Making Yoga Religion-Neutral

Hardnews Bureau Delhi

With the first-ever International Yoga Day set to be celebrated this Sunday, the central government seems to be hard at work to ensure that it is not just Hindus who are celebrating. In an effort to push for Yoga’s universal appeal, the Union AYUSH Ministry on Wednesday released a book titled ‘Yoga and Islam’.

The book aims to address the apprehensions of various minority communities over participating in the programmes. To make yoga more culturally inclusive, the ministry decided to drop Om and Surya Namaskar and instead suggests that Muslims can chant the name of Allah in place of Shlokas. Insisting that ‘namaaz is one sort of yoga asana’, the book seeks to ensure maximum participation and reiterate the belief that yoga’s appeal transcends religion.

Countries all over the world are gearing-up to celebrate this day with a mass demonstration of around 30,000 people expected at New York’s Times Square. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will kick-start the day’s celebrations with a keynote address at UN headquarters.

"Yoga offers a simple, accessible and inclusive means to promote physical and spirtual health and well-being," Ban Ki-moon said in his message for International Day of Yoga. "It promotes respect for one's fellow human beings and for the planet we share."

The United Nations declared June 21 as International Day of Yoga after adopting a measure proposed by PM Narendra Modi in his speech at the UN General Assembly last year in December. The proposal was approved by an overwhelming number of countries i.e. 177 and it was the largest number of co-sponsors ever for such a resolution.