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Part One

29 minutes
First broadcast:
Saturday 19 October 2013

Iranian writer and broadcaster Azadeh Moaveni examines the relationship between yoga and Islam in Iran.

Over the last decade the yoga movement in Iran has exploded. Yoga warrants its own magazines and TV shows. And yet this is also a country where physical activity is controlled. Rollerblading and walking dogs in public have been banned. But when it comes to yoga, surprisingly, the government has made little fuss.

In other parts of the Muslim world including in Malaysia and Indonesia, yoga has been deemed incompatible with Islam. In 2008, the Malaysian government issued a fatwa banning some features of yoga practice including the chanting of mantras. The move drew criticisms from many who have felt real physical and mental benefits from yoga.

In this two part series Azadeh, herself a yoga devotee, asks; why has yoga been fully embraced in some Muslim countries but not in others? How do followers of yoga in different parts of the Muslim world view their practice? What are the true spiritual roots of yoga and can the practice be adapted to suit different faiths and perspectives?

She talks to yoga followers, both religious and non-religious, who have practised in Iran and in other parts of the Muslim world. She hears from a leading Iranian cleric about the Iranian authorities’ take on yoga. And she speaks to the Malaysian activist Marina Mahathir, about the 2008 fatwa against yoga in her country.

Produced by Sarah Cuddon, Falling Tree Productions

Picture: Farida Hamza practising yoga


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