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Archive for January, 2016

The Growing Conflict in America

Muslim Americans Living in a Secular Democracy and a Predominately Christian Country

 [A five-part series]

Part I

To be totally upfront with my cyberspace audience, it is important that you know where I stand politically. First, I am an ultra-liberal on civil rights and human rights. And, I am a card carrying member of Amnesty International. Second, when it comes to homeland security, national defense and the military, I am, by all measures, quite conservative. Part of the reason I suppose, is that I have a military background as a Vietnam combat war veteran. Nonetheless, as a social scientist I have a professional responsibility to present the facts that are data-driven, not bombastic rhetoric, political clichés, personal biases or hyperbole.

Every psychology book that talks about human needs (for example Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs) describes the need to survive as our most important human need.

Right after Pearl Harbor, folks living in California, Oregon and Washington were very worried and anxious that Japan would invade the West Coast of the United States. Tremendous fear encompassed Americans throughout the nation. Reason and calm were in very short supply (as they are now) as Americans recoiled in the days and weeks that followed the attack on the U.S. Navy’s 7th fleet, army and air bases stationed in Hawaii.

Today we have a similar situation with Islamic Jihadist attacks; on 9-1-1 that killed 3000 people and injured scores of others; the Boston Marathon Jihadist attack that killed 4 people and injured many others; the November 2009 attack at Fort Hood that killed 13 soldiers and wounded 30 others; the July 15, 2015 attack by a Jihadist at a military recruiting facility and naval center killing four marines and one sailor in Chattanooga, Tennessee; the carnage that occurred with the death of 14 citizens and many more wounded, in San Bernardino, California; and, as recently as January 7, 2016, a professed jihadist tried to murder a Philadelphia police officer shooting the officer 11 times. Fortunately, the officer chased him, and then fired back wounding the assailant.

And, internationally, all of this was preceded in 2015 by Jihadist attacks in Paris, France that killed 130 people; Beirut Lebanon where 40 were killed and 200 others injured at a university; a hotel in Mali where 20 were killed; and the downing of a Russian passenger jet over the Sinai desert that murdered 224 passengers.

With all these attacks by radical jihadist Muslim extremists, fear has once again gripped the entire nation. But, so have anger and finally the willingness of a nation to put itself on a war-footing with our declared enemies, whether there is a formal declaration of war or not. If there was a formal declaration of war made by the United States Congress, the country would give the President the powers to engage the enemy with all its might, including strategic nuclear weapons.

Americans are not weaklings; Americans are tough, extremely resilient, persistent and strong-willed. As a nation we are protective of our people, our laws, institutions, and the supreme law of the land—the United States Constitution.

As Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto said just after the attack on Pearl Harbor, “all we have done is awake a sleeping giant and fill him with a great resolve.” Guess what folks, the sleeping giant is awake again and angry as hell over the onslaught of murders and barbaric acts committed by ISIS and Jihadists everywhere.

Human rights and civil rights are not protected under Islamic law. Consequently, the world has condemned the brutality, torture, rape, slavery of women, gratuitous cruelty, beheadings, incineration and drowning of prisoners carried out by Islamic jihadists and terrorists who have committed war crimes.

It is incumbent upon all the nations to collectively re-institute a war crimes tribunal like the Nuremberg Trials in Germany in 1945-46. As presidential candidate Hillary Clinton recently said, “She now believes the Islamic State group’s persecution of Christians, the Yazidi minority and other religious and ethnic minorities in the Middle East should be defined as ‘genocide.’ ”

This is the background for what is happening. The questions Americans want answered and the things they want done are evaluated and reviewed below. However, only facts can guide the way to fully understand just what is going on, and what could be or should be done about it.

Conflict of Values

Right now there appears to be a growing conflict in the United States between Muslims and non-Muslims. Consequently, there are a number of questions that need to be answered that relate to this conflict. Such questions include: (1) historically, why is there a conflict between Muslims and non-Muslims worldwide? How did we get to this day and age where radical jihadists want to dominate the entire world? (2) What does it means to be an American, and how well do Muslim Americans identify as Americans? (3) Do Muslim Americans promote, foster and support, albeit as a hidden agenda, the replacement of American laws and the United States Constitution with Sharia law that is intimately interwoven within the religion of Islam? (4) Has the Muslim Brotherhood infiltrated America with the goal of transforming the United States into an Islamic State, and (5) if so, what can be done about it? Each question above will correspond to each part of the five-part series.

