NEW DELHI, June 17 (UPI) -- India's officially designated Yoga Day has become the target of Muslim criticism for its adoption of chants with religious connotations.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has presided over India's latest initiative – a 35-minute public demonstration of yoga by more than 35,000 civil servants – scheduled for June 21, The New York Times reported. The exercise, however, with its Sanskrit incantations and various postures are seen by some Muslim activist groups as a violation of the monotheistic core of Islam.
Modi's yoga event is reaching beyond India's borders, NPR reported. It is being held in 192 countries, with a central mission to bring a conflict-ridden world "on a path of peace," according to Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj.
In India, Modi's staff is working to correct misperceptions about the goal of the initiative, after a conservative parliamentarian told those opposed to the idea of doing the sun salutation to go "drown in the sea."
Not all Muslims are opposed to the idea of public yoga.
Muslim filmmaker Sohail Hashmi said he does not have reservations about the sun salutation or yoga, which he regards as "universal."
"This is a very good method of cleaning up your body and toning up your body," Hashmi told NPR.
Modi's appeal to India's spiritual roots is expected to make a most unconventional impact on Indian bureaucrats.
The civil servants who are mostly required to attend what's expected to be the world's largest yoga class on June 21 typically operate in stifling workplaces, according to The Times. Modi has invited the Guinness World Records to witness the event at 7 a.m., and public employees will be present to comply with their government.
India's first minister to oversee yoga and traditional medicine said the yoga celebration could be an opportunity to filter out the relics of the country's colonial past.
"Earlier, our people used to get up before sunrise and sleep before sunset, but now our lifestyle has changed," said Shripad Naik.
"There will be a lifestyle change," he said. "Our style will come."