The Yoga Fatwa: MIC joins the fray?
Posted by Oscar the Grouch on November 30, 2008
I have been in self-restrain for the past many weeks from commenting on the yoga fatwa. Being a religious-traditionalist that I am, though very much in idealistic denial, I choose to regard religion as a personal matter at-heart. Or for that matter: – that religion and politics make a bad mix.
When the chairman of the National Fatwa Council, Datuk Dr Abdul Shukor Husin declared the practice of yoga as haram, he explained that the ruling was only meant for Muslims to follow; the non-Muslims are free to do as they wish. To me, this is an issue of faith for the Muslims; it is not for the non-Muslims, like me, to offer critical analysis. I do not read the Quran or any of the Shariah literatures to be someone of sufficient wisdom to give my two-cents worth on Islam.
Yes, I do have my own personal reservations over the fatwa issue. However, whatever misgivings I may have, it is not for me to pass disparaging comments. With so many other religions in this world, I am sure I will find other rules of faith inexplicably alien as well; given my own distinctive grounded background. If I can accept the Muslims praying, fasting, not eating pork, not drinking liquor and not gambling; who am I not to accept them not practising yoga.
Perhaps, that is why I took it upon myself to overturn my self-imposed abstention upon reading The Star’s article (Friday, 28th November, 2008), entitled “MIC welcome PM’s clarification on fatwa”, where it was reported that the MIC has appreciated Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s explanation that had cleared all misunderstandings or misconceptions among Malaysians.
I find it a tad bit hard to understand: – what is it about the fatwa that concerns the MIC? This yoga issue, in its essential core, concerns only the Muslims. The Indians, Chinese and the other non-Muslims are still free to practice yoga. Yoga has not been banned, that is a misconception. The fitness and yoga clubs can carry on business as usual. Technically, even the Muslims are free to practice yoga, if it is in defiance of the edict and in risk of ramifications.
Yes, I readily agree, most of us non-Muslims have our own opinionated reservations on the yoga edict, including me; but whatever misgiving qualms that we may have, it is not in our place to make our say in the very public domain. Perhaps, indulging in small coffee shop talk or chit-chatters during social pub-drinking sessions is mildly acceptable; but definitely not via an unintelligent press statement by a political party.
What exactly does the MIC mean when it says the Prime Minister has cleared all misunderstanding and misconception among Malaysians? To me, the Prime Minister is not explaining anything. His “reassuring explanation” is that: – Muslims can perform yoga without chanting any mantra. This is merely a reiteration of what the National Fatwa Council has said earlier: – that yoga practices that does not include the elements of chanting and worshipping, is not wrong in the eyes of Islam (although not encouraged). It is only that when the practice covers all 3 aspects, then it becomes prohibited.
Both the National Fatwa Council and Prime Minister Badawi are essentially saying the same things. Why should the MIC, on the one hand, views the fatwa as causing misunderstanding and misconception among Malaysians; whilst on the other hand; it accepts the Prime Minister’s statement as a comforting clarification that reassures all Malaysians.
If this is not bodek, I don’t know what is.