Saturday, August 15, 2009

POLITICS: Gay marriage in America ...

In Australia, our own PM Kevin Rudd has signalled his opposition to recognition of same sex marriage. In the United States, the matter is the subject of hot debate. A number of states have already legislated to recognise such marriages. And in the state of Maryland, supporters of the cause have found an interesting ally.

I'm proud that I'll have stood on the right side of history: In support of full marital rights for same-sex couples.

My stance on this issue isn't politically expedient. I am the first Muslim in the legislature. Homosexuality is strictly forbidden in Islam. As such I have evinced much grief from my most conservative supporters.

But I recognize that I represent people of all faiths and no faith at all. If I tried to enforce religion by law — as in a theocracy — I would be doing a disservice to both constituents and to my religion.

See, this is what happens when these Mozzlems take over. They slowly, ever-so-quietly, try to impose sharia law on us all while we're not watching. You just can't trust them.

OK, now that we got that out of our system, here's a few facts about Saqib Ali:

* He went to high school in Saudi Arabia where homosexuality is punishable by law.

* He is the first Muslim delegate to be elected to the Legislature in the State of Maryland.

* His stance has surprised conservatives among his supporters.

Click here for more on this story. Compare Mr Ali's stance to that of a New Zealand Labour MP on civil unions.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

INDONESIA: Tabloid expert declares terrorists poised to take over ...

Daily Telegraph resident blogger Tim Blair is worried about Indonesia being on the verge of taken over by the likes of Noordin Top. Apparently there are Noordin Tops in schools across Indonesia.

Understanding the cultures of non-Western countries and non-white peoples isn't one of Blair's strengths. So it's not surprising that Blair can't notice it's highly unlikely that Indonesian boarding schools are filled with Malaysians.

And what of these boarding schools? Well, Blair describes Indonesia's pesantren as ...

... these terror-breeding fundo-pods ...

... and after noting that there are 45,000 of these, states ...

The scale of the problem becomes clear. It’s broad-based rather than Top-down, you could say.

Yes, that was quite amusing. What's even more amusing is Blair's refusal to do some basic elementary research on indigenous Indonesian boarding schools and their role in Indonesian society, instead of writing them all off as terror factories.

And we all know about these nasty Indonesian schools. Blair's ideological compatriots in the US were busy during the last US Presidential Election trying to prove that US President Obama attended an Indonesian pesantran.

If Indonesian boarding schools were such terror factories, surely the biggest terrorist on the planet is this bloke. Still, Blair isn't the only "expert" to pontificate on pesantren.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

OPINION: Freedom of speech is good but must be used wisely ...

Former prime minister John Howard once said that when you change the government, you end up changing the country. There's no doubt that Howard's exit from the Lodge has changed how public discussion on a raft of issues is carried on in this country.

Howard prided himself on allowing freedom of expression to flourish in Australia free from the constraints of political correctness. Yet in some areas, political incorrectness and outright bigotry have not served us well. And they continue to do us disservice.

On national security, advertisements and campaigns (including a very expensive fridge magnet) warned us to be alert but not alarmed. Yet so much of the rhetoric coming out of Canberra, not to mention our involvement in the Iraq disaster and the Howard government's disdain for Australian citizens trapped at the Guantanamo gulag, did plenty to divide different sections of the Australian community without any dividends in terms of increased safety.

Howard rarely hesitated to remind us of that small number of Australians of certain suspect backgrounds who were either hostile or just didn't respect our way of life or refused to integrate into our Christian (or in a rare moment of ecumenicalism, our Judeo-Christian) heritage (perhaps of 40,000 years' standing) or placed pressure on our migration system more than any other group.

Recently in a lecture at Melbourne University, Howard attacked the media for its relentless pursuit and character assassination of a very, very decent man the decent person being Peter Hollingworth whom Howard appointed as governor- general. Hollingworth resigned in May 2003 after outrage when his handling of child abuse allegations during his period as Brisbane Anglican archbishop was revealed. He was accused of showing minimal if any compassion for sexual assault victims in much the same way as Hilaly's comments about uncovered meat and the allegedly disproportionate sentences handed out to the Skaf brothers also showed gross insensitivity to sexual assault victims.

