Flowers and Picket Signs: Valentine’s Day in Pakistan

In Pakistan, Muslim activist groups protested the holiday of Valentine’s Day, saying that it “is imposing Western values and cultures on an Islamic society.” While the majority of people there support the holiday in a secular manner, the Islamist groups spoke out through protests and billboards that read “SAY NO TO VALENTINE’S DAY”.

Read the Reuters article here.

Coming across this article really surprised me. Growing up in the United States, Valentine’s Day is seen as just a way to express your love for another person and one more reason for Hallmark to sell you cheesy cards. Never would I have looked at this holiday and thought of how upset someone who is Muslim (specifically in another country) would be about it. Is there something so wrong about giving someone chocolates and saying I love you?

Photo credit: REUTERS-Zohra Bensemra

As mentioned in the quote earlier, I think this is less about religious differences as it is the perception of “Western values.” These groups have associated the holiday of Valentine’s Day with all of the negative things about American culture. But is that really a reason to boycott the holiday? This idea of protesting Valentine’s Day seems so silly until we take a closer look at what it is that they are protesting:

“Look at the West – people love their dogs but throw their parents out when they get old. We don’t want to be like that.”

Wow. Well, they certainly have a point there. But Valentine’s Day doesn’t mean all of that to us. It isn’t the day when we lovingly throw our parents in nursing homes and worship our dogs (well… not all of us). So how do we fix this?

The way I see it, this is just one more example of why dialogue is important. If we could get some of the protestors and some Americans to sit at a table and discuss what love means in their respective cultures and religious traditions, the hostile edge could be taken off. Now I’m not saying that the Muslims will start celebrating Valentine’s Day or Americans will stop, but there would at least be an understanding of where the other is coming from.

Maybe there would even be a new billboard: “UNDERSTAND VALENTINE’S DAY.”

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2 thoughts on “Flowers and Picket Signs: Valentine’s Day in Pakistan

  1. V-day is actually a Catholic holiday, and was started to remember St. Valentine who was killed for his faith. We in the west just promote it as a hallmark day : )

    • Some Orthodox Christians also celebrate Valentine’s Day! Unfortunately its not the story of St. Valentine that the Muslims were protesting, but maybe if we shared that beautiful story of St.Valentine with them there would be less hate and more coexistence.

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