Background of Religious Conflict

The conflict between Muslims and Christians is nothing new.  It dates back 1,400 years ago. The purpose of Part I is to give my cyber-space audience some historical perspective on the clash between Muslims and Christians.

The war against ISIS today gives the impression of a continuation of a religious war that is still unsettled, even after 1,400 years. There are approximately 2.2 billion Christians in the world today. By comparison, there are now approximately 1.6 billion Muslims in the world. Together, both religions comprise almost half the people on the planet. Christianity is more than 2,000 years old while Islam didn’t come into existence until the 7th Century A.D. What both religions have in common is that both possess moderates and extremists. While moderates can live in harmony, extremists cannot.

In Part I of this series I will describe the historical basis of the conflict between Muslims and Christians.

In Part II, I will compare the standard established in 1907 for American citizenship set by our 26th president, Theodore Roosevelt and see if Muslim Americans achieve that goal.

In Part III, I will address whether there is a plot underway whereby the Muslim world (here and abroad) is moving to replace American Laws (The United States Constitution and all federal, state and local laws) with a foreign set of Muslim religious laws known as Sharia Law. I personally don’t like conspiracy theories, but there is, unfortunately, some critical evidence to support this notion or idea that certain Muslim organizations have tried to do this.

In Part IV I will discuss whether the Muslim Brotherhood is trying to secretly infiltrate and replace the American government, our values of freedom and democracy, our legal system, our educational and cultural institutions, with an Islamic State that promotes only Islam and its religious-based legal system known as Sharia Law.

In Part V I will discuss what can be done about it, both on the Homefront and abroad.

All five parts comprise the nexus of concerns that non-Muslim Americans have today, including many moderate Muslim Americans as well. If America was ever taken over by the Islamic State, make no mistake about it—moderate Muslim Americans would be the first to die at the hand of jihadists.

Early History of Islam

The history of Islam concerns the political, economic, social, and cultural developments in the territories ruled by Muslims or otherwise substantially influenced by the religion of Islam.

Despite concerns about reliability of early sources, most historians believe that Islam originated in Mecca and Medina at the start of the 7th century. A century later, the Islamic empire extended from Iberia in the west to the Indus in the east.

Polities such as those ruled by the Umayyads (in the Middle East and later in Iberia), Abbasids, Fatimids, and Mamluks were among the most influential powers in the world. The Islamic civilization gave rise to many centers of culture and science and produced notable astronomers, mathematicians, doctors and philosophers during the Golden Age of Islam. Technology flourished; there was investment in economic infrastructure such as irrigation systems and canals; and the importance of reading the Qur’an produced a comparatively high level of literacy in the general populace.

In the 13th and 14th centuries, destructive Mongol invasions from the East, along with the loss of population in the Black Death, greatly weakened the traditional centers of the Islamic world, stretching from Persia to Egypt, but in the Early Modern period, the Ottomans, the Safavids, and the Mughals were able to create new world powers again.

During the modern era, most parts of the Muslim world fell under influence or direct control of European great powers. Their efforts to win independence and build modern nation states over the course of the last two centuries continue to reverberate to the present day.

Historical Impact of the Crusades

From a sociological and historical point of view, the Christian Crusades had both intended and unintended consequences that could be either positive or negative. On the positive side, by the 14th Century the Papacy, which was once powerful, had become fragmented. But, in many ways, the development of modern nation states was well on its way in France, England, Burgundy, Portugal, Castile, and Aragon partly as a result of the dominance of the church at the beginning of the Crusading Era.

There was also an expansion of trade throughout Europe as a result of the Crusades. This occurred because there was a need to raise, transport, and supply large armies. Roads that had been unused since the days of Rome saw significant increases in traffic as local merchants began to expand their horizons. Much Islamic culture and thought, such as science, medicine, and architecture was transferred to the west during the crusades. “This also aided the beginning of the Renaissance in Italy, as various Italian-city states from the very beginning had important and profitable trading colonies in the crusader states, both in the Holy Land and later in captured Byzantine territory.”

