OP-ED

A Very Houthi Valentine’s Day

National Yemen

The Valentine’s Day Gift

By Asma al-Mohattwari

Valentine’s Day 2015 is coming while Yemen is in crisis. The country is under the control of the Houthis, without a president and government, with frequent electricity cuts, and experiencing a gas crisis. Despite all that, Yemenis are still strong and they started to turn Valentine’s Day into an opportunity to make jokes and create happiness from sadness.

Houthis in Yemen have their own slogan called the sarkah: “Allahu akbar, death to America, death to Israel, curse on Jews, victory to Islam.” Their official color is green. Yemenis have decided to celebrate Valentine’s Day by making jokes at the expense of the Houthis.

The most common joke on this day is that every man has to wear green clothes, give his loved one a green flower, and instead of saying “Happy Valentine’s Day”, he has to say “Happy Sarkatain’s Day.”

Another joke is that anyone wants to make their loved one happy should give them a red gas cylinder.

Each year on February 14th, many people exchange cards, candy, gifts or flowers with their special “valentine.” The day of romance we call Valentine’s Day is named for a Christian martyr and dates back to the 5th century. Unlike past years, Yemen hasn’t witnessed any manifestations of celebration such as red clothes in the malls and red cards in shops.

Most of the Yemenis don’t celebrate on this day because it is a western holiday and is not part of Yemeni culture.

The origin of this holiday for the expression of love really isn’t romantic at all, at least not in the traditional sense.

Valentine was a priest who lived in the 3rd century under Emperor Claudius II. During the Roman Empire’s wars, the Emperor discerned that his unmarried warriors fought harder than his married ones. With this in mind, he proceeded to prevent his men from marrying.

In stepped the priest Valentine, who secretly presided over marriage ceremonies.

After discovering this, Claudius II had Valentine imprisoned and sentenced to death. While in prison, Valentine fell in love with the jailer’s daughter. Before his execution, he sent the young woman a card saying “from your sincere Valentine”. After some time, the anniversary of Valentine’s death became an annual holiday.

On the question of love in Islam, Elahm Ahmed says, “Love in Islam is more general and more comprehensive; it is not restricted only to one kind of love, that between a man and a woman. There are many more kinds of love. There is the love of Allah, love of His Messenger and his companions, love and support for the religion, love of martyrdom for the Sake of Allah. There are many kinds of love. It is a dangerous mistake to restrict this broad meaning to this one kind of love.”

She added that husbands who sincerely love their wives do not need this holiday to remind them of their love. They express their love at all times and on all occasions.