Malaysian cancer survivors disappointed with yoga ban


Kuala Lumpur : Malaysian Muslims who have been fighting cancer with the help of yoga are “disappointed and confused” over last week’s move by the National Fatwa Council to ban the ancient Indian fitness regime among Malays.

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“There is a need for the Fatwa Council to explain their edict properly so that Muslims who practise yoga, including cancer survivors, are not made to feel guilty,” said National Cancer Society of Malaysia’s advisor Zuraidah Atan.

Atan said she had been inundated with calls from cancer survivors who were confused and apprehensive over the fatwa (edict).

“An overreaching fatwa like this is not good for them as unnecessary worry can have a negative effect on them psychologically and physically. Some are already feeling guilty for practising it,” she was quoted as saying in The Star newspaper Monday.

“Besides yoga, we also have qi gong sessions. Is the Fatwa Council going to ban qi gong, too, because it has its origins in Buddhism? Then how about line dancing? We also organise that as a form of light exercise for cancer survivors,” she said.

She said yoga, qi gong and line dancing were good for cancer survivors because they were group dynamics, which helped promote positive thinking and unity among survivors belonging to different religions and communities.

Atan said there were many levels of yoga and only yoga in its purest form involved religious chanting.

“Most Muslims know this. The yoga that is being taught in yoga centres nationwide only concentrates on techniques and has nothing to do with the promotion of Hinduism,” she stressed.

Atan said the Cancer Society organised a weekly free yoga session for cancer survivors, especially those who were over 40 as a form of relaxation and breathing exercise.

The National Fatwa Council Saturday declared that yoga is haram (prohibited) in Islam and Muslims are banned from practising it.

Council Chairman Abdul Shukor Husin said yoga had been practised by the Hindu community for thousands of years and incorporated physical movements, religious elements together with chants and worshipping, with the aim of being one with god.

He noted that while merely doing the physical movements of yoga without the worshipping and chanting might not be against religious beliefs, Muslims should avoid practising it altogether as doing one part of yoga would lead to another.

A university teacher of theology last month raised objection to yoga, contending that it diluted Islamic beliefs.

The ban has affected thousands of yoga practitioners and trainers and those who endorse yoga-related items.

Hosin said the fatwa should not be questioned as Malaysian Muslims were unaware of the impact of yoga on their religious lives.

Perak state, meanwhile, became the first of the 13 states to endorse the edict Sunday. Perak Religious Department director Jamry Sury said the state would abide by the decision of the council to disallow Muslims from practising yoga.

A formal ban would be announced after a meeting of the department officials Dec 9.

Muslim Malays form the majority in Malaysia’s 28 million population that also has 33 percent ethnic Chinese and eight percent Indians, a bulk of them Hindus.