Dear Clara (@ Women's Rights in Islam and the West)

Copyright 2010 Donald L. Conover, Translations by Google Translate (R)

Arabic * Urdu * Malay * Turkish

The following piece was first written in response to my piece “What do you Expect?”, but I felt the issues Clara raised were important enough to carry them as a primary entry here:

I certainly sympathize with your point about not being subjugated.  My point in part is that subjugation and abuse of women is a worldwide problem and phenomenon.  Many US divorces are brought on by this.  In my opinion, Muslim women also do not want to be subjugated, and they are now seeing that women outside the Muslim World are standing up for their rights.  This information dissemination cannot be stopped.  As this process happens, Muslim women will naturally stand up for their own rights, and the nature of Islam itself will change.  But this will take much courage and a very long time.  Just consider the fact that American women since Carrie Nation and Susan B. Anthony have been standing up for women’s rights for 150 years, yet we still have huge inequalities in our society too.  Shamefully, our politicians could not even pass the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  As I have three daughters, and for many other reasons, I do want to see that effort revived, and I want to see the venal politicos have to come up with their lame reasons why it should not be passed once again.  They will sound sillier and sillier as time goes on.

As with the heroine in Lysistrata, I believe one day Muslim women will stop wearing their abayas on the same day, and simply begin to drive.  That will take great courage on their part, but there is certainly a movement afoot for significant changes.  And the men know these changes are coming, and are trying to sensitize the population that things will change.  From your point of view and mine, this will take too long, but in the greater sweep of history, it will be a microsecond.

I agree with you on some parts of your points about  Rev. (?) Terry Jones.  But there is a problem, and it is a central part of my reason for starting blogging again.  I published a book on this entitled Tsunami of Blood in 2007.  Yes, in general principle Rev.(?) Jones does have the Right to burn Korans in the USA.  But, we also have laws against incitement to riot.  He intentionally did a stunt designed to piss off a lot of people in the Muslim World, and he got $100 million or more in free publicity out of it.  But, he should have known that if he did it as planned, he would get hundreds or thousands of people killed in riots all over the World.  We know that from the experience with the Danish cartoonist, who got more than 1,000 people killed, but was recently honored by Angela Merkel for his stand for Press Freedom.  What are these people thinking?    This is why the President had to step into the Rev.(?) Jones case, partially because of the atrocious judgment of the media in publicizing this man’s threat, and partially because of the consequences that could be expected if he proceeded.  I had a Muslim friend, who lives near the border of Malaysia and Burma, tell me of fears of the consequences if this threat were carried out in that region so remote from the Florida congregation of Rev.(?) Jones.

Whether or not people in the West feel Muslims are too sensitive about these issues is not the point.  The point is that we live in the real World where these consequences are known and very real.  In that context, it is incitement, in my opinion, to raise such a flap.  And it is unethical for the news media, knowing this, to give them a megaphone to be heard around the World.

One of my objectives in this blog is to point out to our political establishment on all sides that, in order to find an end to this age of violence, we are going to have to be more sensible about our interaction with Islam.  I am planning another piece shortly in which I will be pointing out that Muslims know that they have many internal problems, and are frank about these in their internal discussions, but they are distracted from solving them and changing their societies from within when they have a perceived threat from outside.  Making one’s people ignore their own problems and focus on threats from outsiders is a classic political ploy, that is mentioned in literature dating back to Thucydides in his The History of the Peloponnesian War, around 431 B.C.E.  Sometimes it is justified, as when Germany and Japan tried to conquer the World, but, when it’s used by venal politicians in the United States to get people to ignore the fact that we are practically in a depression because of our international adventurism, it is not justified.  All I’m trying to do is shine a light on these facts!

Clara:  Your second to last paragraph is … I can’t even find words to describe it.  You obviously have not hung out with many Christian fundamentalists and “born again” Christians.  They have insinuated themselves into my family in regrettable ways that are extremely divisive.  They DO swear that every word in the Bible is true as the infallible “word of god,” despite its internal inconsistencies and declared genocide in several cases, and despite the fact that scientific research has now explained many of the phenomena that were witnessed by these ancient and ignorant peoples as “acts of god.”

