Top Muslim Clerics Ban ‘Hindu’ Yoga, Allow Smoking

JAKARTA ~ Muslims in Indonesia have been banned from doing yoga if they engage in Hindu religious rituals during the exercise, the chairman of the country’s top Islamic body said.

About 700 clerics from the Indonesian Council of Ulemas (MUI) agreed on the action late Sunday at a national meeting in West Sumatra province, Ma’ruf Amin said.

“The yoga practice that contains religious rituals of Hinduism, including the recitation of mantras, is “haram” (forbidden in Islam),” he said.

“Muslims should not practice other religious rituals as it will erode and weaken their Islamic faith,” he added.

But Amin said that Indonesian Muslims were still allowed to do yoga strictly as exercise.

“If it is purely a physical exercise or sport, it is not considered as ‘haram,'” he added.

Religious edicts issued by the MUI are not legally binding on Muslims but it is considered sinful to ignore them.

“If Muslims refuse to follow this clerics’ fatwa, it means that they commit a sin,” Amin said.

Yoga, an ancient Indian aid to meditation dating back thousands of years, is a popular stress-buster in capital Jakarta.

The clerics failed to issue an edict banning smoking in one of the most profitable tobacco markets in the world, agreeing only to ban smoking in public places, for pregnant women and children.

“There was disagreement between clerics over the smoking ban. But we all agreed to decide that it is “haram” for Muslims to smoke in public space, for pregnant women and children,” Amin said.

“We took this decision as smoking is harmful to health,” he added.

Clerics at the gathering, which started last Friday and ended on Sunday, also decided to ban Indonesian Muslims from abstaining from voting as the country gets ready for legislative elections expected to be held in April.

“As long as there is a candidate leader that meets criteria such as being Muslim, honest, brilliant and ready to fight for Indonesian people’s aspirations, it is ‘haram’ for Muslims to abstain from voting,” Amin said.

But he added: “It is forbidden for Muslims to vote for a non-Muslim candidate leader.”

Nearly 90 percent of Indonesia’s 234 million people are Muslim, most of whom practice a moderate version of the religion.

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