February 14 is an eventful time in Pakistan. Roads are blocked, cafes are full and social media is flooded with opposing views either in support of the day or against it. It is a day when conservative religious scholars feel especially relevant because of their obsession with Valentine’s Day.
The reality is that it is just a day, something the majority of conservative Pakistanis often fail to understand. This year a Pakistani university has decided to present Valentine’s Day in a bizarre rebranded manner. The University of Agriculture in Faisalabad has renamed February 14 as “Sisters Day” in order to promote cultural and religious values that align with the conservative majority of the country. As per the university, headscarves will be given to female students in order to challenge the “evils” associated with traditions of the “West.”
Valentine’s Day has been targeted before in the Islamic country. Last year and the year before, Pakistan banned Valentine’s Day, claiming it promotes nudity and immorality. The move was supported by the former Pakistani president Mamnoon Hussain, and the Pakistani media watchdog Pakistani Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) banned advertisements and television shows promoting the day.
Conservative Pakistan’s obsession with Valentine’s Day seems to intensify with each passing year, and there are odd calls either to ban the day or rebrand it in a way that aligns with the country’s religious and cultural values
Conservative Pakistan’s obsession with Valentine’s Day seems to intensify with each passing year, and there are odd calls either to ban the day or rebrand it in a way that aligns with the country’s religious and cultural values.
More liberal Pakistanis take a reasonable view of the romantic day and don’t agree with banning it. Many believe a more tolerant attitude toward Valentine’s Day would be good for Pakistan’s international image.
Going back to the strange decision made by the Pakistani university with regard to Valentine’s Day, there should be more interesting surprises when February 14 approaches this year. It will be interesting to see who comes out of the woodwork to express their hatred of Valentine’s Day this year. However, in the case of an educational institution, the main priority should be education, not how a certain day is celebrated.
Moreover, looking at Pakistan’s demonization of February 14 through a wider lens, it is clearly more important to spend time on issues that actually manner. While protesting against things one finds offensive is a legal right, the Pakistani government, as well as political parties, should not play pointless politics with this particular day because it makes Pakistan look foolish in the eyes of the world.