By Fathol Zaman Bukhari
So another innocuous craze, following in the steps of yoga, bites the dust. I reserve my sympathies for my serving army friends and their wives whose love for the dance knows no bounds.
March has been one eventful month for Malaysians. It began with the unprecedented Magnitude 9 earthquake that devastated north-eastern Japan, following in its heels was the screening of the sex video clip purporting to show Opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim and finally, the banning of poco-poco, a group dance routine, by Perak Fatwa Council helmed by Mufti Tan Sri Harussani Zakaria. These three events will leave an indelible impression on Malaysians. The one which may have a far greater impact on Perakeans is the banning of poco-poco, as the edict is only confined to Perak.
Poco-poco, by all reckoning, is Indonesian in flavour and origin. It is also the title of a popular Indonesian song in the 1990s. The dance, done in a group and to the accompaniment of a song or music, consists of a sequence of steps that require participants to move from right to left and then forward and backward. It has gained popularity, especially among Malays.
In fact, poco-poco is considered the most popular dance routine in the armed forces. No military officers worth their salt will dare claim that they are unfamiliar with the steps. I say this with conviction because I have been roped in, time and again, to join the mass of sweating bodies gyrating on the floor whenever I attend a military function. The craze has taken the armed forces by storm beginning in the early 2000s. It is a must at any military function when a musical band is present. No commanders will dare foreclose a formal gathering without poco-poco. It is one way to let down your hair – literally.
The Perak Fatwa Council’s reason for declaring poco-poco haram for Muslims is because it “contains elements of Christianity as well as spirit-worship”. Based on research, the council claims that “the dance is widely practised in Jamaica (of all places) and has Christian idolatry connotations”.
Menteri Besar Perak, Dato’ Seri Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir has adopted a conciliatory approach over the ruling. He asked that the edict be respected and that all quarters should not question its relevance.
The next stage is to have it gazetted. Harussani will not budge in spite of calls for a review. Most are of the opinion that poco-poco is purely an exercise routine similar to line dance, which has a huge following in the country. Banning it will only restrict avenues available to Muslims to exercise.
Former Perlis Mufti Dr. Mohd Asri Zainul Abdidin said there was no rational reason for the dance to be banned if it is done “for health reasons without elements of alcohol and free sex.”
Sisters-in-Islam said it regretted that “religion was being used to justify the imposition of arbitrary and intrusive policies in every aspect of Muslims’ lives.”
Datuk Dr. Mashitah Ibrahim, the Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department took a less conciliatory view of the ban. She too considered it as just another form of exercise and, therefore, should not come under the hammer. Mashitah, however, turned philosophical when she declared, rather poignantly, “It’ll only be in Perak, as the decision was not the collective decision of muftis nationwide.”
So another inno-cuous craze, following in the steps of yoga, bites the dust. I reserve my sympathies for my serving army friends and their wives whose love for the dance knows no bounds.
They are, however, at liberty to poco-poco to their hearts’ content; no, not in Perak but outside of the state. They may have to find another form of group dance to satisfy their urge to boogey, once the music hits a crescendo. Hopefully, line dance will not suffer the same fate since it is largely performed by kafir (infidels).