Malaysia may ban yoga for Muslims: cleric

KUALA LUMPUR:

Muslims in Malaysia may be barred from the ancient practice of yoga if they engage in Hindu “religious elements” during the exercise, a top Islamic cleric said on Wednesday.

Controversial cleric from the northern Perak state, Harussani Zakaria, said the government-backed National Fatwa Council would soon release a decree, or ‘fatwa’, which would decide if Muslims were allowed to practise yoga. “If it involves any faith or religious elements it is definitely not permissible but if it is just a form of exercise that is all right,” Harussani said. “Muslims cannot practice yoga in its original form because it involves another religion,” he said in response to a call to ban Muslims from engaging in yoga.

Zakaria Stapa, a professor in the Islamic faculty of the National University of Malaysia, had called on Muslims to stop practising yoga, saying it could cause them to “deviate from their faith”, news reports said on Wednesday.

Muslims in Malaysia practised yoga not just for exercise but also as part of the growing urban lifestyle and involved “chanting mantras while in various positions”, he said. “Why should we look for other alternatives to exercise and search for peace? Yoga could cause (Muslims) to stray from their faith because its movements are according to the style and traditions of Hinduism,” he said.

The fatwa council, one of Malaysia’s highest Islamic bodies, last Friday banned women from dressing or behaving like men and engaging in lesbian sex, saying it was forbidden by the religion.

AFP

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