In defending Hollingworth and attacking the media, Howard was playing a role similar to that played by Hilaly's translator and spin-doctor Keysar Trad. Howard also showed his own double standards that underpinned so great a part of the cultural wars he fought so hard.

During Howard's term, almost any terrorism-related arrest or event would be accompanied by some comment about integration or culture or values or our way of life. The war against terror was little more than another instalment of wider culture wars. Meanwhile, practical issues that actually would have made us safer (such as proper airport security) were all but ignored, to the extent that, recently, a few alleged bikies were able to bash a man into virtual pulp at Sydney Airport. No doubt the victim of those attacks wouldn't have been concerned with a certain small portion of non-integrating migrants.

In light of the recent Melbourne terror raids, perhaps it's a good time to remind ourselves of the basic messages which Islamist terrorists are seeking to convince vulnerable young people of.

Firstly, they say that the terrorist agenda is perfectly consistent with Islam. I've yet to hear that message repeated in any mosques in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Wagga Wagga, Griffith, Wollongong or any other Australian Muslim congregations I have visited. But I have read that message recently on the website of a newspaper boasting to be Australia's biggest selling paper.

On Wednesday, August 5, 2009, columnist Andrew Bolt used these words on his blog:

The rise of yet another Islamist terror group suggests there is something in Muslim or Arabic culture peculiarly susceptible to the call to violence ... While false, there is yet a grain of truth in the maxim that while not every Muslim is a terrorist, every terrorist is a Muslim.

I'm not suggesting Bolt shouldn't be allowed to question the involvement of any belief, religion or ideology in terrorism or violence. But to suggest that certain groups are more culturally susceptible to violence is just plain stupid. To suggest that Somalis or Lebanese or Muslims are more susceptible to violence is like suggesting that conservatives of Dutch heritage are more conducive to racist violence due to their direct participation in the Holocaust, South African apartheid and the colonisation of Indonesia.

The second message the Islamist wackos want Muslim kids to believe is that they will always be marginalised in Australia and will never be accepted as part of the mainstream. And again, it is pundits like Andrew Bolt who confirm this message by furthering a process of marginalisation.

Bolt has used his columns and blogs to engage in vilification of a host of groups:
Somalis, Lebanese, Pacific Islanders, Sudanese, Africans, Muslims and so on. Of course, we still must be concerned about the possible Talibanisation of local Muslims. But those concerns aren't furthered when we have columnists and shock jocks using Talibanesque language.

Groups like al-Qaeda and al-Shabaab want their potential recruits to feel marginalised. Andrew Bolt and others are serving their purpose. Osama bin Laden need not lift a finger when he has at least one Herald Sun columnist doing the job for him.

National security is about keeping all Australians secure regardless of their cultural background. And as our law enforcement agencies know so well, social cohesion is a key element of national security. The logical corollary to this, of course, is that those who threaten our social cohesion, be they imbecilic imams or prejudiced politicians or callous columnists, are threatening our security.

Irfan Yusuf is author of Once Were Radicals: My Years as a Teenage Islamo-fascist (Allen & Unwin, 2009). This article was first published in the Canberra Times on Wednesday 12 August 2009.

Words © 2009 Irfan Yusuf

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VIDEO: Rabiye Kadeer's call to settle remaining Uighur Guantanamo detainees ...

Exiled World Uighur Congress leader Rabiye Kadeer told the National Press Club in Canberra yesterday:

All of the Uighurs in Albania, Bermuda and Palau are living very normal and productive lives -- so we'd be happy if Australia took the four.

Below is a documentary from AlJazeera English showing the experiences of four Uighurs living in Albania.

Words © 2009 Irfan Yusuf

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

CRIKEY: On the perils of vilification - the warped logic of banning al-Manar ...

There are many good arguments for and against allowing the Lebanese Hezbollah-run TV station al-Manar to be broadcast in Australia. One good reason not to allow al-Manar to be broadcast is the possibility that programs inciting racial hatred or racist violence could be broadcast.

