Read here article in International Herald Tribune
Excerpts: Read here for more
Before banning Muslims from performing yoga, the National Fatwa Council should have first consulted the country's nine hereditary sultans who are considered upholders of Islam here, Selangor Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah said Monday.
The Agong is seen as the supreme upholder of Malay tradition and symbolic head of Islam, while the sultans occupy that position in their own respective states.
The unprecedented comment bordering on rebuke by Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah exposes the deep divisions caused by the Fatwa Council's edict in this Muslim-majority country against yoga, a form of Indian exercise, breathing technique and mind control popular worldwide.
It is the first time that a Fatwa Council's decision has been criticized by a state sultan — a sign that the country's Malay Muslims, who are 60 percent of the 27 million population, have not accepted the fatwa uniformly.
The Selangor Sultan said he hopes "that in future, any fatwa decision that touches on issues involving the general public should be referred to the Conference of Rulers to be approved first before it is announced. This is to ensure that the process of channeling the fatwa decision is implemented wisely to avoid any confusion and controversy. "
The National Fatwa Council headed by Abdul Shukor Hj Husin said Saturday that yoga is rooted in Hinduism and its practice could corrupt Muslims. The edict angered many ordinary Muslims who said they have been performing yoga for years without losing their faith.Decisions by the Fatwa Council are not legally binding on the country's Muslims until they are enshrined in national laws or Shariah laws of individual states.
The fatwa on yoga reflects the growing influence of conservative Islam in Malaysia, a multiethnic country where minority ethnic Chinese and mostly Hindu ethnic Indians have been clamoring for more rights.
Recently, the Fatwa Council said girls who act like boys violate Islam's tenets.
The government has also occasionally made similar conservative moves, earlier this year banning the use by non-Muslims of the word "Allah," the Arabic word for God.