A Daily news digest by Jasper van Santen

In Queens, Seeking to Clear a Path Between Yoga and Islam – NYTimes.com

In Nonsense on April 9, 2012 at 11:18

In Queens, Seeking to Clear a Path Between Yoga and Islam 

As a community activist in Queens, Muhammad Rashid has fought for the rights of immigrants held in detention, sought the preservation of local movie theaters and held a street fair to promote diversity. But few of those causes brought him anywhere near as much grief and controversy as his stance on yoga.

Mr. Rashid, a Muslim, said he had long believed that practicing yoga was tantamount to “denouncing my religion.” “Yoga is not for Muslims,” he said. “It was forbidden.”

But after moving to New York in 1997 from Bahrain, he slowly began to rethink his stance. Now Mr. Rashid, 56, has come full circle: not only has he adopted yoga into his daily routine, but he has also encouraged other Muslims to do so — putting himself squarely against those who consider yoga a sin against Islam.

In New York City, where yoga has become as secular an activity as spinning or step aerobics, the potential sins of yoga are not typically debated by those clad in Lululemon leggings. But in some predominantly Muslim pockets like Jackson Heights, Queens, yoga has been slow to catch on, especially among first-generation immigrants, newly arrived from cultures where yoga is considered Hindu worship.

When Mr. Rashid, who also tutors children, had his students learn yoga to help improve their concentration, three Muslim students quit after a few yoga sessions, he said, in part, he believed, because of their families’ stance toward the practice. “I am putting them in something extra that is not in the Muslim religion,” he said. “The parents did not accept it.”

 

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