Outraged Malaysians were told by the country's top Islamic council Saturday to avoid yoga because it uses Hindu prayers and encourages a union with God that is blasphemous.
"Yoga is forbidden for Muslims. The practice will erode their faith in the religion," Abdul Shukor Husin, chairman of the government-backed National Fatwa Council, told reporters.
Yoga, an ancient Indian aid to meditation dating back thousands of years, is a popular stress-buster in Kuala Lumpur.
"There are other ways to get exercise and a peace of mind," Husin said, adding "you can go cycling, swimming and eat less fatty food."
Husin said yoga involved physical and religious elements of Hinduism including the recitation of mantras he also said the ban would not be implemented on non-Muslims.
"For us, yoga can destroy a Muslim's faith. But this is not a matter for the non-Muslims to be concerned about because it's not imposed on them. We are looking out for the Muslim community," he said, noting Egypt and Singapore had issued similar rulings.
Islam is the official religion of Malaysia, where more than 60 percent of the population of 27 million are Muslim Malays who practice a conservative brand of the religion.
The new ruling comes hot on the heels of another edict against young Muslim women wearing trousers after the council said that by wearing trousers, girls risked becoming sexually active "tomboys."
Yoga is forbidden for Muslims. The practice will erode their faith in the religion.
Top Islamic chief
Malaysians have expressed outrage in blogs and letters to the editor since the council first announced a few weeks ago it was considering a fatwa against yoga.
"I wonder what's going to happen to the health clubs here in Malaysia... will they be forced to put up a 'No Muslims allowed' sign during their yoga classes?", said a posting at a popular Malaysian fitness blog, (www.thedailymuscle.com).
Social commentator Marina Mahathir, daughter of former prime minister Mahathir Mohammad, questioned the council's priorities.
"What endangers a society more... corrupt citizens and leaders, or yoga practitioners and females who dress in a masculine fashion?" she said in a recent column in the Star newspaper.
"Yet there are so many of us who are unwilling to trust our own conscience and would prefer to trust the robed and the turbaned to make rulings on things which we should be able to judge on our own," she said.
I wonder what's going to happen to the health clubs here in Malaysia... will they be forced to put up a 'No Muslims allowed' sign during their yoga classes?