On the negative side, Muslims found the Crusades to be cruel and savage onslaughts by European Christians. “In the 21st century, some in the Arab world, such as the Arab independence movement and Pan-Islamism movement, continue to call Western involvement in the Middle East a ‘Crusade.’”

However, early Islamic and Muslim forces from the ancient world can’t claim that they didn’t invade and plunder other nation states. There really was justification for wanting to rid Islamic Muslim armies from territories they, in fact, had invaded. And much of the violence perpetrated against innocent Christian and non-Christian peoples of the ancient world was the result of such invasions by Islamic invaders.

A true account of world history shows that Islam repeatedly attacked Christian lands, desecrated sanctuaries and tortured Christians who fought back without desecrating Mecca in return.  Jerusalem changed hands many times over the centuries.

During the seventh century this was particularly tumultuous when pagan Persians stormed the city in 614 A.D. Later the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius led Eastern Christians to reclaim it by 630 A.D.

However, within a few years Islamic forces had broken the Byzantine military and chased them out of Palestine. Jerusalem surrendered to a Muslim army in 638 A.D., and construction began soon thereafter on a mosque at the Temple Mount.

Accordingly, “After capturing Jerusalem, the Muslim armies poured through the eastern and southern provinces of the reeling Byzantine Empire. In the 640s Armenia in the north and Egypt in the south fell to Islam. In 655 A.D. the Muslims won a naval battle with the Byzantines and very nearly captured the Byzantine emperor.”

In 711 A.D. Muslims controlled all of northern Africa, and in 712 A.D. Muslims had penetrated deep into Christian Spain. At the battle of Toledo they defeated the Spanish and killed their king. Spain promptly collapsed.

Attempts were made by Muslims in the Middle East to push further into the Byzantine Empire. In 717 A.D. they landed in Southeastern Europe, and they besieged the Byzantine Capital, Constantinople. “In 846 A.D. Muslim raiders attacked the outlying areas of Rome, the center of western civilization. This act would be comparable to Christians sacking Mecca or Medina, something they have never done.”

Near the end of the ninth century, Muslim pirate havens were established along the coast of Southern France and northern Italy. These pirates threatened commerce, communication, and pilgrim traffic for a hundred years or more.

During the tenth century, however, the tide began to turn. In the East in the 950s and 960s, the Byzantines mounted a series of counterattacks. They eventually recovered the islands of Crete and Cyprus and a good bit of the territory in Asia Minor and northern Syria, including Antioch. They lacked the strength to retake Jerusalem, though they might have struggled harder had they known the terrors the city would soon face.

In 1000 A.D. much or most of the Holy Land was still populated by Christians. However, a local Muslim leader named Hakim persecuted Christians and Jews. In 1009 A.D. he ordered the destruction of the rebuilt church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. As a result, the Christian population began to shrink under Hakim’s tyrannical rule.

The Middle East was in for major changes that would change the balance of power of all the faiths. The major change was the invasion into the Middle East by the Seljuk Turks. These were pagan nomads who made steady inroads into the Muslim Arab world. In 1055 A.D. they invaded Baghdad and disrupted the stability of the Middle East.

The invasion of the Muslim Turks might well be thought of as the straw that broke the camels back as far as Western Christendom was concerned.

In 1071 A.D. Byzantine Emperor Diogenes confronted a Turkish invasion force in the far eastern provinces of the Byzantine Empire. The two armies met at the village of Manzikert, near Lake Van, and the Byzantines were utterly destroyed.  As a result of this disaster, the Byzantines lost all the territory that they had recovered, painstakingly, in the ninth and tenth centuries. This included the entirety of Asia Minor, the breadbasket and recruiting ground of the empire.

What followed was a response to Muslim and Arab invasions of Christian holy sites, lands and property in the Middle East. Succeeding Byzantine emperors sent frantic calls to the West for aid, directing them primarily at the popes, who were generally seen as protectors of Western Christendom. Pope Gregory VII received these appeals first, and in 1074 A.D. he discussed leading a relief expedition to Byzantium himself. But this proved impractical, and no aid was offered. The Byzantines continued sending appeals, however, eventually finding an audience with Pope Urban II.

The rest as they say is history. In 1095 A.D. the West responded to the plight of Eastern Christians by mounting the First Crusade. In 1099 A.D. crusaders stormed Jerusalem.

