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Thoughts from the RNC: We have Become a Nation of Fear

altmuslim - 22 July, 2016 - 17:36
Embed from Getty Images   By Alan Howard The 2016 Republican Party National Convention has been consigned to history. And what a convention it was. It seemed like the overarching theme was one word: Fear. Fear of lost jobs, of immigrants and refugees, loss of Christian identity, fear of terrorism and Muslims, fear of black [Read More...]

Q&A: ABC backs screening process after News Corp criticises Khaled Elomar

The Guardian World news: Islam - 22 July, 2016 - 03:35

The Australian highlights offensive Facebook posts but ABC says audience member who asked Pauline Hanson a question about Islamophobia was cleared by police

Q&A has defended allowing a Muslim engineer in its audience to ask Pauline Hanson a question after a front-page story in the Australian newspaper claimed he had not been properly screened.

Khaled Elomar was cleared by police and the program’s producers before being allowed to ask Hanson about Islamophaobia, the ABC has said.

Related: Pauline Hanson and Sam Dastyari clash over Islam on ABC's Q&A

Related: If I could peel back my brown skin, you'd see the Aussie bogan on the inside | Rana Hussain

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Australia once banned Catholics from mass and vilified the Irish. Haven't we learned anything?

The Guardian World news: Islam - 22 July, 2016 - 01:19

As an Irish Australian, Nick Earls says that when it comes to distinguishing cultural difference from threat, ‘we should be better at this by now’

I was passing through airport security somewhere in North America in October 2001 when I realised it: I was no longer the face of terrorism, and might never be selected for one of those comprehensive “special clearance procedures” again.

Until then, that’s what a passport with a Northern Irish birthplace had got me – it happened often enough anywhere in the world, and was almost inevitable at airports in the UK. I’d be taken away to a side room, physically searched, swabbed for explosives and asked to unpack my suitcase entirely. Sometimes I even had to unball my balled-up socks. I’d adjusted to it being the price of travel for someone with a birthplace like mine.

Related: The most troubling thing about Pauline Hanson's view of Muslims? The facts no longer matter | Susan Carland

Related: TV host Sonia Kruger calls for end to Muslim migration to Australia

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Teach Your Kids About Black Lives Matter Now

Muslim Matters - 21 July, 2016 - 16:02

by Sana H. Aaser

While Muslims were celebrating the final days of Ramadan and Eid, two unarmed black men – Philando Castile and Alton Sterling – were shot and killed by police officers in separate events in Minneapolis and Baton Rouge. These recent events underscore a disheartening trend: young black men in America are nine times more likely to be killed by police officers than any other demographic.

Race relations have become all the more tense as self-proclaimed, “freedom fighters,” have killed six police officers in Dallas and three police officers in Baton Rouge. Although the news and social media have been filled with updates and opinions, few articles have been geared toward kids. Even those articles that make a case for why we should talk to our kids about it, don't explain how.

So, what do we tell our kids?

In the following sections, we will discuss: (a) a rationale for discussing race relations in America with kids, (b) a historical narrative to teach, (c) key topics to discuss, and (d) action items.

Why Muslims Must Tell Their Kids

As a parent, you might be asking yourself, “Why should I tell my child about race relations in America?” Here are three important reasons:

Instilling Justice

The cases of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling are each examples of a grave injustice in which police officers used their positions of power and authority to make a judgment and exert force unfairly. Islam teaches us to stand up against injustice wherever we see it. The Qur'an states “…do not let the hatred of a people prevent you from being just. Be just; that is nearer to righteousness. And fear Allah; indeed, Allah is acquainted with what you do” (5:8).

Standing for Equity

The events that transpired in Minneapolis and Baton Rouge are part of a larger narrative of the persistent unequal treatment of people of color. This is not only morally reprehensible, but also against the teachings of Islam. Allah says “Oh mankind, indeed We have created you from a male and a female and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you” (49:13).

Creating Consciousness

Reflecting on the stories of the police officers who shot and killed these Black men, a discussion on our own awareness of biases and stereotypes is required. While the police officers might deny being racist, their actions say otherwise. Their hasty judgment led to the death of young men. In the same way, our own assumptions and prejudices can have terrible consequences.