My mother-in-law was told by her “born again” sister that she was sorry that she won’t be seeing my mother-in-law in heaven, because she is not one of the “chosen ones.”  Yikes!  My mother-in-law’s comment, when I mentioned this to her last night was, “It’s not for me to judge.”   I retorted, “Yes, it is!”  Modern human beings do not have to stand for such divisive behavior from their religions.  What does it accomplish except existential threats to mankind itself?

My daughter, after a lovely evening, just the two of us, on her 22nd birthday, told me as the very last thing she said that night, “Dad, I’m sorry, but I think you’re going to hell.”  If Mephistopheles himself had plopped down in the seat next to me on my ride home, I would have gladly signed the Faustian bargain if only none of my daughters would think that of me in their lifetimes.  What a divisive and horrible thing to teach young people to say in their youth, to anyone let alone members of their immediate family.  And those are Christians!  I could expound further, but I’ll save it for another occasion.

Let my emphasize to you that I VERY MUCH appreciate your bringing these issues out in your responses.  I do not expect everyone to agree with the things I say.  I do believe that if people of good will have open discussions about these issues they harbor in their hearts, we might just have a chance of saving the human race from self-destruction.  I do know these blogs are influential.  When I was writing Tsunami of Blood online in 2006-07, I once heard President Bush use an analysis I had put forward only 3 days before.  I have reason to believe that he got it from my blog, through a channel I will not disclose here.

Please DO continue to comment on my blog, and continue this discussion here as time permits!

Best regards, Skip Conover (Twitter: @skip_conover)

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7 Responses to Dear Clara (@ Women's Rights in Islam and the West)

  1. Dear Clara,

    I am taking the liberty of moving your response up to the 1st response in my post from today, which is now the lead item on “Man in the Middle.” In that way, I hope more people will see it. I will respond to it there. Once again, you have raised a lot of important issues, which need to be considered by all readers. I did watch the Richard Dawkins video, which you link at the end of your response. It is quite interesting and rational. Since I am not up to speed on all of the issues he raises about religious based education in the U.K., I am not going to take a position on it here. I do state that it is worth the time of anyone reading this to watch it. Thank you again for your thoughtful comments. Please continue this discussion under the “Dear Clara” post from today. I will respond by tomorrow a.m. EDT.

    Best regards, Skip Conover

  2. Dear Clara,

    With all due respect to the reasonable sounding video, which you drew to my attention, I did not know anything about Richard Dawkins until yesterday. This was taken from yesterday’s news by some of my other acquaintances, so I feel duty bound to share it here, and let our readers make their own judgments:

    http://twitpic.com/2p94vy

    I still am going to get back to your longer post a little later.

    Best regards, Skip Conover (Twitter: @skip_conover)

  3. Dear Clara,

    I understand your frustrations and worries; and after a 10-year propaganda campaign from the right wing in the UK and the USA, who can blame you? I’ll do my best to discuss each of your points.

    It is NOT true that Muslim countries are violent. I have traveled in 10 Muslim countries, and what I have seen are quiet societies, where there are strong family values, with fathers often taking extra time, more than is normal in the West, to be with their families. The link I gave above, provided by a Muslim woman, “Muslim Women: Jewels of Islam,” attests further to my observations. But there is violence everywhere, both in the West and in Muslim countries. We frequently see photos of battered women in the USA, a common ground for divorce, and no one can forget Timothy McVeigh. If you push anyone’s buttons enough, they will become violent. Anyone can guess what things they could say or do to me, which would cause even me to become violent. I served in the U.S. Marine Corps, where I learned to kill with my bear hands, among many other weapons. So if we know what things will cause violence, why say or do them? As Mohandas Gandhi said many times, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” I will not defend violence among Muslims, much of which is related to culture rather than religion. Old habits like “honor killings” will have to change, but that is not for you and me to do. That is for the societies themselves to do. We can really do nothing. It is regrettable, but that is a fact. Isn’t the behavior of Rev.(?) Terry Jones just violence by another weapon? It would be interesting to argue that one in court. I wouldn’t hesitate to do it! Honestly, I fear my best friend, if I were to push his buttons in the right way. Civilized people don’t do that!

