Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah to the National Fatwa Council, “Oh no you di’int!”
Sultan Sharafuddin is one of the nine kings who hold court in the nine states of Malaysia. Largely a symbolic and ceremonial position, these guys take turns as “sultan” - kinda like if there were a party of nine Queens of England.
Turns out the National Fatwa Council’s ruling to ban yoga ruffled some royal feathers, and Sultan Sharafuddin is voicing his disapproval, “in future, any fatwa decision that touches on issues involving the general public should be referred to the Conference of Rulers to be approved first before it is announced,” he said.
Sharafuddin also said the fatwa on yoga “is still not enforced in Selangor because it has not been brought to the Selangor State Fatwa Committee.”
In your face National Fatwa Council! kinda.
So is there hope yet for Muslim yogis in Malaysia?
None of the other sultans have spoken up, including the current king, but they obviously aren’t pleased with the decision as this is the first time that a Fatwa Council’s ruling has been criticized by a state sultan. A sign that perhaps there is hope for yoga in Malaysia yet.
Still, the edict reflects the growing influence of conservative Islam in Malaysia, a multiethnic country where minority ethnic Chinese and mostly Hindu ethnic Indians have been clamoring for more rights.
Analysts say the fatwa could be the result of insecurity among Malay Muslims after their party — in power since 1957 — saw its parliamentary majority greatly reduced in elections because of gains by opposition parties supported by the minorities.
(We have to admit, when we first saw this story we thought for sure they’d tell us all the sultans marched down to yoga class every morning. That would’ve been something! right? sigh.)
Malay Royal Questions Ban on yoga for Muslims [International Herald Tribune]