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'I Am A Muslim And I'm Happy To Be In India!'
Woman's Extra spoke to some of Mumbai's eminent Muslim women on what they felt about the war in Iraq and how they sympathised with the lot of women in that beleaguered, war-torn country. What emerged was not just hatred for the Bully America and heartfelt sympathy for the Iraqi victims... but also an overwhelming gratitude for Mother India. No other country on earth, Islamic and non-Islamic, gives its women so much respect and freedom as India does. All the women this newspaper spoke to said they were grateful to Allah that their motherland was India!

Shaukat Azmi, Vetran actress
The steps that America has taken in Iraq are absolutely unjustified. They have no right to destroy such a beautiful country and cause so much pain and devastation to innocent people. It is their greed for oil that has driven this war. It makes my heart bleed to see the atrocities of war committed on defenceless women and children. I am more than grateful to be a Muslim woman in this country. India is my homeland and even if someone paid me 10 crores, I would not move to another Islamic country. It is the diversity of this country that binds me to it. All the faiths are like the different flowers in a bouquet. I am what you may call an exception.

I love temples, and even have a beautiful mandir in my room. I am so happy that I belong to this country. The atrocities against Muslim women in other countries like Afghanistan make me shudder. They are denied even their basic right of education and freedom. This is a direct contradiction of the Holy Quran. It is mentioned there that if you educate people in your lifetime you are spared the fires of hell. There is a strong emphasis on education for both men and women. It is disheartening to see the so-called representatives of Islam impose their distorted views on the masses.

Imtiaz Dharker, poetess
A power that sets itself up as a role-model for the world, a champion of the downtrodden, has unmasked its own double standards. It has ignored real injustices and chosen to wage this self-serving cynical war. I can only respond as a human being, against any act of inhumanity: killing innocent people, supposedly to set them free, denying them the dignity of a whole culture, proving that the bully wins. The 'victory' can only justify extremists all over the world and silence moderate voices.

Sanober Kabir, Actress
Despite their 'supreme intelligence' the Americans have not managed to locate Saddam. All they have managed to do is kill innocent civilians and bring havoc and devastation on the country. This war has been all about touting their supremacy. I am a Muslim, and I make no bones about the fact that I feel for the innocent people of Iraq. Today they are the targets of American insanity, tomorrow it will be Syria and the day after, it might be us!

There is really no justification for this bloodshed. I really appreciate the fact that I am living in a country like India. Today, unlike my counterparts in other Islamic countries, I have the benefit of living life on my own terms. Not to mention the fact that I have the right to education and the right to freedom of speech.

Sabira Merchant, Theatre personality
War is always futile. All it has ever given mankind, is misery, death and devastation. If the United Nations had forced America to just hold its horses till the inspectors had completed their job, then a lot of innocent civilians would have been spared. It is a very unsettling feeling to know that America is using its power like this. I do not react to this as a Muslim woman - as I have never thought of myself as anything but Indian. I believe that religion is man-made and is made to suit to suit man's needs and purposes. As compared to countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, women are not bogged down by fundamentalism in India. However what we see in urban India is a far cry from the situation in the rural areas. The truth is, women are still denied their basic rights in rural areas.

Aaliya Fakih, Fashion Designer
The war was completely unjustified! Americans have not found any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Today they are targetting Syria, tomorrow it will be some other country! In times of war helpless women and children are the worst affected. The devastation and poverty are just made worse by the social norms. In that sense, I am very lucky to have been brought up in a country like India. But more importantly, your family plays an important role in the way you are brought up. My family has given me all the freedom I want. Muslim women the world over are suppressed and that too in the name of religion. It is highly unfortunate that people misinterpret religion for their own personal gains. Countries like Afghanistan and Iraq have taken it to another level all together as they deny women even the basic right of education. Little do these people know that the Holy Quran actually empowers women more than it does the men.

Tabassum, Veteran actress
Firstly, it is always fun to see a fight among equals. But when a superpower celebrates its victory over weaker sections, one cannot help but look down upon the superpower. I am not in any way justifying Iraq's stand, but I do believe that nothing has come out of this war but devastation. In fact, I feel lots of pain for the mothers of these warring leaders, who are, today, responsible for the deaths of so many people. What can I say? I am very lucky to be in my India! My father was a Hindu and my mother was a Muslim, so from where I stand, I have an equal right to praise and criticise both faiths. But I have to acknowledge the fact that Indian Muslims are the most liberal of the lot. They do not impose unnecessary restrictions on their womenfolk. Other Islamic countries must also respect their women by giving them them their rights to education and freedom. Nadira Babber, Theatre personality

I am against the imperialist and fanatical war that America has waged against Iraq. Today they have turned against Syria, tomorrow they might just point their guns at us! I was raised in a very liberal atmosphere where I had the freedom to do as I pleased. Even after marriage there were no restrictions, as the family I was married into was just as liberal as mine. Unlike other Islamic countries, both men and women in India have the luxury of enjoying the freedom of speech -- being a woman is only secondary. We are better off than many other countries in the world. If we compare our social structure to the West, our women are the oppressed lot. If we compare our situation with that of people in the Middle East, we are at an advantage. So, in that sense women the world over are oppressed, it is just how you look at the situation.

