Press reports are coming from around world about religious and cultural resistance to the celebration of Valentine’s Day.
The AP reports that in Saudi Arabia, shopkeepers caught selling Valentine’s Day gifts have been detained for hours by the religious police. (Saudi Arabia’s ascetic Wahhabi form of Islam bans all celebrations of nominally Christian holidays, including Valentine’s Day.) In the land where unmarried men and women cannot drive together or walk on the street without family supervision, red teddy-bears featuring the phrase “I Love You” are out; blue-and-white teddies minus the slogan are approved. Nevertheless, subtle indicia of Valentine’s Day celebrations are creeping into the Capital, Riyadh, from red knickknacks on store shelves to red lace knickers at lingerie boutiques.
According to Ecumenical News International , the Sudan Ulema Authority, a group of Muslim leaders based in Khartoum, have issued a statement urging Sudan’s lovers to boycott Valentine’s Day. Muslim preacher Sheikh Hassan Hamid stated that the holiday “comes from Western countries. I call on Muslims not to imitate Christians."
In India, a leader of the Hindu nationalist group Sri Ram Sena was quoted in the London Telegraph as saying: "Valentine’s Day is definitely not Indian culture. We will not allow celebration of that day in any form." Nonetheless, an oppositional group of Indian women have begun the “ Pink Chaddi Campaign ,” calling on women to send their pink underwear to Sri Ram Sena leader Pramod Muthalik.
According to the omniscient and ever-accurate Wikipedia , Valentine’s Day originated as a celebration of two 3rd century Christian martyrs, both known as St. Valentine. But in the Western world, the holiday has become a secular celebration of romantic love.
I think the non-religious ought to seize Valentine’s Day as an expression of secular humanism at its best: a positive celebration of all that is good and joyful in life, and a rejection of absurd religious parochialism. In fact, I feel sufficiently moved to send my pink underwear to Mr. Muthalik.
In response to the Sudan Ulema Authority’s proclamation, a Mr. Robert Amoko is quoted in the Sudan Tribune as saying: "Valentine is a day of big love, joy, harmony, peace all over the world. It doesn’t belong to any domination, Muslim or Christian." Well said, Mr. Amoko. What better way to celebrate our common humanity than by rallying under the banner of Make Love, Not Ablution?