We are a welcoming Europe

We are a welcoming Europe

Millions have stood up to help.

Europe’s citizens are its biggest strength and the key to change the current political impasse on migration. We are coming together to launch a European-wide campaign in order to put pressure on politicians, in particular as part of the 2019 European Parliament elections, and put forth our demands.

We want the European Commission to directly support local groups that are willing to welcome and integrate refugees because we should have the chance to sponsor refugees.

We want the European Commission to stop those governments that are punishing volunteers because no one should be prosecuted for offering humanitarian help and shelter.

We want the European Commission to guarantee more effective ways to defend victims of exploitation, crime and human rights abuses in our countries and at the borders because everyone in Europe – whatever their status – has the right to seek justice.

The initiative claims that citizens across Europe want to sponsor refugees to offer them a safe home and a new life.

Visit the website


FOE NOT FRIEND Yemeni Tribes and Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)

FOE NOT FRIEND Yemeni Tribes and Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)

Yemeni tribes as collective entities have not backed or allied with AQAP, agreed to give its fighters safe haven, or endorsed its radical ideology; to the contrary, tribes have tended to see the group as a potentially serious challenge to their authority

This timely report by Nadwa Al-Dawsari unpacks the dynamics between tribes and AQAP to explain that Yemeni tribes are not an inherent part of the problem, but instead could represent a key to countering the group effectively. The report describes the evolution of al-Qaeda in Yemen since the late 1980s; what tribes are, the government’s relations with tribes, and tribes’ governance and value systems; and AQAP-tribal interactions before and during the civil war, when some tribes have coordinated with AQAP against the Houthis, a common enemy.

The report goes on to discuss how the excessively militarised U.S. counterterrorism approach has worsened some of the conditions on the ground that fuelled al-Qaeda in Yemen in the first place.

Finally, the report offers four broad recommendations for U.S. policy including 1) Work to end the war as soon as possible; 2) Do not wait until the end of the war, however, to help Yemenis strengthen security and improve living conditions; 3) Limit the use of airstrikes and raids against AQAP, especially in areas where clashes between Houthis and tribes are ongoing; and 4) Explore the possibility of rehabilitation for some tribesmen who joined AQAP for economic, political, or social reasons, not out of ideological commitment.

AQAP exploited the security vacuum created when Yemen’s military and security forces split into pro-and anti-Saleh factions, or simply disintegrated.

Download report


UK government should withdraw its invitation to Abdel Fatah al-Sisi

We are concerned to hear that the government has invited the Egyptian dictator, Field Marshal Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, to visit the UK. We believe it violates the British values which the government claims to champion to welcome a ruler who has overthrown an elected government and instituted a regime of terror which has thrown back the cause of democracy in Egypt and the wider Middle East many years.

While not necessarily supporting deposed President Morsi or the policies of his Freedom and Justice party, we note that he was democratically elected, and that his removal from office was effected by means of a military coup led by Sisi.

Since then Sisi’s military-directed regime has massacred thousands of civilians. Hundreds of supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, including President Morsi, have been sentenced to death in mass trials that were a travesty of justice. Almost all independent political activity has been suppressed, including that of liberal and leftwing organisations. Women’s rights have been violated across the country.

Sisi was “elected” president in 2014 in a vote that did not meet the most minimal democratic standards. The parliamentary elections currently taking place in the absence of any real opposition have been shunned by the vast majority of Egyptian voters with record low turnout, in the expectation that the new Egyptian parliament will be no more than a fig leaf for Sisi’s authoritarian regime.

Meanwhile, security and police forces have illegally arrested, detained and tortured Egyptian citizens, media freedoms have been suppressed and many journalists arrested and abused.

Such renunciation of democracy and human rights has surely contributed to the upsurge of terrorism in Egypt, which we repudiate but regard as a consequence of, rather than a justification for, Sisi’s barbarism.

Under these circumstances, we regard any visit to the UK by this despot as an affront to democratic values. No considerations of commerce or realpolitik can justify such an invitation. We urge the government to withdraw it.

