The term "Wahhabism" refers to a sect of intensely strict Islam, most famously practiced in Saudi Arabia (although it is not isolated to that one country). Wahhabism was founded by Muhammad ibn Abd-al-Wahhab, who preached against "moral decline and political weakness." The result is that in places like Saudi Arabia there is a governmental "Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice." The name well describes the purpose.
So, in light of the above, I was reading an article on CNN's World edition about how this Virtue and Vice committee bans Valentine's Day in Saudi Arabia. Not only is it illegal to celebrate the holiday, but it is illegal to sell any red or pink Valentine's items (such as cards, balloons, flowers, candy, etc.) Non-marital "love" is seen as wrong, and thus the Saudi Virtue Committee bans any symbols of love for Valentine's. Pretty crazy, huh? Realize that this is not just a case of the Government not recognizing a holiday, but rather SENDING TO JAIL those who celebrate the holiday in any way, no matter how discreetly and privately.
Now, you probably think it is absolutely absurd that the Saudi government has made the celebration of Valentine's day illegal. And, if you are thinking this, you are correct! It is completely absurd and utterly immoral. But ask yourself, why do you think it's absurd? Why is it wrong for the Saudi government to criminalize Valentine's Day, pink balloons, and love cards? Think about the answer to this question for a minute before proceeding.
The reason that I personally think Valentine's persecution is wrong and absurd is because I don't believe the Government, any Government, has a right to enforce morality on people. At first, most Americans would agree with me. But unfortunately, most Americans also support an American Government that is engaged in the EXACT SAME ABSURDITIES as the Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice.
While America calls itself a "free country" and chastizes Saudi Arabia for enforcing moral codes, the reality is that the American Government enforces numerous moral codes itself. It is hypocritcal for Americans to condemn the Saudis for moral policing when, in America, it is illegal to swear on the radio, it is illegal to study stem cells, it is illegal to clone humans, it is illegal to smoke marijuana, it is illegal for women to walk around topless in public, it is illegal for gays to get married, it is illegal to eat trans fats in New York City, and even the very currency states that it is "In God" which Americans trust. All these rules and standards are nothing more than moral codes enforced upon the public by the Government, just as in Saudi Arabia.
Perhaps it is a majority of people who support these American rules and thus what right do I have to decry them? Well... perhaps a majority of Saudi's support the banning of Valentine's day and the stoning of women who commit adultery? The assertion that rules are valid simply because a majority of people support them is ludicrous. Certainly the majority of "bad" rules throughout history had popular support at one point or another. Was slavery ethical simply because most people voted that way?
The only ethical standard by which "right" and "wrong" should be judged is the extent to which involuntary exchange has (or has not) taken place. Whenever there is an involuntary exchange, there is a crime. The extent of the involuntary exchange should dictate the extent of the punishment. Voluntary exchanges are not crimes, because no person has been harmed by anyone except, perhaps, by themselves... and no person has the right to punish another for damage they do against themselves.
For example, stabbing someone should be a crime because the victim was involuntarily forced to give up his health. Stabbing yourself should not be a crime, however, because the loss of health was voluntary. Rape should be a crime because the victim is involuntarily forced to give up part of their body. Stealing gasoline should be a crime because the exchange of goods is not voluntary. Buying gasoline should not be a crime, however, because the exchange was agreed upon by both parties.
Judging by this standard, none of the above American rules should be considered crimes and thus they are simply "moral codes" being enforced by the Government (funded, ironically, by involuntary exchanges in the form of taxation). Likewise celebrating Valentine's Day in Saudi Arabia should not be a crime, either.
Whether a Government is forcing citizens to not marry if they're gay or not buy pink balloons because they're not married, it's difficult to deny that both are simply the enforcement of moral codes upon the population. When gays marry, no involuntary exchange has taken place. Likewise, when pink balloons are purchased, no involuntary exchange has taken place. No crime has been committed in either situation, yet the Governments of America and Saudi Arabia insist on regulating the activities.
If you oppose the jailing of pink balloon salesmen and the stoning of Saudi women, in order to be logically consistent with yourself you must also oppose the jailing of marijuana salesmen and the censorship of radio language. It may be uncomfortable to realize this, but hypocrisy is uncomfortable for a reason. Both America and Saudi Arabia have a Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice. Both America and Saudi Arabia practice their own form of Wahhabism.
Ahmed Al-Omran, a university student and blogger in Riyadh, in response to the Valentine's article, told CNN:
"I think what they are doing is ridiculous," said Al-Omran, "What the conservatives in this country need to learn is something called 'tolerance.' If they don't see the permissibility of celebrating such an occasion, then fine -- they should not celebrate it. But they have to know they have no right to impose their point of view on others."
Brilliantly stated, Al-Omran. Unfortunate that it is so hard for people, both in Saudi Arabia and in America, to accept it.