As couples the world over celebrated Valentine’s Day last week, many no doubt recalled the great Muslim love stories: Romeo and Juliet and Fatima and Dalia and Naima; A Midsummer Night’s Stoning; the movies Veiled Woman and When Harry Beat Sally – so many.
Right-thinking people today would find such quips “Islamophobic” and distasteful; far more distasteful, however, is the grim reality they represent. When Valentine’s Day rolled around last week, Muslim leaders rose to oppose it with a fervor they have seldom mustered against the jihad terrorists who have supposedly twisted and hijacked their peaceful religion.
The Malaysian Islamic Development Department thundered that “social ceremonies such as this are a stepping-stone towards greater social ills such as fraud, mental disorder caused by alcohol, abortion and baby-dumping, and other negative ills that can invite disaster and moral decay among youths.” The Indonesian Ulema Council declared that “celebrating Valentine’s Day is against Islam.” Saudi Arabia’s feared Islamic religious police banned Valentine’s Day and hunted for people toting suspicious roses and candy boxes. A Saudi cleric who has said that “devotion to jihad for the sake of Allah, and the desire to shed blood, to smash skulls, and to sever limbs for the sake of Allah and in defense of His religion, is, undoubtedly, an honor for the believer” dubbed Valentine’s Day “immoral.”
In Uzbekistan, Muslim clerics preached against Valentine’s Day in their Friday sermons. In Kashmir, Mohammed Akram Wani, a student at Srinagar’s Institute of Arabic and Islamic studies, declared: “The event is anti-Islamic and Muslims are not allowed to celebrate the day because in Islam the day has no importance.” And at Pakistan’s Peshawar University, devout Muslim students decided to celebrate February 14 as Haya (Modesty) Day, which consisted of stoning students who were celebrating Valentine’s Day, firing on police who intervened, and setting several rooms of their hostel on fire.
This hostility to Valentine’s Day, some Muslims explain, is because celebrating it is bid’a – innovation, an unacceptable concept in a religion that Allah has “perfected” (cf. Qur’an 5:3), and because it has roots in Christianity and has become an excuse for drunkenness and promiscuity. But there is a deeper reason as well: Islam is hostile to romance. “Asking a Moslem about his women,” the heroic journalist Oriana Fallaci wrote back in 1964, “is like asking him about a secret vice.” The condition of those women, and the state of Islamic romance, has hardly improved since then.
A few of the principal ways in which Islam is a romance-killer: