Azly Rahman

1) MY FATWA on Valentine’s Day

Wasn’t St. Valentine a good and honorable guy who helped the Christians escape Roman prosecution and he himself was killed, according to the story? So was Cupid the naked Greek kid with the arrow … a good person as well .. a pagan, if you may … whose honorable job description is to make people fall in love.

So, calm down, religionistas of all denominations. Both St. Valentine and Cupid are remembered for the love they promote. What is the problem with honoring that? Would blowing oneself up in the name of religion be a more noble cause to be romanticizing and rationalizing about?

And therefore, the fatwa is: it is okay to celebrate a day of love and not any day that promotes hatred.

Now go tell that to those ultra-racist fascist groups and those who are calling for the bible to be burned, over the use of the word “Allah”?

In addition, I believe there is nothing wrong in celebrating Valentine’s Day as long as you don’t shoot real arrows into people’s behind … promote love, not hate.

2) MY FATWA on greeting others on culturally-significant dates …

 I have come to enjoy greeting people for any celebration  —Valentine’s Day, Christmas, Rosh Hashanah, Thanksgiving, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, Eid ul Fitri, Eidul Adha, Thaipusam, Wesak, Groundhog Day, Dog Day Afternoons, D-Day, Doris Day, etc. It gives me a sense of “multiculturalism” and that life is a celebration, Now, that’s another fatwa for you folks; make others happy with what they celebrate.

3) Happy “Belantan” Day folks …

 I first heard the word “Valentine” when I was growing up in Johor Bahru. Linguistically sensitive I am, that word I heard on American TV stuck in my head; as the Malay word “belantan” meaning the walking stick the policeman use to beat up suspected criminals. It’s other name is a “chotar” It became a symbol of the Malaysian police back in the day .. (“… speak softly and carry a big stick …” , said the America president Theodore Roosevelt of his foreign policy,). Police go on his/her “beat” swinging the belantan as a display of the “act of tough love) in my mind.

So, my feel for Valentine was cultural and evolving. I learned about “belantans” before “valentines” and even before that in between these two words were words such as “kelantan”, “bentan”, and “setan” and “sultan” too. Understandably, Bahasa Melayu was still a first language for me; Johor Malay that is. Now I consider myself quite fluent in both Malay and English and that my thought-processes vacillate between two worlds even when having conversations or lecturing about “Valentine Day as pop-culture”.