Kuwait Cracks Down on "Depraved" Yoga Retreat

Kuwait's conservative right-wing politicians and clerics are crying foul over yoga. Lawmakers and Islamic scholars are bizarrely fixated on the lotus and downward dog, calling it a danger and depravity of women. Other conservatives label it as an attack on Islam. The uproar has prompted the Kuwaiti government to cancel a yoga instructor's desert wellness yoga retreat.

Eman Al Husseinan, a Kuwait-based yoga instructor, said authorities canceled her yoga retreat event because she needed a permit. She also came under fierce media attacks over it.

Husseinan said she was unaware that holding yoga sessions in the desert needed a permit. "I was contacted by the interior ministry, which clarified the importance of these permits," she said. Husseinan stressed that her event would require "appropriate attire to participate in the sessions, which is modest clothing." "They projected an image of the event in a manner that was insulting, portraying it to be immoral," Husseinan added.

Hamdan Al Azmi, a conservative lawmaker, said the desert wellness yoga event is "alien" to Kuwait's conservative society. "This is a serious matter, and we urge the interior minister to move swiftly in stopping these practices," Hamdan demanded.

Hamdan also accused outsiders of attacking the Arab heritage and called yoga a "cultural travesty." "If defending the daughters of Kuwait is backward, I am honored to be called it," Hamdan proudly declared online.

Women's rights advocates and activists quickly responded to Hamdan's callous condemnation. On February 7, women's rights groups and other advocacy groups protested at Erada Square outside Kuwait's parliament. Protesters held placards calling out the government and dismissing rulings based on fatwas.

Ibtihal al-Khatib, a university professor and an activist, said they needed to retaliate to ward off more regression from Kuwait's increasingly influential conservative figures.

Hadeel Buqrais, a women's rights advocate, said they want "the government and MPs to understand is that we do not accept the exploitation of women's issues and their freedoms for the settlement of political scores."

Alanoud Alsharekh, the founder of Abolish 153, an advocacy group for eliminating article 153 in Kuwait's penal code, which gives lax punishments for honor killing, said the hostility against women's rights is becoming more apparent and public. 'It's spilled into our personal freedoms," she said.

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