Roger L. Simon

No Valentine's Day Stimulus in Saudi Arabia

You think Barack Obama’s got problems – what with Sen. Judd Gregg pulling out of his Commerce cabinet seat because he can’t see eye-to-eye with the president over the “stimulus plan” and the Census? What if Barack had to stimulate Valentine’s Day sales in Saudi Arabia?

Just days before Valentine’s Day, a young Saudi woman desperately searched for a red teddy bear to buy for her boyfriend. But all Nof Faisal could find were blue and white ones, minus the “I love you” she wanted hers to declare.

It’s not because the store couldn’t keep up with demand. It is because fear of the religious police forced the store’s owner to strip the shelves of all red items, including the hottest-selling item: heart-festooned red plastic handcuffs inscribed, “Take me, I’m yours.”

As Feb. 14 approaches, the police begin inspecting gift shops for items that are red or are intended as gifts to mark the holiday—a celebration of St. Valentine, a 3rd century Christian martyr—which is banned in Saudi Arabia. Such items are legal at other times of the year, but as Valentine’s Day nears they become contraband.

Oh, those kooky Religious Police – pretty funny, huh? Well, yes and no. Yes, because, well, it was funny watching Slim Pickens ride the atom bomb to extinction. No, because this is crazy pathological stuff and it’s being sanctioned by the state in the name of religion in Saudi Arabia, Iran and other similar destinations.

It’s kind of a grim reminder – in the midst of this economic meltdown that no one, least of all our new president, seems to be able to get a grip on – that another, possibly more insoluble, problem still is lurking out their like a gorilla the size of Alpha Centauri. You think we got it bad now? Wait till next week.