Hence Colin Rubenstein, Executive Director of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC), pointed out in The Age last week that

[t]he station broadcast a 30-part series in 2003 during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan based explicitly on the famous anti-Semitic forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

The broadcast of myths about ethno-religious groups is hardly a good idea.

Yet sadly, just as Jews are vilified in Arab media, similarly persons of Arab and/or Middle Eastern heritage are vilified in Hollywood and in television. As Dr Jack Shaheen illustrated in his book and documentary Reel Bad Arabs, for over a century American movie goers have been subjected to a barrage of images portraying Arabs as violent, ruthless, savage, evil. He says:

Arabs are the most maligned group in the history of Hollywood. They are portrayed basically as sub-humans.

Such stereotypes are repeated in print. Last week Andrew Bolt wrote on his blog:

The rise of yet another Islamist terror group suggests there is something in Muslim or Arabic culture peculiarly susceptible to the call to violence … While false, there is yet a grain of truth in the maxim that while not every Muslim is a terrorist, every terrorist is a Muslim.

And today that same ignorant stereotype is repeated by Bren Carlill, an analyst at Colin Rubenstein’s organisation. Writing in The Australian, Carlill claims:

…while a majority of Muslims aren’t terrorists, the majority of terrorists are Muslim, an uncomfortable fact that shouldn’t be ignored for the sake of political correctness. It is rare to find a Muslim terrorist who acts only for a secular, nationalist cause.

Yes it is if you’re selective about whom you label terrorists.

Like all stereotypes, Carlill’s analysis doesn’t quite make sense. Most Muslims aren’t terrorists. Most terrorists are Muslim. Most Muslim terrorists are terrorists because they are Muslim. The logic is too warped to be even considered circular. And so we have one AIJAC person telling us that we should ban al-Manar for promoting ethno-religious stereotypes while another AIJAC person tells us we should ban al-Manar on the basis of an ethno-religious stereotype. Go figure.

First published in Crikey on Tuesday 11 August 2009.

HUMOUR: Bolt becomes colour blind ...

Andrew Bolt, the Herald Sun's token Dutch columnist, has succumbed to a strange case of colour-blindness.

Writing on his bog (no, that wasn't a typo), Bolt uses the headline:

Only racist if whites are punching, not punched

He complains that we only call violence racist when it is committed by whites against non-whites, not by non-whites against whites.

And his first example was this story involving the suspended sentence of a former Macedonian army soldier Edmond Malikovski who was part of a gang calling itself "Noble Park Bosnians".

So white people are now being punched by nasty non-whites from Macedonia and Bosnia Herzegovina and the media refuses to report it for what it is - racist violence. How terrible. And in case any readers have trouble recognising just how non-white Bosnians and Macedonians are, here are some photos of Bosnian girls holding up their national flag ...

... and here are some dark-skinned Macedonian girls.

Feel free to suggest any cures for Andrew's colour blindness by writing to him at

Words © 2009 Irfan Yusuf

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Friday, August 07, 2009

REVIEW: Once Were Racists: My Years as a Teenage Blasphemer ...

It's hard not to sympathise with the plight of young Kuranda Seyfi Seyit. The poor fellow failed to secure a seat on Auburn Council, despite expecting to receive the bulk of Turkish voters' support. Making matters worse for himself, Mr Seyit spat the dummy and blamed his loss on a cabal of kebab meat manufacturers and committee members of the Auburn Gallipoli Mosque, accusing the latter of being anti-secular. He even took his allegations to the ABC, and made his own party look ... well ... not exactly Muslim-friendly. Not a great look in a local government area that has the highest concentration of Muslims of any local government area in the country.

The disappointed Council candidate is npw trying his hand at book reviews. Writing in the third edition of his Aussie Mossie newspaper, aptly named in honour of a now-defunct blog of yours trully, Mr Seyit applies his skills in literary criticism to a certain irreverent memoir. His conclusion? That the author is a BLASPHEMER ...

This book [is] by novice writer Irfan Yusuf ... However, after forcing myself to read the book I found it irreverent, blasphemous and racist especially towards Turks and Lebanese ...

(Click here to read the full review on page 16.)

