Thursday, February 14, 2008

An Islamist Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day will always hold a special place in the annals of Islamism's war on intellectual freedom, due to the simple fact that this was the date Ayatollah Khomeini released his infamous fatwa calling for the murder of Salman Rushdie and anyone else associated with publishing The Satanic Verses. While the announcement of Khomeini's edict on Valentine's Day was merely a coincidence, Islamists have in recent years displayed their intolerance by attempting to ban the holiday itself. In their view, the holiday is un-Islamic and an inducement to immorality. Hence, it must be eliminated.

Here is a brief roundup of this year's Islamist assault on Valentine's Day:

-We begin in the disputed region of Kashmir, which is ruled by India but claimed by Pakistan. Last year, an Islamist women's group burned greeting cards and assaulted couples. This year, female militants raided at least four hotels and restaurants in search of young couples daring to have a good time. One activist justified these actions as follows:

“Saint Valentine was a symbol of vulgarity .We should avoid celebrating Valentine’s Day,” Nasreen said, adding that Muslims should follow the path of Prophet (SAW) and only celebrate Islamic religious occasions like Eid, and not Valentine’s Day.

“From last few years we have launched a campaign against the Valentine’s day celebrations in the Valley and Alhamdulillah we have succeeded to a great extent,” Nasreen said.

“Kashmiri culture is very rich and it should not be spoiled by adopting western practices,” she added.

Thanking the gift card dealers for their cooperation in avoiding the sales of Valentine day cards and gift items, Nasreen said that every Muslim has to play a role in eradicating the evils of western culture from the Kashmiri society.

(Emphasis added-DD)

-In neighboring Pakistan, the president of the women's wing of the Islamist party Jamaat-i-Islami also condemned Valentine's Day:

The Urdu-language newspaper Khabrain quoted Ms. Qazi as saying that ‘‘Jews and Hindus have specially designed this occasion in order to weaken the beliefs and traditions of Muslims.’’ Raheel Qazi, the daughter of Jamaat-e-Islami leader Qazi Hussein Ahmed, said that Pakistani media should black out any news about this occasion.

(Emphasis added-DD: The comment about Valentine's Day as a Hindu conspiracy is especially absurd, since Hindu fundamentalists are just as intolerant of the holiday as their Islamist counterparts.)

-In Kuwait, two Islamist members of parliament called for the government to ban any attempts to celebrate Valentine's Day in that country.

-No such calls were necessary in Saudi Arabia, where the religious police (Mutawaeen) banned the sale of red roses and other Valentine's items.

-Finally, the most disturbing reported incident occurred in Yemen, where the local branch of al Qaeda threatened to murder singer Asalah Nasri if she performed in a Valentine's Day concert:

The press release called on all Yemeni citizens to stand against practices such as public concerts, saying that they are considered a breach against Islamic Sharia law. "We warn Asalah that if she does not change her mind about this concert, she will suffer the same [fate] as Benezir Bhutto."

The statement did not mention the other singer who is slated to perform with Asalah, Esam Kareka.

Official Yemeni security sources have questioned the seriousness of these threats.

The deputy governor of Aden, however, said that the interior ministry should take these threats seriously.

(Emphasis added-DD)

To her credit, Ms. Nasri has refused to give in to the threats. At the time of writing, it appears that the performance went off without incident.

Despite the efforts of the Islamists, millions of Muslims went ahead and celebrated Valentine's Day as they saw fit. Even in Saudi Arabia. As Abeer Mishkhas has noted, it will take far more than banning red roses to keep young Saudis from enjoying each other's company. There were even muted celebrations in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. These are all small but symbolic victories for those Muslims who believe in free expression.

For many Americans, Valentine's Day is an annoying, over-commercialized holiday. For many Muslims, it is an opportunity to defy Islamist threats and intimidation and assert their right to live as free individuals.


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