KUALA LUMPUR, 25 Nov 2008: Former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad today urged the relevant parties not to turn the National Fatwa Council’s decision to bar Muslims from practising yoga into a religious issue.
“If they (National Fatwa Council) believe it is wrong, then it is wrong. It is unfortunate that other people think that it is a slur on their religion. It is like saying Muslims should not eat pork, and it is not an insult to the Chinese. It is the same when Muslims cannot do yoga. It is not because they are insulting the Hindus.
“It is just that they should not do it. Whether the Malays follow it or not, that is really their business. Other people should not make it a religious issue. Like all other things forbidden among Muslims, it is not an insult to others.
“But people want to make an issue of this. I feel very sorry. Personally, I don’t care very much if you stand on your head or stand on your feet. It is not as if by performing yoga you immediately become a non-Muslim.”
He told reporters this after presenting a keynote address at the English and Asia 2008 First International Conference on Language and Linguistics organised by the International Islamic University Malaysia, here, today.
On 22 Nov, the National Fatwa Council issued an edict barring Muslims from performing yoga, saying that it was against the teachings of Islam.
Earlier, in his keynote address, he said the fear of some in the country that learning and using English would erode the importance of Bahasa Malaysia, was unfounded.
Mahathir said he was criticised by nationalists for wanting the government to continue teaching Science and Mathematics in English, but English was the only language where Malaysians could gain much knowledge in these two subjects.
“Before I stepped down as prime minister, I introduced this system because I felt it was necessary for us to gain knowledge. If we are going to translate all the works of Science and Mathematics into Bahasa Malaysia, then it would take a long time and we would lose out.
“But lately there has been a debate about this and that we need to revert to the old system of using Bahasa Malaysia to teach and learn Science and Maths. The Education Ministry is going to decide on this very soon.
“There are pros and cons to this and I do worry about it. Our people should know how to read, write and speak the national language but at the same time to gain knowledge, they should learn and use English,” he added.
He said the amount of new knowledge was coming out “fast and furious” and Malaysians needed to grasp the knowledge, which were mostly in English.
“I hope I can stop the government from going back to using Bahasa Malaysia to teach Maths and Science but I am no more in power. We have to accept whatever the decision although it may not be that good for the country.” — Bernama