This isn't just an American problem, it is an American-Muslim problem as well. The Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative released a study in 2015, documenting serious forms of racism within the American-Muslim community. If you don't have time to read through the study, a summary (in pop-culture form) is available here.

Why Parents Don't Tell Their Kids

These are tough conversations. Parents may not want to have these conversations because they are personally uncomfortable. The American Psychology Association, believes that it is integral for parents to keep talking anyway, and that the discussions get easier over time. However, there are two common hesitations that parents have.

My Kids are Color Blind

One common hesitation that parents cite when discussing topics related to race is that “my children [and I] don't see color; we treat all people equally.” This argument, often referred to as “color blindness,” lacks merit because even if a parent allegedly does not see race, it still does not account for institutional racism. Secondly, studies show that our brains naturally discriminate and therefore, it is irresponsible to claim that one, “does not see color.”

My Kids are Too Young

Another common contention is that, “my children are too young to speak to about race,” or that “my children aren't affected by racism.” This is simply not true. An in-depth investigation by CNN, titled “Kids on Race,” in 2012 showcases that children as young as six years old have varying attitudes on race.

We recommend the following discussion for parents of children age six and above.

The Story to Share with Kids

Our goal is to share a historical narrative to help children understand the concept of institutional racism, as it pertains to Black people in America. This narrative follows advice provided from the journal, Multicultural Education.

What Monopoly Can Teach Us About Racism

Let's begin with a story. Imagine everyone in the family except for you (the child) are playing a game of Monopoly (or pick another game that may be more appropriate for your family, e.g. Pokemon, Chutes & Ladders, LIFE). We play for one hour, and now, each of us owns properties and has earned lots of money. Now imagine, after all of this, we let you (the child) join the game. You start with nothing. If each of us does the same amount of work, do you think you could win? No, there is very little chance, because you are starting so far behind.

This game is similar to the experience of Black people in America. Nearly 400 years ago, White European settlers in America went to Africa. There, the settlers kidnapped Black Africans and brought them to America. These Africans were enslaved. This means that they forced the Africans to work for them. From the time the Africans were children, they had to work all day and were not able to go to school either.

For more than 200 years, this is how Black people lived in America. Finally, a lot of people – some White and some Black – gained the courage to stand up against this. They said that enslaving people was bad, and that it needed to stop. And, they succeeded. Slavery was abolished, meaning that it ended. Black people were freed so that they could begin leading normal lives. Meaning, they could buy homes, go to school, and get normal jobs!

But, remember that game of Monopoly we played? Just because somebody is playing the game, that doesn't mean it was fair. Today, because they were treated unfairly from the beginning, Black people have to work harder than others for the same results. Not only that, when slavery was abolished, some people still had bad feelings towards Black people just because they looked different. Because of that, they treated Black people very badly. For example, Black people weren't able to eat at the same restaurants or even use the same bathrooms. These actions are called, “discrimination,” and some still treat Black people unfairly today.

For a more detailed history of slavery in America, this website is a good source. Additionally, “If You Lived When There Was Slavery in America,” published by Scholastic, paints a picture of slavery in America for children age five and above.

Key Watch Outs

Important notes: (1) Do not refer to the Africans as “slaves,” but rather say that they were “enslaved.” This slight difference underscores the initial act of injustice, instead of labeling a group of people with a term of disempowerment. (2) Clarify that over time, enslaved Africans were called African Americans, who are also called Black people, or people of color. (3) This narrative is a very simplified version of the history, and can be modified depending on the age of your children.

Given this history, below is a set of questions and activities that parents can engage in with children to help foster an understanding of fairness and discrimination.

inequity

Activity #1 – The Sweet Taste of Fairness

What does it mean if something is fair? Have Black people been treated fairly in the history of our country? We seek to answer these questions through this activity. You will need 12 pieces of candy. Follow the instructions and questions below.