It wasn’t long before a series of Muslim rulers wanted to retake Christian Holy lands. These rulers included Zengi, Nur-al Din, and the famous Saladin. They fought to reunite parts of the Islamic Middle East. These leaders initiated a jihad, a counter-crusade against the Christians of Jerusalem and the surrounding regions. A desire to reconquer the city figured more and more notably into Muslim writings. “By the end of the twelfth century, Saladin had re-conquered Jerusalem more or less permanently. The entire Holy Land was back under Islamic control by 1291.”

While many take the perspective that the crusades were their darkest hour, others might say that to a large extent there was much justification given the centuries of persecution of Christians and Jews by the Muslim world. It all points to the never-ending futility of nations at war over land and the willingness of many peoples of the world to fight in the name of (and to kill for) God.

Here we are in the 21st century and a Muslim Jihadist Holy War still exists and is casting its ominous threats over the entire world, including America.

Current Status of Religions Worldwide

Worldwide, more than eight-in-ten people identify with a religious group. A comprehensive demographic study of more than 230 countries and territories conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life estimates that there are 5.8 billion religiously affiliated adults and children around the globe, representing 84% of the 2010 world population of 6.9 billion.

The demographic study – based on analysis of more than 2,500 censuses, surveys and population registers – finds 2.2 billion Christians (32% of the world’s population), 1.6 billion Muslims (23%), 1 billion Hindus (15%), nearly 500 million Buddhists (7%) and 14 million Jews (0.2%) around the world as of 2010. In addition, more than 400 million people (6%) practice various folk or traditional religions, including African traditional religions, Chinese folk religions, Native American religions and Australian aboriginal religions. An estimated 58 million people – slightly less than 1% of the global population – belong to other religions, including the Baha’i faith, Jainism, Sikhism, Shintoism, Taoism, Tenrikyo, Wicca and Zoroastrianism, to mention just a few.

At the same time, the new study by the Pew Forum also finds that roughly one-in-six people around the globe (1.1 billion, or 16%) have no religious affiliation. This makes the unaffiliated the third-largest religious group worldwide, behind Christians and Muslims, and about equal in size to the world’s Catholic population. Surveys indicate that many of the unaffiliated hold some religious or spiritual beliefs (such as belief in God or a universal spirit) even though they do not identify with a particular faith.

A New Estimate of the U.S. Muslim Population

By Besheer  Mohamad

“Pew Research Center estimates that there were about 3.3 million Muslims of all ages living in the United States in 2015. This means that Muslims made up about 1% of the total U.S. population (about 322 million people in 2015), and we estimate that that share will double by 2050.

Our new estimate of Muslims and other faiths is based on a demographic projection that models growth in the American Muslim population since our 2011 estimate and includes both adults and children. The projection uses data on age, fertility, mortality, migration and religious switching drawn from multiple sources, including the 2011 survey of Muslim Americans.

According to our current estimate, there are fewer Muslims of all ages in the U.S. than there are Jews by religion (5.7 million) but more than there are Hindus (2.1 million) and many more than there are Sikhs.

In some cities Muslims comprise significantly more than 1% of the community. And even at the state level Muslims are not evenly distributed: Certain states, such as New Jersey, have two or three times as many Muslim adults per capita as the national average.

Recent political debates in the U.S. over Muslim immigration and related issues have prompted many to ask how many Muslims actually live in the United States. But coming up with an answer is not easy, in part because the U.S. Census Bureau does not ask questions about religion, meaning that there is no official government count of the U.S. Muslim population.

Since our first estimate of the size of the Muslim American population in 2007, we have seen a steady growth in both the number of Muslims in the U.S. and the percentage of the U.S. population that is Muslim.

In addition, our projections suggest the U.S. Muslim population will grow faster than the Hindu population, and much faster than the Jewish population in the coming decades. Indeed, even before 2040, Muslims are projected to become the second-largest religious group in the U.S., after Christians. By 2050, the American Muslim population is projected to reach 8.1 million people, or 2.1% of the total population.

