MARLENA NIP WRITES – Bitter officials did their best again this year to turn Malaysian youth against the tradition of Valentine’s Day.

While in the West we poke fun at February 14 as a ‘Hallmark holiday,’ turn it into a femme-positive ‘Galentine’s Day,’ or throw anti-Valentine’s Day parties to celebrate being single, in Malaysia officials take it to a whole ‘nother level. The Malaysian Islamic Development Department (known by the acronym JAKIM) refers to the Western holiday as “Bashing Valentine’s day.”

Every year in mid-February, it distributes an official sermon to mosques around the country telling the faithful to steer clear of a holiday that encourages “alcoholism, abortion, fraud, mental disorder, baby-dumping, and moral decay.” High school students are likewise given pink, “Valentine’s Day Guideline” pamphlets echoing the sermon’s points.

The message has been received, if not completely taken to heart. Muslim students interviewed recently about their reactions to Valentine’s Day told interviewers that yes, they’d been taught why Valentine’s Day is considered harmful to their culture.  None, however, commented on whether they agreed with the message of the campaign.

Another reason for opposing the holiday is the Christian roots of the holiday. Before it became known as a Hallmark holiday, February 14 was primarily the Christian feast of Saint Valentine. The combination of Western culture and Christianity does not make it appealing to JAKIM. One Malaysian media source even published an article listing “10 anti-Valentine’s Day films that will make you realize love isn’t all that it is made out to be.”

While most Malaysian media sources perceive the holiday as polluting to Islamic culture, one takes a contrary view, calling JAKIM a “pervert.  Jeswan Kaur of Free Malaysia Today opposes the opposition that JAKIM puts on Valentine’s Day every year.  JAKIM blames Valentine’s Day for the lack of faith in young Muslims, but Kaur says there is a lack of solid evidence to blame this holiday for the perceived decline of morals occurring in the country.

If Malay Muslims oppose JAKIM’s anti-Valentine’s Day agenda, they must stay on their toes. The penalty for being caught with someone of the opposite sex alone and in close proximity, or ‘khalwat’, and in close proximity, is a jail sentence of up to two years.

Valentine’s Day loses in the East and West.