Diane Abbott MP
Caroline Lucas MP
John McDonnell MP
Lindsey German Stop the War Coalition
John Pilger Journalist
Dr Anas Altikriti The Cordoba Foundation
Andrew Murray Chief of staff, Unite
Dr Daud Abdullah British Muslim Initiative
Ken Loach Film-maker
Dr Abdullah Faliq Islamic Forum of Europe
John Rees Counterfire
Dr Maha Azzam Egyptian Revolutionary Council
Harjinder Singh
Prof John L Esposito
Victoria Brittain Writer
Salma Yaqoob Former councillor
Peter Oborne Journalist
Bruce Kent CND peace campaigner
Aaron Kieley Student Broad Left
Kate Hudson CND
Chris Nineham Stop the War Coalition
Michael Rosen Author and political activist
Carl Arrindell Broadcaster
Dr Omar el-Hamdoon Muslim Association of Britain
Dr Farooq Bajwa Solicitor
Reverend Stephen Coles St Thomas the Apostle Church
Steve Bell Treasurer, Stop the War Coalition
Carol Turner Labour CND
Dr David Warren University of Manchester
Tanya Cariina Newbury Smith
Ibrahim Vawda Media Review Network
Nabeweya Malick Muslim Judicial Council
Hilary Aked University of Bath
Alastair Sloan Al-Jazeera columnist and investigative reporter
Dr MF ElShayyal Visiting professor, King’s College and SOAS
Asim Qureshi Author, Rules of the Game
Shaykh Abu Sayeed Da’watul Islam UK & Eire
Dr S Sayyid University of Leeds
Dr Muhammad Feyyaz University of Management and Technology, Pakistan
Dr Haider Bhuiyan University of North Georgia
Dr Osama Rushdi National Council for Human Rights, Egypt
Prof Mohammad Fadel University Toronto, Canada 
Prof Scott Poynting University of Auckland, New Zealand
Maher Ansar Sri Lankan Islamic Forum-UK
Dr Alain Gabon USA
Na’eem Jennah
Dr Muhammad Abdul-Bari
Imam Ajmal Masroor
Dr Sarah Marusek
Yahya Birt
Shanon Shah
Robina Samuddin
Sameh Shafei Stop Sisi
Anne Alexander Co-Founder, MENA Solidarity Network and Egypt Solidarity Initiative
Medea Benjamin Code Pink

• Join the debate – email guardian.letters@theguardian.com

SOURCE: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/oct/27/uk-government-should-withdraw-its-invitation-to-abdel-fatah-al-sisi

Meiktila violence sends warning to foreign investors

In Myanmar’s capital Yangon, on March 20-21, a business investment summit presented Myanmar as a stable, growing democracy eager to establish agriculture, infrastructure, financial and manufacturing partnerships with leading international companies.

The messages were clear _ Myanmar’s transition to democracy is irreversible, wide-ranging reforms are underway and the country is now ripe for investment and trade.

Investors flocked, excited about new business prospects in a country that had been economically and politically isolated for decades.

In stark contradiction, and with devastating consequences, extreme brutal violence was unleashed against Muslim residents of the township of Meiktila near Mandalay.

The aftermath of the attacks, which took place on the same day as the summit, left Meiktila looking like a war zone. Scores of buildings, including many shops and mosques, were razed to the ground. Reports from local media and human rights organisations claim hundreds may have been killed in the attacks.

Eyewitnesses have told horrific stories of people being stoned, beaten and burned to death. Among the most chilling reports to have emerged is one of 28 students, including many orphans, and four teachers at an Islamic school being beaten to death by a large Buddhist mob.

Over the weekend, fear and violence spread, with attacks reported in other parts of the country including in Nay Pyi Taw, Bago, Yamethin and Yangon. On Sunday night, three trucks of armed vigilantes mounted attempted attacks on Muslim shopkeepers and mosques in downtown Yangon, mere minutes away from the popular Aung San Market and five-star hotels close by.

The most alarming feature about the recent violence is that it bears the mark not of “communal clashes”, but of carefully calculated and systematically planned attacks against a minority. Indeed, at the height of the attacks, many shocked Buddhist residents of Meiktila even risked their own lives to protect Muslims in their homes or drive them out of the city.