Wow! Ayatollah Seyfi has issued a fatwa against me for blasphemy!! What will happen to me now? Will Seyfi lead a bunch of blokes in a public stoning? It all sounds like something out of Monty Python ...

Still, who am I to complain about a review that is trully out of this world?

Words © 2009 Irfan Yusuf

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Wednesday, August 05, 2009

COMMENT: On Howard, Hollingworth & Hilaly ...

Last night, President of the Islamic Friendship Society Keysar Trad addressed a group of students at Melbourne University on the subject of the role of media in Australian politics. Or maybe it was former Prime Minister John Howard. I guess it could have been either of them.

Howard decided to defend former Governor General Dr Peter Hollingworth for using the kinds of words Howard condemned Sheik Hilaly for using. And using the kinds of words Trad defended Hilaly with.

Howard claimed that ...

... by and large that the Australian media treated Peter Hollingworth disgracefully ... the relentless pursuit and character assassination of a very, very decent man - I thought that was appalling, and it went largely right across the media.

Hollingworth resigned in May 2003 after outrage when his handling of child abuse allegations during his period as Brisbane Anglican Archbishop was revealed. He was accused of showing minimal if any compassion for sexual assault victims in much the same way as Hilaly’s comments about uncovered meat and the allegedly disproportionate sentences handed out to the Skaf brothers also showed gross insensitivity to sexual assault victims.

Hilaly’s remarks were revealed some months after Howard appointed him to a hand-picked Muslim Community Reference Group set up in the wake of the July 2005 London bombings. The Group consisted largely of middle-aged men of Mr Howard’s generation, most of whom had poor English skills and little ability to deal with scrutiny from and interaction with media and politicians. Having given Hilaly a privileged position, Howard dumped on him from a great height as soon as the uncovered meat comments were revealed.

Hilaly deserved to be condemned for his comments. Apart from his family members and a small number of die-hard supporters such as his interpreter Keysar Trad, Hilaly almost overnight lost what little support he had left among various congregations.

Hollingworth also had little support from across the broader community. But he did have his own Keysar Trad figure in the person of John Howard. And like Trad, Howard continues to defend the indefensible.

MEDIA/BLOGS: Introducing Usama bin Ladin's new recruit ...

Usama bin Ladin has being trying desperately to convince young Muslims living in Western countries of certain things ...

a. That his terrorist agenda is perfectly consistent with Islam.

b. That Muslims living in countries like Australia will always be marginalised and never accepted as full citizens.

c. That Muslims have an obligation to join his struggle against ... um ... he's not quite sure. Possibly the West, possibly Muslim rulers, possibly Shia Muslims, possibly Muslims who don't support his agenda.

Anyway, bin Ladin's popularity in nominally Muslim countries has been waning. But in Australia, bin Ladin has found an important ally. Here's a photo of Usama bin Ladin's most important Australian propagandist.

Only someone with bin Ladin's mentality, jaundice and ignorance could pen words like this:

The rise of yet another Islamist terror group suggests there is something in Muslim or Arabic culture peculiarly susceptible to the call to violence ... While false, there is yet a grain of truth in the maxim that while not every Muslim is a terrorist, every terrorist is a Muslim.

I always thought Arabic was the name of a language, not a culture. And what on earth is "Muslim" culture? Do Muslims all share a single culture that is distinct from every other culture? What are the features of this culture? Where do I find it? On which planet? In which galaxy?

And Andrew bin Bolt's monocultural jihadists are ever-ready to assist:

Charles replied to Andrew
Wed 05 Aug 09 (11:08am)

I don’t really buy this idea that extremism is a ‘perversion’ of Islam. One strong characteristic of Bin laden and the others is that they are very thorough in justifying their own actions in terms of the principles of Islam, and the Quran, far more so than most ‘moderates’. Their actions are consistent with those of Mohammad himself and his successors.

cohenite replied to mick maggs
Wed 05 Aug 09 (11:54am)

... Islam has a declared intention of dominating the world; so we have the most oppressive type of social structure the world has seen stating their war against the rest; not even communism did this and the nazis were not as brazen.

