“All this barbarity is sacred”: A Muslim journalist dares to say that ISIS is motivated by religion

This video shows a brave man. Why? Because he’s an Egyptian living in Egypt, presumably a Muslim, who is saying The Truth That Must Not Be Said: that ISIS uses explicit justification from the Qur’an and the hadith for its barbarity. The motivation for slaughter, beheadings, and immolation, in other words, comes from Islam.

It’s Ibrahim Eissa, an Egyptian journalist speaking the truth a week ago on al Tahrir (Egyptian) T.V.

Click on the screenshot below, or go here to listen to the video.

I hope he has armed guards. . .

Screen Shot 2015-02-10 at 6.50.20 AM

The transcript:

Ibrahim Issa: Whenever ISIS carries out an act of barbarity, such as decapitations, throat slitting, or the burning of a person alive, as they did today, various sheiks tell you – if they even bother to say anything – that this has nothing to do with Islam, that Islam is not to blame, and whatever. But when the people of ISIS perpetrate slaughter, murder, rape, immolation, and all those barbaric crimes, they say that they are relying on the sharia. They say that this is based on a certain hadith, on a certain Quranic chapter, on a certain saying of Ibn Taymiyyah, or on some historical event. To tell the truth, everything that ISIS says is correct.

. . . This should not come as a surprise to anyone, as a surprise to anyone, and nobody should be shocked by what I am saying. All the evidence and references that ISIS provides to justify its crimes, its barbarity, and its horrifying, criminal, and despicable violence… All the evidence and references that ISIS provides, claiming that they can be found in the books of history, jurisprudence, and law, are, indeed, to be found there, and anyone who says otherwise is lying.

. . . When they kill a person claiming that he is an infidel, when they rape women, when they kill prisoners, and when they slaughter and decapitate people, they say that the Prophet Muhammad said so. Indeed, the Prophet said so! What was the context? The interpretation? That’s a whole different story. None of those [Al-Azhar clerics] who purport to be moderate, and who were told by President Al-Sisi to change the religious discourse, have the courage – not a single grain of courage – to admit that these things are indeed to be found [in Islamic sources] and are [morally] wrong. If it is claimed that a certain companion of the Prophet did this or that, you should respond by saying that he was morally wrong. I would like to see a single Al-Azhar cleric in Egypt have the courage to admit that Abu Bakr burned a man alive. That’s right. He burned Fuja’ah [Al-Sulami]. This is a well-known historical story.

. . . Was Abu Bakr morally wrong to burn that man alive? Nobody dares to say so. So we are left in this vicious circle, and you can expect more barbarity, because all this barbarity is sacred. It is sacred. This barbarity is wrapped in religion. It is immersed in religion. It is all based on religion. Your mission [as a cleric] is to say that while it is part of our religion, the interpretation is wrong. Do not tell people that Islam has nothing to do with this.

I would love to hear what Karen Armstrong or President Obama would say in response.

h/t: Dermot C.



  1. Posted February 10, 2015 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on Crash Course.

    • Filippo
      Posted February 11, 2015 at 6:47 pm | Permalink


  2. rickflick
    Posted February 10, 2015 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    I’m amazed that he can get away with telling the truth. I imagine the current government, installed by the military, has something to do with his level of daring. Under the government of the Muslim Brotherhood chances are he would have been prevented from getting past the first sentence.
    Perhaps such truth telling will slowly improve the religious and political atmosphere in the Middle East.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted February 10, 2015 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

      I am impressed he is taking such a risk when we in the West are not (okay some of us are, but not enough are, including our leaders). Our leaders should be ashamed!

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted February 10, 2015 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

        There is quite a strong anti-DAESH movement on Turkey. A seriously anti-DAESH graphic I used for one of my articles came from the website for ‘The Islamic Voice of Turkey’.

        Nevertheless, he is indeed extremely brave, and it’s great to see more with this opinion finding the courage to speak out. They are actually fairly numerous, but, for good reason they too scared to do it.

