"Valentine’s Day, now driven as much by Hallmark [huge greeting card company] as by the shadow of the pedestal, follows from a societal ideal deriving from the chivalric code — a signal influence on Western civilization — which celebrated women for nobility and strength of character.
Such origins, however remote in a post-feminist world, put the holiday in the middle of that clash we read about between the West and Islam. Distinctly non-Islamic (St. Valentine was a Christian martyr from pre-Islamic times), it embodies an old-fashioned salute to La Femme that helps distinguish the West from Islam. Where the West dreamed up the pedestal, Islam bought the burqa. Where the West gave liberty and justice a female face, Islam depicted womanhood as a lowly state of fearful passion. Where in the West sexual equality evolved, in Islam sexual inequality remains."
As anybody who’s read their Arthurian legends (15th C) will know (see particularly the story of Gawain and Dame Ragnelle), this kind of respect and reverence for women is not a product of the Age of Enlightenment (18th C) but an age-old Western (dare I say Christian?) trait.
" “Al Gharam mamn’uh, al Gharam kufr,” screamed the self-declared cleric in al-Ansar’s chat room this Friday. “Love is forbidden, love is infidel” — said the online fatwa about the “legitimacy of loving and being in love.”
A weekend before Valentine’s Day, jihadist souls were not questioning the “commercialization” of romance, but inquiring about the ban on “being in love.” The “scholars” said human love is evil. The simple feeling of being attracted to or in love with someone is a terrifying sin if it is committed outside of their religious dogma — and it warrants serious punishment."
Disturbing stuff, and not least because as certain as we can be that there are those even here in the (vestigially) free West who seek to blow us up because of a rabid politico-religious ideolody, we can be equally certain that there will be those who agree that ‘love is the enemy’. A strong and perhaps shocking difference to the (largely Christian) ideal of romantic love that we hold and cherish in the West.
Thankfully, though, there is hope. Ms West reports on five brave women coming out from amongst the theocrats of ‘the Islamic world’ speaking out (loudly) against the threats that ‘come out of the founding texts and living traditions of Islam’. These brave women are: Bat Ye’or, author, speaker, and dot-joiner on the Eurabia conspiracy; Nonie Darwish, a convert to Christianity (from mohammedanism) and author of ‘Now they call me Infidel‘; Brigitte Gabriel, Christian survivor of the Lebanese civil war, author of ‘Because They Hate‘ and speaker on the jihadi mindset and agenda; Wafa Sultan, recently brought to light in a an Al Jazeera debate on the ‘clash of civilizations’, citing it as "a clash between civilization and backwardness"; and of course the renowned Ayaan Hirsi Ali, author of ‘The Caged Virgin‘, ‘Infidel‘ and ‘Ich Klage An‘ (‘I accuse’).
Added to this, Walid Phares tells us of a growing desire amonst the young in the ‘Islamic world’ for "not decadence, but the early stages of a romantic revolution". This is heartening. One doesn’t need to be immoral or act in stupid and irresponsible ways to be in love, and Dr Phares’ examples are at just that balance. Heroic, reckless, possibly insane, and in love, but not (as far as is known) tainted or sullied by actual immorality.
So there is hope, because there is love. There are clouds in the sky, but they’ll pass too, and when they do, the spirit of St Valentine’s Day, that of the Love and reverance characteristic of real romance, will bloom that much sweeter.
Happy St Valentine’s Day. I hope you enjoy it.