Muslims to be able to ‘poco-poco’ in Malaysia. Middle East next?
Malaysian Muslims will be allowed to perform the controversial “poco-poco” line dance after the country’s top Muslim clerics ruled that its benefits to health outweigh concerns about taste and decency, reported Agence France Presse.
Earlier, a mufti (a Muslim legal expert) in the predominantly Islamic—but multicultural—nation had outlawed the dance in his state, saying it amounted to cult practices and that its crossed-shaped movement was associated with Christianity.
However, Abdul Shukor Husin, chairman of the country’s National Fatwa Council, said Islamic experts had decided to reverse the ban, paving the way for its free use.
“If they can adhere to the regulations... and if it can bring about positive impact to health, then we have no objection on that matter,” he was quoted as saying to Bernama news agency after chairing a special meeting.
Muslim women, however, have been reminded not to wear revealing clothes or to mix freely with men while dancing.
Harussani Zakaria, an elderly mufti from the northern state of Perak, maintained that the “poco-poco” dance violated Islamic law and insisted on its ban—irrespective of the Fatwa Council’s decision as Muslim matters are covered by local law.
“The dance differs from one place to another; even the songs are different. It has probably become an issue in Perak, but in other states, the dance is regarded like another form of an exercise,” Deputy Minister in the Malaysian Prime Minister's Department Dr. Mashitah Ibrahim told reporters.
When asked whether the Malaysian Islamic Development Department would consider banning the dance, Dr. Mashitah said it would only be an issue if there were a complaint from the public.
“So far, there is no complaint which says that the dance is associated with elements that contravene Islamic religious teachings. So, if nobody complained, there is no reason for us to study it,” she said.
In Malaysia, many adults and children take part in the dance, which is considered a recreational activity to keep in shape.
Over 60 percent of the country’s 28 million are Muslim Malays, and other faiths have expressed concerns of creeping Islamization in this multi-ethnic country.
Norazliza Alias, a dance instructor, said her students were mainly women who just “love to sweat with poco-poco movements to music.”
“The dance I teach is not linked to any religion. My clients really have fun, with mothers bringing in their sons and daughters to join in,” she said.
The origin of the “poco-poco” dance is unclear but many believe it originated in Indonesia more than 20 years ago to accompany a song of the same name.
“Poco-poco” is also a Jamaican word that relates to a wild dance under the possession of spirits.
(Sara Ghasemilee of Al Arabiya can be reached at: [email protected])