KARACHI: While the love-struck were busy making reservations and buying gifts for Valentine’s Day, around 150 men on Monday protested against the event for encouraging ‘indecent’ activities. Then on Tuesday, the actual day, women from the Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan set fire to Valentine’s Day cards during their own protest.
“Let them make fun of us for condemning a day, which symbolises love and affection,” said Shujauddin Sheikh, a central leader of the organisation. Sheikh was standing on a truck with loudspeakers, surrounded by men holding placards denouncing the day.
The media, especially Pakistani television channels, were targeted for airing special Valentine’s Day programmes, which according to the speakers encouraged young men and women to adopt an ‘alien culture’.
Sheikh shared his bewilderment for billboards along Shahrah-e-Faisal which were advertising hotel rooms. “Come and book rooms with a romantic atmosphere,” he cited an advertisement. “It’s unbelievable.”
He accepted that not many people will be persuaded to cancel their ‘dates’ because of their protest. “We can only use our tongues. The rest is up to Allah.”
Tanzeem-e-Islami, which aims to set up an Islamic governing system of Khilafat, advocates a strict Islamic code of life. The protesters distributed pamphlets among the people about what they said was the history of Valentine’s Day. They claimed that in Rome it was celebrated on February 15 as ‘Feast of the Wolf’ when young women would place their names in an urn, from which boys would randomly draw to discover their companion for a day, year or lifetime. Sheikh elaborated that Muslims are not only being killed by US drone attacks, but also “cultural drone attacks” which corrupt the minds of Pakistani youth and lead them astray.
A few kilometres away at a hotel, restaurants were being decorated for Valentine’s Day as around 300 guests were expected after a successful weekend of early celebrations. “Valentine’s Day celebrations started on February 10 with a ball,” said Bushra Fazli, their public relations officer. “We received a tremendous response on our weekend room package for couples; Rs12,900 for the night with breakfast and complementary gifts.” On Tuesday, a live band performed for couples and complimentary photographs were taken, she said.
And thus, the paradoxes continued to register, with a protest organised outside a shopping mall in Clifton as vendors sold heart-shaped balloons and roses in full bloom nearby.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 15th, 2012.