Indonesia’s Muslims will be banned from doing some kinds of yoga and from smoking in public places, the chairman of the country’s top Islamic body said on Sunday, adding that Muslims must vote and must vote for a Muslim candidate in upcomming legislative elections.
Last year the Indonesian Council of Ulemas (MUI) came under fire for a fatwa, or religious ruling, banning yoga, with many arguing that it should be permitted as a form of exercise as long as id did not weaked reliegious faith.
Yoga fatwa clarified
The 700 clerics attending a national meeting in West Sumatra province agreed to permit yoga for exercise as long as Muslims do not chant the mantras or perform Hindu religious rituals, chairman Maaruf Amin told AFP by telephone.
"The yoga practice that contains religious rituals of Hinduism including the recitation of mantras is 'haram' (forbidden in Islam)," he said. "Muslims should not practice other religious rituals as it will erode and weaken their Islamic faith."
"If it is purely a physical exercise or sport, it is not considered as 'haram,'" he added.
Officially secular Indonesia has the world's largest Muslim population. Religious edicts issued by the MUI are not legally binding on Muslims but it is considered sinful to ignore them.
"If Muslims refuse to follow this clerics' fatwa, it means that they commit a sin," Amin said.
Clerics at the gathering, which started Friday and ended Sunday, also decided to ban Indonesian Muslims from abstaining from voting as the country gets ready for legislative elections expected to be held in April.
"As long as there is a candidate leader that meets criteria such as being Muslim, honest, brilliant and ready to fight for Indonesian people's aspirations, it is 'haram' for Muslims to abstain from voting," Amin said.
But he added: "It is forbidden for Muslims to vote for a non-Muslim candidate leader."
Public smoking ban
The clerics, however, failed to issue an edict banning smoking in one of the most profitable tobacco markets in the world, agreeing only to ban smoking in public places to protect pregnant women and children.
The debate over smoking revealed a split between those wanting to make it "haram," or forbidden, and others who favored "makruh," an Arabic term whereby it would only be advised that smoking is bad and it is better to drop it.
"There was disagreement between clerics over the smoking ban. But we all agreed to decide that it is 'haram' for Muslims to smoke in public space, for pregnant women and children," Amin said.
"We took this decision as smoking is harmful to health," he added.
Nearly 90 percent of Indonesia's 234 million people are Muslim, most of whom practice a moderate version of the religion.