Muslims in Indonesia have been banned from doing yoga if they engage in Hindu religious rituals during the exercise, the chairman of the country's top Islamic body said on Sunday.
About 700 clerics from the Indonesian Council of Ulemas (MUI) agreed to ban the practice of yoga over fears that the use of Hindu prayers could "erode" Muslims' faith.
"The yoga practice that contains religious rituals of Hinduism including the recitation of mantras is "haram" (forbidden in Islam)," Ma'ruf Amin, a spokesman for the group, said.
"Muslims should not practise other religious rituals as it will erode and weaken their Islamic faith," he added.
The council said Muslims could do yoga as long as it is was only for physical exercise and did not include chanting, mantras or meditation.
The MUI has carved a key role for itself in Indonesia and its pronouncements on everything from Islamic banking to halal food can have a powerful influence. The fatwas are not legally binding but can influence government policy and it is considered sinful to ignore them.
Yoga, an ancient Indian aid to meditation dating back thousands of years, is a popular stress-buster in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta.
Indonesia, which is officially secular, has the world's largest Muslim population. Nearly 90 per cent of the country's 234 million people are followers of Islam. (source: wires)
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