JAFFA, Israel – A top Shi’ite cleric astounded his followers by saying that celebrating Valentine’s Day is not a transgression.
Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani of Iraq, one of the most eminent Shi’ite clergyman, decreed that observing the Christian festival of love is not verboten, as long as it is not accompanied by “moral corruption.”
“As long as the celebrations don’t give rise to heresy and immorality, it poses no problem,” Sistani wrote.
Last year in the Iraqi city of Najaf, Sistani’s hometown, flower shops and posters across the city were vandalized by devout Shi’ites.
The London-based newspaper Al Hayat reported that Arab governments banned Valentine’s Day because it supposedly encourages young people to look for love “against the rules.”
A flower shopkeeper in the Saudi city of Jeddah said that she had received no instructions to avoid showcasing or selling red roses.
“To avoid any clashes with the authorities, and not to do damage to business, we decided not to take any orders today,” she said.
Social media users were split over the issue. One retorted to supporters of celebrating the day by saying: “Would you agree that your sister celebrated it as well, or is it only OK for yourselves?”
Another said, “Islam obligates its followers to celebrate both holidays – Eid al Fitr (the end of Ramadan) and the Festival of the Sacrifice – they are the two holidays that Allah gave the Muslims.”