Al Qaeda, al Schmaeda, Al Shabaab, al schlabbab: what’s the difference?
Certainly not skin color. All follow the Koran and the hadith, the sayings and tradition of their profit Muhammad.
Looking for differences among these groups is an unnecessary detraction.
A single Muslim who takes his religion seriously can be afflicted by “Sudden Jihad Syndrome”, how many examples do you want?
Red Baron of Sydney (Reply)
Wed 05 Aug 09 (10:41am)

“...something in Muslim or Arabic culture peculiarly susceptible to the call to violence.”
Yes, it’s called “the Koran”, with its insistence that The Believer either: 1) calls on the infidel to convert; 2) that the infidel accepts an inferior status (dhimmitude), or; 3) the infidel is killed.
Alex of Belconnen (Reply)
Wed 05 Aug 09 (10:48am)

Shaykh bin Bolt must be mighty pleased that he has assisted bin Ladin. And the Herald Sun, Australia's biggest selling newspaper, must be happy that it has provided a platform for bin-Ladinesque sentiment.

UPDATE I: Another priceless Bolt blogpost from yesteryear.

UPDATE II: Actually, there's another sense in which Bolt is doing bin Ladin's work. I spoke about this some years back during an interview with Terry Lane on Radio National's The National Interest. Here is an excerpt from that interview during which I discuss how Liberal backbenchers calling for hijab to be banned from state schools were assisting bin Ladin.

... I think what we're seeing is a Talibanisation in Australia of our culture. Bronwyn Bishop, Sophie Panopoulos, these represent the Talibanisation of Australia. We're seeing al-Qae'da in an Australian form coming out, demonising people, demonising Muslims. This is what al-Qae'da wants. I mean Bronwyn Bishop and Sophie Panopoulos are doing Osama bin Laden's work. Osama bin Laden doesn't have to lift a finger, because he's got Liberal backbenchers doing the work for him. He wants Muslims to feel marginalised in this country, a community that's been at the heart of this country of mainstream Australia for over 150 years. He wants them to feel marginalised. He doesn't have to do anything because he's got Bronnie and Sophie doing it for him. So Osama will be sitting in a cave, clapping his hands when he reads some of the - I mean he's probably got his laptop with him, he's clicking on to the ABC website, and there he is in his cave saying oh, very good Bronwyn, thank you, thank you.

Bronwyn was, naturally, somewhat disturbed by my remarks and immediately hit the airwaves with her response. You can read it all here.

UPDATE III: It looks like the only support Bolt can muster on the blohosphere is from one of tabloid moron Tim Blair's mates who calls him/her/itself Margo's Maid. This poor imbecile has decided that the ultimate sources for defending Bolt's lunacy consist of:

1. a Wikipedia entry;

2. a WikiAnswers entry; and

3. a single wacko internet discussion forum run by a bunch of kids!

Seriously, with scholarly expertise like that, who needs to consult with the works of people like this chap, this bloke and this lady?

Words © 2009 Irfan Yusuf

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Tuesday, August 04, 2009

CRIKEY: Somali politics is just as much about clan as it is religion ...

What drives young second and third generation men living in relatively comfortable surrounds to involve themselves in an overseas conflict whose nuances they have little or no understanding of? Certainly the AFP, NSW and Victorian Police and the NSW Crime Commission have been asking these questions during the seven months of their investigation into a possible attack on an Australian army barracks.

The front page story in The Australian today provides some answers but also too many unanswered questions. According to Victorian Police Commissioner Simon Overland, publication by The Oz posed ...

... an unacceptable risk to the operation and an unacceptable risk to my staff.

It’s a serious allegation to make against a paper whose editorial line so frequently flexes its cultural warrior and national security muscles. On the other hand, it’s unclear what dangers newspaper reporting could pose to 400 heavily-armed investigators who cordoned off entire streets.

Some reporting and analysis showed a laughable ignorance of Somali and/or Muslim cultures. Cameron Stewart writes of the group of Melbourne taxi drivers and construction workers ...

... having little understanding of Somali politics or theology.

Probably the same could be said for all those involved in the final version of Mr Stewart's story that went to print.

