By Garima Kushwaha:
While New Delhi is all-out preparing for the showpiece event of the inaugural International Day of Yoga, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) on June 7 decided to launch a nationwide campaign against making Yoga and Surya Namaskar (requiring a person to bow to Sun God) compulsory in schools. Several Muslims in Mumbai got infuriated when the Maharashtra government recently passed a diktat for schools to open on Sunday, June 21 to compulsorily celebrate and promote the importance of yoga.
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According to many Muslims, yoga is anti-Islam. Education secretary of Jamat-e-Islami Hind Mohammed Zahoor Ahmed told Indian Express, “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.”
Dr Zahir Kazi who is the president of Anjuman-I-Islam, which runs a chain of schools and professional colleges in Maharashtra, called the move as “undemocratic”. He says, “The order is undemocratic and amounts to infringing on the rights of a group of citizens who don’t worship anyone except Allah who is formless and omnipresent”.
Members of All-India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul Muslimeen (AIMIM) consider promoting and making yoga compulsory an indirect way of promoting a ‘Hindu rashtra’ by the BJP government. “This really shows that they want to impose the hindutva ideology on the throats of people and we are definitely not going to follow”, says AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi.
Apart from compulsory celebration of yoga day, there is resentment against many state governments like Madhya Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan, which have made it mandatory for school students to perform the Surya Namaskar in their 0th period.
“The government should develop a sense of confidence among the people of the minority communities that they can practice their religion without any problem but it is seen that Hindutva forces are carrying out their agenda against minorities after Narendra Modi became Prime Minister,” AIMPLB assistant general secretary Abdul Rahim Qureshi said. AIMPLB also alleged that communal forces wanted Muslim youths to break laws so that they can get a chance to isolate the community and justify atrocities against them.
Detestation against yoga in Islamic nations is also not new. A few years ago, a Malaysian Islamic body issued a fatwa against yoga, saying elements of Hinduism in the ancient Indian exercise could corrupt them. Other countries like Indonesia for instance, have also banned practicing yoga as it contains Hindu rituals like chanting. Even in United States, where yoga is outstandingly popular, many people believe that Yoga is inherently religious and pushes children to practice Hinduism in school. The Huffington Post and The Associated Press have reported on this situation where parents demanded to ban yoga from school in America.
Having seen all the incidents of unacceptance by minorities, making yoga strictly compulsory might be a wrong choice by our PM and state governments in our democratic country. However, promoting the importance of yoga pertaining to its health benefits is not wrong as well. Although Vedic chanting and surya-namaskar are not required to perform yoga, chanting “Om” can be replaced by “Allah”, “Jesus” or any syllable to help focus during meditation. It is true that yoga’s origin is linked to Hindu scriptures and rituals but in reality it has traveled across many countries and has evolved into a sport and a recreational activity to achieve a healthier lifestyle.