Hearts & Flowers Find Few Takers
Maha Akeel, Ghada Aboud & Lulwa Shalhoub, Arab News
JEDDAH, 14 February 2005 â€” Red roses, teddy bears holding red hats and red cards with soft words about love are all signs that Valentineâ€™s Day is here. For weeks, magazines and newspapers in the Kingdom have carried advertisements for stores selling certain â€œgiftsâ€ packaged and presented in ways that made them appropriate for Valentineâ€™s Day. Of course, the advertising did not actually say so.
The idea has found fertile ground among teenagers, who look for gifts and red roses to exchange with each other. Some female students in schools tend to wear red sweaters over their uniforms or even red socks.
However, the religious authorities have warned the public against celebrating Valentineâ€™s Day or selling gifts related to the holiday.
â€œA Muslim is prohibited from celebrating, approving or congratulating on this occasion,â€ said the ruling issued by the Fatwa Committee. Supporting others in celebrating the day by buying or selling Valentineâ€™s items, presenting gifts or making festival food falls in the category of approval and is unacceptable.
A spokesman of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, meanwhile, denied that there was a ban on the sale of red roses. He said it was illogical to seize everything that is red.
â€œHowever, the commission advises people and might take action if anything attacking our religion happened,â€ he added.
This is one of those stories that generally gets Americans twittering about how foolish Saudi religious authorities are. What could be more secular than Valentine’s Day, after all.
We, in the West, barely recall that there was a Saint Valentine, and surely don’t recall why he was canonized… for that matter, is he still even a saint, or did he lose his halo in the downsizing that happened in the 60s, when St. Christopher got bumped.
But, Christian saint, or a purely “pagan” holiday, either is sufficient to get it banned in a country that has no secular holidays whatsoever, and only two religious holidays at that.
The article suggests, though, that Saudis know how to deal with the day and its sentiments. It also appears that the religious police know that there’s no thumb sufficient to hold back this leak in the dike.