Cutting across party lines, politicians on Saturday united to call for an action to be taken against those issuing death threats to Rafia Naaz, Muslim Yoga teacher in Ranchi, Jharkhand. Muslim clerics have reportedly issued a fatwa against her. Naaz informed that threats started coming after the first International Yoga day and haven’t stopped in the past three years. Commenting on the threats, Naaz said that the threats had stopped a few days ago, but started again from October 10. Naaz has been performing yoga since the age of four and became popular in her community after sharing the stage with yoga guru Ramdev.
An incident of stone pelting also took place at her house on Wednesday, when the security guard went on a break. The incident stopped soon after police intervention, but resumed on Thursday morning again.”The threat to my life is also because I’m a student leader. I work towards the safety of students and I actively participate in and work for the society. So, there has always been a certain degree of threat to my life,” Naaz said. She further added that practicing yoga as a Muslim had never been an issue in her family as well as the neighborhood. “At home, I was never told that yoga belongs to any particular religion or caste; and the people who have threatened me, don’t have enough knowledge about Islam,” Naaz said.
The BJP leader Nupur Sharma said, “It is absolutely unfortunate. Women are targeted adversely for singing song, acting in movie and now for teaching Yoga. This is a free country. Women have been guaranteed equal rights under the constitution of India. I see no reason why any religious cleric should come out and either issue fatwas and in this case give her death threats.” Shiv Sena leader Manisha Kayande said, “I think this matter is very serious and the home ministry needs to arrest the person concerned. She is performing her duties and it is the government’s directive also to teach Yoga in schools.”
As soon as the death threats came to the attention of state police, Naaz was provided with a security guard by Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Kuldeep Dwivedi. Meanwhile, noted yoga guru Ramdev has also come out in her support. Reacting to the incident, Ramdev said, ”From Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan to Saudi Arabia so many Muslims practice Yoga. It is an exercise which is good for mental and physical wellness. Religion shouldn’t be brought into this.”