Indonesian clerics ban youths from celebrating Valentine's Day

Authorities in Aceh threaten to punish displays of love with floggings
Indonesian clerics ban youths from celebrating Valentine's Day

Indonesian Muslim students take part in an anti-Valentine’s Day rally in Surabaya on Feb. 14, 2019. (Photo: AFP)

Muslim clerics and government officials in several regions of Indonesia have called on youths not to celebrate Valentine’s Day as it contradicts Islamic teaching.

In Aceh, the only region that implements Sharia law, the call was accompanied with the threat of a flogging for those ignoring it. 

“Those who are [caught] celebrating Valentine’s Day violate Islamic Sharia law applied in Aceh, and they can be caned,” Ramli MS, the regent of West Aceh, said.

He also banned the selling of Valentine-related merchandise in the region.

The Indonesian Ulema Council in West Java and the mayor of Bandung have sought to ban Valentine's Day celebrations in all secondary and senior high schools.

In Tuban, East Java, the district government prohibited students from celebrating Valentine’s Day on Feb. 14.

“We wish to stop students from doing negative things,” said Nur Khamid, Tuban’s head of educational affairs for the local authority.

The Indonesian Ulema Council in Tarakan, North Kalimantan, even declared Valentine’s Day “illegal.”

“Valentine’s Day targets teens, so we call on schools to ban it,” Muhammad Anas, chairman of the local chapter, said.

However, many people do not see what the fuss is all about.

Wahyu Julianto, 52, a Muslim resident of Jakarta, said if youths celebrate Valentine with a positive spirit then everyone should support them.

“If they want to build good values such as unity and brotherhood, and share the joy of Valentine’s Day with one another, then good luck to them,” Julianto said.

“Such values are important to avoid negative things,” the father of two said.   

“Valentine’s Day can be a moment for everyone to reflect on love and mutual respect,” Franciscan Father Vincentius Darmin Mbula, chairman of the National Council of Catholic Education, told UCA News.

He disagreed with local governments taking it on themselves to tell schools to impose bans.

“Headmasters, teachers, students and parents can build a good community spirit and use the occasion to strengthen love and brotherhood, and as an opportunity to build a bridge of friendship amidst diversity,” he said.

Since 2015, the Indonesian branch of One Billion Rising (OBR), a global movement campaigning to end rape and sexual violence against women, has used Valentine’s Day to deliver its message by taking to the streets and performing flash mob dances. 

“The aim is to encourage women, victims and activists alike to speak up and take action against violence against women as well as other kinds of violence,” OBR 2020 coordinator Dinda Deselia told UCA News.

This includes tackling issues associated with violence such as child marriage, discrimination against minorities and acts of intolerance in general.

She said that despite Valentine’s Day celebrations being banned in some places, her group uses it with positive activities.

The OBR movement was launched on Feb. 14, 2012, in response to statistics published by the United Nations that revealed one in three women, or around one billion women globally, have experienced sexual or physical abuse during their lifetime.

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