Imagine President Obama gave me five pieces of candy and only gave you one. How would you feel? The goal of this discussion is to help children understand the meaning of “fairness.” It is in our fitra, or human nature, to be opposed to injustice and attracted to justice.

Now what if the roles were switched, and you received five pieces of candy and I only had one. How would you feel? The goal of this discussion is for children to understand that when we are in situations of privilege (e.g. when we have the candy), we must give to those who do not have it.

So let's say President Obama gave me five pieces and only gave you one. Now, President Obama comes back. He has four pieces of candy. Who should he give the pieces of candy to?  The goal here is to foster a desire for equity instead of equality. By the standards of equality, each individual should be given two. But, this isn't fair because the child will only have three pieces total and the parent will now have seven! However, by the standards of equity, the child should be given all four pieces to make up for the prior deficit. That way, each individual has five pieces of candy.

In the American context, this goes against our beliefs about hard work paying off (the Protestant work ethic, the land of opportunity, etc). We like to believe that the good that comes to us is a product of our own efforts, not a privilege handed to us by a rigged system.

Final question: Now that we know about fairness and equity, do you think Black people have been treated fairly in the history of the United States? The goal here is to bring the conversation together. Black people in America have not been treated fairly. The over 200-year history of slavery (and lack of equity) means there isn't a level playing field.

In the Holy Qur'an, “Allah orders for justice and fairness, (16:90). Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) continues saying, “O you who believe! Stand firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even if it be against yourselves, your parents, and your relatives, or whether it is against the rich or the poor…” (4:135). Not only with your family and relatives, but even with others, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) commands us to be fair and just.

Activity #2 – Tart Discrimination

Is it okay to treat people differently based on how they look? We seek to answer this question through the following activity. You will need at least four people and four lemons. This activity was originally created by the Anti-Defamation League.

Assign each person a lemon and ask the individual to become an expert on the lemon – how it looks, smells, and feels. Next, collect the lemons in one basket and move them around such that their order is not easily discovered. Finally, ask the participants to locate their lemon from the basket. Remarkably, most will be able to find their lemon.

Ask the individuals how they were able to spot their lemon. Some may reference the size, others may talk about color, etc. This is a precursor to a discussion on how people are like that – different sizes, shapes, and colors.

Now, collect the lemons again. This time, peel the lemons, and ask the kids to find their own lemon. Presented with this, the children will respond saying, “All of the lemons look the same!” This comment opens the door to the realization that people, similar to lemons, look different on the outside but are all essentially the same on the inside.

Final Question: If we, like the lemons, are all similar on the inside, is it okay to treat people differently based on how they look on the outside?The goal here is to bring the conversation together. Black people in America are still being treated unfairly because of the way they look.

The Holy Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) says, “If one of you sees something evil, he should change it with his hand. If he cannot, he should speak out against it, and if he cannot do even that, he should at least detest it in his heart, this being the weakest form of faith.” We describe this notion of justice in our book, “Noor Kids Stand Up to Bullying.”

As parents, we recommend the following three actions to help alleviate the inequity associated with race in our communities. Some activities involve children, others do not.

Step One – Reflect on Our Biases

Where do biases stem from? According to Dr. Derald Wing Sue at Columbia University, it starts at home. She says, “Many parents talk to their children about embracing difference, but in subtle, covert ways, they communicate something very different. For example, when approaching a group of black youngsters, a mother may unconsciously pull the child nearer to her.” As parents, it is our responsibility, firstly, to reflect on our biases. If unchecked, these biases may manifest themselves in our children.

Step Two – Role Model Behavior

How can we protect ourselves from negative biases? The answer is simple: people. Dr. Wing Sue explains, “many [non-Black] parents often talk to kids about the evils of prejudice and discrimination, yet in their own lives they have few friends or neighbors of color with whom they regularly socialize. These implicit communications are more powerful than any intentional efforts on the part of parents.”

