The answer depends. While some Muslim countries do allow dancing as an expression of religious worship, others, like Saudi Arabia and Oman, prohibit dancing for any reason except in private at a house of worship.
The International Organization of Islamic Congress has said Islamic law “does not include the prohibition nor the sanction of dancing in public places of worship.”
But what is allowed varies widely, from countries where dancing must be confined to a mosque or a dancing hall, to dancing at weddings or funerals.
“Every country has a law, and the laws are different in each country — some people in the Arab world and Asia do not allow dancing for religious reasons,” said David Yerushalmi, the founder and executive director of the National Islamic Forum for America. “And that is something that most Muslims and many of our communities are very sensitive to. You don’t see dancers walking down the street in the U.K. right now.”
Some Muslim communities have tried to pass laws that forbid dancing, Yerushalmi said: “There is a lot of Islamophobia out there in America that is very troubling.”
Even the U.S. government, which has no official role in enforcing Islamic law, does have its own laws that do ban dancing. And the U.S. Consulate General for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in Boston warns U.S. citizens against dancing.
Even if some cultures forbid dancing, there are many cultures in the world that celebrate the joy of dancing and do not consider it criminal.
“People who do not see dancing as sinful and criminal can think of it as something that is like, ‘Oh, dancing,’ ” said Yerushalmi. “But it is really much more dangerous than not being able to dance. So if there’s a dance class at your mosque, maybe they are going to encourage not dancing.”
Some Muslim dance classes also stress the importance of modesty, Yerushalmi said.
“We are talking about the same thing here — just being modest,” he said. “Asking your family to come watch the class when the other family is already there. They might not be the most fashionable. But dancing with your friends is something you do, not something that you shouldn’t do.”
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