The reports place enormous emphasis on terms like "Islam" and "Muslims" and "wahhabi". But Somali politics is just as much (if not more) about clan as it is religion. There’s no evidence al-Shabaab (the group linked to the alleged proposed attack) or any other of the warring factions in Somalia have risen above the clan-based loyalties that have divided this nation for decades. Still, there's no doubt that non-Somali Muslims and Somali kids with little understanding of clan undercurrents could be attracted by the lure of pan-Islamic rhetoric.

What really made me almost fall off my chair was this sentence describing the al-Shebaab group:
Its followers shun alcohol, cigarettes, music and videos, choosing an austere,
violent interpretation of Islam.

Most Muslims I know (including myself) shun alcohol (though I'm just a teetotaller, not a teetotalitarian) and cigarettes. Avoiding music and naughty videos also isn't uncommon among Muslims, though largely for similar reasons as conservative Christians. Thankfully our law enforcement and intelligence services don't use such indicators to identify potential terrorists or else they'd be taking Fred Nile into custody.

(Furthermore, the Sufi Islamists fighting al-Shabaab shown in the alJazeera English video below would be just as opposed to alcohol, cigarettes and certain forms of music and video.)

This kind of pedestrian theological speculation really isn't helpful, especially when it involves the kind of simplistic analysis you'd expect from tabloids. I guess Andrew Bolt and his buddies will have lots of fun speculating on how having the wrong ethnicity and/or religion turns you into a terrorist.

First published in Crikey on Tuesday 4 August 2009.

Words © 2009 Irfan Yusuf

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VIDEO: What is happening inside Somalia?

The following al-Jazeera video shows three Somali perspectives on the ongoing conflict in Somalia that involves al-Shabab in conjunction with a host of opposition forces. How often do you see Somali perspectives in Australian media? Here is the text accompanying the video:

As the crisis continues anti government fighters have been capturing key towns and villages. Fighting has killed around 70 people in Mogadishu in the last few days alone. And members of the Al-Shabab group took the town of Jowhar on Sunday. Just who exactly are the players this time around - and what do they want - as their country spirals into seemingly endless discord and division?

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COMMENT: The Australian terror?

It seems that it isn't just the accused men who are in the dock as a result of the terror raids this morning in Melbourne. Also in the dock is The Australian, our national broadsheet owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Limited.

The Oz is accused by one defence barrister of ...

... running the Australian Federal Police's line.

"It is highly prejudicial," he said.

"We can expect politicians and police commissioners to do likewise later this morning.

"They need to be very careful in what they say - tainting the atmosphere as they did when they arrested my client and his co-accused in late 2005.

He said the newspaper's role was "extraordinary" and raised serious questions about police conduct.

"They appear to have been given advance notice of the AFP raids, something (which) is clearly unethical conduct on the part of police authorities."

On the other hand, Victorian Police Commissioner Simon Overland also didn't have nice things to say about the paper.

"Obviously there was reporting of these raids in The Australian newspaper this morning and I am extremely disappointed the details of this operation have been leaked and I will be vigorously pursuing the leak from my end - and I expect the Federal authorities will be doing the same" ...

"The AFP negotiated with The Australian newspaper as I am advised in terms of having this story run today. I am concerned that despite those negotiations copies of that paper – I am told – were available at 1:30am this morning, well before the raids were carried out."

"This in my view represents an unacceptable risk to the operation and an unacceptable risk to my staff. It's a risk I take extremely seriously."

So on the one hand, The Oz is running the police line while on the other hand it is endangering police lives and a sensitive investigation into an attack that could have taken many more lives.

More on this story later.

Words © 2009 Irfan Yusuf

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Saturday, August 01, 2009

HUMOUR: Morning glory in a mug ...

A friend of mine currently travelling in Spain sent me this photo of her regular AM beverage.

Thanks to RBW.

MUSIC: A classic from Australian band Matt Finish ...

I used to listen to this melancholy Matt Finish song when I was in high school. Matt Moffitt had one of the best voices in the business. There's an excellent orchestral accompanyment to this recording. Sadly he passed away in 2003.

Words © 2009 Irfan Yusuf

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