of Western culture," said the union's head, Ali Nikou Sokhan, ILNA news agency reported. "Our country has an ancient civilization and various days to honor kindness, love and affection." …
"Printing and producing any products related to Valentine's Day, including posters, brochures, advertising cards, boxes with the symbols of hearts, half-hearts, red roses and any activities promoting this day are banned," read the instruction. "Authorities will take legal action against those who ignore the ban."
In an amusing coda, some Iranians suggest replacing Valentine's Day with "Mehregan," an ancient Iranian festival celebrated, where mehr means "friendship," "affection," or "love." (January 18, 2011)
Bangladesh: Zahidul Islam Biswas looks at the "Dynamics of Valentine's Day Celebrations in Bangladesh" and finds that it "has gained huge popularity among the younger generation" while the government has left the holiday alone. (February 1, 2013)
Saudi Arabia: Cartoonist Aymann al-Ghamdi offers a pictoral summary of Valentine's Day in Saudi Arabia. (February 17, 2013)
United States: TazzyStar started selling humorous Muslim Valentine's Day cards at her Etsy store today. It contains three choices of six cards, selling for $10 each for the six; here is the panel titled "This Burka is Built for Two":
One of TazzyStar's three panels of Muslim-themed Valentine Day's cards.
(January 15, 2014)
Related Topics: Islam, Middle East patterns
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