Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Saudi morality police see red on Valentine’s Day

Officials in Saudi Arabia have asked florists and gift shops to remove all red items until after Valentine's Day. Every year, the Muslim kingdom's Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice clamp down on shops a few days before February 14, instructing them to remove red merchandise and displays. On the eve of the holiday, they raid stores and seize symbols of love.

Suzan Zawawi reports in the Saudi Gazette

Agents of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice visited flower and gift shops in the capital Saturday night to instruct them to remove all red items - from red roses and wrapping paper to boxes and teddy bears - from their shelves, shop workers said.

"They visited us last night," said a couple of florists Sunday morning.

"They gave us warnings and this morning we packed up all the red itmes and displays."

The florists asked not to be identified.

Sunday was the last day people could buy red roses in Riyadh, until Valentine's Day on Feb. 14 passes.

Every year, Commission agents visit flower shops a couple of days before Feb. 14 to issue warnings. On the eve of Valentine's Day, they start their raids and confiscate any red items that are symbols of love, florists here said.

But as a result of the ban, there's a black market in red roses.

Rob Wagner at 13 Martyrs has this assessment of the custom:

The reasons why the mutawwa ban the celebration of Valentine's Day are a little vague. There's some speculation that Muslims should not celebrate St. Valentine, the martyred Christian saint of ancient Rome. That's pretty much nonsense. Saudi religious authorities are nervous about unmarried men and women mingling and dating, which is illegal in the Kingdom.

While the religious police have kept a low profile in Jeddah for some time now, they are generally out in force on Feb. 14. They will admonish women wearing red socks or blouses (if they can spot them under the abaya), and even bright red fingernail polish. Couples dumb enough to go out on a dinner date and have a present wrapped in bright red paper sitting on the table can expect a lot of trouble. So the women defiantly wear something red without being obvious and exchange gifts in restaurants under the table. And every couple can expect the restaurant staff to look the other way.

Saudi Arabia is probably the only country where couples celebrate the day of romance in a subversive manner.

1 comment:

USpace said...

Good one, these Saudi Rulers are actually very insecure about the attractiveness of their 'religion'.

absurd thought -
God of the Universe says
outlaw Valentine's Day

confiscate ALL red roses
keep men and women apart

absurd thought -
God of the Universe says
arrest men and women

if they are holding hands
or having coffee together

absurd thought -
God of the Universe says
Valentine's Day is evil

it just reminds the people
about Christianity