While the Religious Police today launched their annual nationwide crackdown on stores selling items that are red or in any other way allude to the banned celebrations of Valentine’s Day, Reem Asaad and her fellow woman continue their lingerie jihad. Starting on the 13th of February and for two weeks, women are called to boycott all lingerie shops that employ men.
This is the second phase of the campaign that Asaad started a year ago, aiming to address one of the many bizarre contradictions in Saudi Arabia, where in this supposedly most conservative country on earth women have to divulge their underwear sizes and colors to strange men on regular basis. Check out this Facebook group to learn more about the campaign.
Ghazi al-Gosaibi, minister of labor, who is currently ill and being treated in the US, has issued a law in 2006 stating that “only females may be employed in women apparel and accessories stores.” However, the law has never been implemented due to the objection and resistance of different parties.
Red-colored or heart-shaped items are legal at other times of the year, but as Feb. 14 nears they become contraband in Saudi Arabia. The kingdom bans celebration of Western holidays such as Valentine's Day, named after a Christian saint said to have been martyred by the Romans in the 3rd Century.
Most shops in Riyadh's upscale neighborhoods have removed all red items from their shelves. A statement by the religious police, informally known as the muttawa, was published in Saudi newspapers, warning shop owners against any violations.
"Those who don't comply will be punished," the statement said, without spelling out what measures would befall the offenders.....
....The Egyptian capital, Cairo, is a sharp contrast to the Saudi restrictions, with shops and restaurants going overboard in red ribbon and heart decorations.
Dubai, a conservative Muslim city-state with a Western outlook, is every year taken over by a Valentine craze. Luxury hotels are draped in red, offering romantic dinner specials. Malls and cafes are decorated with giant hearts and flower shops offer promotional deals on roses and fancy bouquets.
Apparently prompted by the Saudi ban, a group in the Philippines advocating the welfare of Filipino overseas workers — a million of whom work in Saudi Arabia and another million elsewhere in the Middle East — cautioned its countrymen to celebrate Valentine's Day only in private and refrain from publicly greeting anyone with "Happy Valentine's" across the region.