Fatwa body tells Malay Muslims to find alternative to yoga

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Kuala Lumpur, Nov 24 : After imposing a ban on Muslims from practicing yoga, Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (Jakim) Director-General Datuk Wan Mohamad Sheikh Abd Aziz has reportedly said that Muslim yoga centre operators would have to find other forms of exercise to teach.

"I'm sure they are smart enough to diversify their businesses or find alternatives," he said, adding that those who wished to seek clarification should refer to the relevant religious authorities like the state muftis, reported nstonline.com

He said the fatwa was not made based on emotion, individual opinion or specific interest "but thorough scientific research and collective effort". "We also went through the yoga practitioners' holy books and other Islamic methodology and hadith," he said, adding that one should not regard the fatwa as though Islam was against physical exercises.

He added that the fatwa was decided by the Council, consisting of all the state muftis and five experts from various fields, who were appointed by the Conference of Rulers.

Asked if similar fatwa would be issued on other forms of exercise like "tai chi and qi qong", Wan Mohamad said, "Don't generalise. The issue here is yoga."

He said certain types of the Malay martial art silat were also banned due to elements of mysticism. Asked if one could appeal against the fatwa, he asked: "Can we appeal to God to change the rules according to our whims and desires?"

Syariah lawyer Mohd Burok said the ruling had to be gazetted and enforced in the states before it could be brought to the syariah court.

Yoga practice among Muslims became an issue when Professor Zakaria Stapa of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia's Faculty of Islamic Studies said the practice could cause Muslims to deviate from Islam.

The National Fatwa Council (NFC) had on Saturday banned Muslims from practising yoga, causing an uproar among certain quarters, including Muslims.

Muslims who are unhappy with the ruling could not appeal against the ruling now as they have to wait for it to be gazetted and enforced.

The Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism was, however, more concerned about the word "haram" than the ruling itself. Its president, Datuk A. Vaithilingam, said using the word haram in barring Muslims from practising yoga was uncalled for. He said in a multiracial, multi-religious country, the fatwa council should be more sensitive in its choice of words.

"Instead, they should have used words like 'unsuitable' for Muslims. The word haram should have been avoided," said Vaithilingam, who is also president of the Hindu Sangam.

Social activist Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir, in her blog, suggested that a more measured fatwa ruling be issued for Muslims who practised yoga, like joining classes that did not require chanting. She said it was also insulting to many Muslims who have been practising yoga for years and have not felt their faith weakened to be now told that yoga could affect their faith. "Must longtime yoga practitioners now go for rehabilitation?" she questioned.

ANI

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