Local Muslim organisations have been warning for many months about mounting anti-Muslim campaigns by radical Buddhist groups, including the recently established 969 Movement, who are believed to have instigated the Meiktila attacks. Anti-Muslim incidents have increased steadily over the past few months, including the demolition of an Islamic school on the outskirts of Yangon by a mob of 300 Buddhists on Feb 17.

To read this article in more detail, please click here

New MA Programs from Kings College London

The Department of Theology and Religious Studies at Kings College London introduces the MA Abrahamic Religions and the MA Religion in Contemporary Society.

The Department of Theology & Religious Studies at King’s is highly attractive to students who wish to know more about Religions in their textual, historical and contemporary contexts.

Students will be taught by world leading academics working on Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Students will also benefit from our specialist area study centres of the Middle East, Russia, and Religion and Public Policy, hosting leading visitors such as academics, journalists, and policy makers. Students can choose from a broad range of modules and shape degrees to their interests.

In the new MA in Abrahamic Religions students develop skills in comparative research and understanding of Christianity, Judaism and Islam.

The MA in Religion in Contemporary Society combines anthropology, sociology and politics, training students in understanding the role of contemporary religions in public life, globalization, and modern social transformations.

Both MAs prepare students for jobs in a wide range of professions from academic research, public service, and policy.

For more information on the MA  in Abrahamic Religion, please click here

For more information on the MA in Religion in Contemporary Society, please click here

Mali: Totalitarian vs. liberal Islamists

I’ll be honest, I am certainly not an expert on African politics. When it comes to Mali, I would even plead total ignorance, because, until a few weeks ago, I would probably have had a hard time even finding this West African nation on a map. Yet still, since the beginning of the French military operation earlier this month, I have become a curious Mali observer.

It is not that easy, though, to understand what is really happening in this poor and landlocked African country. In the Turkish press, most commentators readily speak of a “neo-colonial” plot by France, aiming at nothing but more plundering the natural resources of the continent. In the Western media, on the other hand, most narratives rather focus on the threat coming from the “Islamists” of Mali, who have dominated northern part of the country and established oppressive rule. The Islamist group called Ansar Dine (“Helpers of Religion”), for example, reportedly banned Malian and Western music, bars, video games and even football. This Taliban-like tyranny, in other words, seems to be the only thing people have in mind when they speak of “the Islamists of Mali.”

However, a recent piece in the New York Times by Hannah Armstrong, an Africa-based fellow of the Institute of Current World Affairs, shows that facts are more nuanced. Titled, “A Tale of Two Islamisms,” Armstrong explains that the Taliban-like totalitarianism of Ansar Dine and its ilk is only one face of Islam in Mali. The other one, which is no less pious, is led by the High Council of Islam (HCI), which, in the words of Armstrong, is an “Islamist civil society organization, which provides social services and education through a network of 165 NGOs.”

This HCI, Armstrong also notes, represents “a republican form of Islamism [that] is peacefully conquering the south of Mali.” It trains imams and promotes religious values. But it rejects both the violent tactics and the oppressive measures of the Islamists in the north. “I am a moderate Islamist and a republican,” Moussa Boubacar Bah, a Sufi jurist and one of the leaders of the HCI, tells Armstrong. “I will not destroy a bar,” he explains. “I will convince the people not to drink.”

Given that people have the right to remain unconvinced, this would be a sort of Islamism that I would call “liberal” – liberal in the sense that it respects people’s liberty to choose between Islam and non-Islam, between piety and vice. (It is no accident that the Sufis of HCI are inclined to think this way, for Sufis are interested mainly in individual piety, and thus often realize that it can only be based on free choice, whereas oppression leads only to hypocrisy.)

This division among the Islamists of Mali – totalitarian versus liberal – seems to be a serious one with important political consequences. Armstrong notes that while the HCI tries to be an “interlocutor with the extremists in the north,” it also supports the French intervention in the country “to stop a fresh offensive from the north.” The liberals’ attitude toward the West, in other words, is not black and white.

Moreover, the same division between the two forms of Islamism exists not only in Mali, but in fact the whole Muslim world. It would be only naïve to consider them as a single force, as some Westerners and Muslim secularists crudely do. It would rather be wise to help the liberals win over the totalitarians.

