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Valentine's Day and the billions in consumer spending it generates are a staple of Western culture, but elsewhere in the world, Feb. 14 has become a day synonymous with government intimidation, vigilante violence and — in a hopeful twist — rebellion in the name of love.
In Pakistan, where Valentine's celebrations have been banned since 2017, police have taken to searching cars for balloons, chocolates and other "contraband," per the NYTimes. Some florists, risking criminality in the eyes of the Islamabad High Court, hide their red roses in the back of the shop, reserved only for their most daring customers.
The reason? Pakistan's government has ruled that celebration of the holiday is "against the teachings of Islam," and that it uses the cover of spreading love to promote "immorality, nudity and indecency," per the U.K.'s Metro.
Meanwhile, other countries don't have a codified Valentine's ban, but intimidation tactics by government agencies and vigilante groups help enforce the taboo:
- In many parts of India, Valentine's Day is marked by vandalism, harassment and even violence in the name of moral policing, according to The Wire. India is not a Muslim-majority nation, but vigilantes claim they are protecting the country's ancient culture from western influence.
- The Russian region of Belgorod, which introduced a Valentine's Day ban in 2010, has also argued in favor of preserving the nation's rich, cultural traditions.
- In Iran, the holiday itself isn't banned, but much of the activity surrounding it — manufacturing heart-printed cards and red boxes, for example — is. Some nationalists have suggested replacing Valentine's Day with Mehregān, a Persian holiday that celebrates friendship, affection or love.
- In Indonesia, the largest Muslim-majority country in the world, radicals employ intimidation tactics like raiding mini-marts to confiscate what they call "unregulated" contraceptives.