Each year, conservatives of every faith inveigh against Valentine’s Day as a potential trigger of vice in the young.
But this year, the supposedly moderate government of Malaysia has added historical and philological ballast to its annual warnings. “Beware the Valentine’s Trap,” last Friday’s official sermon from the federal Department of Islamic Development in Kuala Lumpur, warned Muslims that asking someone to be your Valentine can lead not only to promiscuity but also to idolatry, thereby invoking Allah’s wrath.
The sermon discussed the derivation of Valentine from Latin words associated with strength and power (the verb valere means to be strong], which were used to describe certain ancient Roman gods. Therefore, it reasoned, to ask a person to be your Valentine is to ask her to be your most powerful, a role reserved for Allah. Hence, Valentine’s can revive the cult of idolatry.
A second, optional sermon said that celebrating Feb. 14 was tantamount to celebrating Islam’s fall at the hands of Spanish Christians, referring to the 15th-century defeat of Islamic forces in Andalusia
Authorities are preparing to clamp down on Muslims celebrating the day.