Pakistani Islamists protest against Valentine's Day

Pakistani Islamists

Supporters of Pakistan's main religious party staged a noisy protest against Valentine's Day today, denouncing it as un-Islamic and calling for a "day of modesty" instead.

The student wing of Jamaat-e-Islami rallied outside the press club in the northwestern city of Peshawar, chanting slogans against Valentine's Day, saying it had "spread immodesty in the world".

Valentine's Day is increasingly popular among younger Pakistanis, many of whom have taken up the custom of giving cards, chocolates and gifts to their sweethearts to celebrate the occasion. But Pakistan remains a deeply traditional Muslim society where many disapprove of Valentine's Day as a Western import.

The demonstrators, who carried a banner urging February 14to be a "day of modesty", said the tradition encouraged unmarried men and women to live together in sin. "We will not allow holding of any Valentine's Day function," Shahzad Ahmed, the local head of the student organisation, said.

"The law enforcing agencies must prevent such gatherings, otherwise we will stop in our own way." Peshawar is a conservative city on the edge of Pakistan's restive tribal belt, where most women go out in public wearing veils and few girls go out alone.

Many of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked bombings which have killed thousands of people in Pakistan in the past several years have focused around Peshawar and the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

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