Malaysian edict against yoga to be announced Friday

November 2nd, 2008 - 2:47 pm ICT by IANS  

Kuala Lumpur, Nov 2 (IANS) Malaysian Muslims will be barred from practising or propagating yoga from Friday when the National Fatwa Council will issue a ruling, a senior government official said. The ruling or fatwa is related to the faith of Muslims who practise yoga, Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (Jakim) Director-General Wan Mohamad Sheikh Abdul Aziz told media Saturday after officiating at a seminar on Islam here, The Star newspaper said.

Aziz said the department had carried out an in-depth study on the issue over six months.

He said he regretted the attitude of Malaysian Muslims who were “easily influenced by foreign cultures to the point of affecting their faith.

“When those involved take them as trends, such cultures can lead to a serious crime according to syariah law (Islamic law) and this can destroy the family institution,” he said.

The department remains unfazed by the current debate wherein many Muslim practitioners and teachers of yoga have opposed the ruling.

The Christians are divided and do not have a single view on the issue.

The Hindus, the settlers from India from whom most of the yoga practitioners come, say it is open to the instructors and practitioners to keep religion out of yoga.

Yoga, they say, has been accepted as a science for physical and mental wellbeing in many countries across the world.

The debate in Muslim majority Malaysia was triggered after a lecturer, Zakaria Stapa of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s Islamic Studies Centre advised Muslims who had taken up yoga to stop practising it for fear that they could deviate from the teachings of Islam.

Yoga, related to health, has been practised since 3,300 BC and is said to help slow down ageing, reduce risk of diabetes, asthma and heart-related diseases, the newspaper said.

Aziz also defended the recent National Fatwa Council ruling to ban tomboyish behaviour, whether in appearance or dressing, saying it was to preserve the faith of Muslims, the official news agency Bernama reported.

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