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Ruminations. Reflections. Refractions. Code.

Nov 28, 2008 - gripe politics

Malaysian Council Attempted Ban on Yoga

People may have heard about this, it caused a fair bit of controversy within Malaysia, and Indonesia (because the Indonesian Ulema Council decided to consider the notion too… speak about aping). Anyway, all looks well, reason has been victorious, and the ban has been lifted since there was no unanimous agreement. I actually first became interested in the matter reading this article in the Jakarta Post, an English-language Indonesian newspaper. Since the topic of spirituality is dear to my heart, I wrote a letter to the editor which unfortunately did not get published (though I can see why… but I rock regardless ;-)). I thought I’d share the letter on my blog – ah the joys and power of self-publishing – sit back and enjoy the ride.. er read.

  • * *Dear Editor(s),

This is to comment on: November 23, p. 2, News Highlights: Malaysian Council bans yoga

Malaysian Council Ban on Yoga?

I read that article, and fell to my knees (metaphorically), thanking the Divine/Ishwar/Allah, that I live in Indonesia, where until great poverty struck, we had a very sensible, very moderate form of Islam (we still do for the most part). A place where people are united by intrinsic values such as respect and tolerance. The article reminded of the silly porn bill passed recently – amid the various things we have to deal with – what’s on our mind? Sex. Truly it is a strong primordial drive – mad as Freud was, he got stuff right – for or against, we can’t ignore it. But I digress. On this ban, a couple of points:

  1. Hindu prayers: Actually they’re mostly mantras which have subtle effects on the body and psyche, much in the same way recitation of verses from the Quran do. By the way, the prayers develop love for God and the Divine’s various aspects, they’re not packages sent to the Great Jinn of Mount KinabaluTM. The prayers – like prayers from all religions – promote compassion, not division and hatred.

  2. Blasphemous God Union: Gosh, that’s a mouthful. I am no expert on Islam, but I have spent time reading esoteric material, including Islamic texts (perhaps they were blasphemous?), at their very core religions do not disagree. Humans and their often half-baked (read: shallow) interpretations do. Discovery and realisation of the Self as being part of the Whole (== Yoga) is a theme and a goal common to all major religions. The relationship between a human – an emanation of the Divine – and the Divine, is a very personal one. So long as that emanation has not caused harm to others, what right does a council of just-as-fallible humans have to call that relationship blasphemous?

A plea perhaps to the hearts of those in the council who see the absurdity of this ban to lift it. In the long term it will do more harm than good for Malaysia as a member of a diverse World. Malaysia – Truly Asia. Last I checked India and it’s culture was very much a part of Asia. As was the notion of unity in diversity.

— Kamal

PS. Checked again, yep, still there folks.

PPS. Dear Editor(s), besides grammatical errors, or redundant sentences, if you intend to cut parts out, please either discuss it with me, or don’t bother printing it. I will understand – thanks to my oh-so-great degree of tolerance, even if our religions may differ :-).

PPPS. “==” is a bit of a computer programming thing, let it be an obscure joke.

When I wrote that, I did not realise that the ban was only applicable to Muslims, so perhaps I kind of understand the problem with Hindu prayers – anyway, still pretty silly overall.

— Kamal