SHAFAQNA -Â The first International Day of Yoga has sparked a race row in India, with some Muslims accusing the government of pushing a Hindu agenda. They have also claimed that practising yoga flies in the face of Islamic teaching.
The day is being celebrated around the world: in New Yorkâ€™s Times Square, 30,000 people areÂ set to take part in a mass yoga session, while in Paris, thousands of French yoga fans dressed in white and sat on yellow mats under the Eiffel Tower.
In New Delhi, the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who had lobbied the UN to make the day an international event, joined his cabinet ministers, foreign diplomats, and thousands of fellow IndiansÂ in attempting to set a new record for the largest single yoga class.
ButÂ Kamal Farooqui, a member of the Muslim Personal Law Board in India has accused Mr Modiâ€™sÂ Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of pushing a Hindu agenda.Â â€œYoga is not the only form of exercise, there are other forms of exercise too,â€ he added.
According to the BBC,Â some Muslims hold that yoga is a religious practice, and that by chanting â€œOmâ€ or performing the Sun Salutation, practitioners are essentially transgressing the monotheism that Islam preaches.
In response, a member of Parliament belonging to the BJPÂ has said â€œthose opposing yoga should either leave the country or drown themselves in the ocean.â€
The historian Dilip Simeon has lambasted Hindu politicians for what he calls aÂ â€œmanufactured controversy,â€ which he says is â€œyet another example of deceitful polemic.â€ Writing for the Indian ExpressÂ he accused them of promoting Hindu culture as the dominant belief system, saying: â€œSo now yoga is essential not only to Hinduism but to national pride. Refusal to submit to this rule is treachery.
â€œPerhaps some energetic policemen will lodge a case of sedition against anyone refusing to perform suryanamaskar.â€
He was also dismissive of the Muslimâ€™s claims that yoga defied Islam, writing: â€œTo treat it as a Hindu religious ritual is equivalent to believing that aerobics are a step towards Christianity or that acupuncture is an insignia of Chinese imperialism.â€
IndianÂ census figures indicate that 80 percent of Indiaâ€™s population are Hindu, whilst 13.4 percent describe themselves as Muslim.