Iran, Indonesia, Pakistan ban Valentine’s Day celebrations


Police told Tehran's coffee and ice cream shops trade union to prevent gatherings in which boys and girls exchange Valentine's Day gifts (pictured: Iranians shopping for gifts in 2008)
Police told Tehran’s coffee and ice cream shops trade union to prevent gatherings in which boys and girls exchange Valentine’s Day gifts (pictured: Iranians shopping for gifts in 2008)
Iran and Indonesia have cracked down on Valentine’s Day celebrations, arguing that the commercial observance of February 14 promotes the spreading of “decadent” western culture.

The rising popularity of the annual homage to romance, which tradition says is named after an early Christian martyr, has in recent years become an irritation for some Muslim clerics and officials in a handful of religiously conservative countries.

In Tehran, local media reported that police had informed coffee shops and ice cream parlours that they would be guilty of committing a crime if they encouraged “decadent Western culture through Valentine’s Day rituals”.

In Indonesia, Muslims in many cities have been banned from observing the celebration, with government officials and Muslim clerics arguing that the observance runs against Islamic teachings.

In Banda Aceh, the capital of Indonesia’s devout Muslim province of Aceh, thousands of high school students on Saturday staged rallies rejecting Valentine’s Day. Banda Aceh’s mayor, Illiza Sa’aduddin Djamal, who took part in the protests along with Shariah officials, said people needed to be made aware that it is not part of Islamic culture.

The influential Indonesian Council of Clerics has repeatedly declared the February 14 celebrations as an observance stemming from another faith, saying that celebrating it would be the same as promoting faiths other than Islam.

‘Not our culture’

In Pakistan, meanwhile, President Mamnoon Hussain said the Western import threatens to undermine the country’s Islamic values.

“Valentine’s Day has no connection with our culture and it should be avoided,” Hussain was reported by the Reuters news agency as saying on Saturday.

Local media reported earlier in the week that Islamabad had planned to ban any festivities relating to the celebration, calling them an “insult to Islam”, but city officials later said such a rule would be unenforceable.

The celebrations have been banned in northwestern city of Peshawar, near the Afghan border, however.

Saudi Arabia has also sought to stamp out Valentine’s Day, but it is celebrated widely in nearby places like Dubai.