November 24, 2008

Fatwa against Yoga! (Is Yoga a Religion? Muslims think so, apparently—they just made it ‘illegal’)

With thanks for the tip to Benjamin Frolichstein.

Yoga Fatwa! Muslims in Malaysia just made yoga illegal:

Millions of people in Malaysia have been banned from doing yoga because of fears it could corrupt Muslims.
The Islamic authorities have issued a ruling, known as a fatwa, instructing the country’s Muslims to avoid yoga because of its Hindu roots.
To most people yoga is simply a sport – a stress-busting start to the day.
Malaysia’s National Fatwa Council said it goes further than that and that elements of the Indian religion are inherent in yoga.
Announcing the decision, the council chairman Abdul Shukor Husin said practices like chanting and what he called worshipping were inappropriate and they could “destroy the faith of a Muslim”.
The ruling is not legally binding but many of Malaysia’s Muslims abide by fatwas.
Yoga classes here are filled with mostly non-Muslim Malaysians of Chinese or Indian descent, but in the major cities it is not uncommon to see several Muslim women at classes.
Prayers and gym
For Muslims across Malaysia the day starts at 5.30 in the morning, as the call to prayer goes out.
A handful of the most devout arrive at a mosque in the western outskirts of Kuala Lumpur…for more, click here.

Before you go agreeing with your Republican friends, all y’all liberal yuppie hippies out there, and thinking Muslims have gone crazy—not just extreme Muslims, but their mainstream, at least in Malaysia—remember that the teaching of yoga’s been banned from some schools in the US for precisely the same reason.

Funny thing is, Muslims and US yoga-banners ain’t wrong—yoga is more than a great exercise + a little New Agey good vibes—it’s an ancient path intended, much like Buddhism, to help ‘still the waves of the mind.’ But, again like Buddhism, is it a religion or can it, stripped of its esoteric rituals and roots, still be presented in schools in the Middle America or the Middle East in a helpful, non-religious manner?

Think alla this is a spiritual tempest in a tea cup? Click here, or here for the good news on folks working to teach yoga, minus the esoteric yin yang but with the fundamental integrity of the tradition intact. Or, watch this early elephant journal ‘elevision’ talk show video with Debbie Huttner.

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