Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Saudi Vice, episode 8: Seeing red on Valentine's Day

One of the biggest annual challenges that our heroes at the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice have to face each year is the proliferation of the color red in mid-February. As the Saudi Gazette reports:
Islamic scholars around the Kingdom such as Sheikh Khaled Al-Dossari preach that celebrating Valentine's Day and other non-Islamic celebrations is a sin. "As Muslims we shouldn't celebrate a non-Muslim celebration especially this one that encourages immoral relations between unmarried men and women," Dossari, a scholar in Islamic Studies and the Shariah, said.
In the face of such a clear and obvious violation of sharia law, it is up to our heroes at the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice to make sure that young Saudis do not stray - and that means targeting the sources of the scourge:
Agents of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice visited flower and gift shops in the capital Saturday night to instruct them to remove all red items - from red roses and wrapping paper to boxes and teddy bears - from their shelves, shop workers said.

"They visited us last night," said a couple of florists Sunday morning.

"They gave us warnings and this morning we packed up all the red items and displays."

Sunday was the last day people could buy red roses in Riyadh, until Valentine's Day on Feb. 14 passes.

Every year, Commission agents visit flower shops a couple of days before Feb. 14 to issue warnings. On the eve of Valentine's Day, they start their raids and confiscate any red items that are symbols of love, florists here said.

But the sinners are clever, willing to flout the obvious law of Allah to further their capitalist/Zionist goals:
As a result of the ban, there's a black market in red roses.

"A single rose costs around SR5-7 but today the same rose costs SR10 a piece and the price will go up to SR20-30 on Valentine's Day," said a florist who caters to customers on Valentine's Day from his apartment.

Loyal customers place orders with the florist days and sometimes weeks before Feb. 14. "Sometimes we deliver the bouquets in the middle of the night or early morning, to avoid suspicion," said the florist.

Many young hearts are planning to celebrate in their own way, whether in secret, abroad or on the Web.

"I send e-cards to all my special friends online," said Famita Hakeem, a young Saudi university student.

"We are planning on going to Dubai Wednesday night to celebrate Valentine's Day as a couple," said Hannan Radi, a Saudi wife and teacher.

Ms. Radi should have been more circumspect in her comments, as the Muttawa will be waiting upon her return to their territory.