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Below are excerpts from Indian media reports on the responses of Indian Muslim groups and extremist Hindu organizations to Valentine's Day celebrations in the country early this year. According to the reports, Islamic groups such as Jamaat-e-Islami Hind (JIH) and the Students Islamic Organization of India (SIO) actively campaigned among Muslim communities against marking the holiday, proposing alternatives such as chastity day to eradicate the Western influence among Muslims.
Hindu nationalist groups such as Bajrang Dal, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), Hindu Vahini, Sri Ram Sene, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) also opposed Valentine's Day, stating that it is contrary to Indian culture; in some cases there was vigilantism to curb the practice of celebrating the occasion.
Muslim Groups in India React to Valentine's Day
In Southern Indian Town of Hyderabad, "The Muslim Girls' Association… [Took] Up Counseling of Youth on the Pitfalls of Imitating the West"; "In Several Mosques Like Jamia Masjid, Lalaguda, Masjide Islamia… Ulema Strongly Denounced the Practice of Observing Youm-e-Ashiqan [Lovers' Day]"
The city of Hyderabad in southern India is known for its Muslim culture and sizeable Muslim population with some influence of Jamaat-e-Islami. Several Muslim organizations and Ulema (Islamic clerics) came out strongly against its celebration. Following are excerpts from an Indian media report:
"On the eve of Valentine's Day, different Muslim organizations and ulema have come out strongly against its celebration. They have appealed to the Muslim youth, particularly, to keep away from rituals which are 'un-Islamic.' The Students' Islamic Organization, City unit, has decided to observe February 14 as 'Chastity Day.' It has decided to educate people, irrespective of the religion they belong to, on the dangers of blindly aping the West in matters which are totally alien to Indian culture and ethos.
"Members of SIO plan to stand near educational institutions at Mehdipatnam, Dilsukhnagar, Afzalgunj and other places [in Hyderabad, the capital city of Andhra Pradesh]… and display placards which say 'chastity is priceless' and 'Let's struggle for cultural independence. 'We will also distribute handbills explaining the Islamic position on haya (modesty),' said Syed Anas Razvi, city president, SIO.
"The Muslim Girls' Association [MGA] has also taken up counseling of youth on the pitfalls of imitating the West. During the last few days, groups of MGA members have visited various parks and educational institutions in Mehdipatnam and Khairatabad [in Hyderabad] and advised boys and girls against engaging in festivities which are not Islamic in nature and origin. 'Islam wants modesty to be adhered to at all costs even if the relationship is halal [permitted],' says Muftia Nazima Aziz.
"The All India Sunni Ulema Board held a meeting… wherein an appeal was made to ulema to create awareness in the community on this issue. In several mosques like Jamia Masjid, Lalaguda, Masjide Islamia, Monda Market, Masjide Noor, Chandrayangutta, Masjide Teenposh, Red Hills the ulema strongly denounced the practice of observing 'youm-e-ashiqan' [Lover's Day] as it promoted 'illicit relationships.'
"The message was also spread through the weekly 'Ijtemas' [congregations] organized every Sunday under the aegis of Jamiat-ul-Mominath, a girl's seminary, at Moghalpura."
Darul Uloom Deoband Website: Valentine's Day "Spreads Many Unholy Things… In Our Society As Well [As in] the Mind of Younger Generation";"Not Only It is Nonsense for Muslims... But Also For Christians… Because Today's Valentine's Day Has No Relation To the Sacrifice for Truth … By St. Valentine"
In an article on the website of the Darul Uloom Deoband, the second largest Islamic seminary in the world, Islamic scholar Muhammadullah Khalili Qasmi questioned the role of market forces in promoting Valentine's Day, arguing that it makes no sense for Muslims to celebrate the occasion. Following are excerpts from his article, originally in English:
"This is the tragedy of our time that our youths are bent on accepting every glitter of the modern era as fashion and symbol of progress. There are many things that, at first sight, seem odd, strange and indecent, but with the gust of advertisements, media coverage and competitions of commercial institutions it is made into a popular fact….
"Now, the craze of celebrating St. Valentine's Day is increasing year by year in Asian countries, especially developing nations like India. As the Valentine's Day approaches nearer, florists pile up love cards, gifts and bounties of flowers, the general stores sell Valentine chocolates, cakes and other gifts. The barbers cut hearts into men's head hair, restaurants promote Valentine's Day dinners. Newspapers publish romantic and flirting messages. The satellite [television] channels don't lag behind even an inch; they present special features and organize love-letter competitions….
"This phenomenon spreads many unholy things … in our society as well the mind of younger generation. Of course, love is a natural feeling and valuable asset of human life, but not the love that spoils their life and involves many other wrong aspects."
"But, as far as the matter of its [Valentine's Day] origin is concerned it goes back to ancient Rome before the Romans embraced Christianity. In ancient Rome, there was celebrated a holiday on February 14th in the honor of Juno Fructifier, Queen of the Roman gods and goddesses. The other day on February 15, they celebrated the feast of Lupercalis which was originally a festival of shepherds, and was primarily for the purpose to secure fertility for the fields, the flocks, and the shepherds themselves. There were many myths associated with this festival and many dirty rituals were performed.
