The promised fatwa against yoga has been delivered, and it will be up to the various states within Malaysia to decide on “enforcement.” Will there be Yoga Police?
Of course, all of this must be taken in the context of the larger campaign to Islamize all aspects of Malaysian society and set Malays — all of whom are Muslim by fiat of Article 160 in the Malaysian constitution — above and apart from Malaysia’s Hindu and Chinese populations. (And no one is supposed to question that, either.)
“Yoga Ban: Don’t question fatwa, says Council,” by Farrah Naz Karim for the New Straits Times, November 23:
PUTRAJAYA: As expected, the National Fatwa Council yesterday announced that Muslims are prohibited from practising yoga.
In declaring yoga haram, the council said it could be traced back to Hinduism and concluded that yoga could erode the faith of Muslims.
Council chairman Datuk Dr Abdul Shukor Husin said the decision was made as yoga involved elements that were against the beliefs of Islam in its physical movements, chanting and worship.
“Many Muslims in the country fail to understand the ultimate aim of yoga.
“It combines physical movements, religious elements, chanting and worshipping for the purpose of achieving inner peace and ultimately to be one with God,” he said at a press conference to announce the decision yesterday.
Shukor said once the fatwa was gazetted, it would be passed on to the states to decide on the enforcement.
Malaysia, he said, was not alone in prohibiting yoga among Muslims as the Singaporean and Egyptian Islamic councils had done the same.
Shukor said renowned Islamic scholars were also of the view that yoga could erode the faith of Muslims.
Asked if practising yoga with the intention of promoting physical health was also against the fatwa, he said although it did not include the chanting and beliefs, it was discouraged.
This, he said, was because the physical movements of yoga were a component of the practice which was haram.
“In Islam, one must not do things which can erode one’s aqidah (belief). Yoga, even the physical movements, is a step towards the erosion of a Muslim’s belief, hence they must avoid it.”
Muslims, he added, should be careful and conduct thorough studies before embracing rituals and practices that could threaten their faith.
He said Islam had long paved the way for Muslims to achieve spiritual peace and health and they should stick to these teachings, which included praying five times a day.
The Islamic Development Department (Jakim), he said, would start a programme to educate Muslims on why yoga was against the teachings of Islam.
Expecting a backlash from Malaysians on the decision, Shukor reminded non-Muslims not to question the fatwa.
“We respect the harmony and freedom of practice of other races [i.e., non-Malay – M.]. This is not something for non-Muslims to interfere in or question as this matter involves Muslims and their faith.
“It may not be acceptable to other races, but this is about Islamic teachings,” he said.
Yoga practice among Muslims recently became an issue when Professor Zakaria Stapa of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s Faculty of Islamic Studies said the practice could cause Muslims to deviate from Islam.
He had pointed out that yoga could be traced back to Hinduism and urged Muslims who practised it to stop and return to the teachings of Islam.
Yoga, which dates back more than 5,000 years and is a form of spiritual practice in India, is one of the six classic systems of Hindu philosophy that stresses self-control, discipline, postures, breathing, restraint of the senses, steadying of the mind, meditation and contemplation.