Justice Markandeya Katju is a product of the Ganga-Jamuna culture that expresses itself in pluralism and liberalism. His love for Urdu poetry is deep and he has many ghazals and couplets on the tip of his tongue. The Hindi that he speaks is laced with Urdu words which make his diction endearing. He made a distinctive contribution to the good name of the judiciary at the Allahabad High Court. The Supreme Court has benefited from his background of liberal values. He is among the very few judges who introspect on the role of the judiciary in the society. That is the reason why he chided his brother judges more than once to usurp the space that rightly belonged to the executive and legislatures. He is the Somnath Chatterjee in the Supreme Court, knowing how important it was for the law courts and Parliament to accept the Lakshaman rekha that divides their responsibilities. Justice Katju was right when he refused to concede to the plea of a convent school Muslim to support beard. A student has to follow the rules which his school has framed. If the convent where he studies has laid down that a student cannot grow beard it is part of discipline which he cannot violate. In France, the Sikh students have been denied the right to wear turban which the Sikh religion makes it obligatory for its followers. PM Singh took up the matter, that of identity with the President of France. Communities are touchy about criticism of their dress or deportment. They have come to associate them as symbols of their religion. Justice Katju is right when he forbids the convent student not to grow beard. But his obiter dicta, a habit with the judges, were wrong. He unnecessarily brought in Talibanisation when the matter was confined to a student in a particular school. Taliban are fundamentalists and want to impose the medieval type of Islam on Muslims who are adding liberalism to their religion. Whether a Muslim should grow a beard or not depends on him. He does not overstretch secularism if he supports beard and poses no danger to religion if he does not. Even in Saudi Arabia, very strict in imposing the tenets of Islam, men do not generally support beard. It is possible that some Muslims go out of their way to support beard for the sake of identity. But such instances are not to the liking of liberals even in the Muslim community itself. Yet, to equate beard with Talibanisation is not fair. To equate Talibanisation with fundamentalism is relevant. Even if you were to remove beard you would not end Talibanisation because it is a based on conviction from within, not without. Justice Katju would have done better if he had said something on the pernicious thesis of Talibanisation. It is against the tenets of Islam. With no altars or images, no organised priesthood or sacraments, Islam is a noble yet simple religion. Taliban are mutilating it. Justice Kahju's other observations - tomorrow a girl student may come and say that she wants to wear a burqa, can we allow it? - is still more objectionable. The choice of burqa is left to the women. No law or judicial judgement can ban it. Different dresses give diversity which is India's strength. The burqa is not prescribed by Islam. Women use it to cover themselves top to toes. Most have replaced it by veils, some even preferring a scarf or a chunni. As Islam has spread around the world, the customs of conquered or converted people have also become entwined with practices ordained by the religion. Though by Western standards some Muslim customs seem backward, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) himself advanced the status of women. Many of the rigorous restrictions on women derive not from the Quran but from later interpreters of Muslim law. Islam is now entering a new phase of life and growth. In almost every nation across the world, Muslims are re-emphasising their faith in various ways - politically, spiritually and culturally. At the same time, Islam is adjusting to the forces of the modern world. Many leading Muslims argue that Islam should make every effort to revise its society from within and meet other civilisations on terms of equality and independence. The key question is how successfully? Muslims can adjust their faith to the changes of time and history. The spiritual problems are the crucial ones. As Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) once told his followers on returning from battle: "You have to come back from the lesser to the greater struggle." They asked: "What is the grater struggle, O' Messenger of God?" And he replied: "The struggle within." The writer is a former member of the Indian Parliament and senior journalist.