George Town (Malaysia), Oct 31 : A long-time yoga instructor has expressed shock and dismay over the views of a Malaysian lecturer who said that practicing yoga could cause Muslims to deviate from the teachings of Islam.
Datin Suleiha Merican, 56, who has been practicing yoga for the past 40 years, said the meditation technique is a science of health and had nothing to do with religion.
"When we are strong in our religion, why would we want to deviate? The professor's statement is totally uncalled for," she said.
Professor Zakaria Stapa of the Faculty of Islamic Studies at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia had said that yoga could be traced back to Hinduism. He also urged Muslims who practised yoga to stop and return to the teachings of Islam.
Suleiha, who was upset over Zakaria's remarks, said she still diligently performed her prayers every day despite practicing yoga.
"There is no conflict at all as yoga is not religion-based. There is no problem. I would definitely encourage Muslims to practise yoga," The NST Online quoted her, as saying.
Suleiha said that science had proven that yoga was the answer to health problems such as headaches, sinuses, migraines and also alleviates back pain.
She noted that hospitals in the United Kingdom and United States were offering yoga as an alternative therapy.
"People are clamouring to take up yoga. Every part of the world that I have gone to, including Iran, there are many Muslims who are yoga practitioners."
Suleiha, who runs the Maya Yoga Studio which has hundreds of students in Damansara Perdana, Kuala Lumpur, said yoga ran in her family as her father and grandfather were also yoga instructors.
It was reported that the National Fatwa Council is expected to announce its stand on yoga practiced by Muslims soon.