Bali defies fatwa on yoga

A weeklong international festival celebrating the practice of yoga here on the island of Bali is wrapping up peacefully despite a recent religious....

Written by New York Times | Denpasar | Published: March 11, 2009 1:18 am

A weeklong international festival celebrating the practice of yoga here on the island of Bali is wrapping up peacefully despite a recent religious ruling condemning the practice from the top Muslim authority in Indonesia.

It is the second time in recent months that Bali,a predominantly Hindu island in the world’s most populous Muslim country,has openly opposed rulings by the Ulema Council that issued the yoga edict. The Council’s ruling came in a package of fatwas issued in January. The Council deemed the ancient Indian poses and exercises incorporating Hindu chanting or rituals a sin for Muslims. Similar fatwas have been issued in Egypt and Malaysia.

But a Council member who was in charge of investigating yoga said while yoga could be spiritually hazardous,practising it purely for health reasons was acceptable.

The festival was originally organised as a means of promoting spiritual tourism on Bali,before the fatwa was released. But the organisers said it provided an opportunity to respond publicly to the Council’s edict. More than 600 people,including Bali’s governor,attended the festival’s opening ceremony. Several Islamic scholars participated during the week.

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