February 14 has long been celebrated as a day of romantic love. To most of the modern Western culture, it is a harmless holiday that businesses capitalize on but that is fun. However, in other parts of the world, it is considered inappropriate.
Iran, for example, has just banned Valentine’s Day because it promotes what Iran considers a corrupt Western culture. Indonesia is also fighting against the Western holiday. They argue that observing it is against the Islamic teachings.
The Legends of St. Valentine
So who was Saint Valentine and why is he causing such a fuss? No one is certain as there are at least three different saints recognized by the Catholic Church with the name Valentine or Valentinus, and all of them were martyred. One theory is that the legends are not three separate individuals, but a combination of stories regarding one person.
Legend one: Valentine was a priest in Rome in the third century. The emperor, Claudius II, outlawed marriage for younger men because he felt that when they were single they made better soldiers. The priest disagreed with the decree and married young couples in secret. However, the emperor discovered his actions and had him put to death.
Legend two: Very similar to the first except that this Valentine is from Terni, Italy. He was also beheaded by the emperor for marrying young couples in love.
Legend three: Valentine, also a priest, helped Christians escape Roman prisons and was killed for his aid. He supposedly fell in love with a young girl who is thought to be the daughter of his jailer and who visited him while he was imprisoned. Before dying, he wrote a letter to his love, signing it “From your Valentine.”
Today, we think of the holiday as just a fun and romantic time of the year to show someone they are loved. But for those who practice the Islamic faith, the seemingly innocent holiday has a much more important implication.