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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Valentine's Day

When entering my class on Saturday February 14, 2009, I was surprised to see two female students of mine who were wearing the same color clothes—pink. Forgetting that it was the Valentine’s Day, I asked them,

How could two of you wearing the same color today? Did you have similar dreams last night?”

(FYI, I always joke about having similar dreams when I happen to find some people in my workplaces to wear the same color clothing.)

Simultaneously, the two girls answered,

It is Valentine’s Day, Miss…”

What a surprise …

Why surprise? Because both of them are wearing headdress, and I opine that many women in Indonesia who wear Muslim clothes do not like anything related to western culture: celebrating the Valentine’s Day is one of them.

Luckily on that day I was about to talk about different cultures in different places, to understand and respect each other. Therefore, I directly made use of the Valentine’s Day as the topic for ‘motivating strategies’ step.

There were seven students on that day, two were boys and five were girls. The first male student I asked was a graduate of Islamic Boarding School—both when he was at junior and senior high. Before he answered my question, “What do you think of celebrating the Valentine’s Day?” I already could guess what he was going to say. And it was true. He responded,

In my opinion, I don’t agree with that kind of celebration. Simply because it is western culture. Not our own culture.”

I directly asked him, “Do you use computer in your daily life?”

He answered, “Yes, Miss.”

Don’t you think it is also western culture? Computer technology comes from the west. If you want to stick to your principle that western culture is not supposed to be followed by eastern people, you had better be consistent.” I ‘surprised’ him with this question.

He was dumb-founded for a while. But then he said about the history of the Valentine’s Day that he read in one article: that it dates back from a Saint named Valentine who was beheaded because he broke the regulation of the emperor: youngsters were not allowed to get married because they had to be soldiers. The saint was a Catholic.

If we celebrate the Valentine’s Day, we will be like them,” he tried to explain. Perhaps he thought I have never read such a thing yet.

What do you mean ‘to be like them’?” i asked him to explain, although in fact i could read it “To be Catholic, and no longer a Muslim,” since Saint Valentine was a Catholic. For naive Muslim (who are not a pluralist) it is really hellish to be considered not Muslim anymore only because they do something like celebrating the Valentine’s Day or Christmas.

Furthermore, i cited one discussion in some mailing lists about suggestion of 17 things to be labeled ‘haram’ by MUI. I didn’t mention the 17 things, but only one: MUI must forbid Indonesian Muslim athletes to join the Olympic Games since the history stated that in the first place Greek held Olympic Games to worship their gods. Absolutely it is haram to worship Greek gods. To worship the Almighty that is not Allah is considered the biggest sin in Islam.

Since this case is similar to the history of the Valentine’s Day—to commemorate something or someone that is not Islamic—Indonesian Muslim athletes are not to join the Olympic Games then.

Being able to see the ridiculous thing in forbidding people to join the Olympic Games, my students seemed to be able to see the ridiculous thing in forbidding to celebrate the Valentine’s Day too.

Another surprising thing was when the two female students wearing pink clothes also stated that they did not agree with the celebration of the Valentine’s Day. (So, what made them wear pink on that day? LOL.) Nevertheless, eventually I could see them understand what I had explained. Furthermore, I cited one hadith saying that the most important thing in doing something is the INTENTION (‘nawaitu’, in Arabic). For example: our intention in joining the hubbub of the Valentine’s Day celebration—either by exchanging chocolates, flowers, dolls, and any other gift—is to show our love and care to our loved ones, and not to commemorate the death of Saint Valentine. However, if we don’t want to be ‘victims’ of business people who get lots of profits by selling chocolates, etc, we don’t need to buy gifts then.

PT56 18.50 150209


johnorford said...

i agree.

1) u can't just neatly cut away western influences from your life.

2) sometimes things should be taken at face value. often i find indonesians (and lots of other ppl) looking way too hard for ulterior motives. why did america help out in aceh for example? lots of ppl thought lots of strange things, when at the end of the day it seems they just wanted to do the humane thing.

A Feminist Blog said...

For the second point, John, I cannot agree more. Oftentimes I often find my fellow citizens are so suspicious when other countries--especially America--want to do humane things for Indonesia. They cannot see the positive side.
For the first point, absolutely yes. :)

Anonymous said...

It is interesting to note that at least in North america, Valentines day has absolutely nothing to do with Christianity. It has become another one of those occasions where the marketers try to get you to buy all kinds of unnecessary crap. LOL! I'm surprised to hear that it is celebrated elsewhere.

mare said...

As a balinese Hindu , I considered both islamic and christian as western influence. I think the hatred came from centuries of repeated violence. Could you people please settled this thing once and for all ?

A Feminist Blog said...

For Mare: I hope by blogging, I can at least contribute a little to world's peace.

For 'Anonymous': this world has shrunk! However, I think it is interesting for me to know that even people in North America do not relate this Valentine's day with Christianity. Only Indonesian people do this? :)