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Indonesia outlaws yoga for Muslims

Indonesia outlaws yoga for Muslims

Author: Reuters
Publication: The Times of India
Date: January 28, 2009

Indonesian yoga teachers disputed on Monday that the practice was damaging for Muslims after the country's top Islamic body issued a fatwa banning followers from yoga that includes chanting, mantras or mediation.

The weekend meeting of Indonesia's Ulema Council, known as MUI, had discussed whether Muslims should avoid yoga because of a view it uses Hindu prayers that could erode Muslims' faith.

MUI issued a fatwa, but stopped short of a full ban and said Muslims could practise it as long as it was only for physical exercise. "To me, yoga is not something that can be regulated by clerics. It's up to the individual how they practise it," said Pujiastuti Sindhu, a Muslim and the owner of the Yoga Leaf Studio in Bandung, south of the capital Jakarta.

"The clerics are afraid that people who practise yoga are worshipping another god but we are not. It's only because they don't understand what yoga is and feel it's a threat. They should go to yoga class and try it," she said, adding that the purpose of chanting mantras was not to pray but to focus thoughts and had no relationship with worshipping.

Mony Suriany, owner of Bikram Yoga Jakarta, said the decision to chant mantras should be left to the individual. "I do chanting sometimes... it doesn't weaken my religion," said Suriany, a Christian. Indonesian vice president Jusuf Kalla on Saturday urged the Ulemma Council to ensure that its fatwas did not "sow fear" and were in line with a changing world.

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