JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) -- Indonesian officials and Muslim clerics called for young people to skip Valentine's Day on Thursday, saying it's an excuse for couples to have forbidden sex. People in one province were banned from buying holiday gifts.
Many teenagers use the Western holiday as a time to express their love, which often leads to premarital sex, said Idris Abdul Somad, deputy mayor of Depok, a town on the outskirts of Jakarta, the capital.
"I called on parents not to give their children any chance to celebrate Valentine's Day," he said. "Because they may be expressing love to their lovers more freely ... it could lead to forbidden sexual relations."
He called on residents to instead take their children to Islamic religious activities.
Religious leaders in Aceh, the only Indonesian province where Islamic law is imposed, pressed ahead with a new rule banning people from buying gifts for Valentine's Day. Valentine's Day celebrations were already banned in the province.
"It does not reflect love in accordance with Islamic teachings ... it's the same as promoting faiths other than Islam," said Teungku Faisal Ali, a prominent cleric of the Aceh Ulema Council.
Hundreds of students in Jambi, on Sumatra island, and Solo, in Central Java, held Valentine's Day protests Wednesday. Muslim clerics also urged youngsters to avoid celebrations in several cities in Indonesia, including Padang, Riau, Palembang and Banten.
Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country, is a secular nation of 240 million. It has a long history of religious tolerance, but a small extremist fringe has become more vocal -- and violent -- in recent years.
Associated Press writer Fakhrurradzie Gade contributed to this report from Banda Aceh, Indonesia.
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