There in Malaysia, sacred and profane poohbahs did not get jiggy with Valentine’s Day.
In the weeks preceding February 14, the central government warned Malaysian Muslims that Valentine’s Day is an insidious “trap” that could lure the unwary into engaging in behaviors that might cause The Prophet to shriek and pluck his eyes out.
Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddan Yassin glowered that Valentine’s Day is “not suitable” for Malaysian Muslims. A nationwide “Mind The Valentine’s Day Trap” publicity campaign blanketed the land, with organ-grinders from the Malaysian Islamic Development Department churning out leaflets to press upon university students, urging them to eschew all things Valentine’s.
Muslim clerics in Kuala Lumpur, the nation’s capital, meanwhile sounded anti-Valentine’s Day screeds from the city’s mosques.
Officials in the northern states of Kedah, Penang, and Kelantan, as well as in the central state of Selangor, vowed that “immorality checks” would scoop up anyone who on February 14 devolved into Badness.
“We have identified spots in these states which are used by lovers and we are deploying local religious department officials as well as party members to stop such sinful acts like casual sex which violates Islam,” some bluenose named Nasrudin Hasan Tantawi, head of the Islamic PAS party’s youth wing, told AFP. “There have been campaigns promoting ‘no panties’ on Valentine’s Day and even free hotel room offers for unmarried couples. We must stop such practices here as these are sinful activities.”
And, sure enough, they did. Reports are now arriving indicating that at least 100 people were arrested in Malaysia on February 14 for daring to indulge in “khalwat,” which roughly translates as “close proximity.” Meaning an unmarried Muslim being alone together with someone of the opposite sex. Which these nimrods have pronounced Unmitigated Evil, punishable by law.
As I have noted here before, Malaysia is a multi-ethnic, multi-faith nation that, though Muslim and Malay by constitutional command, most often strives to keep its religious fanatics under some semblance of control. Just like folks do in the US. And, just like in the US, sometimes these efforts succeed, and sometimes they don’t.
Kelantan state, for instance, has recently succumbed to PAS dominance. PAS being roughly equivalent to the Pat Robertson wing of the Republican Party. And thus the state is now curdling into something like Kansas or Utah or South Dakota—gambling is banned, the sale of alcohol is restricted, men and women are required to stand in different lines when shopping.
The early reports, however, indicate that the Malaysian Valentine’s Day arrests occurred not in Kelantan, but in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur.
On Monday evening, religious enforcement officers launched co-ordinated raids, targeting budget hotels and public parks in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur.
Raids across the capital and central Selangor state, saw 96 individuals detained for “khalwat”, or “close proximity”, an Islamic law barring Muslims from being alone with someone of the opposite sex other than their spouse.
In Kuala Lumpur, religious enforce-ment officers raided budget hotels and public parks ahead of Valentine’s Day detaining 16 Muslims, mainly teenagers, a spokesman from the Federal Territory Islamic Affairs Department told AFP.
“The operation was part of our regular raids to stop ‘khalwat’,” said Asmawi Umar, adding the teenagers had paid around 50 ringgit ($15) for a hotel room for two hours.
In Selangor, 80 Muslims were rounded up during raids between midnight and 6am on Valentine’s Day, according to media reports, quoting state religious authorities.
They face up to two years in jail and a fine if convicted in an Islamic sharia court.
Under Malaysia’s dual-track legal system sharia courts can try Muslims for religious and moral offences. More than 60 percent of the nation’s 28 million population are Muslim Malays.
It appears, at least from this remove, that Malaysian bluenoses first started getting their panties seriously in an uproar over Valentine’s Day around about 2005, when a panel of the nation’s chief Islamic scholars issued an edict criticizing Valentine’s Day celebrations because of their historic link to Christianity, and their modern propensity to proliferate sexual congress.
Wan Mohammed Sheikh Abdul Aziz, head of the Malaysian Islamic Development Department, has stated that Malaysia is prepared to accept certain holidays imported from the West, but that a line must be drawn somewhere.
“We accept and celebrate Mother’s Day and Father’s Day to commemorate our love for our parents,” he says. “At the same time, however, Islam would reject anything, even from the Eastern culture, if it contravenes the Islamic teachings.”
