A day after Maharashtra government passed a diktat for schools to remain open on Sunday, June 21, to mark International Yoga Day, several Muslim outfits in Mumbai slammed the order saying that yoga, including Surya Namaskar, requires a person to bow (to Sun God), and bowing was a practice reserved for Namaz.
The Muslim organisations have decided to meet the chief minister on Wednesday asking that Yoga sessions be not made compulsory. “It is detrimental to our religious freedom. Islam being a monotheistic religion, the followers cannot bow before anyone except Allah, and it is wrong to impose such things on Muslims,” said Mohammed Zahoor Ahmed, education secretary of Jamat- e-Islami Hind.
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“Yoga has Surya Namaskar which means bowing to the Sun God. Muslim students may not be comfortable doing this. Muslims taking up Yoga should be a voluntary move, making it mandatory is unfair.”
June 21 was declared as the International Day of Yoga by the UN General Assembly in December 2014, following which the state government had asked schools to devise programmes to mark the day.
Mohammed Salman, president of Students Islamic Organisation’s Mumbai Chapter, said: “We do not mind if they introduce any activities which help students. However, forcing it on them would disturb harmony and peace and damage the very foundation of secularism.”
In May, the school education department had directed schools to mark the day, and had set up a 24-member committee to chalk out guidelines for Yoga Day. Though School Education and Sports Minister Vinod Tawde had then said schools could celebrate it on another day, on Monday he urged schools to call students on Sunday, June 21.
All-India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul Muslimeen MLA from Byculla Waris Pathan called the move “unconstitutional”. “If students choose Yoga, Sanskrit, Gita recitation voluntarily, it’s fine with us, but making them mandatory is unconstitutional. This, according to me, is an indirect way of promoting a ‘Hindu rashtra’ by the BJP government. Recently, a Muslim girl won prize for Gita recitation, no Muslim organisation objected to that as it was her decision,” claimed Pathan.
A senior official of the school education department, the nodal authority implementing the government order, said the office was looking at it purely as a “physical activity”.
Schools, meanwhile, said they were mulling if the state government could relieve the compulsory tag and allow the children leave on Sunday.
“While the minister claims Yoga Day may help students de-stress, we think it will overburden students if we call them on Sundays for Yoga. Students already have too many activities… hence starting mandatory Yoga practice will not be feasible. Some schools in the city already offer Yoga as an activity, though it is voluntary,” said the principal of a school in south Mumbai.