Muslims split over to condemn or profit from St Valentine's

Criticism from some countries, UAE rakes in money

13 February, 17:35

    Iraqis buy gifts for Valentine Day [ARCHIVE MATERIAL 20150212 ] Iraqis buy gifts for Valentine Day [ARCHIVE MATERIAL 20150212 ]

    (by Virginia Di Marco) (ANSAmed) ROME, FEBRUARY 13 - Muslim nations are divided over whether celebrating St Valentine's Day is a sin or a perfect opportunity to do business. There are some, like Saudi Arabia, that firmly condemn the holiday of 'unbelievers' and impose heavy sanctions on those that dare to celebrate it that include jail sentences and lashes. Others, such as the UAE, see it as an opportunity and offer tourism and entertainment specials for the occasion. In the largest Muslim nation in the world, Indonesia, there is a sharp divide between what happens in Jakarta and what instead happens in small cities and the surrounding area. While hotels and restaurants in the capital promote the holiday with theme-based 'couple specials', in other locations local institutions and the clergy refuse to allow it. The Majelis Ulama Indonesia (MUI), the highest national Islamic institution, has once again this year lashed out at the holiday and its ''potential negative effects on young people's morals'', underscored MUI education chief Anwar Abbas. The same stance has been taken by the Department for the Protection of Children (KPAI), which told local media that ''there are St Valentine's traditions that are not suitable for children, such as the fact that this is seen as the 'day of love' in which losing one's virginity is justified. Some school-age girls have suffered sexual attacks on Saint Valentine's Day''. In Malaysia, where 60% of the population is Muslim, the department for Islamic Development (JAKIM) has repeatedly said that St Valentine's Day celebrations are the cause of social problems such as ''abortion, abandoned children, mental disturbances linked to alcoholism, fraud and other depravity that can lead to disaster and moral decay among youth''. Last year religious condemnation nevertheless did not stop 138 couples (all part of the local Chinese community) from taking part in a collective wedding ceremony on February 14. The situation changes a great deal further West, in Arab nations. In the West Bank, Palestinians have been celebrating St Valentine's Day for decades. Though showing off Cupid figures and hearts is still somewhat of a taboo in the most traditional families, many shop windows are decked out for the occasion and flowers, jewels and sweets are the most popular gifts. The Palestine Herald Press reports that some of the best restaurants accept reservations for St Valentine's Day starting from January, and the only five-star hotel in the West Bank - the Moevenpick - is offering discounts for couples. Those seeking true luxury for the day in the Arab world find it in the UAE, where ever more money is made on St Valentine's Day. According to Gulf Times, an average couple spends between 230 and 360 euros to celebrate it. For those that would like and can afford to, Abu Dhabi's Shangri-La Hotel offers a 100,000-euro package that includes oysters, vintage champagne, a helicopter, a presidential suite and a seven-course French dinner. (ANSAmed).

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