Indonesia bans Muslims from practising Hindu rituals during yoga

January 26th, 2009 - 11:18 am ICT by IANS  

Jakarta, Jan 26 (DPA) Indonesia’s top Islamic body has issued a ruling banning Muslims from practising yoga if they engage in Hindu religious rituals during the exercise, the chairman of the group said.At the end of its three-day meeting in the West Sumatra city of Padang Panjang Sunday, the Indonesian Council of Ulemas (MUI) issued the fatwa, or edict, saying that exercises containing Hindu elements such as chanting were “haram” (forbidden) in Islam, as it could weaken the faith of Muslims.

“(The) fatwa was necessary, so that Muslim do not mix the right with falsehood,” Maruf Amin, chairman of the MUI was quoted as saying by the state-run Antara news agency at the end of the National Edict Commission meeting. “Muslims should not practise other religious rituals as it will erode and weaken their Islamic faith.”

However, he said, Muslims could do yoga as long as such practice is only physical exercise purely for the health benefit and did not include chanting, mantras or meditation.

The MUI’s move follows a similar ruling by the religious authorities in Malaysia last year.

Such religious edicts are not legally binding in Indonesia but can influence government policy and it is considered sinful to ignore them.

Indonesia is officially a secular state but about 88 percent of the country’s 230 million people are Muslim, making it the world’s most populous Muslim nation.

The MUI has carved a key role for itself in Indonesia and its pronouncements on everything from Islamic banking to halal food can have a powerful influence.

Yoga, an ancient Indian aid to meditation dating back thousands of years, is a popular stress-buster in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta.

The meeting, attended by about 700 people, including Muslim clerics and theological experts, also issued fatwas that smoking was haram for pregnant Muslim women and children, as well as for Muslim men in public places.

“As of now, smoking should be considered a sin for pregnant women and children, doing it in public places and also for members of the ulema council,” Amin said. He called on the government to issue a regulation to back the conclusion of the meeting.

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