Just over half of the projected growth of the American Muslim population from 2010 to 2015 is due to immigration. Over the last 20 years, there has been an increase in the number of Muslim Immigrants coming to the U.S. The number of Muslim immigrants currently represents about 10% of all legal immigrants arriving in the U.S., and a significantly smaller percentage of unauthorized immigrants.

The other main cause of Islam’s recent growth is natural increase. American Muslims tend to have more children than Americans of other religious faiths. Muslims also tend to be younger than the general public, so a larger share of Muslims will soon be at the point in their lives when people begin having children.

There has been little net change in the size of the American Muslim population in recent years due to conversion. About one-in-five American Muslim adults were raised in a different faith or none at all. At the same time, a similar number of people who were raised Muslim no longer identify with the faith. About as many Americans become Muslim as leave Islam.”

The Great Irony of Religious Wars

The great irony of all the bloodshed that has ever been spilled since the 7th century is that religions’ underpinnings, known as belief, promoted by endless “true Believers in Christianity and Islam,” may all be based on a false premise to begin with, i.e., that some supernatural entity (like the Christian God or Islam’s Allah) actually exists. Religious wars of course are not fought alone for anyone’s scriptures; war is more complicated than that.

Global and political reasons (stealing lands and plundering resources) underlie warring faction’s “real reasons” that lie at the heart of using religious belief as their justification. Nevertheless, people will resort to violence to get their own way and often use religion’s notion of faith in a God to justify their willingness to commit acts of violence and pursue the spoils of war.

All religions use faith as a substitute for reason; it is their justification for behavior including violence and harmful deviant acts. This is despite the fact they have the ultimate burden of proof of supernatural entities like a god.

The Burden of Proof

An agnostic may be defined as a person who believes that the existence of God, or a primal cause, can be neither proven nor unproven. The word agnostic comes from the Greek word meaning “unknown” or “unknowable.” The term agnostic needs to be contrasted with the term “Gnosis” or Gnostic where the later term means knowledge.

Another term used to refer to one’s position on God or primal causes is atheist. Atheists, as a group of nonbelievers, have certain disadvantages in their position taken. The first disadvantage is a verbal assertion about what is unknown, unknowable, supernatural, or invisible. That assertion is–that something does not exist. Such an assertion is patently “unscientific.”

By asserting that something does not exist one immediately clashes with what science has long held as its own limitation. That is, it is impossible to prove a negative hypothesis. Science doesn’t work that way, for what data would one collect (and data is the cornerstone of all science) in order to test one’s hypothesis that something does not exist? Put very simply–it is impossible to do that.

Ironically, to make an assertion about non-existence of a God is strikingly similar to the person who lives by faith that God does exist. Many people don’t realize it, but the religious zealot and the atheist share a common perspective, i.e., they are both trying to make a “leap of faith.” The believer and the nonbeliever share the same podium in that respect. Nevertheless, there is an important difference here that does favor the atheist over the theist or deist. And that difference is the burden of proof.

The burden of proof does not lie with the atheist or the scientist to prove something does not exist. Such proof technically lies with those who make claims of a supernatural nature; otherwise claims are only assertions of belief unsubstantiated and without the benefit of actual proof. What is different between the atheist and scientist on the one hand and the true believer or religious zealot on the other are their tools of measurement, willingness to measure, and the approach taken to such measurement.

Interestingly, the invisibility of the subject matter of religion or science isn’t even the issue. Why? Because even where invisibility of the subject matter is concerned, it is measurement, and a willingness to measure, that does matter. For example molecules, atoms, protons, electrons and even the elusive neutrino are invisible to the naked eye. Nevertheless, they can be measured for their proof of existence. God is alleged to be invisible to the naked eye, yet theologians and fundamentalist “true believers” of all types have yet to provide proof or a shred of evidence of existence through any kind of “measurement.”

Said simply, they have failed to provide the needed proof to substantiate their supernatural claims. It is interesting to note that the 20th century’s (greatest scientist) Albert Einstein never attributed bizarre supernatural forces as an explanation for the fundamental laws of the universe.

Why America is Turning More Secular

The data from the Barna survey done years ago strongly suggested that the slide toward syncretism may be responsible for the decline of Christianity in the 20th century. Evidently, the democratic trend toward freedom of religion and freedom from religion took heart in America. However, the net effect of these changes within and outside Christianity is the move toward a more secular society.

