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She does her eyebrows

Sir — Shirin Ebadi may be the first Muslim woman to be given a Nobel Prize, but it is doubtful whether India’s Darul Ifta will approve of her. For Ebadi’s eyebrows can clearly be seen to have been plucked and this body of women’s clerics does not approve of shaping eyebrows (“Minority beauty norms”, Oct 9). This is not to be irreverent towards Darul Ifta’s initiative to issue personal care guidelines for Muslim women. In fact, such liberal reforms are sorely needed from within the Muslim community, which has for long been held to ransom by outrageous fatwas by a few extremist elements on what Muslim men and women must wear and how they must behave. What is strange here is the randomness of the list of dos and donts issued by the clerics. For example, women may remove unwanted hair but they may not pluck their eyebrows or use face bleach. Also, do such prohibitions have any meaning in a world that is so preoccupied with fashion and glamour'

Yours faithfully,
J. Saha, Calcutta


Winning ways

Sir — It is indeed heartening to see Atal Bihari Vajpayee talking business and economics with an air of supreme confidence, earlier in China and later in Bali at the meeting with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. He has also been signing bilateral and multilateral agreements in areas such as the promotion of trade and industry, and cooperation in the areas of science and technology. His gusto belies his age, and puts to shame some of his younger colleagues in the government. Gone are the days when Jawaharlal Nehru — India’s only statesman of international stature — used to talk expansively on ideals such as panchsheel and non-alignment in international forums, and little else. Is this a transformation, or is it an adaptation to change' Perhaps, the latter given India’s bid to become a part of the “global village”. As Charles Darwin had said: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” The prime minister reflects India’s new ethos.

Yours faithfully,
Kangayam R. Rangaswamy, Madison, US


Sir — The exclusion of Sikkim from the map on the official website of China, is the welcome result of the recent China visit by Indian prime minister. But India must be cautious because China is very unpredictable. The Indian government has been successful in its foreign policy because the opposition has always backed the government in such matters, a fact acknowledged even by Pakistani leaders. If only the ruling and opposition parties displayed a similar consensus in solving the internal problems of the country.

Yours faithfully,
Madhu Agrawal, New Delhi


Sir — The commonwealth ministerial action group’s decision to keep Pakistan out was one concrete achievement of Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s recent trip to the United States of America. The Commonwealth’s rejection of Pakistan is the first setback in Pervez Musharraf’s efforts since September 11 to gain a place at global council’s citing his cooperation in the US’s fight against terrorism. Now the general finds himself in a tight spot in that if he cannot convince the Commonwealth, he will find it harder to garner support from the other countries of the West. But New Delhi must now beware because Pakistan, smarting from the Commonwealth’s reprimand, will impose more conditions for talks with India.

Yours faithfully,
Sudeep Purkayasth, Calcutta


Sir — The prime minister’s speech by at the United Nations general assembly has served two purposes (“Atal seeks a UN of his vision”, Sept 26). One, it is a fitting reply to Pervez Musharraf and two, it has shored his image back home, which is help considering the imminent elections. In my view, talks with Pakistan will not solve the problem of Kashmir. If that had been the case then it would have been solved much earlier. It is India whose patience is being tried. Musharraf’s speech clearly gives the impression that we have made a mistake by claiming Kashmir. Vajpayee has rightly termed such tactics “blackmail”. If the US can launch an offensive against Iraq to curb the evil of terrorism, I don’t see why we too cannot launch a similar offensive action against Pakistan.

Yours faithfully,
Ansuman Samantaray, Sonitpur, Assam


Sir — Once again the prime minister went on and on with the usual rhetoric regarding cross-border terrorism in his address to the UN general assembly. It makes little sense to thus bore the august gathering of world leaders to slumber. No wonder one can see many empty seats during such speeches by Indian leaders. In this way, India is losing a valuable opportunity to settle the dispute with Pakistan which is a silly one and should not have been allowed to linger for over 50 years, destroying both countries’ chances of rapid and useful development. Such an immature approach will not help India if it seeks a permanent seat in the general assembly. It is time India adopted a time-bound programme to bring peace to this region and allowed third party intervention to begin a dialogue with Pakistan. Our leaders should remember that future generations will not forgive them if they have to suffer due to the shortsighted policies aimed at reaping immediate political and electoral benefits.

Yours faithfully,
Kalyan Ghosh, Calcutta


Sir — In the last few years, the prime minister has been on one foreign trip after another. Successes abroad are all very well, but Atal Bihari Vajpayee must not forget that it is domestic successes which will help him win elections.

Yours faithfully,
Renuka Singh, Calcutta


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