  3. ashdeville
    Posted February 10, 2015 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    Wow – a very brave man.

    • Kirth Gersen
      Posted February 10, 2015 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

      Yes, that was my first thought as well — his courage is inspiring.

    • Diane G.
      Posted February 10, 2015 at 10:56 pm | Permalink

      Yes, wow. So brave!

  4. Sastra
    Posted February 10, 2015 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

    It is all based on religion. Your mission [as a cleric] is to say that while it is part of our religion, the interpretation is wrong. Do not tell people that Islam has nothing to do with this.

    The probable defense from Armstrong et al is that the interpretation is so wrong you might as well say it’s something else.

    I’m so tired of hearing various versions of “no religion allows the murder of innocents.” That’s only true in the weak sense that no government allows the murder of innocents either. The interpretation of who is, and who is not, “innocent” and thus what is, or isn’t, “murder” is very flexible when we’re dealing with any dogma. Make it the unchanging Word of God and they don’t even have to go through the motions of making sense.

    • Posted February 10, 2015 at 3:46 pm | Permalink


      And, now, must get back to plowing under the cover crop…only a few more rows to go….


  5. Posted February 10, 2015 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

    a brave man. I hope he stays safe.

    • Mike Paps
      Posted February 10, 2015 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

      Agreed, I’m frightened for him.

  6. GBJames
    Posted February 10, 2015 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

    This is really courageous.

    Somebody… please send a copy to Ben Aflack and President Obama.

    • darrelle
      Posted February 11, 2015 at 7:17 am | Permalink

      Yes. I would like to hear Ben’s thoughts on this.

  7. S Pimpernel
    Posted February 10, 2015 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    Oh no, I’m sure Karen and Glenn know a lot more about these barbarians’ motivation than this Egyptian journalist who lives with it daily.

  8. Posted February 10, 2015 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    If we have to interpret religion in order to do the right thing, why the middle man. We are already putting our own judgement over and above scripture.

  9. Sastra
    Posted February 10, 2015 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know that I’d call it ‘courageous’ so much as ‘honest.’

    After all, the really dangerous people are not only agreeing that these acts are part of Islam, they think they’re the best part of Islam. The true part. So Eissa isn’t necessarily going to piss off militants more than usual.

    He’ll piss off the moderates. That may be risky in many ways, but it’s unlikely he’ll be beheaded.

    I think.

    • Jonathan Wallace
      Posted February 10, 2015 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

      Except that he is not just saying that it is true that the rape, murder, immolation etc are based on what is written in the Quran but also that they are barbaric that what Abu Bakr did was barbaric. That might piss off more than just the moderates. The beheaders and rapists of ISIS believe (or seem to at least) that what they are doing is holy not barbaric.

      • Sastra
        Posted February 10, 2015 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

        True, but it’s not as if Eissa is going to stand out from the huge international crowd of folks calling ISIS ‘barbaric’ and daringly draw the shocked attention of the terrorists. He’s saying it’s both barbaric AND Islamic. From the standpoint of militant Islam, I’d think they might consider that a sort of improvement.

        It’s brave in that it’s likely to draw down major criticism, yes. I don’t see why we’d expect it to provoke violence though. Of course I’m not any sort of expert on Egypt, Islam, or the issue.

        He’s refreshingly honest. But pondering the ramifications of “now what will Karen Armstrong SAY???” doesn’t really make me think “courage.”

        • Diane G.
          Posted February 10, 2015 at 11:00 pm | Permalink

          Never underestimate the capabilities of just a few fanatics, of which I’m sure there must be at least as many in Egypt as there are in France.

    • darrelle
      Posted February 11, 2015 at 7:29 am | Permalink

      I think there are dangerous people who cloak themselves with moderate Islam for camouflage while actually being militant / radical / fundamentalist. Those types of Islamics might be a more serious threat.

      And besides, sound reasoning is not a hallmark of strong religious faith. Any negative criticism is likely to draw violent response whether it would be an epic irony or not.

