Maharashtra's minorities affairs minister Eknath Khadse courted controversy after comparing Yoga with Namaz, evoking a sharp response from the opposition in Mumbai on Tuesday.
While the Congress called Khadse's statement a "despicable" one which is intended to hurt sentiments of the minority community, the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) said that the minister got his analogy completely wrong.
"Namaz is nothing but Yoga. All actions that one does in Namaz is done in Yoga as well. So only Yoga has been renamed a Namaz, but we have not forced anybody to do Yoga. If somebody wants to do it, they can do it. It is an individual choice," Khadse told reporters here.
Responding to his statement, the Congress said that the BJP-led government is only "saffronising" the ancient practice of Yoga and that comparing it to a religion is uncalled for.
"Khadse's statement is despicable. Yoga is a science that is beyond any religion. By linking it to a certain religion, the government seems to be carrying forward its agenda of saffronisation," Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee spokesperson Nasser Zakaria said.
AIMIM president Asaduddin Owaisi said that Khadse cannot compare Yoga with Namaz since Muslims do not pray to anything that is created by man.
"While Namaz is compulsory for Muslims, Yoga is not. Namaz is praying to the creator of mankind while Yoga is just an exercise. How can Yoga be compared to Namaz when we pray based on what is written in the Quran? By giving such an analogy, the minister is demeaning Namaz which will be objectionable to all Muslims. We disagree with his comments," Owaisi said.