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Malaysia’s Muslim scholars are in a state over a four-letter word – yoga


Faith, fatwa and freedom

20,000 Muslims attack Christian church in Egypt

Afghanistan is Not Iraq:

U.S. and Afghan parliament seek to recreate 'Sons of Iraq' in Afghanistan

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau





Faith, fatwa and freedom: Malaysia’s Muslim scholars are in a state over a four-letter word – yoga


NOV 25 - At a time when the entire world’s confidence in the global financial system is being severely shaken, Malaysia’s Muslim scholars are in a state over a four-letter word – yoga – the ancient set of physical movements and meditation that they believe can erode the faith of the faithful.

The fatwa banning yoga, particularly its accompanying chants and prayers, is the latest issued by scholars who form Malaysia’s National Fatwa Council, deliberating on a whole host of issues that never cropped up in the time of Prophet Muhammad 1,400 years ago.

The council's last edict was weeks ago against women who dress like men whom the learned scholars say could lead to lesbianism.

Previously, they had issued edicts that banned cults, heavy rock music, Muslim women in beauty contests, and stunning cattle to death, horror movies and others.

And now, yoga.

While the controversial edict will take its time to become law in the various states – Islam is a state matter under the Federal Constitution – the scholars themselves appear to be split on the issue.

Outgoing Perlis Mufti Dr Asri Zainul Abidin, who apparently did not attend the fatwa council meeting, yesterday said the authorities should offer alternative versions of yoga instead of banning the exercise.

“Yoga practitioners who are Muslims should be given an alternative by practising a version of yoga that does not resemble the version practised by other religions,” The Star quoted him as saying,  adding that chanting while practising the exercise should also be stopped.

“The fatwa announced in this day and age should not be too rigid. The human movement does not necessarily have a connection with religion,” Asri said.

Most politicians have been silent on the issue, except for Malacca chief minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Ali Rustam, who is also aspiring to be Umno deputy president, agreeing to implement the edict, underscoring the establishment’s penchant for top-down leadership and directives.

However, cooler heads appear to be prevailing. Selangor Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah has said the ban will not be enforced until the matter is studied further

But yoga practitioners, be they Muslims or not, are upset.

National Cancer Society of Malaysia advisor Datuk Zuraidah Atan said Muslim cancer survivors are confused as the exercise has proven calming in their fight against the disease.

“An overreaching fatwa like this is not good for them as unnecessary worry can have a negative effect on them psychologically and physically,” she said on Sunday, adding that “some are already feeling guilty for practising it.’


Others fear Islamic department enforcement officials will raid yoga sessions in search of Muslims breaking the fatwa if the edict is implemented.

“You take up yoga to exercise and meditate, not run helter skelter,” a yoga follower told The Malaysian Insider.

Another said the economy should be a greater concern than losing one’s faith through yoga.

“They should be reassuring us in these crazy times, not putting the fear of God in us,” she said. “And if they are so shallow as to think that yoga can lead to Hinduism or wearing pants can turn one into a lesbian, they don’t deserve to be scholars of any kind.”

But the scholars would beg to differ and have said their edicts should not be criticised but must be followed, fuelling the belief that it all boils down to control over Muslims and their insecurity that the faithful are, well... not that faithful.

And they believe they have the power of the state behind them to ensure compliance.

However, for Malaysians, especially the Muslims, the latest fatwa is a test of faith and freedom to decide what is best for them. Just like March 8.



20,000 Muslims attack Christian church in Egypt

Posted GMT 26-11-2008// 9:57:4

One thousand Christians were today trapped inside the Coptic Orthodox Church of the Virgin Mary in West Ain Shams, Cairo, after more than twenty thousand Muslims attacked them with stones and butane gas cylinders. The Church's priest Father Antonious said that the situation is extremely dangerous.

The Muslim mob that attacked the church blocked both sides of the street and encircled the church building, broke its doors and demolished its entire first floor. The mob were chanting Jihad verses as well as slogans saying "we will demolish the church" and "We sacrifice our blood and souls, we sacrifice ourselves for you, Islam", while the entrapped Christians chanted "Lord have mercy".

The incident started on the occasion of the inauguration of the Church today, when the Muslims hastily established a Mosque in the early hours of this morning, by taking over the first floor of a newly-built building facing the Church and started praying there.

When the security forces tried to disperse the mob, they went to nearby homes and shops owned by Christians, and were armed with sticks, butane, knives and other sharp objects. Witnesses said the mob included children from as young as 8-years old to men of over 50-years old, in addition to women.

The Church building was originally a factory that was adapted into its present state, the matter which took over five years to complete and to get the necessary permissions from the authorities to have a Church established.

Human rights organizations and lawyers were refused entry into the besieged Church.



Afghanistan is Not Iraq:

U.S. and Afghan parliament seek to recreate 'Sons of Iraq' in Afghanistan

November 26, 2008

Since recognizing that routing the Taliban government in Afghanistan in 2001 did not actually mean their disappearance from the Afghan / Pakistan landscape, the U.S. and its NATO allies have been seeking new ways of bringing a measure of stability to the country. Current plans include a troop surge, which will begin in January, and considerations that include talking to the Taliban and arming tribes to fight the Taliban.

This last idea, although drafted in Afghanistan's parliament, has been imported from Iraq where Sunni tribal leaders battling foreign Al Qaida in some provinces chose to join forces with the American military, which armed and paid them. Whether the Shi'a government will successfully incorporate those members into the government once the Americans are no longer there, and who will pay the fighters' wages now remain open questions.

The application of such an idea in Afghanistan would seem almost perversely inattentive to history. The Taliban came to power in part because Afghans were exhausted by a civil war among competing leaders of sub national groupings, fighting for power following the 1989 Soviet withdrawal. The heads of these rival groups, like the Taliban, have not vaporized simply because there is currently a semblance of central government. Most American military, even at high levels, readily admit that they do not understand Afghan social organization and identity, which is based on a matrix of ethnic, tribal, political, family and territorial affiliations, and can be fluid. American analyses routinely label the Afghan social-political landscape "complex and baffling." Equally complicating is that the insurgent phenomenon called "Taliban" is no longer composed of a unified group. According to Jean Mackenzie of the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, the disparate factions and individuals that have "diversified" the Afghan insurgency are united by their rejection of the central government and foreign occupation.

To solve that problem, the U.S. turned to the Afghans themselves, who do understand the landscape. But members of the parliament, even as they draw up plans, repeatedly return to the point that arming local leaders capable of putting pressure on violent insurgents means fuelling warlordism, as a recent Council on Foreign Relations report indicates.

    General Nur-al Haq Olumi, a member of parliament from Kandahar Province, told the Kabul-based daily Payman, according to a translation by the BBC, that distributing guns in the south while simultaneously supporting national efforts to disband and disarm militias was contradictory and potentially destructive. The Afghan paper Hasht-e Sobh, also translated by the BBC, underscored the point in an editorial: "The fact that these forces may become new warlords is not mere speculation. It is an irrefutable truth." Others fear that by arming Pashtun tribes, rivalries could be reignited; they point to unresolved conflict between the Hazara minority and nomads in central Afghanistan as a possible source of friction. Aware of the risks, Karzai has relocated warlords to stem regional violence.

Several years of reconstructing counterinsurgency theory for 21st century use, the U.S. military has focused on the cultural specificity of insurgency's context. But planning, on the American side, appears to be one-size-fits-all.

Photo: Chris Hondros/Getty Images. Meeting of Afghan warlords and tribal heads in Peshawar, October 2001