Malaysian fatwas: No tomboys, no yoga

by Norman Vasu*

Here is a brief report on two recent Fatwas from Malaysia that are raising some eyebrows.  The first one was issued on October 23, 2008.  Malaysia’s National Fatwa Council released an edict banning “tomboys” in the Muslim-majority country. The mufti of Malaysian state of Perak, Harussani Idris Zakaria, maintained that the Council was concerned that an increasing number of Muslim girls are behaving like tomboys and some of them engage in homosexuality. Under the edict, girls are forbidden to sport short hair and dress, walk and act like boys, while boys are forbidden to act like girls.  According to one news report, the new rule set off protests in the country that became a matter of concern for police.

Closely following the tomboys prohibition, the Council in November ruled against yoga. According to the Council’s chairman, Datuk Dr Abdul Shukor Husin, there are three stages to the practice of yoga: First, the physical aspect which involves exercise; second, the mantras and worshiping; and third, the unification of oneself with God. Although the physical aspect of yoga without the mantras and elements of worshipping outwardly is not wrong in Islam, yoga is not to be encouraged as it involves chants and acts of worship in order to be one with the god of another religion – in this case, Hinduism.

*Norman Vasu is an Assistant Professor in the S. Rajaratnam Graduate School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.