Un-forbidden love: Saudis enjoy second ‘religious police-free’ Valentine’s Day

A florist in Jeddah freely sells roses to a customer on Valentine’s Day. In previous years, the religious police confiscated roses on Feb. 14. (AN photo by Adnan Mahdali)
Updated 15 February 2018

Un-forbidden love: Saudis enjoy second ‘religious police-free’ Valentine’s Day

JEDDAH: Saudis celebrated Valentine’s Day and its message of love and peace in the absence of religious police after a fatwa permitting the celebrations was circulated via Twitter.
Gift and flower shops opened their doors without any hassle or confiscation from the religious police, who formerly banned florists from working on Valentine’s Day and monitored the Kingdom’s streets for any violations. This was confirmed by market visits by a number of Arab News reporters in different Saudi cities.
Speaking to Arab News, Sheikh Ahmed Qasim Al-Ghamdi, former president of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice in Makkah, endorsed Valentine’s Day as a social celebration similar to the National Day and Mother’s Day.
“All these are common social matters shared by humanity and are not religious issues that require the existence of a religious proof to permit it,” he said.
Describing love as a natural feeling, the cleric said that Valentine’s Day celebrated “a positive aspect of the human being.”
Al-Ghamdi said the celebration of love was not limited to non-Muslims. “There are many worldly things that we deal with morally that may be of interest to non-Muslim communities and became more common among Muslim communities because of their popularity,” he said, citing the Prophet as an example. “The Prophet dealt with many worldly things that came from non-Muslims.”
He rejected the view that marking the day is an imitation of non-Muslims and said: “Even greeting peaceful non-Muslims in their special religious holidays is permitted without participating in a forbidden act that contradicts Islam.”
Al-Ghamdi stressed his support for fatwas that permit the celebration of Valentine’s Day and exchanging of gifts.
A fatwa issued on Feb. 13 by the fatwa secretary of Dar Al-Ifta Al-Misriya (Egyptian Religious Edict House), Ahmed Mamdouh, said: “There is no harm to allocate one day to show love to one another.”
Tunisian Grand Mufti Othman Battikh also rejected the claim that Valentine’s Day is solely a Christian tradition. “Anything that brings people closer together is good and desirable,” he said, adding that Muslims can celebrate without departing from Islamic ethics.
Mohammed Al-Shahat Al-Jundi, a member of the Islamic Research Center, said that the celebration helps “maintain ties of kinship.”
Al-Ghamdi described the current religious police as “very useful and conciliatory.”


Ukrainian pianist hits the high notes for Taif visitors

Updated 33 min 18 sec ago

Ukrainian pianist hits the high notes for Taif visitors

TAIF: It is not unusual for musicians to aim for the stars, but organizers of the Crown Prince Camel Festival in Taif gave the Ukrainian concert pianist Olina Lukashu a head start.

Visitors to the opening entertainment events at King Faisal Garden were treated to the sight and sound of Lukashu performing 5 meters in the air, dressed in a long white gown that reached down to the ground.

“It was decided to put her at the entrance of the garden, all dressed in white to welcome the visitors,” festival spokesman Saleh Al-Anzi told Arab News.

“It is a new idea that was greatly enjoyed by visitors, who admired her rendition of various musical pieces.”

Among the 25 events taking place in conjunction with this year’s festival is a circus presented by five Latin American countries, Al-Anzi said. There is also a free childcare service, mobile food courts, international restaurants and a live broadcasting studio.  “Visitors will be able to ride camels inside the park, and enjoy the handicrafts on display by various artisans,” he said.

Dr. Sami bin Abdullah Al-Obaidi, chairman of the Council of Saudi Chambers, told Arab News the Taif Season was important in terms of generating employment opportunities for young Saudis, and creating tourist projects. “All the events are full of visitors,” he said.

He said 2,000 jobs were provided during the Taif Season, and those who took up the opportunities gained skills and knowledge about the requirements of an audience.

“Saudi culture has changed, and Saudis have become more aware of global challenges and requirements, and the expectations of tourists and other consumers,” he said. “Taif Season has set a high standard.”