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
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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.”


Saudi Arabia's King Salman offers $1m to International Civil Aviation Organization

Updated 17 June 2019
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Saudi Arabia's King Salman offers $1m to International Civil Aviation Organization

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has provided $1 million to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the Saudi Press Agency reported Monday.

The announcement came as part of the “Kingdom’s efforts in supporting international organizations and bodies and the leadership’s keenness to play an important role in the most important international and regional organizations,” SPA said.

The aid will go towards supporting ICAO’s No Country Left Behind (NCLB) initiative, which aims to assist developing countries in applying the standards and recommended methods for the safety and security of civil aviation.

The aid will also contribute to the costs of translating the organization’s documents and publications into Arabic.

The President of the Kingdom’s General Authority for Civil Aviation (GACA), Abdulhadi bin Ahmed Al-Mansouri thanked King Salman for his support to the aviation sector locally, regionally and globally, 

He said: “this contributes to the development of the aviation industry and to improve the safety and security of civil aviation in developing countries, least developed countries and island states.

The $1 million of financial assistance is an extension of the Kingdom's previous financial support in 2016 which “ the level of safety and security of civil aviation in the Middle East and Africa," Al-Mansouri said.

Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu, the ICAO’s president, thanked the king for the support.