Islam threatened by Valentine’s Day

The craze has started, with pink bears bearing soppy lovey-dovey messages, computer cards flying around the Net. Valentine mania grips the western world, but from the Islamic world, it is seen differently.

“St. Valentine’s Day could corrupt moral values, weaken the community and destroy Islam”, according to religious leaders in Brunei. The messages have been delivered in recent weeks in Mosques around this oil-rich Sultanate on the northern coast of Borneo (Indonesia).

The messages have derided the “bad influences” of St. Valentine’s Day, celebrated on February 14th, also known as “Day of Love”. Bandar Seri Begawan, an Islamic cleric at the Central Mosque of Brunei, stated that “We must remember that the attempts of certain elements to weaken the faith and destroy Islam will certainly continue in an implacable manner”.

In a sermon delivered at another Mosque, it was claimed that western culture was trying to corrupt Islam “in all ways possible, beginning with the younger generation, through whom they will instil negative cultural values in our society, such as the celebration of St. Valentine’s Day.

In recent years, these celebrations have increased in audacity, going from the discreet sending of anonymous love letters, to raucous candlelight dinners at which alcohol was consumed or fugitive teenage couples sneaked into a hotel room to spend the night. The resulting vandalism and unwanted pregnancies alerted the clerics.

St. Valentine’s Day is believed to have originated from the ancient Roman festivity of Lupercalia, which was held on February 15th. On the eve of this feast (February 14th), Romans called on the God Lupercus to protect them against the wolves (evil spirits of Winter) and in return for this favour, granted him a festivity on the next day. This would have been a fertility rite, symbolising the death of the old year and heralding the beginning of the planting season.

On February 14th, the names of young girls were written on papyrus and placed in a pot. The young men would pull out a piece of papyrus and girl whose name he pulled out of the pot would be his girlfriend for the rest of that year.

Where Valentine comes into the story is not clear, but it appears that it originates from a Roman priest bearing that name. The Emperor Claudius (First century AD) had banned Roman soldiers from having girlfriends or from getting married, believing that sexual activity would weaken their verve to fight. It is claimed that the priest Valentine defied these orders and as a consequence, was sentences to death.

He was executed on the eve of the festivity of Lupercalia (February 14th) and because he died due to love, he was later made the Patron saint of Love in his honour.


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