There are three basic reasons American society, in particular, is becoming more secular: (1) The religious right is trying to invade secular society, (2) scandals within the church have lowered its status in the eyes of the public, and (3) simultaneously, science education and technology have come to dominate the social landscape of our culture through laboratory research, and through educational programs on television and in the classroom.

It is also true that alienation produced by fundamentalists gone amuck with their disdain for liberal and mainstream Protestant denominations created an atmosphere where younger potential converts automatically looked askance at religious institutions altogether with contempt. Until mainstream and liberal churches gang up and fight fundamentalists politically and socially, Christianity will continue to lose adherents.

The same thing can be said about Islam, i.e., until moderates in the Islamic faith gang up on Islamic Jihadists extremists and do away with Sharia law, they will continue to lose potentially moderate adherents at home and abroad. Because of this loss they will suffer from the consequences of a right-wing extremist theocracy because of groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda.

 Below is a very poignant article found on Eurweb (electronic Urban Report) that was written by the free-lance writer and blogger—Trevor Brookins. Its title is “The Socialist’s Journal: Theology vs. Theocracy.” It gets to the heart of the differences between a theology and a theocracy. Trevor Brookins is from Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War and he maintains a blog called, This Seems Familiar.

“Theocracy is partly the source of the biggest problem today in that it is a perspective that produces religious fundamentalists. Contrarily theology is the biggest source of hope for ending conflict in the world. Ironically enough these two concepts are closely related and one grows out of the other.

In its most basic form theology is about understanding the nature of God and answering basic question about human existences, two of which tremendously influence our interactions with others. The question of ‘how ought we to behave?’ is the part of any religion that outlines ethics and there are many commonalities between faiths; the question of ‘where are we going’ address what happens after death and its answer contains fewer commonalities and therefore where the potential for conflict arises.

Given enough time a group of people will eventually make contact with another group of people who do not answer the afterlife question the way they do. When this contact is made these two groups can make the ethical question most important in which case they will attempt to live peacefully harmoniously alongside their new neighbors – this is the theological. Or the two groups can make the afterlife question most important in which case both groups perceive the other as heathen and attempt to eliminate the other religious perspective by converting their adversaries if not outright killing them – this is the theocratic response.

Historically we have documented many more cases of the second version of events following contact because of the wars that followed and the exchange of territory. But also of note is the correlation between religious wars and the institution of monarchy. Royal families that rely on hereditary rule and Divining Right to maintain their status are essentially claiming God wants them in charge. It is therefore an easy conclusion to reach that similarly God wants X so we do whatever it takes including war to attain/achieve X.

This path of logic has been used so frequently and with such success that is the reason behind every empire in Western civilization since Rome. And so convinced of this mindset are some in Western civilization that when a nation fails to achieve a goal or expand its territory an explanation offered is that the country must not be following God’s will.

However, in a world where monarchical rule has become obsolete in favor of democracy, the “God wants this” line of reasoning has also fallen out of favor. Religious fundamentalists ultimately are advocating turning back the clock and the adoption of God’s law as the operating principle for a country, but even within any given faith there is much debate on what God’s law is. Furthermore this theocratic perspective on life obscures the theological perspective that allows for groups to live peacefully that under theocracy might be at war.

Democracy can be said to be the opposite of theocracy and because of this it is impossible for a country to operate under both of these forms of government at the same time. On the other hand democracy and theology can coexist, and often do so to the benefit of both.

In the United States we obsess over Muslim fundamentalists and with good reason because there are many who seek to harm us. Equally dangerous though are the Christian fundamentalist principles that guide foreign policy. God wants Americans to have oil like God wanted Caucasians to expand across North America, that is to say not at all. God is being used to justify political and economic decisions.

Most people are moderate and used to making compromises. Even within our religious lives few of us follow all of the rules – ask the most devout Christian you know whether he/she really would not have a woman in leadership. What is at stake in that instance is simply another perspective on a topic. How much more then should we be willing to compromise when what is at stake are thousands of lives? Theocracy yields fundamentalism, conflict and death. Theology yields moderation, understanding and peace. Which will we choose?

As said earlier, in Part II, I will compare the standard established in 1907 for American citizenship set by our 26th president in order to see if Muslim Americans achieve that goal.

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