As parents, if we expect our children to grow up with an appreciation for humanity, we too must reflect such diversity in our daily lives through our friends and neighbors.

imamomar

Step Three – Participate

As the Holy Prophet's ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) saying goes, if we cannot solve this issue with our hands, we should at least speak out against it. Many scholars of note, including Shaykh Omar Suleiman and imam Suhaib Webb, have taken to the streets and participated in locally-organized protests. Participating in such events sends a strong message to children that we, as Muslims, have a responsibility to stand up with the oppressed.

If it is not possible to attend a protest, it is valuable to either call or write a letter to your local state representative. In your phone call or letter, you and your children should each discuss why you are troubled about recent violence towards Black people in America and express a need to hold responsible parties accountable. This too sends a strong message to children to participate in their local government.

This work has been created by Sana H. Aaser, Educational Director at Noor Kids. Sana has a Master's degree in education with a focus on equity and social justice. Her research on American-Muslim youth identity earned her San Francisco State University's highest honors as a graduate hood recipient.  

Noor Kids is a Harvard-supported monthly, at-home Islamic education program designed by creative and scholarly experts to help 4- to- 8 year-olds learn and love Islam. To see a free sample, click here.

 

George Christensen retracts 'radical Islamists' claim over Merrylands incident

The Guardian World news: Islam - 21 July, 2016 - 14:03

MP posted on Facebook after early reporting of a ‘terror attack’, saying: ‘I wonder how quickly some idiot is going to inanely say this has nothing to do with Islam’

Conservative MP George Christensen has been forced to back down after suggesting an incident at a Sydney police station was a “failed terrorism attack” and linking it to radical Islamism.

NSW Police said a man drove at speed into the car park at Merrylands police station in western Sydney on Thursday night, hitting a roller door. It appeared some form of accelerant had sparked a fire inside the vehicle, police said. The man sustained serious injuries and was taken to hospital.

Related: Man arrested after suffering serious burns in Sydney police station incident

#BREAKING: Police sources have told the ABC there has been an attempted terror attack directed against a western Sydney police station.

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Florida Muslim group vows to fight removal of Islamic center as voting site

The Guardian World news: Islam - 21 July, 2016 - 13:00

Center calls elections department’s decision to remove center from approved sites discriminatory, after voters complained they would be ‘uncomfortable’

One of Florida’s largest Muslim advocacy groups says it plans to take legal action over the elimination of a prominent Islamic community center as a voting site for the November election.

Susan Bucher, the head of Palm Beach County’s elections department, caused outrage earlier this month by removing the Islamic Center of Boca Raton (ICBR) from the list of approved election sites after receiving calls from several dozen voters who said they would be “uncomfortable” voting there.

Related: Puerto Ricans in Florida: the 'outsiders' with a powerful swing vote

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If I could peel back my brown skin, you'd see the Aussie bogan on the inside | Rana Hussain

The Guardian World news: Islam - 21 July, 2016 - 06:19

It’s jarring to hear over and over again that as a nation we need to make sure Muslims feel safe and welcome. You don’t need to welcome me, I was born here

Lately, throughout the many nauseatingly similar conversations about Muslims and terrorism and immigration, I’ve been hearing commentators on all sides of the debate talk about whether Muslims are “welcome” or not.

Often the phrase – though well-meaning – asks for the broader Australian community to make sure Muslims “feel welcome” in Australia.

Related: The most troubling thing about Pauline Hanson's view of Muslims? The facts no longer matter | Susan Carland

Related: Pauline Hanson might be mad as hell but we deserve more than slogans | Stan Grant

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The Qur’an: Science vs Ancient Myths

Inayat's Corner - 20 July, 2016 - 22:23

shooting_star

This blog was created in large part to share my love of books and my wish to learn more about humanity, the universe around us and our place in it.

Over the years I have built up a nice little collection of ten separate English translations of the Qur’an including my most recent purchase which was The Study Qur’an – a collective translation and commentary effort undertaken by a small committee of academics under the leadership of the renowned Iranian Islamic scholar, Seyyed Hossein Nasr.

I have derived a huge amount of enjoyment and comfort over the years from reciting and reflecting on verses from the Qur’an and continue to do so. This post is part of a life long desire to learn and try and improve my understanding by asking questions and subjecting ideas to criticism.

