Indonesia: Fatwa against smoking, yoga, vasectomies….

The Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), the country’s highest Islamic authority, has issued a Fatwa against the following last week:

1. A ban on aspects of yoga that contain Hindu elements.

2. A ban on vote abstention if “qualified” candidates exist.

3. A ban on smoking by children and pregnant women, and in public places.

4. A ban on abortion unless the mother is a rape victim, the pregnancy endangers her life, or the fetus is aged less than 5 weeks.

5. A ban on vasectomy because the process is “irreversible”.

6. A ban on marriage with minors, based on a 1974 law that forbids men under 19 and women under 16 years old from marrying.

The edict against yoga has captured the attention of many people in the world. A few weeks ago, Malaysia also banned the mantras associated with yoga. Indonesians are debating the fatwa in an online forum. As expected, yoga teachers criticized the ban on yoga:

“To me, yoga is not something that can be regulated by clerics. It’s up to the individual how they practice it,” said Pujiastuti Sindhu, a Muslim and the owner of the Yoga Leaf Studio in Bandung, south of the capital Jakarta.

“The clerics are afraid that people who practice yoga are worshipping another god but we are not. It’s only because they don’t understand what yoga is and they feel it’s a threat. They should go to yoga class and try it.”

Via Twitter, here are some of the comments on the Fatwa:

astrid_amalia: If yoga is a sin, then let me live in my own sin. Yoga has proven 2 open my eyes about God, so where's the sin?

ifahmi: I do read the Fatwa. And for me all of them are stupid, because it's none of their bussiness. Smoking, Yoga, vasectomy, voting.

kapkap: Very very embarrassing. While people are striving to overcome global crisis, here MUI talking stuffs such as yoga is evil

LeonnieFM: I read many tweets about MUI tonight saying about they ban yoga? I suggest they ban them selves for being such hypocrite

Everything Indonesia reminds the Ulema Council that there are other more important issues than yoga:

I have no particular beef with the Ulema Council that recently banned yoga for Indonesian Muslims. But don't they have better things to do, than touring the country's gym classes and coming out against Hindu chanting?

The fatwa was also criticized by the Nahdlatul Ulama, Indonesia’s biggest Islamic organization:

Nahdlatul Ulama, Indonesia’s biggest Islamic organisation, slammed the edicts as “excessive.”

NU deputy head Masdar F. Mas’udi said the MUI should not have dragged religion into the three matters.

Yoga, as it is practiced in Indonesia, he said, was a pastime and must not be seen in the context of religious worship.

To discourage people from smoking, he added, the MUI should not use “Islamic law” as a tool.

He also said the MUI should “not bring in God and threaten people with hell” if it wanted to encourage Muslims to vote.

My Busy Brain believes there is no teaching against abstinence from voting:

“Regarding the abstinence from voting, I don’t see anything from the teaching in Islam, which is clearly written in the Qur’an, that says not voting is haram(sinful act). What Islam teaches is to pick the right leader (with all the description of what a good leader should be like). Islam also teaches about choices. It teaches about freedom.”

Multibrand says the fatwa cannot be enforced legally:

“I say that although according to our legal system a Fatwa of MUI is not part of our positive law, therefore could not be enforced legally, however considering MUI is the highest Moslem religious authority said Fatwa will surely have moral impact especially among people living in rural area.”

Smokers were disappointed with the fatwa against smoking:

“I am angry about the fatwa, because both my father and grandfather are smokers and the new fatwa now makes them sinners,” said Abdul Hardiyanto, 38, a Muslim stock broker.

“I am going to keep smoking, because religion must stay away from this matter. We have government regulation for this kind of thing,” added Wisena, 33, a Muslim who works in a fish shop.

The photo that appeared in the homepage was taken from the My Yoga Online.


  • Indonesia is a paradise for smoker and smoking industry.

    I think people should stop smoking in public not because ‘fatwa’ or regulation. But simply because they’re poisoning other people who inhale the smoke.
    And if I’m not mistaken, the ban on smoking is not only for children and pregnant women, and in public places. But also for MUI member. Good for them.

  • Siapa bilang Indonesia surga bagi perokok?! Tidak juga, yang lebih parah dari Indonesia (ex. surga opium, surga free sex) bukan Indonesia. Tidak perlu membesar-besarkan fatwa keharaman rokok yang sekedar menyokong pemerintah tapi mengabaikan status yang sebenarnya terkait hukum rokok tersebut.

  • Bukan surga bagi perokok? Bilang itu pada perokok yang merokok di dalam angkot, di sebelah bayi dan anak-anak, di dalam ruang sidang MPR, di dalam kelas dan ruang kuliah, yang mengijinkan anak kecil membeli rokok, yang membagikan rokok seperti kacang di konser musik dan pameran. Tidak perlu bangga kalau Indonesia bukan yang paling parah.

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