Campaign against Cupid
targets Malaysia’s Muslims

Malaysian Muslims debated on Sunday whether to shun Valentine’s Day after the government warned that the celebration was a “trap” that could trigger indecent behavior.

Although no laws prevent Malaysia’s Muslim majority from marking the occasion with dinner dates and roses, officials have mounted a campaign insisting that such romantic gestures might tempt young people into having premarital sex, The Associated Press reported on Sunday from Kuala Lumpur.

Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said late on Saturday that the government was not trying to demean Valentine’s Day, but stressed that it was “not suitable” for Muslims, who comprise nearly two-thirds of Malaysia’s 28 million people.

His comments came after the government-run Malaysian Islamic Development Department, which handles religious policies, launched a publicity campaign on Friday called “Mind the Valentine’s Day Trap” and handed leaflets advising Muslim university students to avoid Monday’s celebration.

Wan Mohamad Sheikh Abdul Aziz, the department’s chief, noted that Malaysia’s top panel of
Islamic scholars had issued an edict in 2005 criticizing the celebration of Valentine’s Day among Muslims because it had historical links to Christianity and could lead to immoral activities.

Preachers at mosques in Kuala Lumpur also delivered anti-Valentine’s Day sermons Friday.

Some Muslims disagreed, saying it was a harmless celebration.

“I’ve given my wife flowers and taken her for dinner on Valentine’s Day before,” Khairy Jamaluddin, a prominent ruling party politician in his mid-30s, wrote on Twitter. “I am still a Muslim. If people want to do it because the feel like it’s a nice occasion, as long as they’re not committing sin, why not?”

In Banda Aceh, a group of Muslim students linked to the Indonesian Muslim Student Action Union (Kapmi), held a long march, unfurling banners protesting Valentine’s Day.

“Students in Aceh should uphold sharia law by shunning the celebration of Valentine’s Day because
it is not [part of] Islamic culture,” Kapmi chairman Muhammad Zamzami said.

According to Zamzami, Valentine’s Day was a western construct that was not found in Islamic culture, especially in Indonesia.

“Many youngsters in Aceh do not know about this so that they simply follow others and celebrate Valentine’s Day. Even many adults join in the celebration, too,” he said.

Aceh’s ulemas have said that celebrating the Valentine’s Day is haram, or forbidden by Islamic law.

“Valentine’s Day is against Islamic guidance. There is no need for Muslims to join in its celebration, Faisal Ali, secretary-general of the Aceh Ulema Association, said.

Meanwhile several young people were seen relaxing at a coffee stall, not far from Baiturrahman Grand Mosque in Banda Aceh, talking about Valentine’s Day.

“I will give my girlfriend chocolates on Valentine’s Day,” Fadli, one of the young people, said.

Even though he lives in a province under sharia law, Fadli said he and his friends did not want to miss out on celebrating the day.

“Showing affection to loved ones is not wrong, right? Showing affection does not necessarily mean engaging in indecent acts like kissing,” Fitri, a young woman at the stall, said.

— Hotli Simanjuntak contributed to this article from Banda Aceh.

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