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Red Banned Around Valentine's Day in Saudi Arabia

India Hardliners Also Take Aim at Cupid

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Why the Valentine's Day party poopers? Valentine's Day = St. Valentine = not an Islamic holiday. Plus, as an Islamic scholar told the Saudi Gazette, "As Muslims we shouldn't celebrate a non-Muslim celebration especially this one that encourages immoral relations between unmarried men and women." So in Saudi Arabia, the religious police -- agents of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, actually -- have been out in full force at gift shops and florists to ensure that nobody sees red this week -- be it boxes of chocolates, fuzzy bears, or the proverbial red roses.

As the Saudi Gazette reported for Valentine's Day 2008:

    "Every year, Commission agents visit flower shops a couple of days before Feb. 14 to issue warnings. On the eve of Valentine's Day, they start their raids and confiscate any red items that are symbols of love, florists here said.

    But as a result of the ban, there's a black market in red roses.

    'A single rose costs around SR5-7 but today the same rose costs SR10 a piece and the price will go up to SR20-30 on Valentine's Day,' said a florist who caters to customers on Valentine's Day from his apartment.

    Loyal customers place orders with the florist days and sometimes weeks before Feb. 14. 'Sometimes we deliver the bouquets in the middle of the night or early morning, to avoid suspicion,' said the florist."

Another way Saudis are celebrating V-Day is by traveling to nearby, less stringent countries, such as Dubai, for the holiday.

Meanwhile, over in India the Hindu hard-liners also do their annual best to rain on the lovers' parade. From the Associated Press:

    "A few dozen protesters briefly blocked a road in downtown New Delhi on Wednesday, burning Valentine's Day cards and chanting 'Down with Valentine.' In the nearby city of Lucknow, extremists threatened to beat up couples found celebrating their love.

    ...'Our volunteers will check parks, hotels and restaurants and swoop upon young lovers found walking hand-in-hand,' said Vijay Tiwari, a Shiv Sena activist in Lucknow.

    In recent years, there have been several cases of couples being attacked while seeking privacy in local parks.

    Police in Lucknow said they would stop any intimidation."

It is, as the AP points out, a losing battle for hard-liners: Valentine's Day is more popular than ever.

    "The Times of India said security would be stepped up around New Delhi University's rose gardens to prevent young Romeos from plucking flowers, and the Hindustan Times cited doctors advising people not to abuse aphrodisiacs or drugs like Viagra."
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