    Our Constitutional Rights are not a popularity contest. Indeed, the very reason for the 1st Amendment to the Constitution of the United States was to protect unpopular things. If everything is popular, where is the need? In the United States, there is a right to both be free in one’s religion and build a place of worship, and to burn the Koran or the Bible or any other book. But, that does not permit incitement to riot. Just because we have a Right to do something, doesn’t mean that we should do it. It so happens, though, that I believe the community center in New York should be built, because as the debate has gone in America, if it is not built, we lose our American values.

    I do agree with you that many so-called Muslim rallies in both the United States do amount to incitement to riot, and I do think that it is high time the authorities start making judgment calls about what is and is not unlawful incitement. Let the most egregious examples have to defend their behavior in court, all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court. That might give them pause about their most inflammatory rhetoric. But honestly, I hear inflammatory rhetoric on Fox News almost every day. So, we have a lot of jurisprudence to develop in this area.

    For the future, in this blog I hope to write a piece on whether some of the rallies in the USA by radical Muslims might not actually amount of Treason, which is mentioned in our Constitution. In order to do that, though, I need to spend some time on legal research, so it might be a while.

    I do understand that people are “fed up,” and me too! I’m “fed up” by the incessant propaganda that has been fed to Americans and Europeans for the past decade, without sufficient and appropriate counterpoint from the Muslim world. The idea of them dominating us or we dominating them is ludicrous, as we have seen from the ineffectual efforts of the US armed forces in Afghanistan. By the same token, if someone were actually trying to do that, which beyond a minority representing 1/1,000th of 1 percent they are not, I would certainly take up arms myself and defend our way of life and our fundamental values of equality and fairness. But that is not the case, though you couldn’t tell for sure if you listen to some news networks.

    Yes, Americans and Europeans don’t think it is offending to insult others. We have learned to have thick skins. It is part of our strength! All you have to do is watch a debate in the House of Commons to know that! But certain insults in the Muslim world do cause offense; we know that and it is no trouble on our parts not to say the insults. So why do it? That is the best way to recruit our enemies. It is not helpful! Rupert Murdoch and his ilk need to re-evaluate their strategy!

    I do agree that we need a debate, which is why your efforts and mine here are entirely worthwhile, and I appreciate them very much. I am urging my Muslim friends to abandon their reticence and begin to stand up for themselves with countervailing messages. Time will tell whether they will do it. What I do know is that I alone cannot be the defender of Islam. I am not Muslim, so my credibility is lacking without support from the Muslim World.

    Believe me I do know the hurt you feel from someone telling you that you are inferior in the eyes of God! Despite the fact that the incident with my daughter occurred more than 11 years ago, I do still feel its pain every day. The people responsible were not my daughter, but the lying bastards who put such family divisive ideas into her young psyche. They would not ever want to taunt me face-to-face by saying that they were the ones who taught her to say that. Even I could be violent then!

    I agree with you that to the extent that religions are divisive, they need to be reformed. It was instructive to watch the Pope in Britain this week. It was the first visit by a Pope to Britain, ever! And much was made about feuds between Catholics and the Church of England going back centuries. While I don’t think highly of the Catholic Church and the Pope, for failing to properly deal with their buggering brethren, I do respect the Pope for making this trip. [The foregoing notwithstanding, if this is true http://bit.ly/doQvxb , I call for the resignation of the Pope. He cannot command the respect of any morally conscious Catholic, and he certainly would not command my respect (if true). {This comment was added September 24, 2010, based on the news at the foregoing link.}] He surely had to take a huge amount of abuse, and he surely knew he would. But he did the trip nonetheless. That is showing physically that the human race must move on from our dictatorial history, and build a better World. Now it’s been done, and every new Pope will have to make regular trips to Great Britain. But that’s valid penance for the behaviors of the Catholic Church in earlier centuries.

    I recall how apprehensive I was the first time I visited Hiroshima. Ironically to me at the time, what I found was that the Japanese who live in modern Hiroshima are the most welcoming and friendly of all Japanese, especially to foreigners. Let the World model its behavior after the people of Hiroshima, who picked up their lives and chose to move into the future, rather than dwell on their past. While there is an obligatory visit to the Hiroshima Peace Museum, it is small penance for the good natured hospitality of the people of Hiroshima!