This process has over the years seen me depart from some widely-held Muslim opinions on a number of issues including the Satanic Verses affair, free speech and the right to cause offence, the theory of evolution by natural selection, gay rights, the undesirability of living in a religious state etc.

History is littered with ideas and viewpoints/interpretations that were once passionately held only to be overturned by later discoveries, scientific findings or more convincing arguments. Recall the Catholic Church’s opposition to the ideas of Copernicus who held that it was the earth that revolved around the sun. The Catholic Church insisted that Biblical doctrine taught that it was the sun that revolved around the earth and it persecuted those who dared to believe otherwise. Even the celebrated scientist Galileo was brought in front of the Inquisition and forced to recant his adherence to Copernican views: an adherence that was based on his own astronomical observations with the telescope he had himself designed and built.

Does the Qur’an contain passages which – in their traditional interpretation(s) – do not stand up to modern scrutiny? And if that is the case, what consequences should that have as to how the Qur’an is viewed and interpreted today as a religious scripture?

In four separate passages in the Qur’an (15:16-18; 37:6-10; 67:5 and 72:8-9) reference is made which – according to the majority of Qur’anic interpretations I have seen – concerns the phenomenon of shooting stars. Let’s take a closer look at each of those passages:

And We have placed within the heaven great stars and have beautified it for the observers.
And We have protected it from every devil expelled [from the mercy of Allah]
Except one who steals a hearing and is pursued by a clear burning flame.
(Qur’an 15:16-18)

Indeed, We have adorned the nearest heaven with an adornment of stars
And as protection against every rebellious devil
[So] they may not listen to the exalted assembly [of angels] and are pelted from every side,
Repelled; and for them is a constant punishment,
Except one who snatches [some words] by theft, but they are pursued by a burning flame, piercing [in brightness].
(Quran 37:6-10)

And We have certainly beautified the nearest heaven with stars and have made [from] them what is thrown at the devils and have prepared for them the punishment of the Blaze.
(Qur’an 67:5)

And we have sought [to reach] the heaven but found it filled with powerful guards and burning flames.
And we used to sit therein in positions for hearing, but whoever listens now will find a burning flame lying in wait for him.
(Qur’an 72:8-9)

According to traditional Muslim commentators these above passages refer to jinns (a kind of ethereal being) who try to listen in to discussions between angels in the heavens and who are then pelted with bright flames which are associated with shooting stars. The Study Qur’an that I mentioned near the beginning of this post says the following in connection with the passage at 37:6-10:

“It is believed that after the Prophet Muhammad began receiving revelations, God cut off all such access to angelic discussions for the jinn, establishing angels as sentries and repelling the jinn with meteors.” The Study Qur’an, Note 10, p1086

Is the proposition that meteors are a punishment aimed at mischievous jinns trying to eavesdrop really a credible explanation? While it may perhaps have seemed a plausible explanation in past times, it is surely plausible no longer.

The NASA website has a far more convincing explanation for the phenomenon of shooting stars: they are dust particles in space that burn up on entry into the earth’s atmosphere. Indeed, when the earth passes through a trail of debris left by a comet then we see meteor showers whose dates astronomers are able to accurately predict each year based on the earth’s revolution around the sun.

So, it is disconcerting and very regrettable to see the Study Qur’an published in 2015 still repeating the discredited older explanation without any criticism or updating whatsoever given the additional knowledge we have gained in the intervening fourteen centuries since the Qur’an was first preached by the Prophet Muhammad.

The esteemed team behind the Study Qur’an are by no means alone though. On the Ask Imam website, when a correspondent asked about the Qur’an’s apparent references to shooting stars he was given an answer that to me seems long-winded, highly evasive and thoroughly unconvincing. You can read the Ask Imam response here and decide for yourself whether it was a convincing explanation.

Is it impious or sinful to raise questions regarding interpretations of the Qur’an which do not appear to make sense? Surely, it should not be. Progress depends on all ideas being allowed to be criticised. If the ideas are good ones then they will be able to withstand the criticism and its proponents will be able to convince others of their merits. If not, then bad ideas should be replaced by better and more convincing ideas.


