Many of us are cynical when it comes to the Valentine’s Day. And for a good reason too. The Western and probably overly commercialized holiday makes you cringe. And of course, you don’t even need to focus on the harassment that ensues.
But we have forgotten in our sharp criticism that somewhere people with sincere expressions of love are celebrating this holiday too.
I know many people respond that they don’t need a specific day to express their love, because they do so every day. But perhaps we do since we are so lost in our materialistic pursuits in a gesellschaft.
How many times do you speak to a particular friend in a year? Let alone a love interest. At least I don’t nearly as many times as someone would expect, if at all. But I should speak for myself only.
But if none of these arguments make any sense to you, which is perfectly fine, there is one good reason that would help you celebrate Valentine’s Day. Or at least realize that it should not be taken for granted.
Don’t forget that Sabeen fought for the freedom to celebrate the holiday. I don’t know about most of you, but to me, Valentine’s Day is a good occasion to respect the memory of Sabeen, a true Pakistani free speech hero.
Well, now you would hardly find a trace of photographic evidence of this episode online because our overly concerned media publications worried about the sensitivities of their audience too much. However, like the photographs from the campaign, the courage of Sabeen Mahmud in the face of religious authoritarianism must not be erased from our memory.
We know for a fact that the campaign at least jeopardized her life thanks to the instant fatwa machines in the Karachi madrassahs. However, you could speculate if that was the only motive of her killer, if any at all. But that’s what they tell us.
With every forgiven attack and every neglected bit of hate speech and death threats, we are condemned to desensitize ourselves from this moral abomination. However, we are also condemned to put up with it, until we are not. Because in a land where morality is enforced by threatening the life of its citizens, the only law is that of the sword, not of some high moral divinity.
In a society, such as this, celebrating the Valentine’s Day is an act of defiance in itself. Especially when our courts issue verdicts such as banning the holiday in public spaces that defy the standards of civil rights. In some cases, it is even an act of sheer mad bravery. Not very different to what Sabeen did during her campaign challenging religious authoritarianism.
I am not a fan of mingling political statements with holiday celebrations at all. But this is one exception that I would not mind. So, when you celebrate Valentine’s Day in Pakistan, do keep in mind that in such a society, the holiday is more than just vain indulgence.
Isn’t it a good reason to celebrate?
The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.
Filed under: Articles, Commentary | Tagged: bravery, civil liberties, civil rights, fatwa, free speech, free speech hero, freedom of expression, Gesellschaft, hate speech, holiday, Islam, Islamabad High Court, liberty, love, Madrassah, politics, religion, religious authoritarianism, Sabeen Mahmud, Valentine's Day, verdict | Leave a comment »