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Religious hard-liners protest against Valentine's Day in Indonesia
Jakarta Globe - February 15, 2012
In Bogor, hundreds of people claiming to be Muslim university students marched to the Tugu Kujang monument in the city center to denounce Valentine's Day for "ruining the young generation of Muslims."
"The reality on the ground shows just how badly in decline the morals of the young generation today are, when they use the pretext of Valentine's Day as an excuse for engaging in sex," said Sandi Noviandi, the protest coordinator.
He cited a study by the National AIDS Prevention Commission (KPAN) that said 65 percent of senior and junior high school girls were not virgins as proof of the impact of "foreign traditions."
"It's very clear that Valentine's Day is nothing more than an infidel celebration. It's a foreign tradition that is against Islamic teachings and should therefore be forbidden for Muslims to celebrate," Sandi said.
In Bandung, around 100 women from pan-Islamic hard-liner group Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia rallied outside the governor's office to shout down Valentine's Day as a "pernicious influence" and a "gateway to premarital sex."
Siti Nafidah, the head of the HTI's provincial women's chapter, said the threat of youths engaging in premarital sex as part of the Valentine's Day spirit was "right before our eyes." "There's even a convenience store giving away condoms with purchases of chocolate," she said.
She said this could eventually lead to a host of social evils, from unplanned pregnancies and abortions, to the transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
In Padang Panjang, West Sumatra, the hostility was even more tangible as the public order agency (Satpol PP) carried out raids at hotels and boarding houses to catch couples having sex.
"We'll intensify our patrols throughout the afternoon and evening as we try to interrupt the acts of any youths who have been poisoned by the Western lifestyle," said Sukma, the Satpol PP chief.
"No place in this city will be allowed to host any kind of Valentine's party. We'll break up any attempts to do so." He added that Valentine's Day was a foreign concept incompatible with Islamic culture.
In staunchly Islamic Aceh province, where Shariah law reigns, the authorities tried to supplant Valentine's Day celebrations with Islamic teachings.
Illiza Sa'aduddin Djamal, the Banda Aceh deputy mayor, led an event at a state senior high school to mark Maulid, or the birthday of the prophet Muhammad. The actual Maulid fell last Saturday. "You don't have to celebrate Valentine's or exchange gifts or wear pink," Illiza said. "All you need to do is remember that that's not part of our culture or our religion."
The Banda Aceh Satpol PP said it was also on the prowl for young couples out together in public places.
[Additional reporting from Antara.]