Valentine’s day evolved from Christian tradition (big surprise – it isn’t Jewish!). While the origins and details about Saint Valentine are still shrouded in mystery; the celebration of Valentine’s Day overtime became associated with romance and love. With the world becoming a global village and cross cultural exchange Valentine’s Day has gained popularity in Pakistan over the past years.
This year the court has banned celebration of Valentine’s Day across the country in response to a private petition which claims that “…in cover of spread of love in fact, immorality, nudity and indecency is being promoted which is against our rich culture.”
I am very interested in understanding how the above was substantiated as the petition comes across as pretty subjective and the perception may highly vary from person to person.
As a citizen, I am perplexed that we have such strong reactions to something like Valentine’s Day on the pretext of religion and culture; while our culture is itself a shadow of the sub-continent’s mores. Makes one wonder why dowry, social injustice, corruption, violence, crime, discrimination and rituals observed at births, weddings and deaths are just overlooked without the application of ‘our rich culture’ and religious lens?!
It feels like we are back in the pre-partition era unable to see why we need to learn English or why dressing in pants or coats isn’t sinful or why children should be educated for that matter! A restriction imposed by the court and its subsequent implementation did not really affect the celebrations. Nevertheless, the ban was indicative of how we perceive a certain phenomenon – in this case Valentine’s Day – a threat to our culture and religion (as evidenced by protests by certain groups over the years). This then makes one wonder why we are so insecure about the strength of our religion and culture that merely observing a day dedicated to love will make us succumb to the promotion of nudity, immorality and indecency? How do red displays in shopping centers, subsidized food/drinks at eateries and flourishing rose-markets testify for immorality and nudity?
We deem a day ‘western’ or a product of the north which threatens to colonize/overpower us but we welcome all other north south exchanges with open arms; trade, aid, technological transfers, educational scholarships, skill exchange programmes and many other collaborations. It is sheer hypocrisy that we are angered at the extremism and intolerance of conservative political leadership across the world when we ourselves cannot be tolerant of or cannot even trust our culture and religion to withstand attempts of straying us in cover of promoting love.
We are asking for a Haya Day to instill values within our social fabric – the values which should assumably form the core of societal fabric. Seems like we need to look inwards much more than we need to look outwards and gauge where we ourselves stand as individuals, families and as a nation?
This piece is not advocating for or against Valentine’s Day but the fact that a court stepped up to ban the proceedings, the President is encouraging foregoing it and PEMRA is regulating all content to make it Valentine Day free seems a lot of effort! Why so serious? It’s just another ordinary day!