As a community activist in Queens, Muhammad Rashid has fought for the rights of immigrants held in detention, sought the preservation of local movie theaters, and held a street fair to promote diversity.
But few of those causes brought him anywhere near as much grief and controversy as his stance on yoga.
Mr. Rashid, a Muslim, said he had long believed that practicing yoga was tantamount to “denouncing my religion.”
“Yoga is not for Muslims,” he said. “It was forbidden.”
But after moving to New York in 1997 from Bahrain, he slowly began to rethink his stance. Now Mr. Rashid, 56, has come full circle: not only has he adopted yoga into his daily routine, but he has also encouraged other Muslims to do so — putting himself squarely against those who consider yoga a sin against Islam.
From what I have heard the modern history of yoga exhibits some complexity, insofar as Western and de facto secular interest in the practice elicited a counter-reaction from Indian thinkers, who reclaimed the practice. As part of the reclamation project there was an attempt to imbue yoga more definitively with Indian religious concepts.