Source: The Associated Press
Muslims in Indonesia are banned from practicing yoga that contains Hindu rituals like chanting, the country's top Islamic body said Monday, echoing concerns by some religious groups elsewhere about its effect on their faith.
Though not legally binding, most devout Muslims will likely adhere to the ruling because ignoring a fatwa, or religious decree, is considered a sin.
The decision in the world's most populous Muslim state follows similar edicts in Malaysia and Egypt as the ancient Indian exercise gained popularity worldwide in recent years.
Cleric Ma'ruf Amin said the Ulema Council issued its ruling over the weekend after investigators visited gyms and private yoga classes across the sprawling nation. Amir said those performing yoga purely for health or sport reasons will not be affected.
But yoga practitioners immediately criticized the decision.
"They shouldn't be worrying about this," said Jamilah Konny Fransiska, a yoga teacher on the northern island of Batam, adding that all of her students perform yoga solely to strengthen their bodies and minds.
"There is little or no spiritual element to it," she said. "The clerics should be focusing only on purely religious matters, not this."
Yoga , a blend of physical and mental exercises aimed at integrating mind, body and spirit , has become so popular in the United States that many public schools have started offering it as part of their physical education programs.
But there, too, yoga has come under fire, with some Christian fundamentalists arguing its Hindu roots conflict with their own teachings.