Malaysian rulers to have final say on yoga ban

November 26th, 2008 - 1:59 pm ICT by IANS  

Kuala Lumpur, Nov 26 (IANS) The Sultans, the constitutional heads in Malaysian states, have cautioned against a hasty enforcement of an edict banning yoga exercises for Muslims, indicating that they, and the state level clergy would have the final say in the matter that has generated much debate. Accepting this, the Islamic Development Department director-general Wan Mohamad Sheikh Abd Aziz said the council’s edict would be discussed in the respective state fatwa committees. It is up to the individual Ruler and religious bodies of each state to accept or reject the National Fatwa Council’s edict to ban Muslims from practising yoga.

Perak state’s Raja Muda Raja Nazrin Shah urged the Perak Fatwa Committee to consider the edict carefully.

The Sultan of Selangor state, Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah, cautioned that the enforcement of the edict issued by the Council last week should not be done in haste, The Star newspaper said Wednesday.

Both Sultan Sharafuddin and Raja Nazrin Shah said the matter should have been referred to the Conference of Malay Rulers.

The National Fatwa Council last week issued the edict, deeming as ‘haram’ (prohibited) the practice of the ancient Indian fitness regime that aims at mental and physical well-being. The Council said that yoga contained chanting and worshipping also.

A university teacher of theology last month raised objection to yoga, contending that it diluted Islamic beliefs.

Joining the debate, Malaysia’s long-time former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad warned against turning the edict into a religious debate.

Endorsing the National Fatwa Council’s action, he said: “If they believe it is wrong, then it is wrong. It is unfortunate that other people think that it is a slur on their religion,” he said.

“It is like saying Muslims should not eat pork and it is not an insult to the Chinese. It is the same when Muslims cannot do yoga, it is not because they are insulting the Hindus.

“It is just that they should not do it. Like all other things forbidden among Muslims, it is not an insult to others. Whether the Malays follow it or not, that is really their business.” he said.

Mahathir said people should not make it into a religious issue.

“Personally, I don’t care very much if you stand on your head or stand on your feet. It is not as if by performing yoga you immediately become a non-Muslim,” he was quoted as saying in The Star.

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