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Wednesday, 13 February, 2002, 16:00 GMT
Cooling the ardour of Valentine's Day
Choosing a Valentine's card
Innocent fun or Western cultural pollution?
Shops in Saudi Arabia are nearing a deadline to ensure they are not selling goods marking Valentine's Day.

Shops and other outlets, such as restaurants, are officially banned from marking Valentine's Day, in which lovers traditionally exchange cards and gifts.

All shop displays, such as red roses, have to be removed by the end of Wednesday, the AFP news agency reports.

Meanwhile in India, a hardline Hindu party, Shiv Sena, says it will try to stop people there celebrating Valentine's Day, held on 14 February.

Patrols on duty

A Saudi newspaper reports that The Authority for Enjoining Good and Preventing Evil has given retail outlets there three days to rid themselves of Valentine's Day paraphernalia, AFP says.

Saudi man in restaurant
The love heart in this Riyadh restaurant is illegal

Non-Muslim events such as Valentine's Day cannot, officially, be celebrated in Saudi Arabia.

Patrols have been organised to enforce the ban.

And teachers have been instructed to warn pupils not to wear red, the colour associated with Valentine's Day.

However, there are signs of defiance.

"Officially, there's no Valentine here. It is banned. But there are a lot of Valentine items you can choose from," one shopkeeper told the Associated Press news agency.

And AFP says one well-known restaurant in the capital, Riyadh, has a newspaper advertisement for a "very distinguished" dinner, on 14 February.

The advertisement, it says, has pictures of red roses.

'No violence'

In India Valentine's Day is becoming ever more popular, especially among the young.

Last year the Hindu Shiv Sena party took part in violent protests against it, calling it cultural pollution from the West.

Couple in Bombay
Valentine's Day is popular with young Indian urbanites

This year the group has held demonstrations in Delhi, burning Valentine's cards and labelling 14 February a cultural invasion from the West.

A BBC correspondent in Delhi says police will be watching the group closely.

Shiv Sena activists say their protest this week will not be violent.

But neither will they back down in their opposition to what they see as a Christian holiday wrongly celebrated in India.

Vijayant Chhabra, Archies greeting card company
"We are a social expression industry"
The BBC's Sanjeev Srivastava
"For most young Indians the protests hold little meaning"
See also:

14 Feb 00 | South Asia
India takes Valentine's Day to heart
04 Feb 00 | South Asia
Bangalore's Valentine bloom
14 Feb 01 | South Asia
Tough love for Indian Valentines
14 Feb 99 | Valentine
The accidental patron
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