"When Christianity spread in Rome, the celebration of the pagan festivals persisted among them. The Christian Romans continued to celebrate these festivals, until came Pope Gelasius I who abolished Lupercalis and declared in 496 that the feast of St. Valentine would be on February 14. Thus, the ancient Roman Lupercalis festival was replaced by a new Valentine's Day….
"However, whatever the reality may be, but one thing seems clear that none of the narrations appears to have much to do with love or romance that we see is observed on Valentine's Day. If the Christians celebrate this day in the memory of their martyr, then it is something that looks sound, but what the Muslims and other people of faith have to do with this? Not only it is nonsense for Muslims and others, but also for Christians as well, because today's Valentine's Day has no relation to the sacrifice for truth that was offered by St. Valentine, as they claim…."
Indian Muslim Writer: "The Day of Expressing Immorality"; "The West Made Progress in Industrial and Scientific Field and the East Became Its Bonded Slave... We Must Free Ourselves From the Blind Imitation of the West"
In an article on Valentine's Day, titled "The Day of Expressing Immorality" in the Urdu-language daily Roznama Sahafat, Indian Muslim writer Syed Sheeban Qadri denounced the Valentine's Day celebrations, also accusing the West of introducing human beings to "unrestrained freedom." Following are excerpts from his article:
"If, on the one hand, the West has introduced the human with education and progress, on other it has given it unwanted criticism and unrestrained freedom....
"While Valentine's Day provides full opportunity to the youths to express their lustful desire, it has also promoted immorality and immodesty unabated. Expression of love was here but it was done secretly but now it is being done openly. It is a fact that there is no harm in expressing one's love... but it is not necessary to fix a date for that….
"In fact, this is the blind imitation of the West, whose fast life has made such days of some sweet and lively gush of air as part of their culture. There is no need to celebrate such days in the East, which is the cradle of love, devotion and sacrifice.
"Alas! The impact of Western culture is becoming more evident on the Eastern culture. The West made progress in industrial and scientific field and the East became its bonded slave... We must free ourselves from the blind imitation of the West and should think with purity of heart regarding what is good and what is bad.
"So far as the progress in education, development, research and inventions are concerned, the West should be followed and competed but to safeguard the social life it is needed to bring revivalism of Islamic cultural values...."
Indian Muslim Columnist: Celebrating Valentine's Day is "Imitating the [Parties Held In] Western Countries... At Which Take Place Immodest Activities Between the Male and the Female That Are Expected Only Among Animals"
In another article in Roznama Sahafat, columnist Maqsoodul Hasan Faizi criticized the spread of Valentine's Day celebrations among Indian Muslims, and examined the teachings of Islamic shari'a with regard to celebration of love. Following are excerpts from his article:
"What happens in this festival [of Valentine's Day]:
"1. Such pleasures are expressed [on Valentine's Day] as if it is something very Islamic and in accordance with Sharia.
"2. Youths, both male and female, present cards that carry the expression 'Be My Valentine' to each other as an expression of love.
"3. Both sexes present bouquet of flowers to each other, and according to a survey 40 percent of flowers are used for this purpose only….
"4. Both sexes present such cards which carry the picture of Cupid, the love god of the Greek faith….
"5. Both sexes, mostly na mahram [according to Islamic law, na mahram is someone with whom one cannot be seen without being married to them, or one with whom marriage is permissible] present sweets and chocolates to each other to express their love.
"6. Some Eastern countries have also started organizing special parties on this occasion, imitating the Western countries, at which take place immodest activities between the male and the female that can be expected only among animals.
"7. Youths wear red and bright colors on this occasion while red bright color is not permissible in Islam."
The Shari'a Position: "The Prophet Muhammad … Said That Some People Of His Ummah Would Follow Jews and Christians in Every Un-Islamic Thing Without Any Thought"; Giving a Greeting Card on Valentine's Day "Is Accepting the Faith of Romans... Which is Open Apostasy"
"The stand of Islamic Shari'a in this regard:
"Hazrat Abu Saeed Khudri [a companion of Prophet Muhammad] narrates that the Prophet of Allah (Peace be upon him) said, 'You would follow the communities (Jews and Christians) who came before you step by step. If they entered the hole of an iguana you would also try to enter it... (Sahih Muslim [Book of Hadiths])
"Explanation: Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) has said that some people of his Ummah would follow Jews and Christians in every un-Islamic thing without any thought, to the extent that they would follow these unholy and damned communities in the most vile things. He said that to this extent, if anyone from among the Jews and Christians would do unholy things with their mothers, there would be some from this Ummah who would do likewise.
"This hadith [saying and deed of Prophet Muhammad] is not just for information but it is a warning to the Ummah to keep from imitating the Jews and Christians. But unfortunately a large number of people from Muslim Ummah seems to be falling in this....
