Muslim school students staged a protest against Valentine’s Day on Monday, denouncing what they said was a Western celebration that encourages casual sex.
“Say no to Valentine!” chanted the students, who were aged between 13 and 15 and included many girls wearing headscarves.
It was the latest expression of anger at Valentine’s Day in the world’s most populous Indonesian Muslim-majority country, where Islamic clerics and some pious Muslims typically use the occasion to target what they see as Western decadence.
“This protest was organised as we have seen on television that Valentine’s Day tends to be associated with free sex,” said Pandu Satria, organiser of the demonstration that was attended by scores of students.
“That makes us afraid.” Ida Indahwati Waliulu, headmaster of the school which is run by an Islamic organisation, added: “There is a certain pride about this positive action carried out by the students.”
Several cities across the country also banned people from celebrating the occasion. In neighbouring Malaysia, which is also a muslim-majority country, a group called The National Muslim Youth Association urged females to avoid using emoticons and an excessive amount of fragrance in a pre-Valentine’s Day message.
The group also set out guidelines about how people could reject the annual celebration of romance by making anti-Valentine posters and not wearing Valentine-themed outfits.
Despite some objections, many in Indonesia and Malaysia mark the occasion, particularly in major cities where cards and chocolates are widely available.
In 2015, Indonesia’s Islamic clerical body threatened to issue a fatwa against the sale of condoms following reports they were being sold together with chocolate to mark Valentine’s Day.