    Best regards, Skip Conover (Twitter: @skip_conover)
    September 18, 2010

  4. Dear Clara,

    Thank you so much for your continuing comments. I’m sure the issues you raise are the same as for many people, so we must get them aired for the reticent ones. As a thank you (hopefully you will see it as such), I will e-mail you an electronic copy of Tsunami of Blood: (http://amzn.to/9V8c4e), which was an earlier book I wrote on these topics.

    I do not believe the question is “Do the good parts [of Islam] outweigh the bad ones?” There are web sites and blogs that do that sort of thing. Here’s one I offer without commenting on its content: http://bit.ly/9GAspN . In “Man in the middle” my objective is not to promote one religion or another. What I am trying to get at is what is the best way for civilization to move forward, given the current circumstances. I do not believe the shrill debate on both sides is sustainable.

    By giving the link to “Muslim Women: Jewels of Islam” (http://bit.ly/9XASkt), I took no position on it. I merely pointed out that a Muslim woman had pointed it out to me as a defense of the treatment of women in Islam. Just as would be the case in the West, I believe if Muslim women do examine their own feelings and beliefs, a majority would be honest enough to say to themselves that, “Yes, there are ways [many ways] in which my treatment in our society could be better.” Whether they would attribute that belief to their reaction to Islam or to cultural norms within their societies I cannot say. I agree with you that the Truth does lie in the middle somewhere. It is a question Muslim women will need to address as their societies modernize and are exposed to thought from all over the World.

    I agree with you about the divisiveness of some Muslims, but I point out that those same behaviors belong to many Christians as well. Recall the two stories I related earlier about the divisive behaviors of Fundamentalist Christians as they impacted my personal family. They are no better! What is to be done about it? As the Buddhists have it, “Think Globally, Act Locally.” I do regularly address this same issue in my own family, as it relates to Christian Fundamentalists, and Muslims are going to need to address it in their societies. I do believe that we can help them along by pointing out to them the errors in judgment of some of their own rhetoric, as I suggested in the previous piece, “Victory for Islam!” (http://wp.me/p13Y6U-C).

    In American law, it is the “Trier of Fact,” namely the Jury or a Judge (without a Jury), which has to decide when a crime has been committed. We normally use the “Reasonable Wo/Man Standard.” In the criminal law, which would relate to the matter of Incitement to Riot, the standard of proof is, “Beyond a Reasonable Doubt.” Reasonable people can differ on what’s “beyond,” but in this case I do believe that a media supported threat to burn the Koran does amount to Incitement, and the various media outlets are just as guilty or more guilty than the Rev.(?) Terry Jones himself.

    It is no defense that the target of an action may be different than the norm, in this case Western norms, and we did not know (which in this case, most rational people did know). There is a rule in American law called the “Eggshell Skull Rule.” It goes as follows: If a child is misbehaving, many parents would flick the child on their forehead to get its attention and get it to stop its behavior. Some children, though, have what’s called an “eggshell skull,” which means that the bone is extremely thin and brittle. If someone flicks that child’s head, and kills him or her, which has happened, they can be guilty of unintentional manslaughter or at least a civil wrong permitting money damages. We can think of Muslim sensibilities in this way, and in this case we do know that they are extremely sensitive about sacrilege to the Koran. They also do not allow images of the Prophet (PBUH) done by anyone, including other Muslims. If we then intentionally stir up those sensibilities, knowing the consequences, the consequences are our responsibility. The same is true of a certain word hated by an American minority group, if used by a non-member of that group. We have adjusted our behavior as a consequence. We need to do that in these cases. Yes, under the 1st Amendment we do have a Right to do or say these things, but, at trial for Incitement to Riot, the question of the “Reasonable Wo/Man” in the circumstances does arise.

    As for the right to build the community center at 51 Park Avenue, I do believe that if our political rhetoric in a heated election season can force its end, we have lost our American values. I concede that this is my opinion. I believe the American right wing has a Right to say what they are saying, but I believe they are reprehensible for doing so. Do I believe that they are inciting riot? I don’t know without examining all of the facts and consequences, which have not yet played out. In the Rev.(?) Terry Jones case, the answer was much clearer to anyone with half a brain.

