Saying “I love you” is “moral terrorism?”

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Romance is not dead in Pakistan, but it’s under attack.

Conservatives in Pakistan tacked up posters urging people to boycott Valentine’s Day on Thursday, saying it’s a western-inspired event that’s spreading vulgarity in their country. Romantics fought back with an arsenal of flowers, pink teddy bears and heart-shaped balloons.

“Here in this part of Pakistan we are faced with bomb blasts, and we don’t have much opportunity to enjoy and celebrate so to me it is one of those few occasions to celebrate,” said Taimur Hassan, a 29-year-old man working in the northwestern city of Peshawar. He was out buying a gift for his girlfriend, and looking for something different than a stuffed bear he got her last year.

That’s exactly the type of behavior many of Pakistan’s conservatives are worried about.

For them, Valentine’s Day is nothing but an occasion to encourage illicit relations between the country’s young — unmarried — males and females. It’s a sign that Western culture and values are eating away the fabric of Pakistan’s traditional, Islamic society. Valentine’s Day, they say, is not a Pakistani holiday and not part of the culture here.

In the southern city of Karachi, billboards implored people to “Say no to Valentine’s Day.” The “no” was encapsulated in a black heart, and the sign said the holiday reflects insensitivity and ignorance of Islam.

Tanzeem-e-Islami, the organization that put up the billboards, called on the interior ministry to suspend cell phone service on the holiday that celebrates love. Group spokesman Muhammad Samee said many young people use mobile phones to send Valentine’s Day greetings and suspending the service for the day would save people from “moral terrorism.”