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Valentine — our first global saint?

[ by Charles Cameron — a mixed reception for St Valentine and his Day ]

Above: Pakistan, 2103. Below: Saudi Arabia, 2013


Blog-friend Omar Ali has a piece up at the Brown Pundits blog, How easy is it to be accused of blasphemy in Pakistan? — which included the upper of the two images above, along with this comment and more…

The website of the Express Tribune (liberal by Pakistani standards) published a picture. its a modestly dressed woman posing next to an anti-valentine day billboard with a sign that says “let love be”. (It doesnt seem to be on the tribune site anymore… I am told it was there but has been removed … I just thought of taking THIS blog post off the net too, but since PKKH has their original post up, I doubt if we are materially adding to any possible legal case that may be concocted to bully the people involved).

[ … ]

It took only a few minutes for Paknationalists to notice and become outraged. See details here.

Of course no blasphemy was intended or committed. But the poor girls, and the editors and publishers of the Tribune, could still be in trouble.


I have noted the distaste some festivals which seem innocuous enough to many of us can stir in some others, and Valentine’s Day among them, mentioning both Hindu and Muslim reactions to the feast of hearts, roses, restaurants and beds along with Halloween in “Trick or Shirk” Indeed. Today, I’d like to raise the possibility that Valentine is may be the first saint of globalization, if Santa Claus hasn’t already won that honor — a saint, that is, of commerce, which tends to obliterate all boundaries of faith and nation.

Here’s an interesting indicator… This year, the Saudi Gazette reports Saudi religious police deny intent to close flower shops (see the lower image above):

The head of Saudi Arabia’s Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (CPVPV) denied on Tuesday plans to close shops selling flowers during Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14.

Sheikh Abdullatif Al-Sheikh told the Saudi daily newspaper Al-Jazirah: “This is not our specialty. It is the specialty of other parties. We reject what violates the book (Qur’an) and the Sunnah (the Prophet’s teaching) and Saudi Arabia’s regulations.”

“We deal with issues on a case by case basis, and if there is a violation our role is to liaise with concerned government parties,” he added.

Al-Sheikh’s statements followed widely-circulated reports that the commission is planning to close all shops selling flowers on Valentine’s Day.

Previously, the commission banned the sale of red roses ahead of Valentine’s Day, forcing couples to think of new ways to show their love.


For a quick peek at St Valentine’s skull — and the heart of St Lawrence for that matter, see my post Of dust and breath, which dealt with their respective show-cased relics.

2 Responses to “Valentine — our first global saint?”

  1. Alex Carlill Says:

    is Christmas notably controversial in Pakistan & SA or is it basically accepted?

  2. Charles Cameron Says:

    Hi Alex:
    I have to Google up the answer to that one, and some of what I find regarding Pakistan is in this excerpt from a Telegraph report, Pakistan’s loneliest church celebrates Christmas in Taliban country

    Pakistan is the sixth most dangerous country in the world for minorities, says London-based watchdog Minority Rights Group International. Christians, Shiite Muslims and Ahmadis are victims of a rising tide of deadly attacks.
    But Alam’s church, and the homes of most of his 200 parishioners, are nestled inside a Pakistani army base in South Waziristan, a mountainous region that was a hotbed of militancy until a military offensive in 2009.
    When the US went into Kabul, things became bad for everyone. But we are safe here. The army protects us,” says Shaan Masih, who helps clean the church and likes to play the drums and sing carols.
    For two decades, the church was little more than a room and the tiny community worshipped there under light protection. In 2009, the army set up a base in South Waziristan as part of the offensive against the insurgency and invited the church inside.
    “It was a long-standing demand of the community to be given a proper space,” Col. Atif Ali, a military officer, told Reuters during a rare trip to the region arranged by the military.
    Many of the Christians work for the army in clerical or domestic positions. So far, they have been sheltered from the bombings, raids and drone strikes, violence that rocks the region on an almost daily basis.

    It’s also notable that December 25th, is officially celebrated in Pakistan not as Christmas Day but as the birthday of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder or Pakistan.
    On Saudi, I found this  WSJ article: Merry Christmas From Saudi Arabia interesting:

    If you want a good laugh, read the holiday card sent out by Saudi Ambassador to the United States and public relations genius Adel al-Jubeir. Citing a Quranic verse, he writes “Behold, the angels said: ‘O Mary, God giveth thee glad tidings of a Word from Him: his name will be Christ Jesus, the son of Mary, held in honour in this world and hereafter and of (the company of) those nearest to God.'”
    Christmas greetings from an ambassador whose government prohibits Christians from worshiping publicly, building churches, wearing crosses or importing Bibles. Invoking the names of Mary and Jesus while representing a government that this year beheaded Amina bint Abdulhalim Nassar and Abdul Hamid Al Fakki for “witchcraft.”
    Saudi Arabia has perfected the art of cognitive dissonance — or, in plain English, hypocrisy. For example, Saudi Education Minister Faisal bin Abdullah bin Mohammed recently spoke at the Saudi-U.S. Business Opportunities Forum in Atlanta. The Saudi Embassy reported that “Prince Faisal characterized the educational system in the Kingdom as a model for the Middle East and North Africa.”
    God help us if that’s true. An eighth-grade textbook currently published by the Saudi Education Ministry declares “The Apes are the people of the Sabbath, the Jews; and the Swine are the infidels of the communion of Jesus, the Christians.” A ninth-grade textbook echoes “The Jews and the Christians are enemies of the believers, and they cannot approve of Muslims.” Six million schoolchildren are indoctrinated with this every year in Saudi Arabia.
    Had Jesus been born in Saudi Arabia today, he’d likely be imprisoned, flogged or beheaded.

    Of course, that would not be wildly different from what is reported to have actually happened, nor from what Dostoevsky speculated might happen still…

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