Lots of adults eschew Valentine’s Day as a forced holiday that makes single people feel bad and couples feel pressured to spend money and deliver the perfect dinner, chocolate, flowers, or other gift. Still, most Americans don’t believe Valentine’s Day is evil, or even controversial. Here’s a partial list of places that do, and have banned or restricted celebrations of the holiday, either currently or in recent years:
Pakistan: Just yesterday, the High Court in Pakistan’s capital of Islamabad banned observation of Valentine’s Day throughout the country, after one newspaper condemned it as “a festival of obscenity.”
India: In the city of Pune in Maharashtra state, Hindu authorities have banned a wide variety of Valentine’s Day public gatherings and celebrations. The Hindu Mahasabha states that “We strongly believe that celebration of Valentine’s Day is an international conspiracy to destroy the Indian culture.”
Indonesia: Valentine’s Day is strictly verboten in many cities across the nation. This shouldn’t come as a surprise for a country where, in places like the province of Aceh, women wearing jeans or riding motorcycles are considered forms of public debauchery.
Malaysia: In this officially Muslim country, where Islamic fatwas can be enforced in court, a number of such rulings prohibit celebration of Valentine’s Day. The federal Islamic authority explaind that “Whether they realize or not, if a person asks another person or his partner to ‘Be my Valentine,’ it is clearly an act that is against the Islamic faith and that would invoke the wrath of Allah.”
Russia: Officials in Belgorod province, near the Ukrainian border, urged schools and other government institutions to skip Valentine’s Day as part of a directive on “measures to provide for spiritual security,” with the blessing of the local Orthodox bishop.
Iran: The mullahs are quite explicit, banning not just the Valentine’s celebration in general but cards, gifts, and teddy bears as well. Yes, teddy bears.
Saudi Arabia: Perhaps seeking to one-up Iran, Saudi Arabia in the recent past has banned the entire color red, at least in the days leading up to the dreaded Valentine’s Day. The infamous Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice has taken out newspaper ads threatening that “those who don’t comply will be punished.” According to Sheikh Khaled Al-Dossari, “As Muslims, we shouldn’t celebrate a non-Muslim celebration, especially this one that encourages immoral relations between unmarried men and women.”
Here in America, for all our faults, we let people decide for themselves whether or not to celebrate a day dedicated to hearts and flowers and chocolate and love. From those of us who do rather enjoy it to all of you: “Happy Valentine’s Day!”