Elizabeth Looi - Straits Times Indonesia
Kuala Lumpur. Malaysian religious authorities arrested more than 100 Muslim couples on Monday who defied a ban on any activities marking Valentine's Day.
Islamic authorities in Malaysia in 2005 issued a fatwa to warn Muslims against celebrating Valentine's Day, saying that the occasion could lead to vice activities, especially pre-marital sex.
The edict has been enforced since then.
The federal-level Malaysian Islamic Development Department, better known as Jakim, also launched a campaign entitled Mind The Valentine's Day Trap, urging Muslims to stay away from all programs associated with Valentine's Day.
The Selangor State Islamic Religious Department, one of such authorities nationwide, conducted a raid with the help of local police in budget hotels from midnight to 6am yesterday.
Officials arrested more than 200 Muslims for celebrating Valentine's Day, the department said in a statement, without elaborating.
It said 80 of them would be charged in the Shariah Court for defying the department's ban against the celebration of lovers' day.
The rest either dispersed or agreed to be counseled.
Explaining the ban on Valentine's Day celebrations, Jakim had said Muslims are not allowed to observe the special day as it is linked to Christianity, which irked certain groups including non-Muslim political parties.
The Malaysian Chinese Association political party said people who linked the special occasion to immoral activities were "bigots" and "enemies of the state."
The reaction in the Malay community is mixed. Some Malays urged their friends via Facebook and Twitter not to observe the celebration of lovers' day but prepare themselves for the celebration of Prophet Muhammad's birthday today.
But not all Malays agreed that Valentine's Day celebrations would necessarily lead to immoral acts.
"Happy V Day. Am so grateful for a government that micro-manages my life and does all my thinking," renowned human rights lawyer Malik Imtiaz Sarwar wrote with sarcasm in his Twitter.
Countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia have also banned Valentine's Day celebrations.
In India, Hindu radical groups held demonstrations in some states against Valentine's Day.
As for the world's
most populous Muslim country, Indonesia, its top Islamic body this year
appeared to have softened its hardline stance towards Valentine's Day.
Indonesia Ulema Council secretary-general Ichwan Sam told Jakarta Globe that while Valentine's Day is not part of Islamic culture, the council would allow people to celebrate it if they choose to do so.
"Valentine's Day is just a fad among youngsters and, just like any fad, it will fade away."
Reprinted courtesy of Straits Times Indonesia. To subscribe to Straits Times Indonesia and/or the Jakarta Globe call 2553 5055.