Threat to Ban Yoga Tests Boundary of Tolerance

November 16, 2008

Author: Staff Writer

Source: Malaysia Today

Norien Hassan is used to pushing the limits in her yoga studio. What she did not expect was to test religious as well as physical boundaries.

The 37-year-old began practising yoga in Kuala Lumpur after she heard it could help women conceive.

Three years later, she is a proud married mother of two who now practises yoga up to six days a week as she trains to become an instructor.

Ms Norien, a devout Muslim, never imagined the exercise could conflict with her Islamic beliefs.

"Yoga is a form of exercise. There's many benefits to it," she said. "I don't see it as being religious. I don't see how it would interfere."

Others disagree. Malaysia's National Fatwa Council, one of the country's highest Islamic bodies, is considering banning yoga for Muslims after a university lecturer advised people to stop practising it for fear that it could deviate from the teachings of Islam.

The proposal follows a number of fatwas, or decrees, that have sparked the ire of women's groups, who argue that the fatwas unfairly discriminate against Muslim women.