This originally appeared here

Today We Remember Lincoln as a Great Redeemer – And That Should Give Obama Hope

Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln is a spectacular movie – “less a biopic than a political thriller, a civics lesson… alive with moral energy”, in the words of the New York Times review. Sitting in a preview screening in Soho Square, I cried. I couldn’t help it: the story of how Lincoln pushed the Thirteenth Amendment through a divided House of Representatives in the space of just four months, thereby abolishing the institution of slavery for ever, only to be assassinated, was too moving and melodramatic for even this cynical writer to bear.
The film presents Lincoln as an eloquent and noble commander-in-chief, an intensely moral man and a champion of black America. In this sense, there is nothing new in Spielberg’s depiction of ‘Honest Abe.’ Lincoln has long been considered the greatest ever leader of the United States; he is the Great Emancipator, Preserver of the Union, Redeemer President.
Spielberg joins a long line of Lincoln sanctifiers such as Leo Tolstoy, who breathlessly declared that “the greatness of Napoleon, Caesar or Washington is only moonlight by the sun of Lincoln.” His film is based in part on the historian Doris Kearns Goodwin’s biography (or hagiography?) Team of Rivals: the Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln.
But is the Hollywood take on Lincoln – emancipator of the slaves, assuager of America’s racist past – the whole story? In a scathing letter to the Daily Telegraph on 12 January, the LSE historian Alan Sked wrote: “Abraham Lincoln was a racist who… had no intention of freeing slaves who freed themselves by fleeing to Unionist lines… Until the day he died, Lincoln’s ideal solution to the problem of blacks was to ‘colonise’ them back to Africa or the tropics.” To read more, please click here

OIC Communique on Rohingya Crisis

The open-ended Extra-ordinary Executive Committee of the OIC convened at the Permanent Representative level on 5th August 2012 at OIC Headquarters to discuss the critical situation of the Muslim ethnic Rohingya minority under the chairmanship of Mr.Bakhyt Batyrshayev, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Kazakhstan to OIC. After a round of discussions, the Committee;

Proceeding from the principles and objectives of the Charter of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and pursuant to the resolutions on the question of Muslim Minorities and Communities;

Stressing the need to respect the universally accepted human rights and norms and principles of international humanitarian law;

Condemning the continued disregard of international law by Myanmar and its detrimental implications for regional and global peace, stability and security;

Appreciating the efforts of the OIC Group on Human Rights and Humanitarian Issues in Geneva to highlight the Rohingya issue in line with the Secretary General’s proposals;

Commending highly the efforts of the  Secretary General  to resolve the issue of the Rohingya minority in Myanmar by convening this extra-ordinary executive committee and his early and timely response to the situation in Arakan particularly by communicating to the UN Secretary General, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, ASEAN Secretary General, EU High Representative, President of Myanmar and Chairperson of National League for Democracy, and expressing concern to governments in the region particularly with the  People’s Republic of China during his recent visit;

Welcoming Catherine Ashton’s statement on July 22, 2012 stating the EU is closely monitoring acts of violence against the Muslim minority in Myanmar and will be dispatching experts from the European Community Humanitarian office (ECHO) to Myanmar to determine the urgent needs of the Muslims. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights’, Navi Pillay, statement on July 27th,   2012 claiming that Muslim Communities in Arakan State were being targeted by Myanmar security forces and the announcement of sending a special rapporteur to Myanmar. The Visit by Vijay Nambiear, Special Adviser on Myanmar to UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, to Arakan state in Myanmar after the violence erupted.

Having listened to the speech of the OIC Secretary General, the presentation of Dr.Wakar Uddin, Director General of Arakan Rohingya Union (ARU), and to the interventions of Head of Delegations,

1. Condemns in the strongest possible terms the brutal aggression and systematic gross violations of human rights committed by armed gangs and encouraged by the authorities and condemns in particular the involvement of security forces and their instigation in the clashes by the Myanmar authorities and Buddhist against innocent unarmed Muslim civilians;

2. Emphasizes that the atrocities committed against Rohingya minority in Myanmar including killing, razing houses, forced eviction, forced labor in harsh conditions, summary executions, rape, torture have approached the crime of genocide and represent a serious threat to international peace and security and regional stability, as clearly demonstrated by the recent violence. It is a serious crime against humanity, and a blatant breach of international law, which needs to receive proper reaction by the international community through bringing Myanmar authorities who are responsible for these heinous acts to justice;

3. Reiterates its firm and unwavering demand for an immediate halt of the unlawful acts of crimes against humanity perpetrated towards Rohingya in Myanmar  and the opening of Myanmar borders to allow for unfettered humanitarian access;

4. Highlights the United Nations Declaration that the “Rohingya are a linguistic, religious, ethnic minority from western Burma”.

