25 November, 2008

War on yoga

Most people practice yoga as “a form of therapy” to enhance their well-being, said Leo Reyes in Digital Journal, but “if you are a practicing Muslim it may be bad for you.” That at least was the conclusion reached by Malaysia’s National Fatwa Council, which banned the exercise for the country’s Muslim majority because it “contains elements of Hinduism that could corrupt” them. The council’s fatwas are not legally binding in themselves, but are often followed.

“What is called ‘yoga’ in fitness centers,” said Malaysia’s New Straits Times in an editorial, obviously has no “relation to Hindu devotional practices.” In the end, the yoga fatwa just serves to drive a wedge between Malaysia’s Muslims and non-Muslims.

The council’s arrogant “lack of sensitivity” to Hindus is bad enough, said Farouk Peru in Malaysia Today. But its “lack of information” is appalling. The chanting they call sacrilegious is just a way to purify your being of things like pride and jealousy, or to signify “qualities of God such as wisdom.” What’s “so unislamic” about that?

People are upset because yoga has become very popular here, said Mazwin Nik Anis in Malaysia’s The Star, but it’s not like Malaysia is the only Muslim nation to declare yoga “haram,” or prohibited. Egypt and Singapore have reached the same conclusion. The Fatwa Council had to act, it said, because in Islam, “prevention is better than cure.”




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