Young hearts: Al Fattah Islamic elementary school students color placards in Surakarta on Wednesday before taking part in an annual rally denouncing the celebration of Valentine’s Day. (JP/Kusumasari Ayuningtyas)
Nearly 500 elementary school students in Surakarta, Central Java, joined a march to the city’s Manahan Stadium on Wednesday in protest against Muslim youths partaking in Valentine’s Day celebrations, arguing that doing so was against Islamic teaching.
Some 30 teachers accompanied the students at the rally in the city, which is also known as Solo. The students ranged from first to sixth graders of Al Fattah Islamic elementary school.
They stopped at the southern gate of the stadium where some of the fifth and sixth graders gave speeches while younger students colored papers bearing messages saying “no” to Valentine’s Day, which is celebrated every Feb. 14.
“We took the students to join the rally in a bid to remind them not to fall into Valentine’s Day moments,” one of the teachers, Setiyatno, said on the sidelines of the march.
He said that the Valentine’s Day tradition among youths was no longer just about giving away chocolates but had gone further, despite the fact that they were unmarried couples.
This, according to Setiyatno, could damage the morality of Muslim youths, especially if they wanted to physically express their feelings toward each other.
“What we see in reality is that youths increasingly have no limits when celebrating Valentine’s Day,” said Setiyatno who teaches Islam at the school.
The rally was the fourth held in Surakarta and had in the past been conducted as a reminder for students not to practice something that brought more bad things than good, Setiyatno went on.
“We deliberately give them an early warning so that they will not be plunged into non-Islamic traditions in the future,” he said.
Fifth grader Khodir, who delivered a speech during the event, said that Valentine’s Day must not be celebrated by Muslims because according to Islamic teaching, unmarried couples were not even allowed to touch each other.
In his speech, Khodir said that Valentine’s Day not a day of celebration for Muslims.
Separately in Pekanbaru, Riau Islands, Mayor Ayat Cahyadi instructed all schools in his jurisdiction to apply tight controls and to ban their students from celebrating Valentine’s Day.
“The young generation must be protected so that its does not fall into promiscuity and vice,” Ayat said on Wednesday.
Valentine’s Day, according to Ayat, was in contrast to the culture of people from the east. He said the eve of Valentine’s Day was always celebrated with negative activities. “Don’t get influenced by a culture that is not ours,” he said.
He also called on parents to control their childrens’ social relationships and to teach them that love was sacred and holy. “Showing love does not necessarily have to be done only on Feb. 14,” he said.
Ayat also asked the city’s public order officers (Satpol PP) to cooperate with local police to keep an eye on hotels in Pekanbaru on the eve of Valentine’s Day.
The move received support from the chairman of the local Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), Ilyas Husti, who said that Islamic teaching forbade promiscuity and out of wedlock relationships. “It’s haram,” he said.
He added that Islamic teaching did not forbid affection as long as it did not violate sharia law.
“Valentine’s Day celebrations have led to the channeling of lust between unmarried couples,” Ilyas said.
Promiscuity, he said, could lead to unwanted pregnancies out of wedlock.
“The impact will not just be on them but also on the whole community,” he said.