5. Calls upon the Myanmar authorities and Rakhine Buddhists to abstain from the use of force and violence and give precedence to peaceful resolutions through dialogue towards national unity.

6. Recommends;

a)     Member States to support the United Arab Emirate’s call for a special session of the Human Rights Council and urgently request to file a collective complain to the UNHRC urgently requesting to dispatch a Commission of Inquiry. The council should also ask Myanmar to cooperate fully with the Commission and to take measures to ensure the accountability of all violations of human rights in order to prevent their repetition and continue to monitor the situation.

b)     Request the OIC Secretary General and Member States to explore all possible means through engagements with the United Nations including tabling of a Rohingya Muslim specific resolution in the 3rd Committee of the UN General Assembly at the 66th Session of the UNGA.

c)      Member States request the OIC Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission (IPHRC) to examine the situation of Rohingya Muslim minority in Myanmar as a priority issue on its agenda requiring immediate attention and action while presenting concrete recommendations to the Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) towards addressing the issue in an effective manner.

d)     Call on all Member States and non-Member States and local and international NGOs to provide Humanitarian assistance to Rohingya Refugees as well as to the internally displaced in Myanmar.

e)     OIC Member States to use their diplomatic contacts at the highest level to help alleviate the sufferings of the Muslim population of Arakan.

f)       Urges OIC Member States, international organizations, along with Islamic and international civil society organizations to move promptly and provide necessary and urgent humanitarian assistance to the Rohingya people and to assist them in surmounting this grave crisis, in line with the statement issued by the OIC Secretary General in which he appealed to OIC Member States and humanitarian international organizations to do so.

g)       Decides to establish an OIC contact group in close coordination with Arakan Rohingya Union composed of all ASEAN Member States who are Member States of the OIC (Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia) along with a representative of ASEAN Secretary General and OIC Secretary General. The rest of the membership will be decided by consultation between the OIC Secretary General and interested Member States. The group is mandated to consider ways, means, and mechanisms to ensure the halt of human rights violations against Muslim Rohingya in Myanmar and the return of their citizenship rights.

h)     Recommend the Secretary General to appoint a special envoy for this important issue.

i)       OIC Secretary General to submit his report to the 4th Extra-ordinary Summit on 14-15 August 2012 in Makkah Al-Mukaramah and the 39th CFM for necessary actions.

j)       Send a High- level OIC Representative to Myanmar stand-alone and/or with the OIC Contact Group in Naypidaw.

k)       Requests the UN Secretary General to intensify UN activities in order to immediately and unconditionally halt the violence against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar and alleviate their suffering;

l)     Requests the OIC Group in Geneva to follow up the request of the United Arab Emirates’ call for a special session of the Human Rights Council and ensure all OIC Member states to play a positive role in adopting all recommendations specifically a Commission of Inquiry;

m)  Call upon world leaders to speak out against these crimes against humanity and urge the Myanmar Government to eliminate the discriminatory law and any other discriminatory practices against the Rohingya people.

n)     OIC Member States to remain seized on this matter and requests the Secretary General to provide progress reports on the matter.

Arab Democracy – Is it Criminal to be a Reformist Voice?

On June 28th while reading my newspaper at breakfast in Cairo, I was stunned to discover that an Egyptian leader I was scheduled to see that evening had been suddenly imprisoned. I was stunned but, as anyone familiar with the Mubarak government, not surprised.

