Diaa Hadid

The banners were hoisted near Safari Park, a meeting spot for lovers in Pakistan's sprawling megacity of Karachi. In curling Urdu script, they chastised men for celebrating Valentine's Day.

"Don't exploit your daughters by adopting European civilization," the Salafi youth group urged. "Let Islam penetrate your personality — adopt modesty."

Up the road, to Karachi University, another conservative Muslim youth group vowed there'd be no celebrating the day of love on their campus — with the apparent support of many students.

Men and women were piling in to a panel at a recent book festival in Pakistani city Karachi, but a speaker was late. "In a country which is infamous for missing persons," the moderator, Javed Jabbar, announced, "we have a missing speaker."

"Khuda na khasta," Jabbar added, "God forbid" in Urdu — "it is not due to the reason why people sometimes disappear from Pakistan."

In January, 7-year-old Zainab Amin's parents were on a religious pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia when their relatives back in Pakistan called with the news: Their daughter didn't make it to her evening Quran lesson.

"Stay where you are," the father, Amin Ansari, recalls a relative telling him. "Your prayers are answered there."

Her mother, Nusrat, says she sat in the Prophet Mohammad's mosque in Medina, praying: "Oh God, keep Zainab safe and protected. Oh God, I have come to your door like a beggar. Oh God, please do not send me away empty-handed."

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

In a Muslim shrine in Lahore's ancient quarter, men and women pray around the tomb of a local saint. They hurl garlands and flower petals toward the tomb, each from their own, gender-segregated side: men from the left, women from the right.

On each side, transgender women lead the believers in song.

Among the men, they sing flamenco-style laments. A teenage trans woman leads the women. They struggle to keep up with her urgent chants in praise of the Prophet Muhammad's family.

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