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Such Fragile Faith Demonstrates Insecurity

November 22, 2008

Yoga is banned – Hindu elements may make Muslims ‘deviate from their faith’

Kuala Lumpur – Malaysia’s top Islamic body yesterday banned Muslims from practising yoga, citing concern that elements of Hinduism could not be extricated from the physical aspects of the exercise.

This, said the National Fatwah Council, may cause Muslims to deviate from their faith.

At a press conference, council chairman Abdul Shukor Husin said that while merely going through the motions of various yoga postures may not be wrong in Islam, the council believes the practice is best avoided altogether as ‘one thing would lead to another’. [Full Story]

But it is not just the National Fatwa Council that opposes yoga. Some Christian groups frown on the practice for similar religious reasons, said a spokesman for the Malaysian Council of Churches.

For others, the controversy over yoga comes across as an over-reaction, and some Muslim yoga practitioners have said they are unlikely to give it up.

Ms Marina Mahathir, the daughter of former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, had earlier criticised the council for considering the ban.

It is ‘a classic case of reacting out of fear and ignorance’, she wrote in her blog. ‘Yoga may have spiritual roots but most of us do it for the exercise, both of the mind and body.’

Top Islamic body: Yoga is not for Muslims

  • Malaysia’s top Islamic body rules against Muslims practicing yoga
  • The National Fatwa Council says it has elements of other religions
  • Clerics in Egypt issued a similar edict in 2004

Yoga Ban: Don’t question fatwa, says Council

Yoga Ban: Muslim practitioners disappointed

Malaysian Muslim Authorities Ban Yoga

Miami, FL (AHN) – Islamic authorities in Malaysia have banned Muslims from doing yoga for fears it could corrupt their faith.

A ruling, or fatwa, has been issued instructing the country’s Muslims to avoid yoga because of its Hindu roots, the BBC reported.

Malaysia’s National Fatwa Council said practices like chanting and what it calls “worshiping” were inappropriate for Muslims and could destroy their faith.

The ruling is not binding, but many of the country’s millions of Muslims abide by fatwas.

Yoga classes in Malaysia are attended by mostly non-Muslims of Chinese and Indian decent, but it’s common in some major cities to see Muslim women in classes.

About 40 percent of Malaysia’s 27 million people are non-Muslims, including sizable minorities of Christians, Buddhists and Hindus. Complaints about religious discrimination among those groups are rising.

Mixed reactions to yoga ban

Mixed feelings on yoga

PETALING JAYA: Not only Muslims have reservations on practising yoga, some Christian groups also have mixed feelings about it due to its ties to Hinduism.

While some Christian groups say it was wrong to practise yoga as it belonged to a different religion, others say they saw nothing wrong as long as the participants do not deviate from their beliefs.

One’s faith would have to be pretty fragile to have the basic premise of yoga, breathing and stretching exercise, threaten someone’s faith.  Maybe we should put a “fatwa” on atomic power, after all, the misuse of the mighty atom has the potential to destroy all mankind, regardless of their faith.  Primitive Muslims and primitive Christians have a problem adapting to the world.  These primatives only feel safe curled up in their own little protectionist cults.  If you take this concept to the extreme, weak religions would also ban the use of modern technology that was not invented by someone of their own faith.  This would remove certain medical procedures from being used by one faith who did not approve the religion of the inventor.  This is an extreme and dangerous practice.  Religion that feels it necessary to build a wall around it’s believers, for fear they will stray, or, god forbid, start asking questions, is in pretty sad shape.  That demonstrates tyranical social structure.  The suggestion is that either GOD is a tyrant, or, his interpreters are.  I am to be convinced that God is jealouse of which name he/she is called by different cultures?  If that is so, then which name shall please God the most?  I am convinced the low self esteem resides in the hearts of the clerics. the jealousy and resentfulness resides in the clerics.  I really don’t believe that God has an opinion about a name, as long as his creations stop maiming and killing each other using his/her name.

Sorry for the digression, YOGA is a discipline to help heal the body, mind and spirit.  It transcends mere personal dogma and organized religion.  It can be categorized as a health tool, no matter which religion started it. The Malaysian clerics responsible for this fatwa have insulted their faith and all Muslims.  Threat to faith comes from inside the heart, not the material show that plays before our eyes.

Understanding religion comes through reading

You may well wonder, “Why should I learn about other religions, if I don’t follow or practice them, and I can’t even discuss it when I want to?”

You don’t need to believe in Buddhism, Islam, or in any other religion to study it. You don’t even have to believe in a personal or impersonal God. Today, as violent religious conflicts trouble many parts of our world, it has become more important than ever to learn about the similarities, as well as the differences, between faiths. Just have an open mind and be ready to explore new realms of thought.

Modern people very often develop their opinions about something unfamiliar to them based only on what they’ve read in the newspaper or have seen in the news. Certainly, you’ve heard a lot about Islam in recent years. Unfortunately, Western media mostly presents Islam in a negative, disparaging manner: repressive regime, backward values, insular tradition. After 9/11, the stereotype of Islam in the Western world is a religion that promotes violence and terrorism. Personally, I have met some individuals who thought that the two concepts “terrorist” and “Muslim” have the same meaning, and hardly anyone who I spoke to knew the true Arabic meaning for the word “jihad.” Few books in history are as poorly read or understood as the Qur’an, the Islamic holy book.

An informed person today requires knowledge of Islam. Perhaps, you are among them. As you will start learning more about the mysterious Islam you will discover that it is a peaceful religion and a beautiful, spiritual tradition that emphasizes love, faith in God, and shares many of the same characteristics that are familiar to Judaism and Christianity. [Full Article]

Islamic State v. Secular State – the Malaysia case

On a visit to the Middle East a few years back, an Arab once said to me, “Malaysia is the most Islamic country in the world.” I then asked him why did he say so, and he chided, “of all Muslim ruled countries in the world, Malaysia is the only country with 14 Muftis and 9 protectors (the Sultans) of the religion of Islam. Even Saudi Arabia only has 1 mufti and 1 protector of the religion (the King). What country can be more Islamic.”Jokes aside, is Malaysia an Islamic state? After being independent for 50 years but a few weeks, we are still facing the dilemma of our true identity – Islamic or secular? For a country 50 years may just be something like teen ages for an individual, and like most teenagers, we are now facing an identity crisis.And like humans, to solve our identity crisis we will have to go back to our roots. We will have to go back to the basic structure of our country – the Constitution. Only then can we understand and appreciate who and what we are.  [Full Article]


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