Schools in a city in Kyrgyzstan, a mountainous, landlocked republic in Central Asia, have banned the observance of Valentine’s Day. According to a report in RIA Novosti, a Russian news agency, officials in the city of Osh have prohibited students from celebrating a holiday that they point out is not a part of the country's culture and history. The city’s education department head Kushtarbek Kimsanov was quoted in the 24.kg news agency as saying that this “holiday of love is a bad influence on children’s morality.”
Kimsanov also said that he ordered school principals in the city to make it impossible for students to exchange cards and flowers on Valentine's Day by removing mailboxes from corridors. The Economist reported thay Tursunbai Bakir uulu, a member of Kyrgyzstan’s parliament, even called Valentine’s Day a “holiday from the devil”. Kyrgyzstan, an overwhelmingly Islamic state, is bordered on the north by Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan to the west, Tajikistan to the southwest and China to the east.
A number of other Muslim or Muslim-dominated nations, including Iran, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia, have already banned the holiday. PolicyMic noted that Malaysians (60 percent of whom Muslim) take serious risks by celebrating the love-themed holiday – in 2012, police even arrested couples in budget hotels on that day for committing the crime of "close proximity." In conservative Islamic societies like Iran and Saudi Arabia, many disdain Valentine's Day as both a Christian and western invention that they believe pose a threat. In India, where Valentine's Day has become extremely popular among some urban, middle-class youths, right-wing Hindu nationalists have branded the holiday a form of cultural pollution from the west.
But it's not only Islamic or non-western societies that look askance at Valentine's Day. In 2011, the Russian district of Belgorod in southwestern Russia – and dominated by Christians – outlawed Valentine’s Day in schools and government buildings in 2011, citing the holiday promoted promiscuity and was in contrary to traditional Russian cultural values. In the whole of Russia itself, attitudes towards Valentine's Day are decidedly mixed. A poll conducted by the Superjob research center revealed that only 39 percent of Russians (mostly youths below the age of 24), plan to celebrate the holiday, while 44 percent said they were not. Some Russians who reject the celebration say “our culture does not benefit from foreign holidays.” RIA Novosti noted thay Russia introduced the holiday in 2008 and that First Lady Svetlana Medvedev is among those who promote the holiday.
Palash has worked as a business journalist for 21 years in New York.