They tried and they failed.
In 2017, Pakistan High Court ruled that Valentines Day was un-Islamic and is not to be celebrated in public places or government offices. An individual had petitioned the court with the plea that it was a cultural import from the West and against the teachings of Islam.
Excuse me! Love is against the teachings of Islam! Is God asking us not to love!
But the court went along and outlawed it. The then president went as far as to condemn Valentines Day.
These were the slogans from the radical religious groups:
- Romance is decadent. [Really!]
- We are being misled by non-Muslim values. [Right!]
- Our religion forbids it [What else is new!]
- We should instead celebrate ‘modesty day’. [Hah!]
When the next Valentines Day rolled around in Feb. 2018, the government issued warnings on TV and Radio: No V-Day event shall be held in public places. Reuter reported, “Love is in the air, but not on airwaves.”
But that wasn’t enough. They took it a step further and banned the sale of red roses, heart-shaped candies and balloons, and greeting cards.
Guess who wasn’t happy? As in really unhappy?
Florists. Card sellers. Balloon vendors.
Then began the crack down. Police was making surprise inspections of stores and harassing roadside balloon vendors.
Overnight, red roses, heart-shaped boxes of chocolate became contraband; and a whole new industry cropped up, because guess what? The youth rejected the ban. No one was going to ban them from ‘love.’ They would walk into the florist shop, noticing flowers in all colors except red. If you were a trusted customer, the store owner would go into the back room and bring out a bouquet of red roses, concealed in a package. Then they got innovative. Home deliveries popped up, evading the police. Roadside vendors would display half-blown heart-shaped balloons and once they had a customer, fill them up. When they saw the police coming, they would quickly take the air out of them. Couples came up with work-arounds. If not red roses, yellow will do. No V-Day cards; write her a love poem (or him). Who needs balloons when you can treat her with a new fragrance. What mattered most to them is love and they were finding new ways to celebrate it. Love for their sweetheart, Dad, sister, friend….
And then the tables were turned. A Saudi cleric, Ahmed Qassim al-Ghamdi, the former Chief of the religious police in Mecca, issued a statement endorsing Valentines Day. He called it ‘A positive social event…an act of kindness’ and ruled that ‘it is not against shariah.’ Then the Grand Mufti of Tunisia, Othman Battikh, issued a similar statement saying ‘V-Day is not haram. As long as morals are not violated, use it to spread love.’
Yoo-Hoo Love wins the day.
This morning I sent my sister a text. She is an attorney at the High Court in Pakistan. I wanted to know if the ban was still in effect or did the new government of the charismatic Prime Minister Imran Khan reverse it. I would expect that of the PM, after all he has been there. He knows, as we all do, that ‘Love is not haram. Love cannot be banned.’
HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!
P.S. 1: The law in Pakistan is still in effect. Is it being enforced? Are the cops raiding the florist shops? Stay tuned.
P.S. 2: I shared this blog with a writing circle I belong to. One of the members commented that she is Jewish, and growing up, she was told that Valentines Day was not a Jewish celebration.