It never ceases to amaze me, especially after spending some of my most formidable years growing up in Saudi Arabia, what the religious secret police deem as immoral and wrong.
Friday, of course, is Valentine’s Day, and to no surprise there are Saudi religious leaders deeming it immoral.
Saudi cleric Sheikh Mohammad al-Arifi, who is known for his outrageous teachings, said that embracing the romantic occasion makes Muslims “resemble those who are immoral,” according to the Al Arabiya website.
A Saudi woman walks past a flower shop on the eve of Valentine's Day in Riyadh, FEB. 13, 2014. Red roses lurk hidden in flower shop back rooms and heart-shaped chocolates are sold under the counter, but Saudis still manage to buy Valentine's gifts and defy the religious police. Saudi Arabia applies a rigorous interpretation of Islam under which the sexes are strictly segregated and any public display of affection is completely taboo. (AFP/Getty Images)
“TV channels and other media outlets shouldn’t be promoting Valentine’s Day in any way,” Arifi wrote on his Twitter account on Wednesday.
Arifi’s religious views and fatwas have garnered him attention in the past. He has advised young girls not to wear “revealing clothes in the presence of their fathers to avoid seduction and [called] for a boycott of Al Arabiya’s sister kids channel, MBC 3, after claiming that cartoons corrupt children,” Al Arabiya reported.
According to Al Arabiya, Saudi Arabia’s religious police have raided floral shops selling red flowers in the past.
I had my own run-in with these religious officers at a grocery store in the kingdom when I was 12 years old. In their view, as they made it clear to my mother, it was my fault that two young men had glanced at me while we were shopping.
I was pushed down onto a seat, scolded in Arabic and then shown the whip hidden beneath their robe to prove they were willing to follow through with their threat. They did not whip me because my mother pleaded for me, and maybe because I was an American. I still don’t know.
From the stories I come across, there's been no change in the kingdom today.
Al Arabiya reported that religious police chief Abdullatif al-Sheikh “denied that the religious police had ordered the closure of shops” – though he did not specifically mention floral shops – on Valentine’s Day.
“This is not our specialty … we are against what violates the Koran and the teachings of the prophet,” Sheikh said in an interview to a Saudi newspaper al-Jazirah on Wednesday.
On a side note: Google, which displayed a pumping heart on its main page Friday for international users, left the Saudi-based homepage without any decoration. Al Arabiya called it another signal that the kingdom is shunning the Valentine’s Day occasion.
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