Valentine Special: Saudi religious police denies intent to shut down flower shops

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The head of Saudi Arabia’s Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice [CPVPV], denied on Tuesday plans to close shops selling flowers during Valentine’s Day.

Sheikh Abdullatif al-Sheikh told the Saudi daily newspaper al-Jazirah: “This is not our specialty. It is the specialty of other parties. We reject what violates the book (Quran) and the Sunna (the Prophet’s teaching) and Saudi Arabia’s regulations.”

“We deal with issues on a case by case basis, and if there is a violation our role is to liaise with concerned government parties,” he added.

Al-Sheikh’s statements followed widely-circulated reports that commission is planning to close all shops selling flowers on Valentine’s Day.

Previously, the commission banned the sale of red roses ahead of Valentine’s Day, forcing couples to think of new ways to show their love.

In 2008, it ordered florists and gift shop owners in the capital Riyadh to remove from their displays any red-colored items -- from roses to wrapping paper and teddy bears.

Non-Muslims in the kingdom are allowed to celebrate the holiday behind closed doors. Most Western expatriates live in gated communities called “compounds” that are beyond the jurisdiction of the religious police.

In 2009, Florists and toy stores in were reported to have hid their red roses and romantic gifts out of sight to avoid being shut down. This was part of an annual struggle between the kingdom’s religious police and its love birds.

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