Farah Khan, Choreographer
I think America is a very big bully. They have been doing it for years. Their selfish motives are very obvious -- the war is not about the weapons of mass destruction, it is about the oil. What really pains me is that innocent civilians have been the highest casualties of the war. America has succeeded in doing what Osama bin Laden has only dreamed of doing -- that is, uniting all the Islamic countries against America. They are going to be sitting ducks now! I am extremely lucky that I do not have fundamentalists sitting on my head and dictating terms to me. As a Muslim woman in this country I have all the freedom one can wish for. I work in the film industry, wear the clothes I want and practice my religion on my own terms. Whatever I do, I do out of choice -- it is not forced upon me. The Americans have been too self-righteous for their own good. If there is another disaster like the twin towers, the American government is not going to get too much sympathy from the world.

Arshiya Fakih, Fashion designer
The war is such a sad reality. It is all about the survival of the fittest. The war that America has waged against Iraq has been one for personal gain. Tragically, not even the United Nations could stop them in their selfish endeavour. It is an irony of sorts, as the Americans claim to have removed a dictatorship only to establish a governance that will again dictate terms to the people of Iraq. Unfortunately they have faced no opposition -- only some verbal abuse and protests the international community. As a human being, my heart goes out to the helpless women and children of Iraq. Being raised in a cosmopolitan city like Mumbai, I have had all the freedom I could ask for. The lot of Muslim women in other countries is not as fortunate. Islam propagates equality among men and women and even offers a high status to women. But it is unfortunate that the religion is being misinterpreted by those with political or ulterior motives.

Neha aka Shabana Raza, Actress
War itself is such a horrible thing. It should be avoided at all costs. Even in Afghanistan, the Americans never found Osama bin Laden, but succeeded in giving rise to more hatred, and eventually, terrorism too. With this Iraqi war, all they have managed to do is destroy the country and kill innocent civilians. So many orphaned children will grow up with resentment towards America. Violence only breeds more violence! What the Americans have done is indirect colonisation by trying to impose a certain kind of governance. Women and children unfortunately are at the shorter end of the stick. They have to fight for their rights, and war and poverty do not make it any easier for them. My family was in Iraq for three years and the women did have a fair amount of freedom. They were educated professionals who had managed to make a substantial contribution to the society. In fact, some of the seniormost posts in the hitherto ruling Baath party were held by women. Of course, having been raised in a cosmopolitan family, I have had the freedom to do what I want. The code of conduct is very different in urban India. And in that sense, my lot is much better than that of my counterparts in other Islamic countries.

Strike a pose
Therapeutic yoga can be used to treat anything from indigestion and chronic fatigue to insomnia and asthma.

Next time you get a headache, don't pop a pill - strike a yoga pose instead. The right pose could also cure indigestion or even insomnia. Therapeutic yoga has long been a well-kept secret among an enlightened few. But now it's about to become the biggest trend in yoga, following ashtanga (fast-paced aerobic yoga) and bikram (practised at high temperature).

Based on hatha, a gentle form of yoga, therapeutic yoga postures are adapted to specific problems and can be used to treat anything from chronic fatigue to back pain and even sports injuries. It might not sound as sexy as the more dynamic forms of yoga, but converts believe it is, in fact, the most effective of all.

"Doing a general yoga class is a good way to relax, boost circulation and stretch your joints," says the yoga guru Jiwan Brar, who works alongside Dr. Ali, the health adviser to Prince Charles, at the Integrated Medical Centre in London. "But with therapeutic yoga, you are made to be more aware of your own spine and breathing patterns and you are taught a specific set of postures to suit your body."

You don't need to be ill or injured to feel the benefits. If you have ever attended a yoga class and wondered how it is that everyone can twist themselves into postures with ease while you can only perform a stiff approximation of them, then therapeutic yoga is just the ticket.

It is taught on a one-on-one basis, as yoga has traditionally been taught in India, or in small groups (usually no more than six), to ensure a high level of personal attention. There are good reasons for this. "We all have different-shaped spines," says Brar. "If you have a curved spine and go to a general class where you perform a powerful back bend, you could be making the problem worse."

