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Interfaith Dialogue ( 14 Feb 2018, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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A Different Perspective on Valentine



By Mushtaq Ul Haq Ahmad Sikander, New Age Islam

14 February 2018

Every year on Valentine’s Day the Muslim world and India too is engulfed in a ferocious debate. The exclusivist, peripheral and in certain cases the fascist groups take to the streets, harassing, molesting or beating those whom they perceive as “Love Birds”. Each year same history is repeated on the perception that Valentine brings Immorality with it. It is a Western invention of expressing love that is rendered synonymous with promiscuousness, pre marital sex, lust and immorality by these groups. The worldview of these groups about Western concept of Love is based on hedonistic lust and sexual anarchy. They wrongly uphold that for West there exist no notions or norms of love, but only of sharing bed with multiple partners. So Love cannot exist between a boy and girl. It has to be lust.

Platonic or Pious love does not exist for these groups. If there is a relationship between a boy and girl be that of friendship, comradeship or being colleagues it cannot be without lust or without a physical element being involved in it. Also the public display of love should be barred totally that is why the irregular army of goons cascading as moral police or Romeo-Juliet checking squad have every right to thrash, beat and humiliate young boys and girls if they see them roaming in public places or conversing in a restaurant. Many times such youth turn out to be siblings, cousins and classmates. These squads like in Uttar Pradesh have got legal sanction and several teams of law maintaining agencies are indulging in moral policing while leaving the real criminals to have a field day including smugglers, dacoits, drug peddlers and the corrupt. If the unwanted squads continue with their activities, then in future parents will be forced to stay home with their kids, because these gangs can label them as paedophiles and for others the accusation of incest will not be a farfetched idea. Also the sex or physical part of human relationships is conducted inside the dark rooms where these moral goons do not have access and they try to be oblivious about this fact.

Thus undue harassment of young people is quite condemnable because just sharing few lighter moments with someone, will not break down the very structure of the family. Islam and other religions or the Indian constitution does not empower any group or state to go around harassing members of different sexes if they are conversing, sitting or sharing a meal. Instead Quran lays down strict injunctions about the allegations regarding adultery or fornication. A person who alleges it has to get four witnesses who will testify that they have seen the act and if one of them falters in the cross examination a harsh punishment awaits the pleader. In a way spirit of Islam demands that state or an individual has no right to enquire or encroach in the personal domains of individuals.

Plus in our contemporary age of social media, the traditional segregation of genders has been rendered redundant. Even if you place numerous obstacles and roadblocks for young men and women to meet, the social media has the power to help them stay connected 24x7 virtually. The traditional boundaries of sex segregation have long back dismantled. Further, modernity has opened up so many opportunities where men and women can hook up that to control it is impossible.

Also in every religious tradition love has been cherished. Islam is no different. The stereotypical image of Muslims as invaders and bloodthirsty warriors have even rendered many Muslims oblivious to the fact that Sufism in Islam is the highest epitome of Love. We also have the tradition of Yusuf-Zulaikha, Shireen-Farhaad, and Laila-Majnoon as the manifestations of true love. We cannot turn a blind eye to these chronicles that are a part of our history. So we need to celebrate Love as it is what makes us the highest creation of God. Love for an opposite gender can be the first stepping stone towards the eternal love for God. So what is wrong if one celebrates Valentine as a Day of Love, whereas on all other days we commemorate the hate and violence?

Coming to this argument that retrogrades Love to Lust is quite a lame excuse. If two people are celebrating love in a public place, how come lust is a part of it, as lust is expressed behind doors in dark dungeons not in public spaces? Also why love has to be epitomized in lust, does it complete or makes it triumphant? Love can be Platonic, a longing for each other, experiencing the pangs of separation and never having the physical intimacy. Most of the true love stories never had any physical or sexual aspect associated to them.

Also the scope of Valentine’s Day or Love Day or any other name that one can give it without getting into the details of its history can be broadened. Love and its expression need not to be confined among young people only. Elders and others should cherish it too. When the whole world is mired with violence, killings, hate and brutal militarization, humanity certainly needs a day when we should celebrate and commemorate love and its wonderful vintages. Love will inspire us to create better, invest in ourselves and cherish beautiful moments with others. It will help us to leave the world a better place through our contribution because love is synonymous with humanitarian values. When the nationalism, exclusivist religious interpretation and narrow communalism have dragged us to our lowest ebb where we witness every other person as our enemy, we should indeed invest in Love instead of branding love as Western. Love is universal and cannot be confined or compartmentalized in narrow vicissitudes of Eastern versus Western dichotomy.

But then why do the legal or irregular bands of goons are dead against Valentine. I can surmise a few reasons. Firstly for these bands of moral police there is no difference between love and lust. Secondly, they have this misperception that anything coming from West, is anti religious and horrible that has the power to breakdown the very structure of our families, marriage and social institutions that it needs to be opposed vehemently. Social media they accept and in clandestine moments they have different personalities, but in public life being morally upright means to infringe on the privacy and individuality of unrelated weak people.

Lastly, these people witness world in black and white, without grey areas. So you are either a friend or a foe. Also they have been fed on such a staple diet of hate since childhood and given a false sense of being upholders of morality that they hypocritically wear it on their sleeves. Thus being nurtured on hate, they can in no manner spread love, so they try every means to banish the love from the lives of individuals who cherish it. Even as spouses they do not love but just satisfy each other’s needs and come together just to procreate. The real threat to society is not from those who celebrate love on Valentine but from those who believe and stand for violence and hate that ultimately leads to riots and killings because they are taught to hate the other instead of celebrating love and diversity.

M.H.A.Sikander is Writer-Activist based in Srinagar, Kashmir


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