"Celebrating the festival of love or Valentine's Day is illegal according to Islamic law and sometimes it leads on to infidel-ity. The reasons are as follow:
"1. This is a festival of infidels and idolaters in which love, which is a pure prayer, is expressed to someone other than Allah.
"2. This festival is a Jewish and Christian from beginning to the end and the Ulema are unanimous in this that participating in the festival of other religions is not legal and if this festival is about infidel-ity [being an infidel], then participating in it takes one to infidel-ity and apostasy....
"3. Celebration and acceptance of the festival of love is imitation of other communities, and the Koran and Hadith have explicitly called imitation of other communities as Haram [forbidden]….
"4. On that day, both the sexes (whether male or female) are na-mahram and they express love to each other which is illegal in shari'a because it leads to adultery, obscenity and rebellion against the parents....
"5. Presenting the [greeting] card with the picture of Cupid, knowingly or unknowing, means that one is accepting the faith of Romans... which is open apostasy.
"6. Islamic clerics have this unanimous fatwa: that Lovers' Festival or Valentine's Day is haram; therefore the Fatwa Committee of Saudi Arabia declared it haram in a lengthy fatwa...."
Hindu Groups in India React to Valentine's Day
In Indian State of Chhattisgarh, Hindu Rightwing Government "Decided to Celebrate Valentine's Day as Parents Day in the State"
In the Indian state of Chhattisgarh, where the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP, a Hindu right-wing party) is in power, the state government decided to mark Valentine's Day as Parents Day this year. Following are excerpts from a media report:
"The BJP Government in Chhattisgarh has decided to celebrate Valentine's Day as Parents Day in the state, official sources said…. Chief Minister Raman Singh has announced that February 14 will be celebrated in schools as the day for paying respects to parents….
"A suggestion to this effect was made to the Chief Minister by spiritual guru Asaram Bapu at a religious function, 'Rajim Kumbh' … in Gariaband district. The suggestion was accepted by Singh….
"The day will be celebrated in accordance with rich Indian culture. The State Education Department will be involved in the celebrations…."
Extremist Hindu Political Party Shiv Sena "Activists Were Arrested… For Staging Agitation… Against Valentine's Day Celebrations"; "Shouting Slogans…, the Sena Members Reminded that the Observance of Such Occasions Might Suit the Western World But Would Not Suit Indian Culture"
According to another report, the hard-line Hindu organization Shiv Sena, which is most active in the western Indian state of Maharashtra, took the law into their own hands and tore up Valentine's Day greeting cards. Following are the excerpts from the report:
"A total of 11 Shiv Sena activists were arrested … for staging agitation in the city against Valentine's Day celebrations.
"They also tore up Valentine's Day greeting cards in the open, near Tirupur Railway Station, to mark their displeasure in observing the day. Shouting slogans against the Valentine's Day revelers, the Sena members reminded that the observance of such occasions might suit the Western world but would not suit Indian culture and social values.
"Police patrolled the parks and places where people congregated in large numbers following Shiv Sena threats that they would conduct [enforced] 'marriages' of lovers seen celebrating the day in public places."
"Wearing Saffron-Color Bands on Their Foreheads and Wielding Canes, Activists Claiming to Be Members of the Bajrang Dal, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the Hindu Vahini, the Sri Ram Sene… Disrupted Celebrations in Various Districts [of Andhra Pradesh State]"
Members of extremist Hindu groups, wearing bands of the Hindu nationalist color saffron, sought to enforce their call for opposing Valentine's Day, detaining couples in love, and sometimes performing coerced nuptials. Following are excerpts from a media report:
"Protests by Hindu groups and a campaign to educate the youth by some Muslim organizations marked Valentine's Day in [the southern state of] Andhra Pradesh…, as many joined the celebration of love. Activists of various right-wing outfits held rallies, and chased and warned lovers at parks and public places abuzz with enthusiastic couples.
"Wearing saffron-color bands on their foreheads and wielding canes, activists claiming to be members of the Bajrang Dal, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the Hindu Vahini, the Sri Ram Sene, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) and others disrupted the celebrations in various districts.
"The outfits claimed to have forcibly 'married' a few couples at Moinabad and Gandipet on the outskirts of Hyderabad, at Warangal, Anantapur and Nizamabad districts [in Indian state of Andhra Pradesh].
"Bajrang Dal leaders alleged that police arrested many of their activists. The outfit's Hyderabad city unit president Bharat Vamshi condemned the arrests. He said they were protesting against the Valentine's Day as it was against the Indian culture.
"The activists caught hold of lovers in parks and other tourist spots. They detained the boys and girls and left them off only after they promised to desist from participating in such celebrations in future. The ABVP held a rally from Nizam College in Hyderabad to protest against the Valentine's Day celebrations. The women's wing of the BJP also staged a protest and burned an effigy of Western culture…"
 The Hindu (India), February 14, 2012. The original English in all reports in this dispatch was lightly edited for clarity and standardization.
 Roznama Sahafat (India), February 15, 2012.
 Roznama Sahafat (India), February 14, 2012.