On the eve of Valentines Day, the Pakistani government issued a staunch warning to its media to avoid reporting the “depraving, corrupting and injuring” holiday. It’s not banned in Pakistan, but Pakistan’s Electronic Media Regulatory Authority warned the press that a “large chunk” of its population are against Valentine’s Day celebrations on principal, with some Islamist groups protesting against the festivities. The Malaysian government has offered similar warnings to its Muslim population. In India, activists of the Shiv Sena Hindu right-wing group held protests against St Valentine.
Many Indonesian officials and clerics see Valentine’s Day as nothing more than an excuse for illicit pre-marital relations. The deputy mayor of Depok, Idris Abdul Somad, warned the public off celebrating and dismissed Valentines Day as a public holiday for sex and urged citizens to replace romance with religion by participating in Islamic activities. In Jambi, on Sumatra island, and Solo, in Central Java, hundreds of students held protests against Valentine’s Day on 13 February. In Aceh, the only Indonesian province living under Islamic law, authorities enforced a ban on novelty gifts.
In Iran, Valentine’s Day was banned in 2011 to avoid the spread of western culture. It didn’t stop some citizens from celebrating today though, as shoppers hunted for gifts, despite the regime banning the sale of cards or heart shaped novelties, with florists being threatened with closure should they sell red roses. In Saudi Arabia it’s a similar story; Pre-marital relations are met with staunch punishment. Valentine’s is viewed as a pagan holiday and activities are monitored and curbed by the Commission for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice.
The censorship of Valentine’s Day isn’t excluded to Islamic countries. In Florida, high-school goers learned the hard way that school is for learning, not for loving after two Orlando schools banned Valentine’s Day, promising to turn away deliveries of gifts that arrive at school to avoid distraction.
Regardless of sanctions, lovers will still exchange the whispers of sweet nothings and secretly bought gifts. This Valentines Day, whether it’s a Mills and Boon novel for one, or a supermarket meal deal for two, remember that it’s not forbidden — yet.