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We Don’t Debate Anti-Muslim Bigots- #MyJihad

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By Angie Emara

I am writing this as an opportunity to clarify the misconceptions, misreporting, and misunderstanding surrounding the #MyJihad Campaign, of which, I am the Project Coordinator and essentially lead- day in and day out. And night. And in my dreams. So really, not many others can give you the straight deal on this campaign like I can, save a few others who work tirelessly on this brilliant, groundbreaking movement.

I am writing in response to an opinion piece published in AltMuslim by Davi Barker, who writes for The Examiner and is a member of  Muslims for Liberty.  Davi writes about  Pamela Geller’s appearance on KQED Radio’s Forum with Michael Krasny opposite David Chiu, president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, and Jess Ghannam, a professor from UCSF, and director of the Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee of San Francisco. Barker thinks MyJihad or CAIR should have debated Gellar.

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First, there are several incorrect statements Davi Barker makes regarding our campaign. Each of our official ads was carefully selected and feature real, personal jihads. My ad highlights how I lost my son before his 5th birthday. So the nonsense quotes Barker says are examples of our official ads are wrong. While he does make clear that #MyJihad is not a CAIR project, most of all, it is especially not a national CAIR project.  #MyJihad is an entirely grass roots project, conceived by Ahmed Rehab (who is Executive Director of CAIR-Chicago) and then carried out by everyday regular citizens like myself. In fact, three of our most active volunteers of the “core team” are mothers.

Why #MyJihad?

Let me back up and explain this idea of grass roots even further. My son, Amir, 11, is growing up in a time and place where he is asked every so often if he is a terrorist like Osama bin Laden, because he is Muslim. Our children are growing up in a time unlike any of us, having to defend themselves and explain things that they have nothing to do with simply because they are of a particular faith. This is one of the catalysts for the #MyJihad campaign. Ahmed Rehab will tell you that he came up with this campaign because of the reaction Muslims were having to being called ‘savages,’ rather than being outraged at the misuse of the word Jihad. Thus, was born the #MyJihad campaign.

Finally we have a platform for the average Muslim that isn’t affiliated with anything political or overtly religious. Just a place where we can present ourselves as we are, how we live daily, and finally be heard. So that I, my son, Sadaf’s kids, Yasmina’s kids, and so on, don’t have to continually repeat ourselves over and over trying to be heard over the loud sounds and seen over the images plastered on buses and in selective media.

Mr. Barker thinks we should respond to people who are purposely hijacking and misusing our words and our faith. Well, Mr. Barker, that is precisely what our #MyJihad campaign is doing; however, we owe no one any proof as to who we are and what we believe.  He tries to make the argument that since a radio station offered the platform for a hate group to speak, #MyJihad volunteers must address it.

Let’s be real. Media loves controversy. They love a good fight. Is Barker really insisting that we entertain that? Just because you throw two guys into a ring and tell them to fight, are they obligated to fight? To properly debate a topic, the two sides must be opposing yes, but equal in credibility. They need to both have some kind of valid platform or grounds to stand on.

By these standards, Geller is and never will be qualified to debate us or our campaign. She and her clan are no authority on Islam, Muslims, or even people of faith for that matter.  She pulls quotes out of context, uses extremists for her examples, and flat out lies in many cases (which we have investigated and proven, by the way.) Her motives are completely political. #MyJihad is a social platform. You can’t equate the two. So of all people, we certainly owe people like Geller no explanations.

MyJihad Does Not Have a Relationship with CAIR

Barker writes, “The fact is CAIR was the right opponent for this debate, if for no other reason than because it’s being misreported that #MyJihad was CAIR’s campaign.”

Wrong. CAIR and even CAIR-Chicago, have no ownership over #MyJihad. Just because some media and people like Geller purposely misreport that it’s a CAIR campaign then we need to perpetuate this false idea by having them play the role? I’m sorry, there is no logic in such a statement. Additionally, #MyJihad is a global, grassroots campaign meaning anyone, anywhere can take part in their own way. CAIR-SF choosing to refuse the radio show with Geller was their own choice and independent of the #MyJihad campaign.

Barker writes, “The role of someone debating Geller is to get her to expose her true intentions in her own words, because she will never answer that question outright.”

Bingo. So why on Earth, Mr. Barker, would we ever entertain the idea of debating such a person one on one if she will never answer outright? Clearly, addressing Geller or any of the Islamophobes, would be fruitless. They aren’t out to debate. They aren’t out to understand nor are they even open to the possibility of hearing reality or facts. Such people are hate mongers, with a narrow agenda, part of which is to be heard and paid for it. #MyJihad will never contribute to that.

Dear Mr. Barker, #MyJihad is not (and never will be) out to oppose Geller or the likes of her. #MyJihad is out to reclaim the use and meaning of the term Jihad to its proper form, as practiced by millions of Muslims around the world from both Muslim and anti-Muslim extremists who have misused it. We aren’t going to do this one by one. No. We are tackling our goal as a movement. A grassroots movement where we rise above those who attack us and misrepresent us- not battle them head on- much like the meaning of Jihad itself actually. We don’t stoop to these extremists’ levels. We present ourselves proudly, and with conviction, and thankfully, we ARE succeeding. Join us.

Angie Emara is the Project Coordinator of MyJihad Inc.

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25 Comments

25 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Siraaj

    April 12, 2013 at 9:11 PM

    Salaam alaykum Angie,

    Was reading your piece and Davi Barker’s piece and wanted your thoughts on a few questions that came to mind.

    For example, you state the following:

    “Barker thinks MyJihad or CAIR should have debated Gellar.”

    He does state CAIR should have been at the debate; however, I failed to see any mention that MyJihad should debate Gellar – could you please point that out, maybe I missed it.

    Your piece also states:

    “Let’s be real. Media loves controversy. They love a good fight. Is Barker really insisting that we entertain that? Just because you throw two guys into a ring and tell them to fight, are they obligated to fight? To properly debate a topic, the two sides must be opposing yes, but equal in credibility. They need to both have some kind of valid platform or grounds to stand on.

    By these standards, Geller is and never will be qualified to debate us or our campaign. She and her clan are no authority on Islam, Muslims, or even people of faith for that matter. She pulls quotes out of context, uses extremists for her examples, and flat out lies in many cases (which we have investigated and proven, by the way.) Her motives are completely political. #MyJihad is a social platform. You can’t equate the two. So of all people, we certainly owe people like Geller no explanations.”

    However, if I did a youtube search on Ahmed Rehab’s name, the founder of MyJihad, I’d find he does exactly that – he debates all sorts of anti-Muslim bigots regularly on Fox News and other outlets. In fact, here he is debating Geller on Fox News during the Ground Zero debate:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0AbPNHYBbBk

    So while I agree she’s essentially a steaming pile of waste, I don’t see why CAIR (I still don’t see an invitation for your campaign) shouldn’t address her and shut her down on this issue – if Muslims had not been invited to respond, I’m sure someone would be saying right now, “See how the media provides platforms for bigots but not for us to respond.”

    I think Barker also mentions debate doesn’t necessarily presuppose rational premises, which I think makes sense, and the purpose is to expose irrational premises (often masquerading as rational in the form of, as you mention, out-of-context quotes and so on).

    “Bingo. So why on Earth, Mr. Barker, would we ever entertain the idea of debating such a person one on one if she will never answer outright? Clearly, addressing Geller or any of the Islamophobes, would be fruitless. They aren’t out to debate. They aren’t out to understand nor are they even open to the possibility of hearing reality or facts. Such people are hate mongers, with a narrow agenda, part of which is to be heard and paid for it. #MyJihad will never contribute to that.”

    Her bigotry is not yet at a recognized critical mass like it is for us involved in the Muslim community and I think it’s important to recognize the difference between debating to influence her vs debating to influence the audience. As she shows up and profiteers on different issues, I believe groups such as CAIR should be ready to shut her down on any issue at a moment’s notice. She will profiteer irrespective if CAIR shows or not, but CAIR can influence intellectually honest fence sitters.

    Siraaj

    • Avatar

      Angie Emara

      April 13, 2013 at 4:48 PM

      Salam Siraj and thank you for your comments.

      I’m not sure how you don’t see that Barker thinks #MyJihad should debate Geller. He said it at least twice, 1) in his title by saying in the war of billboards she’s winning…he’s talking about us and our ads- is he not? And 2), he equates CAIR and us even though he tries to clarify that we are separate. He wrote: “The fact is CAIR was the right opponent for this debate, if for no other reason than because it’s being misreported that #MyJihad was CAIR’s campaign”.

      This was my issue with his logic. Why is he attaching what CAIR did or didn’t do, to our campaign and its success? No connection there. Much like with your example about Ahmed Rehab. What Ahmed does for his day job as exec dir. Of CAIR-Chicago has no bearing on our campaign either.

      I just want to add, because somehow it’s not registering with some people: This radio discussion about jihad was about our campaign. Even Geller herself is purposely mixing and connecting the two so she can bring up unrelated things against us. So even for CAIR to have gone on and speak on our behalf would’ve added to the confusion. I already explained this in my piece.

      #MyJihad is a platform. It operates as a movement yet made up of individuals. Barker thinks CAIR should’ve debated to support #MyJihad. He also by the way did comment to us on Facebook too explicitly that “it woulda been nice if a MyJihad rep could’ve gone on”. As far as it seems to most of us reading, he wanted and believes we (CAIR, MyJihad) should debate this hate monger. He thinks it’s simple to “set the record straight” with her and that would somehow end her attacks on us.

      I’m saying it wouldn’t and it will never make her stop because she doesn’t listen to reason or facts, period.

      • Avatar

        Siraaj

        April 13, 2013 at 5:50 PM

        Walaykum as salaam Angie, thanks for the response.

        Before I respond, it’s important to note I’m an outsider looking in and not the reverse – my perspective is formed on your piece which is a response to his piece, with no reference to facebook discussions =)

        Re: billboard wars, it appears he’s referring to your group as well as the Ground Zero mosque “billboard wars” and others. I think his piece is speaking not only of your billboards, but all billboard campaigns, and your group’s is one example.

        Re: equating your group and CAIR – I think Pam Geller may try to do that because Ahmed Rehab is a prominent figure involved with both, but I think Barker’s statements that the two groups are separate are fairly equivocal:

        “Recently Geller rolled out an ad (hominem) campaign on San Francisco Muni buses designed to mimic the #MyJihad campaign. The #MyJihad campaign has been falsely reported as a CAIR project. CAIR was a big supporter, but MyJihad.org is its own organization.”

        I would say fair reading of those statements is that MyJihad is not a CAIR project and a separate org and that’s he’s not equating the two.

        Re: Why is he attaching CAIR, because they were invited to the discussion. You also mention that the radio discussion was about your campaign, but from what I heard from the link provided, it was actually about Pam Geller’s anti-jihad muslim bigotry ads which happen to make to be done in a mock #MyJihad design motif. I don’t believe CAIR’s primary role in that discussion was to defend the #MyJihad campaign (though they could certainly clarify who they are in relation as Davies says), but to continue the role which they often perform on fox news and other media outlets, taking advantage of the platform to defend against her attacks.

        Re: CAIR showing up and confusing the issue, I think CAIR is intelligent enough to properly delineate between the two organizations in a radio dialogue =D

        Re: Geller will go away if only we’d explain things to her nicely, I agree with you that she will never do so, but getting on these programs is less about convincing her and more about explaining to the listening public why she is wrong, to win over the fence-sitters and other audience members rather than letting her spew her propaganda unchecked.

        Re: #MyJihad joining the discussion, seems like an afterthought on his part, but like I said, if that’s what he meant, that’s certainly not what I read from his piece. Maybe there’s some insider information flying back and forth that outsiders like myself aren’t seeing =)

        Anyway, despite all this, I wish you guys well. It just seems like he supports your efforts and hard work, and there may be disagreement on how to approach bigots like Geller, but I hate to see people who support one another go at it, so to speak. My role in pointing this out is simply to have you consider perhaps he didn’t say what you thought and there’s no hard feelings =) And then you can get back to concentrating that limited time (which I completely understand, have the same issue myself) that Yasmina mentions below on pushing back on the bigots as you guys are =D

        Siraaj

        • Avatar

          Angie Emara

          April 13, 2013 at 10:59 PM

          Salam again,

          I could still respond to everything you said, but for the sake of your intentions, I’m going stop and say that I understand what you’re trying to tell us. Perhaps I did take his article as a critique on the #MyJihad campaign and he never meant it as such. (I will say many others read it the same way.) But in any case I appreciate and AGREE that it’s a shame to have people who are fighting for the same cause “go at it”. I will say however, that the only reason I even took the time to write a formal response was BECAUSE we value Davi’s feelings and opinions on this topic. He and his views are worth responding to. He probably represents what a number of people are thinking too.

          Anyway, THANK YOU for caring and trying to explain on his behalf. I would say all of this discussion has been very beneficial, elhamdulilah.

          Salam alaikum :)

          • Avatar

            Siraaj

            April 15, 2013 at 1:44 AM

            Agreed, I think the discussion has been beneficial as well, jazakallah khayr for the time and keep fighting the good fight, insha’Allah =)

            Siraaj

  2. Avatar

    Yasmina

    April 13, 2013 at 1:28 PM

    Angie is acknowledging that “MyJihad” and “CAIR” have been confused as one and the same. And Geller clearly using the #MyJihad colors and look/feel for her SF ads — c’mon. You seriously want to nit pick Angie’s comments about what Barker meant on who he believes should debate with Geller? Okay- wasting time on this … next …

    What Ahmed has done in the past has nothing to do with what Angie or I or any other #MyJihad vounteer are doing NOW. Every day and night in this campaign. (I also am aware that networks would bring her on without his prior knowledge at times- but I digress and its neither here nor there.) What is that supposed to even mean?

    Sir- if you feel it is important for a group to formally debate hate groups like Geller- then you should form one. That is your freedom and right. #MyJihad is a campaign where anyone on the planet can express themselves. And be themselves. Period.

    As a Board Member- I LOVE critique, criticisms and suggestions from people- when they also come with bona fide solutions. We hear A LOT of, ‘You should be doing this ….. You need to be doing that ….. you should…you could.” Thanks- appreciate the suggestions. But not sure how much more ME I can be. How much more ANGIE Angie can be. That is the essence of #MyJihad. Join us and express your truths. (Which might be, #MyJihad is to create a debate group to argue with bigots. What’s yours?) And if that is your jihad— God bless you.

    • Avatar

      Siraaj

      April 13, 2013 at 2:35 PM

      You asked me if I wanted to nitpick the conversation – yes, I do. Your group and Davi Barker are in complete agreement on #MyJihad role wrt Pam Geller – none. He clearly differentiates in his piece (and Angie notes in her piece) that CAIR should have taken her on during that debate.

      So the suggestion that anyone is asking the #MyJihad folks to get in a debate with Geller is false. The question was never about whether #MyJihad should debate her, but if CAIR, who was invited to the discussion, should have shown up. They decided not to, Barker argued (intelligently) that they should have. I agree with his reasoning, but I also respect CAIR’s decision-making as I’m sure they have other considerations beyond what was publicly stated.

      #MyJihad – reasonable, intelligent discussion with Muslims where asking intellectually honest questions and taking differing points of view doesn’t result in being talked down to – what’s yours? ;)

      Siraaj

      • Avatar

        Angie Emara

        April 13, 2013 at 4:58 PM

        Just want to add, I hope no one, including Davi, feels talked down to. I simply responded to his editorial piece and I took no offense to his either. In fact I respect that he weighed in on the topic. I think it’s just a little frustrating to have fellow Muslims criticizing our efforts when it seems they don’t have the full understanding of the work. Additionally, as far as #MyJihad goes, we strongly invite and urge ANYONE to act in the way they see fit. If Barker or you feel it is beneficial to debate such people, we invite you to come on board and do so. #MyJihad would love that in fact.

        • Avatar

          Siraaj

          April 13, 2013 at 6:03 PM

          I understand what it means to put in a lot of effort into building a new org and having it flourish, I have experience in the Chicago community doing so myself, and I know exactly what you mean that it hurts to receive criticism from other Muslims based on misunderstandings of who you and are and what you do.

          I just didn’t see any criticism from his piece towards your org, and that’s really the essence of what I wanted to point out.

          • Avatar

            Ramy

            April 14, 2013 at 8:21 PM

            Thank you Siraaj for stating the obvious. The MyJihad people misunderstood what his piece was about.

      • Avatar

        Yasmina

        April 13, 2013 at 5:26 PM

        Sorry if you felt “talked down to.” Not my intention. I am bold, blunt and passionate. The only man that ever could beat me in an “argument” was my father, rest his soul. Thanks for the discussion, brother- salams.

        • Avatar

          Siraaj

          April 13, 2013 at 6:04 PM

          Were we arguing? I think I was just sharing my point of view =D

          • Avatar

            Yasmina

            April 13, 2013 at 6:37 PM

            Ok, “you win.” :-)

  3. Avatar

    Tariq Nisar Ahmed

    April 13, 2013 at 6:06 PM

    Sister Angie, I can empathize with your kids. While I was in elementary school the Iranian revolution took place and US hostages were held at the US Embassy in Iran.

    I had encountered some discrimination before that, including a kid whose family had raised him to glorify the crusades, and another kid who told me that I had to accept Jesus, then gave her interpretation of Jesus’s teachings by slapping and spitting on me. But none of that abuse lasted as long or was as widespread as the insults and bullying I got during the Iran hostage crisis.

    At the same time, I know it must be harder for youth today, especially the ones attending public school. The US government has turned the tragedy of 9/11 into an excuse for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and for domestic witch-hunts where the FBI supplies all the boogey-men and Muslim Americans are further vilified and made the objects of suspicion. And this poisonous atmosphere has blanketed America for almost a dozen years — so many Muslim American children have never known a world where they and their parents were free from unjustified suspicion, taunting, and abuse!

    Indeed, it is a jihad to maintain in the face of so much injustice one’s own dignity and to teach that dignity and the manners of the Prophet sull Allaho ‘alayhi wasallam to the next generation.

    I am glad you wrote this article and that MM posted it. May Allah reward you and all the mothers and fathers who struggle to raise good Muslim children in this hostile environment. Ameen.

    • Avatar

      Angie Emara

      April 13, 2013 at 10:52 PM

      Salam Tariq, THANK YOU for taking the time to comment and share your own experience and for your words of support. I can’t express how much that means to all of us. I am also thankful that MM posted it. Please join us in this jihad isA- visit the website/facebook page and contribute with your own stories and jihad if you haven’t already! JAK!

      • Avatar

        Gibran

        April 15, 2013 at 8:59 PM

        Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

        myJihad-being patient and waiting for modernist “Muslims” and other deviants to die off and face their punishment in the grave. Or it was my jihad. Nowadays, I just look at this nonsense as if it is normal. SubhanAllah.

  4. Avatar

    Abdullah

    April 13, 2013 at 9:07 PM

    As Salamu ‘Alaykum- QUOTE:”#MyJihad is out to reclaim the use and meaning of the term Jihad to its proper form, as practiced by millions of Muslims around the world from both Muslim and anti-Muslim extremists who have misused it.”

    Then you should utilize the proper use of Jihad and not “… is to stay fit”, “…build bridges across the aisles” “.. to be united in our diversity”, etc. as this is in essence changing what Islam is to appease westerners who already have a slighted view on Islam due to the distorted platform pushed by Geller et. al in addendum to the war propaganda propagated U.S. State Dept.

    Q: What type of Jihad is discussed in the Makkan surahs of the Qur’an?
    A: Not the “jihad” #myjihad is speaking of

    Q: What is the fiqh regarding the Defensive Jihad of the Medinah surahs?
    A: #myjihad can’t answer that b/c their campaign has nothing to do with jihad and everything to to with changing Islam-

    -when it’s not Islam that is the problem, but the type of Muslims that were created by the US and Saudia to fight the commies. They are the problem so its sort of funny (along the lines of the Brittish in the 1800’s seeking to destroy the Ottoman Empire type of way funny) that we helped create the extremists and now we (i.e. teh west) are working to change what Islam is to further subjugate innocent, illiterate, farmers.

    But Kudos to you for trying! Practicing, Deen literate Muslims won’t support this travesty as #myjihad and CARE are no better than Bin Laden and Kahlid Sheikh Mohammad in their utter distortions of the HAQQ

    *This comment was edited by the MM Comments Team in order to comply with our Comments Policy*

    • Avatar

      Gibran

      April 15, 2013 at 8:57 PM

      Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

      I have noticed that when people try to water the deen down, the life is sucked out of it. Islam becomes no more than some social identity.Rather, it is deenul Haq.

      Pathetic really the amount of whining we do and watering down our deen for a few Islamophobes. What a severe punishment in the akhirah for this behavior. The companions were tortured and they don’t complain the way we do…….

      • Avatar

        BillaB

        April 16, 2013 at 11:14 PM

        Wsallam Gibran,

        We got it the first gazillion times you posted; you(and whoever you agree with) alone represent true Islam as the Prophet PBUH imagined it to be and the rest are just trying to fit Islam to their own biases and ill-meaning ends. Now,please do desist pontificating for the sake of not de-railing what this discussion is actually about and thank you really for your genuine albeit patronising concern for everyone’s akhira.

        • Avatar

          Gibran

          April 16, 2013 at 11:32 PM

          Gaffarallahu lak

          It’s natural to hate it when people trying to water down Islam. Although if you disagree with me, that is irrelevant. I’m not going to stop speaking against falsehood.

          And what Abdullah and I had to say is connected to the subject matter of this post.
          We can settle who is right on Yawm al Qiyamah between us.

          • Avatar

            BillaB

            April 17, 2013 at 12:33 AM

            Ironically, I don’t care for the ‘watering down of Islam’ myself either, I just happen to believe that it’s a matter of opinion based on life experiences and convictions therefore what you or I strongly believe are just as valid as the next guy’s beliefs about how to live as a Muslim. To someone,your beliefs might be ‘watered down’ to just mere semantics and codified following though he’d be wrong to assume that about you. All I suggest is taking a less accusatory/ad hominem approach than the one you’re taking to how diverse factions in our Ummah are reclaiming their deen proactively.

            I fear you are doing yourself a great disservice by coining it as a clash between ‘who is right’; I don’t claim to be perfectly right as far as my opinions go and neither ought you because Allah SWT has given humanity an amazing gift in allowing for differing views and takes on how to be a righteous servant.

          • Avatar

            Gibran

            April 17, 2013 at 1:00 AM

            Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

            “All I suggest is taking a less accusatory/ad hominem approach than the one you’re taking”
            Point taken….inshaa Allah, jazzakAllahu khair for this advise.

            “what you or I strongly believe are just as valid as the next guy’s beliefs about how to live as a Muslim. ”
            This is perhaps the case sometimes but not all the time. We must look to the Quran and Sunnah to see whether an action is right or not.

            Take this “myJihad” campaign. It’s totally ignoring the fact that there is war in Islam, and that Jihad is a word used quite a bit for war. It’s just a watered down approach to explaining Jihad to others. SubhanAllah, are we that afraid of explaining our deen? Some people are inevitably going to hate it like those pathetic Islamophobes that we cry over so much(they aren’t putting hot coals on us or stripping our skin by the way), but most non-Muslims who understand what it actually is will probably have little or no problems with most of it. In fact, they might even like the part about not killing innocent men, and absolutely not killing women or children. SubhanAllah, suicide is haram, that even knocks suicide bombing out of the question. Yes, I’m against terrorism, killing any innocent men, ANY women and children as much as the next guy, probably even more actually because it is a severe sin and because of the negative stuff Muslims have to deal with from law enforcement when we have done nothing wrong.

            But I’m also, like Abdullah, against distortions of haqq. “myJihad”-subhanAllah, should we forget all the ayat in the Quran that DO have something to do with battle? Should we just stop reciting those ayat because of some unwanted fear of the FBI? They can’t catch us if we are innocent-and we are.

            As for Islamophobes, subhanAllah, Islamophobes back in the day were far more powerful and brutal than the Islamophobes today. If they burn a mosque down, subhanAllah, we get money from disbelievers to build our mosque, may Allah have mercy on them.

            We don’t need to mix haqq with batil in our jihad against Islamophobes. They are the ones astray and we are the ones with the truth. Lets not shy away from the deen Allah gave us-and with Allah is ALL honor. Lets use it against them and be proud of Islam.

          • Avatar

            Gibran

            April 17, 2013 at 1:02 AM

            P.S. Go get some sleep…

  5. Avatar

    Amir Obeid

    April 14, 2013 at 8:33 PM

    The reality is, that Geller will be making her comments and driving peoples minds into anti-Islam frenzies on any platform she is able to speak upon, and I believe it is all of our duties to confront and destroy her arguments as much as is physically possible. Most people already dismiss the KKK because their arguments have already been destroyed in the past. Geller’s hatred for Islam does not have the same resentment that the KKK’s resentment for other races has. We must continue to destroy her (and others) arguments until that resentment becomes just as high in the minds of the public. I believe that Davi Barker was right in this regard. We should not waste time arguing with each other or putting each other down. We should use constructive criticism like that of Mr. Barker in order to make ourselves a better and stronger community.

  6. Avatar

    Will

    April 15, 2013 at 2:06 PM

    Asa wrA wb

    Hello my name is William Coley, I am National Director of Muslims 4 Liberty. I have to say, #MyJihad has completely misunderstood the intention of the piece. The issue at hand is the misrepresentation of the MyJihad campaign, and the fact that CAIR had an opportunity (which they declined) to state the facts for the record in a public venue. Geller’s entire premise was that MYJihad was a CAIR founded and funded campaign, an accusation that could have easily been handled with a Hooper or Awad simply stating, “#MyJihad is not a CAIR project, they are a separate grassroots organization, CAIR supports the effort of MyJihad in spirit, but are otherwise unaffiliated with the project.” Plain, simple,short and sweet. Geller is refuted, shown to be a liar to everyone but her minions, and we can move on to other issues, but instead CAIR declined. 10 years of allowing these loons to go unchecked (effectively) is why efforts like #MyJihad and M4L are needed to start with.

    We don’t live in a fantasy land where Geller or minions can be reached, but we do realize that we can stifle or stop her growth of influence through actual effort. Sitting back, and allowing her and others to have their lecture events and media parties unchecked only results in their continued influence over the conversation. Through confronting her and her apostles on their own turf we (M4L) have halted the spread of her influence on the right, and alhumdulillah even pushed her back in some areas. Had we simply sat on our hands, none of that would have been possible. We simply meant to encourage CAIR to “man up”, and employ some our tactics(which unlike theirs actually work) by confronting the loons head on. Your wading into the “billboard war” does that, their opting out of clearing up that they are not affiliated with your effort does not.

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I Once Spent Ramadan Semi-Quarantined, Here’s How It Went

Even though it was over 10 years ago, the memory of that Ramadan is seared into my mind.

I’d just taken my first consulting job – the kind in the movies. Hop on a plane every Monday morning and come home late every Thursday night. Except, unlike in the movies, I wasn’t off to big cities every week – I went to Louisville, Kentucky. Every week.

And because I was the junior member on the team, I didn’t get the same perks as everyone else – like a rental car. I was stuck in a hotel walking distance from our client in downtown, limited to eat at whatever restaurants were within nearby like TGI Friday’s or Panera. This was a pre-Lyft and Uber world.

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A couple of months into this routine and it was time for Ramadan. It was going to be weird, and no matter how much I prepared myself mentally, I wasn’t ready for it — Iftar alone in a hotel room. Maghrib and Isha also alone in a hotel room. Suhur was whatever I could save from dinner to eat in the morning that didn’t require refrigeration.

Most people think that with the isolation and extra time you would pass the time praying extra and reading tons of Quran. I wish that was the case. The isolation, lack of masjid, and lack of community put me into a deep funk that was hard to shake.

Flying home on the weekends would give me an energizing boost. I was able to see friends, go to the masjid, see my family. Then all of a sudden back to the other extreme for the majority of the week.

I’ve been thinking a lot about that Ramadan with the prospect of a quarantined Ramadan upon us. I wish I could say that I made the most of the situation, and toughed it out. The truth is, the reason the memory of that particular Ramadan is so vivid in my mind is because of how sad it was. It was the only time I remember not getting a huge iman boost while fasting.

We’re now facing the prospect of a “socially distanced” Ramadan. We most likely won’t experience hearing the recitation of the verses of fasting from Surah Baqarah in the days leading up to Ramadan. We’re going to miss out on seeing extended family or having iftars with our friends. Heck, some of us might even start feeling nostalgia for those Ramadan fundraisers.

All of this is on top of the general stress and anxiety of the COVID-19 crisis.

Ramadan traditionally offers us a spiritual reprieve from the rigors and hustle of our day to day lives. That may not be easy as many are facing the uncertainty of loss of income, business, or even loved ones.

So this isn’t going to be one of those Quran-time or “How to have an amazing Ramadan in quarantine!” posts. Instead, I’m going to offer some advice that might rub a few folks the wrong way.

Make this the Ramadan of good enough

How you define good enough is relative. Aim to make Ramadan better than your average day.

Stick to the basics and have your obligatory act of worship on lockdown.

Pray at least a little bit extra over what you normally do during a day. For some, that means having full-blown Taraweeh at home, especially if someone in the house is a hafiz. For others, it will mean 2 or 4 rakat extra over your normal routine.

Fill your free time with Quran and dua. Do whatever you can. I try to finish one recitation of the Quran every Ramadan, but my Ramadan in semi-quarantine was the hardest to do it in. Make sure your Quran in Ramadan is better during the month than on a normal day, but don’t set hard goals that will stress you out. We’re under enormous stress being in a crisis situation as it is. If you need a way to jump-start your relationship with the Quran, I wrote an article on 3 steps to reconnect with the Qur’an after a year of disconnect.

Your dua list during this Ramadan should follow you everywhere you go. Write it down on an index card and fold it around your phone. Take it out whenever you get a chance and pour your heart out to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). Share your stresses, anxieties, worries, fears, and hopes with Him.

He is the Most-Merciful and Ramadan is a month of mercy. Approach the month with that in mind, and do your best.

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#Current Affairs

Criticism, Accountability and the Exclusion of Quran and Sunnah – Critiquing Ahmed Sheikh’s Critique

Let me begin by making two things clear. First, this article is not seeking to defend the positions of any person nor is it related to the issue of CVE and what it means to the Muslim American community. I am in no way claiming that CVE is not controversial or harmful to the community nor am I suggesting that affiliations with governments are without concern.

Second, this paper is meant to critique the arguments made by the author that encourage holding Islamic scholars accountable. I encourage the reader not to think of this article as an attempt to defend an individual(s) but rather as an attempt to present an important issue through the framework of Islamic discourse – Quran, hadith supported by scholarly opinion. In that spirit, I would love to see articles providing other scholarly views that are contrary to this articles. The goal is to reach the position that is most pleasure to Allah and not the one that best fits our agenda, whims, or world views.

In this article I argue that Islamic scholars in America cannot effectively be held accountable, not because they are above accountability but because (1) accountability in Islam is based on law derived from Quran and hadith and this is the responsibility of Islamic experts not those ignorant of the Islamic sciences. And to be frank, this type of discourse is absent in Muslim America. (2) Muslim Americans have no standard code of law, conduct, or ethics that can be used to judge behavior and decisions of Muslim Americans. I do believe, however, that criticism should be allowed under certain conditions, as I will elaborate in the proceeding paragraphs.

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To begin, the evidence used to support the concept of holding leaders accountable is the statement of Abu Bakr upon his appointment to office:

O people, I have been appointed over you, though I am not the best among you. If I do well, then help me; and if I act wrongly, then correct me.

This is a well-known statement of his, and without a doubt part of Islamic discourse applied by the pious companions. However, one should take notice of the context in which Abu Bakr made his statement. Specifically, who he was speaking to. The companions were a generation that embodied and practiced a pristine understanding of Islam and therefore, if anyone were to hold him accountable they would do it in the proper manner. It would be done with pure intentions that they seek to empower Abu Bakr with Quranic and Prophetic principles rather than attack him personally or with ill intentions.

Furthermore, their knowledge of the faith was sufficient to where they understood where and when the boundaries of Allah are transgressed, and therefore understood when he was accountable. However, when these facets of accountability are lost then the validity of accountability is lost as well.

To give an example, during the life of Abu Bakr, prior to appointing Omar (ra) as his successor he took the opinion of several companions. The prospect of Omar’s appointment upset some of the companions because of Omar’s stern character. These companions approached Abu Bakr and asked him “what will you tell Allah when he asks why you appointed the stern and severe (ie Omar).” Abu Bakr replied “I will tell Him that I appointed the best person on earth,” after which Abu Bakr angrily commanded them to turn their backs and leave his presence.

Fast forwarding to the life of Uthman, large groups of Muslims accused Uthman of changing the Sunnah of the Prophet in several manners. Part of this group felt the need to hold Uthman accountable and ended up sieging his home leading to his death. Now, when one researches what this group was criticizing Uthman for, you find that Uthman (ra) did make mistakes in applying the sunnah that even companions such as Ibn Mas’ood expressed concern and disagreement with. However, due to the lack of fiqh and knowledge, these Muslims felt that the actions of Uthman made him guilty of “crimes” against the sunnah and therefore he must be held accountable.

With this I make my first point. A distinction between criticism and accountability must be made. Ibn Mas’ood and others criticized Uthman but, since they were scholars, understood that although Uthman was mistaken his mistakes did not cross the boundaries of Allah, and therefore he was not guilty of anything and thus was not accountable.

Holding Muslim scholars accountable cannot be justified unless evidence from the Quran and hadith indicate transgression against Allah’s law. Thus, before the Muslim American community can call for the accountability of Dr. Jackson, Sheikh Hamza Yusuf, or others, an argument founded in Quran and Sunnah and supplicated by scholarly (classical scholars) research and books must be made.

It is simply against Islamic discourse to claim that a scholar is guilty of unethical decisions or affiliations simply because CVE is a plot against Muslims (as I will detail shortly). Rather, an argument must be made that shows how involvement with CVE is against Quran and sunnah. Again, I emphasize the difference between criticizing their decision because of the potential harms versus accusing them of transgressing Islamic principles.

To further elaborate this distinction I offer the following examples. First, Allah says in context of the battle of Badr and the decision to ransom the prisoners of war,

“It is not fit for a prophet that he should take captives until he has thoroughly subdued the land. You ˹believers˺ settled with the fleeting gains of this world, while Allah’s aim ˹for you˺ is the Hereafter. Allah is Almighty, All-Wise. Had it not been for a prior decree from Allah, you would have certainly been disciplined with a tremendous punishment for whatever ˹ransom˺ you have taken. Now enjoy what you have taken, for it is lawful and good. And be mindful of Allah. Surely Allah is All-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (8:67-69)

In these verses Allah criticizes the decision taken by the Muslims but then states that ransom money was made permissible by Allah, and therefore they are not guilty of a punishable offense. In other words, Allah criticized their decision because it was a less than ideal choice but did not hold them accountable for their actions since it was permissible.

Another example is the well-known incident of Osama bin Zaid and his killing of the individual who proclaimed shahadah during battle. Despite this, Osama proceeded to slay him. Upon hearing of this the Prophet (s) criticized Osama and said, “did you see what is in his heart?”

Although Osama’s actions resulted in the death of a person the Prophet (s), did not hold Osama accountable for his actions and no punishment was implemented. Similarly, Khalid bin Waleed killed a group of people who accepted Islam accidentally and similarly, the Prophet (s) criticized Khalid but did not hold him accountable.

Why was there no accountability? Because the decisions of Osama and Khalid were based on reasonable – although incorrect – perspectives which falls under the mistake category of Islamic law “And there is no blame upon you for that in which you have erred but [only for] what your hearts intended. And ever is Allah Forgiving and Merciful” (33:5)

The previous examples, among others, are referred to in Islamic discourse as ta’weel (interpretation). There are many examples in the lives of the companions where decisions were made that lead to misapplications of Islam but were considered mistakes worthy of criticism but not crimes worthy of punishment or accountability.

Ta’weel, as Ibn Taymiyya states, is an aspect of Islam that requires deep understanding of the Islamic sciences. It is the grey area that becomes very difficult to navigate except by scholars as the Prophet (s) states in the hadith, “The halal is clear and the haram is clear and between them is a grey area which most people don’t know (ie the rulings for).”

Scholars have commented stating that the hadith does not negate knowledge of the grey entirely and that the scholars are the ones who know how to navigate that area. The problem arises when those ignorant of Islamic law attempt to navigate the grey area or criticize scholars attempting to navigate it.

Going back to Ibn Taymiyya -skip this part if you believe Ibn Taymiyya was a dancing bear- I would like to discuss his own views on associating oneself with oppressive rulers. In his book “Islamic Political Science” (As Siyaasa ash Shar’iah) he details the nuances of fiqh in regards to working with or for oppressive rulers.

It would be beneficial to quote the entire section, but for space sake I will be concise. Ibn Taymiyya argues that the issue of oppressive rulers should not be approached with a black and white mentality. Rather, one must inquire of the relationship between the person and the ruler.

One can legitimately adhere to the verse “And cooperate in righteousness and piety” (5:2) while working for an unjust ruler such as: “performing jihad, applying penal laws, protecting the rights of others, and giving those who deserve. This is in accordance to what Allah and His messenger have commanded and whoever refrains from those things out of fear of assisting the unjust then they have left an obligation under a false form of asceticism (wara’).”

Likewise, accepting a position under an unjust regime may prevent or reduce the harm of that regime, or prevent someone mischievous from taking the position and inflicting even more harm, then such an association is Islamically valid. Furthermore, someone working in a particular department is not responsible or accountable for the crimes being committed in another department nor are they guilty of “cooperat[ing] in sin and aggression” (5:2). He ascribes these fiqh rulings to the majority of scholars including Abu Hanifa, Malik and Ahmed.

The argument against those who are affiliated with the UAE is simply not grounded in fiqh or supported by clear evidences from the Quran and hadith. How does being part of a peace forum make the participants guilty of the crimes in Yemen? The claim that such participation enhances the influence of these regimes is not necessarily consistent with Quran and hadith.

Dr. Jackson, I argue, is in line with Islamic discourse when he says that being part of such initiatives does not mean he agrees with all they do. The same goes for CVE. As Ibn Taymiyya suggests above, participating in such programs is Islamically justifiable if the goal is to reduce the harm and this is what Dr. Jackson claims. Ibn Taymiyya gives the example of someone working as a tax collector for a ruler who unjustly takes taxes from his citizens. If the individual can reduce the amount being taken then his position is Islamically valid.

One might state that such a claim – reducing the harm – is naïve and an excuse to justify their affiliations. No doubt this is a possibility, however, I once again quote Ibn Taymiyya,

“The obligation is to bring about the benefit to the best of their ability and or prevent the harm or at least reduce it. If there are two possible benefits then the individual should pursue the greater of the two even if it leads to losing the lesser. If there are two possible harms to prevent then they should prevent the greater of the two even if it results in the occurrence of the lesser.”

There are ways of determining whether a persons is clearly excusing himself. At the same time, the debate as to whether the benefits outweigh the harm is almost always within the grey area mentioned above. Thus, it is irresponsible to attack Islamic scholars and call for their accountability for positions that are not clearly against Quran and hadith.

Another rebuttal might claim that the rulers during the time of Ibn Taymiyya were better than present day rulers and that his fiqh was addressing his realities which are inconsistent with ours. My response is that although that is true, Ibn Taymiyya’s teachings are not built on contextual realities that are only effective in those realities. Rather, his teachings are built on principles that are formulated in a way that renders it capable of measuring a particular context. In other words, it acts in a way that considers the realities and context as part of the equation and decision process.

A third rebuttal might claim that Ibn Taymiyya, like many others, warned of the harms of befriending rulers. Again, this is accurate, however, an important distinction must be made and that is between spiritual advice and fiqh rulings. An issue can be spiritually problematic but permissible fiqh-wise and this differentiation is seen in the lives of the companions and spiritualists in general.

For example, the companions rejected many worldly pleasures out of zuhd and wara’ (two forms of asceticism) and not because they are forbidden. To be more specific, a person may restrict themselves from drinking green tea not because it is forbidden by Quran or hadith but because of they view it as a desire that distracts them from the next life.

Similarly, the discouragement scholars expressed towards relationships with rulers was because of the spiritual harms and not because of an unequivocal prohibition against it. This is an important facet of Islamic discourse that should be recognized by the Muslim community. That is, a person can critique an issue from various angles (for example the psychological harms of political rhetoric and how it effects a person’s spirituality) while remaining neutral to Islamic law. What I am trying to say is that legitimate criticisms can be made about a particular issues without having to bring a person’s Islamic credibility into the discussion.

To conclude, I’d like to once again emphasize a distinction between criticism and accountability. Criticism is justified when the criticizer is qualified in the topic and when the one being criticized has made a mistake. Accountability is legitimate when a person has transgressed red lines established by Islam itself. But, in order for such accountability to be valid one must invoke the Quran and hadith and here lies the problem.

In the several articles posted against UAE and CVE, Quran and hadith are excluded and such has become Muslim American discourse – we are Muslims who invoke Allah and His messenger yet exclude their words from the conversation. I remind the Muslim American community and myself of the following verse “And if you disagree over anything, refer it to Allah and the Messenger, if you should believe in Allah and the Last Day. That is the best [way] and best in result” (4:59).

I would like to pose the following questions to the Muslim American community:

  • Under what code of law and ethics should scholars be held accountable? In other words, what standards do we use to deem a scholar accountable or guilty? Who determines these laws and principles? Is it other scholars who are well versed in fiqh? Is it American standards or perhaps Muslim American activists and whatever is in line with their agenda?
  • Who or what institution has the authority to hold scholars accountable?
  • To what extent do we consider Quran, hadith, fiqh and scholarly opinions in determining illegal actions, problematic decisions, and or immoral behavior?
  • Are these laws and principles only applicable to scholars or are other Muslim leader figures held to the same standards?
  • Are all scholars “dancing bears” who have no credibility? If not, who, in your opinion, is trustworthy and credible and why do you think so? Is it because they are following Quran and Sunnah, or because they fit activism?
  • Do you believe that certain celebrated Muslim American activists / politicians present theological and moral problems to American Muslims that are corrupting their faith and behavior? Should they be held accountable for their statements and actions? What about the various Muslim organizations that invite them as keynote speakers and continue to show unwavering support?
  • Do you believe it is fair to say that these celebrated activists are not responsible for clarifying to the community their controversial positions and statements because they are not scholars or seen as religious figures?
  • Do you believe that activism is dominating Muslim American discourse and do you believe that there is a serious exclusion of Quran and hadith in that discourse?

I hope the community will acknowledge the concerning reality of the exclusion of Quran and hadith from our affairs. Until we live up to the standards of Quran and sunnah our criticism will only lead to further division and harm.

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#Society

Do You Know Why Uzma Was Killed?

#JusticeForUzma is a campaign that highlights the many terrible ways household help is treated in places around the world. Here, Fatima Asad writes about how she is raising her children to be the change they want to see in their society.

Last week, Pakistani society was struggling with the story of the horrific murder of Uzma, a teenager, who worked as a house maid in the city of Lahore. The 16-year-old was allegedly tortured for months and then murdered by the woman she worked for…for taking a bite from the daughter’s plate. #JusticeForUzma is a campaign that highlights the many terrible ways household help is treated in places around the world. Here, Fatima Asad writes about how she is raising her children to be the change they want to see in their society. 

By Fatima Asad

Living in Pakistan, my children realize that within the gates of our neighborhood, they will see no littering, they will not experience water or electricity shortages and certainly, no one will be knocking on the door begging for food or money. The reason they have this realization is because I make it the day’s mission to let them know about their privilege, about the ways they have been blessed in comparison to the other, very real, living, breathing little girls and boys outside those gates. Alas, my children come face to face with those very real people as soon as the gates close behind us.

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“Why are there so many poor people in Pakistan, Mommy?” they ask, quite regularly now, unsatisfied with the answers I’ve provided so far. The question perpetually makes me nervous, uncomfortable, and I hastily make a lesson plan in my mind to gradually expose this world’s truths to them… ahista, ahista…(slow and steady).

But on days like these, when we find out about the death of yet another underprivilged young girl (they’re becoming redundant, aren’t they?), on days like these, I want to hold them, shake them, scream at them to wake up!

Wake up, my child! Beta jaag jao.

Do you know why that little girl we see outside, always has dirt on her face and her hair is in visible knots?

It is because, there are too many people who can take a shower anytime they want, who have maids to oil, brush and style their hair.

Do you know why there are children with no clothes on their backs?

It is because, there are too many of us with too many on ours. There are too many of us with walk-in closets for mothers and matching wardrobes for their infant daughters. We obsess about tailors, brands, this collection, last season. How often do we hear or say “can’t repeat that one”, “this one is just not my thing anymore…”

Do you know why there are children with their cheeks sunk deep in their skulls, scraping for our leftovers in our trashcans?

Because there are too many of us, who are overstuffed with biryani, burgers, food deliveries, dinner parties, chai get-togethers, themed birthday cupcakes, and bursting appetites for more, more, more, and different, different, different.

There are too many of us craving the exotic and the western, hoping to impress the next guest that comes to lunch with our useless knowledge of foods that should not be our pride, like lasagna, nuggets, cinnamon rolls, banana bread, pizza, minestrone soup, etc.

There are too many of us who do not want to partake from our outdated, simple traditional cuisines… that is, unless we can put a “cool” twist on them.

Do you know why there are children begging on the streets with their parents? Because there are too many of us driving in luxury cars to our favorite staycation spots, rolling up the windows in the beggars’ faces.

We are rather spent our money of watching the latest movies for family nights, handing out cash allowances to our own kids so they won’t feel left out when going out.

Do you know why there are mothers working during the days and sacrificing their nights sewing clothes for meager coins? Why there are fathers, who sacrifice their sleep and energy to guard empty mansions at the cost of their self-respect? Because there are too many of us attending dance rehearsals for weddings of the friends we backstab and envy. Because there are too many of us binge-watching the latest hot shows on Netflix, hosting ghazal nights to pay tribute to dead musicians and our never-ending devotion for them, and many more of us viciously shaking our heads when the political analyst on TV delivers a breaking report on a millionaire’s private assets.

Do you know why there are people who will never hold a book in their hands or learn to write their own names? Do you know why there will never be proof that some people lived, breathed, smiled, or cried? Because there are too many of us who are given the best education money can buy, yet only end up using that education to improve our own selves – and only our own selves. There are too many of us who wear suits and ties, entrusted with building the country, yet too many of our leaders and politicians just use that opportunity to build their own legacies or secret, off shore accounts.

Do you know why children, yes children, are ripped apart from their parents, forced to provide their bodies and energies so that a stranger’s family can raise their kids? Because, there are too many of us who need a separate maid for each child we birth. Because, there are too many of us who have given the verdict that our children are worth more than others’.

Because, there are too many of us who need a maid to prove to frenemies our monetary worth and showcase a higher social class.

Because, there are too many of us who enslave humans, thinking we cannot possibly spoil our youth, energy and time on our own needs, our own tasks, our own lives.

Because, there are too many of us who need to be comfortable, indulged, privileged, spoiled, educated, satisfied, excited, entertained and happy at the expense of other living souls.

And we do all this, thinking—fooling ourselves into believing— that our comforts are actually a way of providing income for another human being. Too many of us think that by indulging in our self-centered lifestyles, we are providing an ongoing charity for society’s neediest.

Too many of us are sinking into a quicksand that is quite literally killing us. This needs to stop immediately. This accelerating trend of possessing and displaying more isn’t going to slow down on its own- in fact, it’s become deadly. Too many of our hearts have hardened, burnt to char.

More of us need to sacrifice our comforts, our desires, our nafs so others can have basic human rights fulfilled. More of us must say no to blind consumerism, envious materialistic competition and the need for instant gratification so others can live. We may have the potential to turn into monsters, but we have exceedingly greater potential to be empathetic, selfless revolutionaries. Too many of us have been living for the here and now, but more of us need to actively start thinking about the future.

Do we want to raise generations that will break bread with the less fortunate or do we want to end up with vicious monsters who starve and murder those they deem unworthy? The monsters who continue to believe that they have been blessed with more, so others can be given less than they are entitled to.

It is time for change andthe change has to start from within these gates.

#justiceforuzma #justiceformaids

 

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