Iran Bans Valentines Day

January 23, 2012 by staff 

Iran Bans Valentines Day, 12, 2011 – In another sign of its ever more improvisational approach to governance, the Iranian regime has outlawed Valentine’s Day. “Symbols of hearts, half-hearts, red roses, and any activities promoting this day are banned,” announced state media last month. “Authorities will take legal action against those who ignore the ban.”

Some 70% of Iran’s population is said to be under the age of 30, so it seems natural that Valentine’s Day has caught on in a country where the young keep trying to find non-state-mandated rituals to call their own. The state, for its part, continues to respond with a Whack-a-Mole approach to any social ripple not dreamt of in its philosophy.

Theocratic regimes invariably suffer from the same besetting sin: As the world evolves, they must either revise their antiquated doctrines or try to hold the world rigidly in stasis. Iran’s ruling mullahs keep choosing the latter option. And with mosque and state firmly conjoined, there’s no stray detail of daily life so arcane that the scriptures can’t be mobilized to rein it in.

The Iranian state has pronounced against unauthorized mingling of the sexes, rap music, rock music, Western music, women playing in bands, too-bright nail polish, laughter in hospital corridors, ancient Persian rites-of-spring celebrations (Nowrooz), and even the mention of foreign food recipes in state media. This last may sound comically implausible, but it was officially announced by a state-run website on Feb. 6. So now the true nature of pasta as an instrument of Western subversion has been revealed.

The regime’s posture turns the smallest garden-variety gestures into thrilling acts of subversion. Slipping a Valentine card to a girlfriend takes on the significance of samizdat. Every firecracker set off during Nowrooz diminishes the police state’s claims to omniscience. The mullahs have appointed themselves the enemy of fun; as a result, wherever fun herniates into view, it is a politicized irruption of defiance.

In “Rock ‘n’ Roll,” the playwright Tom Stoppard proposes that rock music more than anything else—the arms race, dissident intellectuals, economic decay—brought down the communist system because it came from an unanticipated source for which the politburo theorists had no answer. Their enforcers could counter explicit resistance, but their ideologues never prepared defenses against the onslaught of pure fun. No one in charge knew how to neutralize this entirely new category of opting out through the delirium of music. In the play, the rigid communist edifice crumbles in the face of a mysteriously apolitical impulse to freedom embodied by young folk who simply “don’t care about anything but the music.”

Iran’s theocrats scramble daily to apply systemic tourniquets to spontaneous outbursts of nondenominational fun. They must find—or conjure up—an authoritative category of evil for each unforeseen flare-up. Indecency, immodesty, un-Islamic behavior, alien Western customs, insulting God, insulting the Supreme Leader—the ideological fabric is made to stretch way beyond its natural limits.

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