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Even a year ago, teaching these yoga postures could have rendered them outlaws in the kingdom. Widely perceived as a Hindu spiritual practice, yoga was not officially permitted for decades in Saudi Arabia, the cradle of Islam where all non-Muslim worship is banned.But with Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman vowing an "open, moderate Islam," the kingdom last November recognized yoga as a sport amid a new liberalization drive that has sidelined religious hardliners.Spearheading efforts to normalize yoga in the kingdom is Nouf Marwaai, a Saudi woman who has battled insults and threats from extremists to challenge the notion that yoga is incompatible with Islam.In just a few months since yoga's recognition, a new industry of yoga studios and instructors has sprouted in various Saudi cities.Yoga is seen at odds with several other faiths, but the recognition of the practice in Saudi Arabia the epicenter of the Islamic world appears to have given a new impetus to Muslim yoga practitioners around the world.Marwaai is taking on conservatives not just in the kingdom but also India, the birthplace of yoga where preachers last year slapped a fatwa, or religious edict, against a female Muslim yoga teacher just days before the kingdom recognized the sport.
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