A top Islamic council in mostly Muslim Malaysia told Muslims on Saturday to avoid yoga as it uses Hindu prayers and encourages a union with God that is blasphemous. The latest edict from the National Fatwa Council reflects a swing towards a conservative brand of Islam in the multi-ethnic country.
“There are other ways to get exercise and a peace of mind,” council chairman Abdul Shukor Husin told reporters in Putrajaya, the country’s administrative capital. “You can go cycling, swim and eat less fatty food.”
“For us, yoga can destroy a Muslim’s faith. But this is not a matter for the non-Muslims to be concerned about because its not imposed on them. We are looking out for the Muslim community," he said, noting Egypt and Singapore had issued similar rulings.
The new ruling comes hot on the heels of another edict against young Muslim women wearing trousers. Malaysians have expressed outrage in blogs and letters to the editor since the council first announced it was considering a fatwa against yoga. “I wonder what’s going to happen to health clubs in Malaysia... will they be forced to put up a ‘No Muslims allowed’ sign during their yoga classes?", said a posting at a fitness blog, (www.thedailymuscle.com).
Asked social commentator Marina Mahathir, daughter of former PM Mahathir Mohamad: “What endangers a society more... corrupt citizens and leaders, or yoga practitioners and females who dress in a masculine fashion?" she said in a column in Star newspaper.