Saad, 22, and Mayda, 22, were celebrating their first Valentine’s Day together. Diaa Hadid/NPR hide caption
toggle caption Diaa Hadid/NPR
The banners were hoisted near Safari Park, a meeting spot for lovers in Pakistan’s sprawling megacity of Karachi. In curling Urdu script, they chastised men for celebrating Valentine’s Day.
“Don’t exploit your daughters by adopting European civilization,” the Salafi youth group urged. “Let Islam penetrate your personality — adopt modesty.”
Up the road, to Karachi University, another conservative Muslim youth group vowed there’d be no celebrating the day of love on their campus — with the apparent support of many students.
“It’s banned,” Fareeha Bangash, a 17-year-old English major, said of Valentine’s Day. The idea of men and women exchanging gifts — and perhaps more — before marriage was unthinkable in a conservative culture that frowns on any mixing, Bangash said. Just to be seen with a man would be regarded badly by her community, she said. “It raises many questions.”
Valentine’s Day is an annual culture war in Pakistan. It’s a cause célèbre for religious conservatives, a chance to assert themselves in a crowded political scene, while claiming the