Archive for November 30th, 2008

Still taking a leap into yoga

The controversy surrounding yoga still rages on in Malaysia as reflected in the mainstream press. In today’s Sunday Star and New Sunday Times (NST), for example, a few pages have been allocated for the discussion of yoga and its relationship with Islam.

The NST published its interview with Dr Abdulfatah Haron Ibrahim, a professor of Theology and Philosophy from UKM regarding his take on yoga and Islam under the headline, ‘Why create the trouble?’. This is followed by another piece, also an outcome of presumably the same interview, headlined, ‘Yoga, mysticism and Islam’.

In its ‘Focus’ column, Sunday Star ran a piece headlined, ‘In a twist over fatwa ruling’. Here the writer interviewed people such as the religious adviser to the Prime Minister, Dr Abdul Hamid Othman, Syariah lawyer Saidiah Din, Jamaah Islah Malaysia president Zaid Kamaruddin, Pas research head Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad, yoga instructor Suleiha Merican, and Sisters in Islam (SIS) programme manager Masjaliza Hamzah.

While it’s commendable that these newspapers did attempt to bring to the fore the controversial subject of yoga, I feel that more needs to be done so as to enlighten the readers further. For instance, the views of other yoga experts and practitioners should be given ample space to explain in detail about yoga particularly when certain Islamic leaders and bodies claimed that the kind of yoga that is practised in Malaysia has some elements of Hinduism, and therefore can cause havoc to a Muslim’s aqidah.

That said, I thought I’d share this with you what, it seems to me, requires a mental leap after reading the last bit of the Star story. In response to SIS’s Masjaliza’s contention that the religious authorities should not ‘make it a criminal offence to go against a fatwa’, Dr Abdul Hamid snapped in disagreement.

He said: ‘Going against a fatwa is a crime because it is a crime against religion. When you believe in Islam you are bound by its laws. For example, you can’t walk around naked in public.’

It doesn’t take a nudist to tell you that going around in the altogether is a complete no-no not only to adherents of Islam but also other faiths. And I am sure practitioners of yoga are also uncomfortable with the idea of walking unclothed in the public domain.

Put another way, the controversy surrounding yoga may not be as clear cut as baring oneself in public — although it may expose one’s incoherence.