    Pressing buttons is the American way! It is the very essence of our strength as a Nation. We have over 500 native nationalities, races, religions, and interest groups in our country, and all claim American citizens among them. Whenever a good idea emerges from any of these, we all adopt it. Whenever a bad idea emerges, it is shouted out of the system by all of the other groups. In my view, Imam Feisel Abdul Rauf is simply participating in our society in this time-honored way; and some of the people responding to him are doing the same. Time will tell which view prevails. Speaking for myself, I believe we will be perceived as a weaker Nation around the World if Imam Rauf’s community center is not built; and I believe that puts us at greater peril than allowing a few Muslims to pray at a place where they seem to have already been praying for quite some time without previous notice or major complaint.

    Speaking for myself, I agree with you that when I’m called “inferior,” I too am offended, and you have every right to be. What we do about that depends on who we are and the circumstances in the particular case, which I do not address here.

    I do not believe in political correctness, per se. I believe it depends on the circumstances what is to be done. I do believe that one has to break a few eggs in order to prepare an omelet, as my “Victory for Islam!” post would suggest (http://wp.me/p13Y6U-C). As I pointed out in the previous paragraph, confrontation of views is the American way of strengthening our society, and sometimes people are offended. That’s the way it works.

    You asked why Islam should be held to a different standard. I make no judgment on that score. In my view, all religions must be held to the standards religions are held to by their followers. If their believers pursue a certain “truth,” I make no comment, so long as it does not negatively affect the civilization in which I live. When it does, like my Dutch ancestors who fought the Spanish to avoid becoming Catholic again, I too would stand up and fight by words and deeds. Actually, I’m doing that by this blog, because I believe the inflammatory rhetoric of our far right wing is putting our civilization at great risk. In “Victory for Islam!” I am making the mirroring point to my Muslim readers—the rhetoric of their extreme spokesmen is also putting civilization at risk. There is no double standard.

    Please do keep questioning anything you read here! In my view, this is an important process.

    Best regards, Skip Conover (Twitter: @skip_conover)

  5. Clara
    2010/09/17 at 2:21 pm
    “But, he should have known that if he did it as planned, he would get hundreds or thousands of people killed in riots all over the World (…).” – that only proves his point, no? about how violent muslims are. and that actually there is a reason to fear them. by that analogy you start to think that there must be something in islam that makes these people this way.

    the community centre that is supposed to be a ‘bridge’ and build understanding between muslims and other monotheistic religions (what about the rest?) is being strongly opposed. yes, it does offend non-muslims. I think that according to polls 70% Americans don’t want the centre there, they feel it’s a slap and insult to them but they are still going to build it. and president comes out asking to uphold freedom of religion. so the right of muslims to practice their religion is upheld and our rights to burn the quran is not.
    bottom line is that the president got involved because of the security measures (I guess). I think it can be used as a portrayal of how unpredictable those people are! so this guy only proved the point of muslims wanting freedom of expression for themselves but not allowing it for others. sorry, but that’s how i see it.
    just look up muslim march in uk and you will see incitement to riot, muslims shouting for blood and death of denmark. it sent shivers down my spine! what did the police do? nothing.

    I do agree with you that publicizing things like that is far far from diplomatic, but on the other hand I feel that people are just fed up? they are fed up with tip-toeing around muslims cause they get so easily offended by pretty much everything yet they don’t think it’s offending to insult others.

    Please believe me that your arguments make much sense to me. I think though that what we need is a debate. A serious debate, where all the concerns of non-muslims are addressed and refuted if not based on reality.
    I always say that i’m open to accept others point of view as long as someone provides me with plausible arguments. But I want to see a dialogue between western philosophers/thinkers and people who are authoritative in Islam, and islamic scholars.
    If Islam is truly a religion of peace as we are being told there is nothing to be afraid of. No amount of criticism or critical thought should change it cause I think that in the end the truth prevails.

    yes, you are right. i don’t hang out with a strongly religious people. I guess I intuitively avoid them I’m very sorry to hear that you’ve been told such a thing. I know how it feels. apart from the things I mentioned above I was also told by that muslim that i’m going to hell (he said it hurts him to know it, but it’s true). I’m repeating myself over and over again but you see I can’t get over it. I simply can’t. No one in my entire life said such a thing to me. It makes my heart sink.
    So you see how huge impact it had on me and i believe I’m not a lone case.
    The topic is about islam but i know from friends of friends that christians can be the same way too. By all means I don’t make christians look better.