“In reality,” he continues, “as well as historically, the celebration of Valentine’s Day is synonymous with vice activities.”
Well, sure. The roots of Valentine’s Day are in what in Greco-Roman times became known as Lupercalia. This ancient pagan fertility festival far predates even the Greeks, and occurred from February 13 through 15. In the Greco-Roman era, Pan became associated with Lupercalia, and we all know what Pan is about: sex, intoxicants, music, various assorted other forms of wildness.
When Christianity slapped its great chastity belt on the West, it neutered this fertility festival, associating it with one of their made-up saints, some alleged martyred priest, sucking all the romance out of it in favor of sexless “devotion.”
Centuries later, during that period when Sane People briefly seized control of the Catholic Church, there in the 1960s, this imposteroid St. Valentine was heaved out of the roster of saints, along with a bunch of other phonies, like St. Christopher, the preposterous 8-foot-tall giant who allegedly carried the baby Jesus across a gone-wild river.
Because love, and lust, will always out, by that time St. Valentine had long been transformed in the public mind from some chaste chanter into a flesh-and-blood yearner. Who, while awaiting martyrdom, had become smitten with his jailer’s daughter . . . and she with him. They exchanged passionate letters, a practice which then became associated with St. Valentine’s Day. Courtesy of the same people who invented this story of the loving, lusty St. Valentine: those libidinous wild-hearts in Eleanor of Aquitaine’s 12th Century Court of Love.
That it is a universal human impulse, ceaselessly and stubbornly boiling up from the collective unconscious, to celebrate around February 14 love, passion, romance, is evidenced by the fact that the Chinese have their own lovely variant on Valentine’s Day, Qi Xi Jie. Here, the tale involves a young cow-herder and a spinning maid, their love frustrated by the mother of the maid, an extremely severe party-pooper, who created the Milky Way in order to permanently separate the two. But one night a year, a flock of magpies weaves a bridge, and thereby the two can be together.
But no. Some people will have none of such magic . . . and want to make sure no one else can partake of it, either. And so, writing in The Star, Malaysia’s largest-circulation English-language publication, we have a Concerned Citizen, signing himself M. Sirajudin, expressing why, for Malaysian Muslims, Valentine’s Day is Totally Wrong:
I don’t understand what the big fuss is over the preventive measures adopted by PAS and other Islamic bodies against Muslims who indulge in Valentine’s Day celebrations.
Muslims should have no business celebrating such an occasion as it is forbidden to do so in Islam.
Only Eid-ul-Fitr, which marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadhan, and Eid-ul-Adha, commemorating the annual pilgrimage to Makkah, are Muslim festivals.
There is no other.
Muslims should be aware of this and if they are not, they should be educated. Ignorance is no excuse.
Second, only unmarried Muslim couples who are involved in illicit affairs forbidden by Islam need to be concerned.
Islam is not against love per se but it must be expressed within proper boundaries as allowed in its teachings. Coupling, dating and being in close proximity with members of the opposite gender in isolated and private venues is strictly prohibited as it would entail unhealthy consequences for both parties.
Islam, in its practical dimension, endeavours to block the many winding paths to sinning and wicked conduct that attracts God’s displeasure.
Prevention is better than cure is an Islamic dictum.
A Muslim is expected to play his part not only in keeping away from things that have been forbidden but to ensure his fellow Muslims avoid the many roads to perdition.
Valentine’s Day is another sorry excuse to promote reckless consumerism and persuade gullible people to part with their hard-earned cash.
How could true love be measured with the likes of roses, chocolates and diamond rings?
For the young and immature, they tend to confuse love with lust and the seemingly romantic atmosphere just urges them on to have a go at their willing partner. Thus, it leads to gratuitous sex with far-reaching consequence for the couple.
It contributes to further increase in sexual immorality and perverse conduct, which are contrary to the true meaning and spirit of love itself.
Furthermore, if you truly love someone you don’t need a Valentine’s Day to express it.
I agree that crackdown against sinful activities should not be confined to occasions like Valentine’s Day but should be a 24/7 operation.
We must ever be vigilant against this soul-ravaging menace.
Dude, I hate to tell you, but the real “soul-ravaging menace” is buggering with people who love one another.