Valentine's Day - and Red - BannedI am not making this up. The BBC and a few other news services ran articles last year, about the desert kingdom's determination to protect its citizens from un-Islamic holidays like Valentine's Day. And the color red, at least around February 14.
There's some logic to banning Valentine's Day. It is quite un-Islamic: The full name of the holiday is Saint Valentine's Day, after all.
Boys and Girls Together - Call the Religious Police!And, what seems to trouble the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and his religious police at least as much, Valentine's Day is thought to encourage relations between men and women.
Shocking, from the Saudi point of view.
As BBC put it last year, "Saudi Arabian authorities impose a strict Islamic code that prevents men and women from mixing." (BBC) It can't be a total ban, or they'd have run out of Saudi subjects a long time ago. People die, and need to be replaced, you know.
Saudi Arabia Takes No Chances: Officials Ban Red from ShopsSaudi authorities were taking no chances in 2008, when "The Saudi Gazette quoted shop workers as saying that officials had warned them to remove all red items including flowers and wrapping paper." (BBC)
Saudi Arabia Gets Economic Stimulus: Black Market in Red RosesIt's risky, but Saudis can, I understand, get black market roses. For a price. Or, if they've got the cash, they can go out of the country around this time of year, and enjoy a breath of fresh air. And, roses.
Apparently the ban on roses and red in Saudi Arabia is seasonal - but the ban on men and women getting together seems to be year-round.
Seriously, NowThe antics of Saudi authorities are funny - to someone who doesn't live under their rule. And isn't a Muslim.
I think there's good reason to believe that the atavistic weirdness that comes out of Saudi Arabia is at least partly a reflection of an ancient, isolated culture that was ripped out of the time of Abraham and dropped into the Industrial Age.
Then, as the leaders of this desert kingdom were grappling with the alien beliefs that petroleum wealth had exposed them to, Western civilization changed again. Satellite television, the Web, and the rest of Information Age technology isn't making the job of keeping Saudi Arabia anchored in a bygone age any easier.
Maybe it's no surprise that Saudi leadership seems a little frantic now and again.
On the other hand, what got said on Saudi Arabia's National Day may be a sign that the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques is aware that Saudi Arabia has to change, or become a sort of cultural museum piece.
Islam, or Ancient Practice?I could be wrong about this, but Saudi Arabian tradition and Islam may not be quite the same thing. I think it's possible that the Saudi 'death to Mickey Mouse,' 'ban the roses,' approach to post-Magna Carta phenomena is not so much 'Islamic' as a set of cultural preferences: whose fans use their version of Islam as an authority to back them up.
- "An Egyptian Doctor, a Saudi Princess, and 1,500 lashes"
(November 11, 2008)
- "Saudi Arabia's National Day, Islam, and Tribalism: This is Big"
(September 27, 2008)
- "Red Roses Hit the Black Market as Saudis Ban Valentine's Day Gift"
FOXNews (February 10, 2009)
- "Saudi Arabia bans sale of red roses"
guardian.co.uk (February 12, 2008)
- "Saudis clamp down on valentines"
BBC (February 11, 2008)
Related posts, on Islam, Christianity, Religion, Culture and the War on Terror.
UPDATE (February 12, 2009)
Saudi Arabia is up to it's old tricks again this year:
"Religious police break hearts in Saudi Arabia"
The Associated Press (February 12, 2009)
"RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Just days before Valentine's Day, a young Saudi woman desperately searched for a red teddy bear to buy for her boyfriend. But all Nof Faisal could find were blue and white ones, minus the "I love you" she wanted hers to declare.
"It's not because the store couldn't keep up with demand. It is because fear of the religious police forced the store's owner to strip the shelves of all red items, including the hottest-selling item: heart-festooned red plastic handcuffs inscribed, 'Take me, I'm yours.'..."