 5 Life Lessons from Humanitarian Abdul Sattar Edhi

altmuslim - 20 July, 2016 - 21:40
Embed from Getty Images   By Saud Inam It’s been a difficult year for Muslims. We lost two great giants of change: Muhammad Ali and Abdul Sattar Edhi. These two figures were shining lights and beacons of hope, and we all have much to learn from them. They were change makers and Muslim heroes. Our children and [Read More...]

Ipso: Mail Online wrong to use 'Islamic honour killing' in headline

The Guardian World news: Islam - 20 July, 2016 - 14:18

Press watchdog upholds complaint that phrase suggested killing was motivated by Islam when there was no evidence

A headline referring to an “Islamic honour killing” wrongly suggested that the crime had been motivated by religion, the Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso) has ruled following a complaint against the Mail Online.

The press watchdog said the phrase “Islamic honour killing” suggested that “the killing had been motivated by Islam, when there was no basis for saying that religion had played a role in this killing”.

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Kelvin MacKenzie, we’re sick of your toxic propaganda. Fatima Manji is admirable | Remona Aly

The Guardian World news: Islam - 20 July, 2016 - 11:31
Complaints are pouring in after the Sun’s columnist criticised the headscarf-wearing newsreader. He’s manipulating an already volatile anti-Muslim climate

If anyone had steam coming out of their ears this past week, it was Kelvin MacKenzie. The human pressure cooker could not contain his indignation at having to watch Channel 4 news reporter, Fatima Manji, cover the tragic attack in Nice. In an article for the Sun newspaper, MacKenzie wrote that “I could hardly believe my eyes” when he saw the British Muslim correspondent who wears a headscarf doing her job.

Not only is it malicious to single out a news reporter in this way, MacKenzie’s abhorrent rant attempts to equate Manji’s headscarf to terrorist atrocities and to female slavery: “Was it done to stick one in the eye of the ordinary viewer who looks at the hijab as a sign of the slavery of Muslim women by a male-dominated and clearly violent religion?” he spouted.

Kelvin MacKenzie's attack on @fatimamanji today was religious hatred and a disgrace not just to journalism but to our wonderful nation

Related: The Sun's Kelvin MacKenzie is trying to smear Muslims, says C4 News presenter

THE TRUTH: I'm here to stay, Kelvin MacKenzie https://t.co/5cw82GpCKL

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Barnaby Joyce rejects Pauline Hanson's policies, saying every religion has ratbags

The Guardian World news: Islam - 20 July, 2016 - 10:26

Deputy prime minister says comparing all Muslims to terrorists is like equating all Catholics with the ‘crazy criminals’ of the IRA

The deputy prime minister, Barnaby Joyce, has rejected One Nation’s anti-Islamic policies, arguing that comparing all Muslims to terrorists was like equating all Catholics with the “crazy criminals” of the Irish Republican Army.

In a passionate defence of religious freedom, the Nationals leader emphatically disagreed with One Nation policies such as banning Muslim immigration and putting CCTV cameras in mosques.

Related: Pauline Hanson might be mad as hell but we deserve more than slogans | Stan Grant

Related: TV host Sonia Kruger calls for end to Muslim migration to Australia

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Pauline Hanson might be mad as hell but we deserve more than slogans | Stan Grant

The Guardian World news: Islam - 20 July, 2016 - 01:54

Remember Howard Beale from the movie Network, the prophet of the angry and disillusioned? There’s a lot of Beale in Pauline Hanson

There is a lot of Howard Beale in Pauline Hanson. Remember Howard Beale? He was the fictional news anchor from the 1976 film Network. Australian actor Peter Finch won a posthumous Oscar for his portrayal of the crazed, bulging-eyed prophet of the angry and disillusioned.

“I don’t have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad,” he yelled.

Related: The most troubling thing about Pauline Hanson's view of Muslims? The facts no longer matter | Susan Carland

Related: The Pauline Hanson resurgence: as a Muslim, I'm surprised it took so long | Mehreen Faruqi

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