Valentine's Day is a secular observance that is not celebrated by churches anywhere, the Council of Churches of Malaysia said Friday, responding to a raging controversy in the Muslim-majority country.
Its general secretary Reverend Herman Shastri said the National Fatwa Council had erred when it referred to Valentine's Day as a Christian observance and has hurt the feelings of Christians in Malaysia.
"To suggest that Valentine's Day is observed by Christians is unfair and misleading," Shastri said.
The church body appealed to the authorities to repeal such hurting inferences that Christianity promotes promiscuity because of Valentine's Day observance, often made in the media.
Valentine's Day falls Monday next.
"Although the word 'Valentine' draws some connection to St. Valentine, the church's authorities have not endorsed the connection, be it Roman Catholic or Protestant," Shastri said in a statement, responding to an article posted on the website of the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim).
The website said: "The practice of celebrating the day of love (Valentine's Day) has not been recommended by Islam. (The) spirit (of the) festival has elements of Christianity and the practice is mixed with immoral acts (and) are prohibited by Islam that clearly contradicts the belief, Sharia and Islamic morality. Therefore, Muslims are prohibited from engaging in celebrating the day."
The youth wing of the Pan-Islamic Party of Malaysia (PAS) has objected to the annual festivity, drawing flak from several non-government organisations.
PAS youth wing chief Nasrudin Hasan At-Tantawi reportedly said that the opposition party ruled state governments in Kedah, Kelantan and Selangor had directed the local authorities to work closely with the police to check immoral activities that day.
PAS is part of the opposition alliance Pakatan Rakyat (PR). But Democratic Action Party (DAP), a PR constituent, has come out openly against the PAS action.
There is a measure of support to the PAS move from within the ruling alliance Barisan Nasional.
Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Jamil Khir Baharom recalled that the National Fatwa Council had, in 2005, decreed that Muslims should refrain from celebrating Valentine's Day, as it was not part of Islamic practices.
He supported the anti-Valentine's Day campaign Friday.
Sisters in Islam (SIS), a women's solidarity group, has hit out at PAS over its controversial plans to "check" sinful activities and play the moral police on Valentine's Day.
"Moral policing is against Islamic values and fundamental liberties. It violates personal dignity and privacy, which is forbidden in the Quran and Hadith," an SIS spokesperson said.