The arrest and detention of Abdel Moneim Aboul Fattouh arrest is but the latest reminder/evidence of the lack of democracy and human rights in Egypt and many parts of the Arab and Muslim worlds. For decades, the common charge is that Islam and Arab culture are incompatible with democracy and human rights. The easy and common culprit we identify today is religious extremist and terrorists. But beyond this superficial response are the deeper causes, too often including the policies of Arab/Muslim and Western leaders. Western principles are often subordinated to perceived “national interests” and thus our support for authoritarian regimes. For many Arab rulers whose positions are due more to heredity, coups, and rigged elections; most rely rely on military and security forces, repression and corruption as their preferred sources for “legitimacy.” But what does the continued detention of Abdel Moneim tell us? Post the Obama-mania, engendered by his address in Cairo on June 4, what can Egyptians expect?

Dr. Abdel Moneim Aboul Fattouh, a physician, and member of the Muslim Brotherhood, served as the head of the Doctor’s Syndicate from 1988-1992 and has been the General Secretary of the Arab Doctor’s Union since 2004. A pragmatist and reformist, he is an influential leader of a younger generation of moderate reform-minded Islamists in Egypt. Amr Musa, the General Secretary of the Arab League, recently called for his release. A member of the Guidance Council of the Muslim Brotherhood since 1987, Abdel Moneim recently participated in the funeral of President Mubarak’s grandson. Not surprisingly, he has long been seen both within Egypt and outside as a moderate, admired and respected professional. Yet, he was arrested on charges of belonging to a group called the Global Muslim Brotherhood Organization and was part of a wider crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood leaders and bloggers. After several days, Aboul Fattouh, who suffers from sleep apnea and requires a respirator, was allowed to have one but as his health deteriorated, he was transferred to Qasr al-Aini hospital. A solidarity conference for Aboul Fattou at the Journalists’ Syndicate; not surprisingly, as has been common in Egyptian elections and many meetings organized to publicly speak out or protest government repression or injustice, the meeting was quickly broken up by riot police. As with many Egyptians, like the internationally prominent secular academic and civil society leader, Prof. Saad Eddin Ibrahim, this is not the first but the third imprisonment of Abdel Moneim. In a country where both US State Department and major international human rights organizations have documented the imprisonment (and often torture) of thousands of Egyptian citizens — not simply terrorists but any major reformist voice that earns the government’s displeasure. The arbitrariness of this tactic has often been proven by the number of times the more independent minded Egyptian judiciary has eventually found many of those detained like Saad Eddin and members of the Muslim Brotherhood innocent and ordered their release, only to be reasserted again and again. So, where do we go from here?

Barack Obama inherits an American legacy, described by Amb. Richard Haas in a surprising speech when he was a senior State Department official in the George W, Bush administration as “democratic exceptionalism,” which Condoleeza Rice’s at the American University in Cairo on June 20, 2005 described as America’s record of supporting regional tyrants for six decades; it was wrong, she said, and would be reversed. Regrettably, this policy initiative died quickly as the Bush administration remained restrained in responding the violence that occurred during the 2005 presidential elections and moved aggressively to blunt and undermine the internationally monitored and supervised elections that brought Hamas to power in 2006.

Barack Obama clearly stated his inaugural address his desire to distance himself from the Bush legacy and return America to its principles and values. And most importantly, Obama, like Rice before him recognizing Egypt as a center of gravity for the region, went to Cairo where, he affirmed his commitment to democratic freedoms and human rights. While acknowledging that “no system of government can or should be imposed upon one nation by any other,” he also stressed, “That does not lessen my commitment, however, to governments that reflect the will of the people…. I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn’t steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. Those are not just American ideas, they are human rights, and that is why we will support them everywhere.”

As the Gallup World Poll, the largest and most systematic poll of the Muslim world, which represents the voices of a Billion Muslims, has demonstrated, majorities in most countries, including Egypt, want democratic freedoms. The arrest and continued detention of Dr. Abdel Moneim Aboul Fattouh symbolizes a long standing problem for which governments in the region and the West bear primary responsibility. It also underscores the need to engage moderate (non-violent) political Islam– to engage the world as it is, especially the cry for justice in response to Arab authoritarianism which, if ignored, legitimizes extremists groups. It is time for the Obama administration and the global community to work together to hear the voices of Muslim citizens and live up to their principles.

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