By Aamir Latif
13 February 2013
As shopping centres are abuzz with Valentine’s Day gifts, religious parties and students groups in Pakistan are observing the occasion on February 14, as a day of wearing Hijab and an answer to what they say “un-Islamic” custom.
“We are going to observe February 14 as Hijab Day in all over the country, especially in the educational institutions in order to show to the world that the people of Pakistan totally reject this custom, which is a direct attack on the culture of modesty,” Asadullah Bhutto, a senior advocate, and central leader of Jamat-e-Islami, the country’s largest Islamic party, told OnIslam.net.
Religious parties and student groups announced that they would celebrate February 14 as a Day of Hijab in Pakistan.
The move came in response to an appeal by female students of the Karachi University for girls to mark the day by wearing Hijab as a response to the Valentine’s Day.
Several groups, including the Islami Jamiat Talaba (IJT), the largest student wing in Pakistan, Anjuman-e-Talba Islam (ATI) and Jamiat Talaba Islam (JTI), have also joined hands to observe the Hijab Day.
IJT President Zubair Safdar says his group will observe the occasion as a day of resolve in educational institutions with a clear message that Pakistani students reject the Valentine’s Day.
Tnazeem-e-Islami, a non-political religious group, has also published pamphlets outside mosques and educational institutions highlighting the history and background of the Valentine’s.
Valentine's Day is a holiday celebrated on February 14, by many people throughout the world.
In the West, it is the traditional day on which lovers express their feelings for each others.
Islam does recognize happy occasions that bring people closer to one another, and add spice to their lives.
However, Islam goes against blindly imitating the West regarding a special occasion such as Valentine’s Day.
Hence, commemorating the Valentine’s Day is an innovation or Bid’ah (innovation) that has no religious backing.
Supporters argue that their campaign aims to protect modesty against western customs.
“This custom has nothing to do with any religion,” Bhutto, a former parliamentarian, told OnIslam.net.
“Neither Muslims nor Christians or Jews approve or own this day. This is day introduced by the multinational companies purely on commercial basis.”
Pakistan’s electronic media have been abuzz with advertisement of Valentine’s Day gifts and commodities, completely ignoring the Hijab Day campaign.
“The effects of this commercial activity are dangerous, particularly in Muslim countries, where modesty is still the culture of majority,” Bhutto said.
“If we do not oppose this day and sit idle, it would ruin the foundation of our society and culture i.e. modesty.”
He opines that the best way to oppose a tradition or custom is by coming up with alternatives.
“That’s why we have come up with an alternative as Hijab, which is an integral part of Muslim society,” he said.
“We want to give this message to our youths that in an environment where devilish civilization is hoodwinking the Muslim women in the name of so-called freedom, we should be steadfast to guard the culture of modesty.”
But opponents accuse opponents of politicizing the Valentine’s Day.
“I want to tell these people (opponents) to please live and let live. This is purely a festivity, it has nothing against any religion,” Hassan Nisar, a senior columnist, told OnIslam.net.
“Those who want to celebrate this custom let them do that. If someone doesn’t want to (celebrate), this is his or her wish.”
Valentine’s Day is a new entry to Pakistani society.
It is barely a decade ago when Pakistanis had heard the name of Valentine’s Day for the first time during the initial years of former military dictator General Pervez Musharraf, who had introduced his much-publicized policy of moderation and enlightenment.
However, after a decade of state patronization and backing of multinational companies, Valentine’ Day is still an alien in Pakistani society. It could be seen only in newspapers, TV channels, and in posh localities of big cities.
TV Channels air various programs, including live concerts, talk shows, and message service on the occasion of Valentine’s Day, which by large, are not more than commercial activities. Couples belong to showbiz or so-called elite families participate in these programs.
Secret Valentine’s Day parties are held in posh localities, and big hotels, but even the supporters of this day do not openly exchange gifts or hold parties due to public and family pressures.