Bali Kicks Off Yoga Festival Despite Muslim Fatwa

The Indonesian island of Bali kicked off an eight-day yoga festival Tuesday despite the country's top Muslim clerics issuing a fatwa against the exercise that is viewed as a threat to Islam, Agence France-Presse reported.

The Indonesian Council of Ulemas issued the fatwa in January, saying Indonesian Muslims were forbidden to practice yoga that involves Hindu religious rituals like chanting mantras, according to the AFP.

Organizers of the international event hope to introduce the popular practice to a wider audience.

"The festival has a universal value. It doesn't belong to any religious teachings," International Bali-India Yoga Festival spokeswoman Susi Andrini told the AFP.

The fatwa sparked an uproar from people who said the council had no authority over people's right to perform the exercise. The religious edict is not legally binding, but it is seen as a sin to disobey it.

The Muslim religious body did say performing yoga purely for exercise was acceptable.

About 500 people from countries such as the U.S., Germany, Sweden, Japan and China are expected to participate in the festival.

Click here to read the AFP report.