Monday, March 9, 2009

Yoga: Is it really 'haram'?

You may keep this issue fresh in your mind - an Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) issued fatwa (edict) after its Malaysian counterpart banned yoga. It's pointless even attempting to make sense of it.

Well, as Wisnu described (2009) in his article titled "Yoga in-sync with Islam, experts say" in the Jakarta Post that 'Islam and yoga share more similarities'. Indeed. In what ways? In some ways while praying or shalat, the moves are quite similar to the moves practiced in yoga - for instance, the way we stand as a start, the ruku (bending over with the hands over the kneecaps), the sujud (kneeling with the face down on the floor) and the way we sit after the sujud - we can see all of the moves in yoga.

Salman Harun, a professor at Jakarta's Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University and a noted Koranic scholar, said the moves in shalat prove beneficial to people's health. Indeed - because the moves in shalat are very good for our circulatory system. Regarding health, many forms of yoga incorporate breathing exercises that are also good for our respiratory system. So, yoga has little to do with any incantations or any context of worship instead of healthcare. This has been emphasised by Salman who argued that most forms of yoga practiced today are not Hindu by nature, but it's an age-old method to connect to a cosmic force.

Yet still, it isn't clear why the MUI suddenly issued the edict which seemed more motivated by political and economic factors to me. A similar thing also happened when the MUI issued fatwa (edict) on the ban on smoking. Why 'just now'? Why not many years ago? I totally agree with the ban concerning people's health - but it would be an exaggeration to say smoking is 'haram'. In a way, smoking is still deemed makruh (blameworthy) for Muslims, not haram. The MUI might have had an exaggerated sense of their own ambitions, I think. If they'd intended to discourage smoking, they shouldn't have implicated smoking as a sin or an estrangement from God.

So, it's currently up to us. We're mature enough to know right from wrong, aren't we?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

E-cigarette is burning to introduce a new innovation of smoking

As soon as I got up, I went downstairs to the kitchen. I boiled some water to make a cup of mochaccino and then searched the fridge for brownies I bought the other day. Appetite suppressed, I went up to my room to grab The Jakarta Post published on 19 February 2009 and sat down in a balcony. When I turned and looked over the pages of the newspaper under “Lifestyle”, I was hooked by this article titled “The E-Smoking Revolution”, preceded with the first statement: ‘good news for all the world’s smokers – especially those who want to quit but just can’t seem to.’

Well, let me begin by telling you that I am neither a smoker nor a drinker. OK, I drink wine – but only a little. I am such a girl who is really concerned about health. I am very careful about what I eat and drink and I also exercise. In contrast, my dad is a heavy smoker – he has become a tobacco addict since he was still young. He can light two packets of cigarettes per day. His health is my major worry. In fact, I’ve ensured that cigarette smoking is dangerous to his health. I often try to tell him to stop, but it seems a vain attempt for him to give up smoking. Did you use to follow the comedy series FRIENDS? If yes, do you still remember a time when Chandler told Joey to view the cigarette he was holding as something that had been missing, and holding it made him feel all right and complete. My dad might probably think the same – in which smoking cigarette may be his freedom of choice and forcing him to stop may be an intrusion into his personal freedom.

Although most countries put restrictions on the smoking of cigarettes, over a billion people smoke every day – according to World Health Organization (cited in Microsoft Encarta 2007), 31.4 per cent of total population in Indonesia smokes and my dad is included. Banning smoking will be forever impossible if people still buy and smoke cigarettes, and tobacco companies still deliberately produce this addictive stuff and make it into a big business, and cigarette advertisers keep persuading people to buy their products. OK, I used to join a debating society in high school – and a topic about smoking came up in discussion a few times, questioning if smoking should be banned. Well, it was a stroke of luck that I had to give reasons in support of this key question frequently. However, I’ve never come up with a brilliant solution except for the restrictions on the advertising, selling and smoking of cigarettes – I might have forgot that the economy of Indonesia is very dependant on taxes from tobacco sales. WOW!

Thanks to our technologically driven world that makes everything possible – technological advance today enables smokers to experience the most harmless smoking by inventing an E-cigarette, or also called an electronic cigarette. According to The Jakarta Post (2009), ‘it’s an electronic smoking device which is a non-flammable product and uses micro-electronic technology’. Unlike a real cigarette, it doesn’t contain tobacco, tar, or carbon monoxide which can be dangerous for health. Its body is constituted of three parts: a nicotine cartridge, an atomisation chamber and a chip with a lithium battery. It looks like a cigarette; when puffed, an operating indicator light in the front tip gets red. As the nicotine cartridge heats up, the atomisation chamber produces a vapour without delivering any nicotine to the nose.

This electronic device is equipped with an E-cigarette kit, including cartridges available in various powers (high: 16mg nicotine, medium: 11mg nicotine, low: 6mg nicotine, and none: 0mg nicotine) and different flavours (apple, cherry, strawberry, chocolate, vanilla, coffee, and mint), two rechargeable batteries, a charger adaptor and a power cord. Yeah, that’s right; it doesn’t cause any pollution because it doesn’t create any smoke of chemical fumes. Also, it is rechargeable that cigarettes butts and ashes are no longer environmental issues.

Unfortunately, the E-cigarette is only available in the US now. It requires the Internet in the process of shipping. As you know, the Internet still seems too rare in some countries, especially developing countries. If many developing countries surprisingly have more than 35 per cent of total population who smokes, how can the E-cigarette be an effective smoking cessation method? And with all these technological features, the E-cigarette must be very expensive. Furthermore, what calls it into question is inappropriate use of the E-cigarette for those under the age of 18 years and pregnant or breast feeding women although it is considered fake. The question is: WHY???! That makes me wonder about the possible health effects of the E-smoking. What are the possibilities that this very sophisticated way of smoking will be able to harm people’s health? How effective is the ability of the E-cigarette to help smokers give up their smoking habits? That’s what we also expect the E-cigarette companies to answer, huh?

Additional information: Wanna know more about E-smoking? Click here!