Finally it has come. The fatwa against yoga. It seems that this is part of the ongoing effort to “clean up” Malay Islam of elements likely to confuse the Malays, highly prone, it appears, to confusion, and to weaken their faith, a faith that needs to be protected. If this process continues, with the animistic, Hindu, Buddhist, and other elements in Malay culture being totally removed, assuming that such a thing is possible at all, there may be very little left.
One does not have to be well-versed in the history of culture, including religion, to see what Malay culture is made up of. The fact is that, even if, just as an exercise in fancy, these so-called potentially threatening elements were removed, there would remain the root animism, which is certainly indigenous, indigenous in the sense that it belonged to all lands, including our own, before the arrival of the “higher” religions. Research has shown that apart from its Arab elements, in every part of the world, wherever Islam reached, it absorbed local elements. That is what enriched the culture of Islam, shaped it into a vibrant and diverse force for positive change, made it universal, and universally attractive.
Even in this country, a handful of our leaders, at least, have never denied their great admiration for Andalusian Islam, which, in some vague sense, possibly served as a model for Islam “Hadari”. But Andalusian Islam was a syncretic Islam, like Persian Islam, like Indian Islam, like Anatolian Islam—all different from each other, all great in their own ways. However, given the state of modern jahiliyya (literally, ignorance) being actively encouraged in this country, hardly anything is known amongst Malay Muslims about these civilizations and others like them.
Perhaps, reaching back into the history of Islam prior to these and other great ages, it is the intention of our protectors of Malay Islam to return to the pure and simple Islam of the Holy Prophet (saw) and his early Companions. If this were possible it would certainly be an admirable achievement; for a start, we can begin by hounding away the hantu and banishing the bomoh.
The fact, however, that no critical analysis, no unbiased study, no open discussion of any sort has taken place before the issuance of bans such at that on yoga, suggests nothing but the suppression of the facility of thought, the glorification of ignorance.