|Malaysia deplores Valentine’s Day for fraud and mental sickness, amid auspicious Chinese celebration
Malaysian Islamic authorities took their annual swipe at Valentine's Day, calling it a threat to Muslim values, but 138 Chinese couples took part in a mass wedding.
In its official Friday sermon text distributed to mosques in the Muslim-majority country, the Malaysian Islamic Development Department blamed Valentine's Day for everything from alcoholism to abortion.
“Social ceremonies such as this are a stepping-stone towards greater social ills such as fraud, mental disorder caused by alcohol, abortion and baby-dumping, and other negative ills that can invite disaster and moral decay among youths,'' it said.
Known by its Malay-language acronym JAKIM, the department is an official watchdog of Muslim values. It regularly denounces Valentine's Day as encouraging vice and promiscuity.
More than 60 percent of Malaysia's 28 million people are Muslim ethnic Malays, AFP reports.
However, members of the large Chinese minority celebrated the day with a mass wedding of 138 couples.
The lovers tied the knot at the Thean Hou temple in the capital Kuala Lumpur, releasing scores of red, heart-shaped balloons.
“We're doing it specially for this year as only once in 19 years does Valentine's Day coincide with Chap Goh Mei,'' the official of the Confucian temple said.
Chap Goh Mei is the term used in Malaysia for the annual Chinese Lantern Festival.
The temple has staged mass weddings before on dates deemed auspicious.
More than 500 couples wed at the temple on September 9, 2009.
The number 9 in Chinese is a homophone for a word meaning “forever.’’
The date was seen to signify long-lasting unions.
Muslim conservatives in multi-faith Malaysia have become increasingly outspoken in recent years against perceived threats to Islamic values, challenging the country's moderate Muslim image.
In 2011, authorities arrested nearly 100 Muslims in a crackdown on Valentine's Day.
They were detained for “khalwat,’’ or “close proximity,’’ the crime of being alone with a member of the opposite sex other than one's spouse or close relative.
It can bring up to two years in jail upon conviction in Islamic sharia courts that handle religious and moral offenses by Muslims.
Concerts by a number of major Western musical artists have also been scrapped over the years.