Therapeutic yoga can also be used to treat asthma, insomnia, digestive problems, eating disorders and drug addiction. It is particularly useful in treating chronic fatigue syndrome. Shamim Saris, 30, a fiction writer who often spends hours sitting in front of a computer screen and suffers from stiff upper back and shoulders, says: "After my weekly one hour of therapeutic yoga, I feel like a new person. I have been told to perform specific stretches to redress the problem. Simply knowing how to hold the head and neck correctly can loosen up the muscles."

Not surprisingly, the medical profession is starting to show an interest. "A lot of the movements - particularly for treating sports and spinal injuries - have been incorporated in physiotherapy," says Sammy Margot, a chartered physiotherapist from London. "One-on-one sessions are ideal for balancing and correcting posture, realigning the body and preventing injuries."

As Brar points out, there are certain yoga postures - such as head and shoulder stands - that can put a lot of pressure on the neck vertebrae. But if you have your own programme of exercises, and the knowledge of how to modify postures, you will truly emerge a new person after your yoga workout.

(Courtesy Karen Wheeler)

Positions to make you feel better

Digestive Problems
This spinal twist gently massages the colon and releases any trapped gases. Sit with both your legs folded underneath you, then release your left leg and cross it over your right thigh. Place your left foot flat on the ground next to your right knee. Next, place your left hand flat on the floor behind you and twist around to the left, so you are looking behind you while keeping both buttocks on the floor. Hold this position for 4-5 slow breaths. NOTE: Avoid this exercise if you have any lower-back problems.

This stretches and increases blood supply to the muscles in the neck, where many headaches begin. Lie on your back, take a deep breath, then slowly breathe out, letting the shoulders, back and neck sink into the floor. Do this for 10 breathes. Then turn your head to the right, and relax the side of the neck. Do the same with the head turned to the left. Repeat several times.

Back and neck tension
The Bridge is a backward bend that stretches the thoracic and lumbar regions of the spine and is good for "computer hunch". Lie with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Place your hands under your back, with your fingers pointing towards your spine. Lift your hips of the floor and hold the pose for 30 seconds. Come down slowly.

Will Ash 'Bond' with James?
Is our Aishwarya Rai Bond material? Will she wear skimpy clothes and seduce Bond? Will she ooze the same sex appeal that Bond girls Ursula Andress and Halle Berry are known for? Definitely, yes, say the men-about-town who know about such things!

What the men think about her 'Bond' connection!

Sharad Kapoor, actor
Bond girls are always looked upon as sex symbols. And there's no doubt that Aishwarya Rai is one. I am sure Aishwarya and Bond would look great together - though it is hard to compare Aishwarya with another Bond girl, say Halle Berry. But it is a great international platform for Aishwarya and for the rest of the industry as well, as it will be taken more seriously abroad.

Rahul Dev, actor
Bond girls are usually required to just look and act sexy. They don't have to do anything more, really. And Aishwarya Rai, is gorgeous and charming. So she would make a good Bond girl. Besides it would be interesting to see an Indian Bond girl. It would also be flattering for the country

Khalid Mohamed, film critic
She's Miss Perfect, but would she sashay out of the water doing an Ursula Andress?

Bikram Saluja, model
Aishwarya is undeniably photogenic. But Bond girls are meant to ooze sexuality. If she can pull off a 'sexy act,' so to speak, then it would be perfect. This is a challenge. It is also a big opportunity and also an exciting one, at that.

Aryan Vaid, model
Bollywood girls might be averse to wearing swim-suits and doing intimate love-making scenes, which is typical of Bond girls. But maybe they'll make an exception for Hollywood! Aishwarya has the looks and the personality to be a Bond girl. What remains to be seen is the international response. If she clicks, she'll hit paydirt.

Arshad Warsi, actor
Aishwarya fits the bill really well. She has got the looks, the body and the attitude, not to mention that tremendous spark in her eyes. Most people think in the language they are most familiar with. As an actress she should start thinking in English - that would make her performance even better. She looks better than all the other Bond girls. She will definitely rock!

Prahlad Kakkar, ad man
I think Aishwarya would work perfectly as she is absolutely stunning! Just like the other Bond girls. She is the one actress that qualifies as international material. The only thing that might disqualify her for the role is the fact that she will not wear skimpy clothes and act like a bimbette. They will have to give her an intelligent role.

Sanjay Suri, actor
She is a 'head turner'. She's always well turned out and articulate. But that is not the same as having sex appeal...

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