    Bottom line: I disagree to be thought of as an inferior being, somewhere lower than the hierarchy, not good enough, dammed to hell because I don’t believe in what others do. Religions are divisive. And I don’t think that’s what God intended (if there is one). We are all brothers and sisters in humanity and that should be our PRIMARY religion.

    I think that I take such stance because I think about my future children and that what makes me kind of angry. WE are responsible for the world they are gonna be living in. So I think it’s better if we don’t screw it up. This documentary by R. Dawkins made me think about our future generations. You might want to see it. And yes, i’m strongly opposed indoctrination of children. They are too young to decide. Let them learn how to think critically to choose for themselves.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8_fLPYSW1hg

    thanks
    [Originally posted by Clara under “What do you Expect?”]

  6. Skip Conover says:

    Two Muslim women have come to me privately today, defending the treatment of women in Islam. One of them wanted my readers to see this site, “Islam’s Women: Jewels of Islam.” http://bit.ly/9XASkt

  7. Clara says:

    Hello,

    I haven’t travelled around muslim world so I can’t speak from experience.

    I know they have good family values and emphasize it. That’s good!
    As for the website: women as jewels of islam… read the quran and the hadiths and you will see for yourself. I am not going to deny that there are positive examples of behaviour depicted in islam. If I said there is none that would be a lie. The question is: do the good parts outweigh the bad ones?
    It’s also confusing for me when you say that in Muslim world women ARE subjugated and then give a link to a website about how women receive great treatment in islam.
    The truth probably lies in the middle.

    If I were to define my main problem with Islam is the fact that it divides people into two groups: believers and unbelievers. The first group, naturally, is better, superior because it believes in Allah and Muhammad as a last messenger. And in my humble opinion that’s where all the problems start. Cause then it’s believers against the evil unbelievers who are disrespectful and disobeying the word of Allah and his messenger. It makes us two teams on the opposite sides of the fence. And believers of course should fight in the cause of Allah as per the quran.
    Can’t people just be people? Good and bad? You can be a devout muslim and be a wicked person. You can believe in nothing and be a good person.

    “In the United States, there is a right to both be free in one’s religion and build a place of worship, and to burn the Koran or the Bible or any other book. But, that does not permit incitement to riot. Just because we have a Right to do something, doesn’t mean that we should do it.” – firstly, how do you assess that some actions constitute incitement to riot? I see burning the quran as a provocation, but incitement to riot? It’s not like you call for killing anyone, which is punishable.

    I understand 1st amendment (even though i am not american) as a right/freedom to do something that doesn’t physically hurt others. So I would think that if you want to build 1000 copies of the quran and burn it in your own backyard (imagine there are no houses in proximity), you can do it. You can record it and put it on youtube. It’s your right. I don’t think there is anything positive coming out of ‘pushing people’s buttons’ in this particular way but it’s your damn right to do that. It’s not wise but it’s your right, but means that you shouldn’t always blindly exercise your right.

    Now, the community centre. They have a constitutional right to build it. But it’s not like any other building. It’s something that for loads of people stands for much more than just an islamic centre. They are offended. And those who propose the building knew/know it but they still pressing the buttons, no? They are not backing down with the project. And why is that? Imam said that if they do, it will look bad in a muslim world and it’s a threat to national security. A THREAT to national security? and such statement comes from an imam who is involved in the muslim world. So essentially you are saying that we should back down and not annoy muslims but they can do whatever they want and we shouldn’t get offended? On what premises you make that claim? I’m damn offended when someone calls me inferior!

    “But certain insults in the Muslim world do cause offense; we know that and it is no trouble on our parts not to say the insults. So why do it? That is the best way to recruit our enemies. It is not helpful!” – So what do you think works? Political correctness? Not saying the truth because someone can feel offended? So you choose not to address uncomfortable issues for the sake of not offending someone, yes?

    As far as I’m concerned we should not interfere or impose anything on their own countries. They have to solve their issues themselves and we have no business sticking our noses there. The change has to come from within.
    But when they come and live in our democratic countries there MUST be an honest debate based on verifiable sources not opinons.
    Could you tell me why Islam should be held to a different standard? For me it’s like any other religion. If you allow criticism of christianity/judaism or other ideologies then you should allow for criticism of islam. Why the double standard?

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