      • Bill Fish
        Posted February 11, 2015 at 9:43 am | Permalink

        Yes…Yes!The quran allows muslims to lie to protect islam, and do. Finally one who does not.

        • Dermot C
          Posted February 11, 2015 at 10:14 am | Permalink

          In the end all debates come down to whether your interlocutor considers lying OK and I have often wondered where the often referred to Islamic sanctions for lying and lying by omission are. So I found them on this website with a liberal statement of aims. x


  10. Pliny the in Between
    Posted February 10, 2015 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    Regarding criticisms of Islam, this courageous man most likely has an advantage that President Obama does not – He’s probably a Muslim. Criticisms coming from outside of any group likely fall on deaf ears.

  11. pk
    Posted February 10, 2015 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

    Affleck, Armstrong and Greenwald can play ‘bullshit bingo’ when responding to Mr. Eissa: http://goo.gl/KWyolA

    Brave man; we need more like him.

  12. Posted February 10, 2015 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    I’ll take an ever so slightly dissenting opinion here.

    Think of, say, abortion clinic bombings by Christian fundamentalists. Their acts are indeed motivated by religion, but, statistically speaking, most Christians don’t do that.

    The same might be true of ISIS. Their acts are motivated by religion but most Muslims don’t behave in that way and, evidently, most don’t approve either (if the reaction in Jordan is any indication).

    Now I think that it is undeniable that, at least in the western world and in the middle east, Islamic violence is a problem of a much higher magnitude than Christian violence and the more violent strains of Islam haven’t been relegated to “crackpot” status. It is still too mainstream in those regions.

    Note: Christians still commit extreme religious violence in parts of Africa (e. g. witch burnings).

    • Posted February 10, 2015 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

      Yes, but the issue here isn’t what the vast majority of muslims would do or think, it is whether or not we should hold an ideology accountable for the violence it inspires. I’m sure that the vast majority of catholic Serbs did not support a campaign of genocide against Bosniak muslims in the Balkans. That did nothing to stop the violent extirpation of tens of thousands of Bosniak muslims at the hands of Mladic and his thugs. Whether or not most muslims are peaceful isn’t really relevant to the inspiration of ISIS and their brutality.

      • darrelle
        Posted February 11, 2015 at 7:43 am | Permalink

        Additionally, even if the question of the extent of violence among muslims were the issue, there is some decent evidence on that. That evidence indicates that “most” muslims in “most” muslim societies do think that violence is an acceptable response for many things. Like apostasy and blasphemy. That may not mean that they’ll help with stringing the blasphemer up, but they approve of their more motivated co-religionists doing so.

    • steve
      Posted February 11, 2015 at 4:27 am | Permalink

      Blueollie: It doesn’t need to be “most” Muslims. Look at past posts at this and many other sites about Muslim opinion in various countries of things such as apostasy, blasphemy, women’s rights, sharia etc. (See Pew, Environics). The percentage of Muslim’s world-wide, who hold what I would assume you would consider appalling ideas about these issues, is not always a majority, but ranges from about 10% to 90% depending on specific issue and country. Even 10% of 1 billion is 100 000 000 people on this planet AT MINIMUM who hold many similar views to “extreme” – Muslims. Holding a view and acting on it are of course not the same, but a view/opinion is the first step and for some will lead to action.

      • Posted February 11, 2015 at 6:06 am | Permalink

        I am not saying there isn’t a big problem; there certainly is for the reasons you state.

        I am saying that there isn’t anything inherently special about Islam that it can’t be “corrupted to a mostly benign form” by modern values in the way that Christianity has.

        Of course, we aren’t there yet.

  13. Posted February 10, 2015 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

    That is a courageous man. I feel a bit inspired by some of the things I’ve seen in the last few days regarding this issue. Perhaps the liberal press is slowly, but surely taking of the blinders on this issue after all.

    Just FYI, there was an great segment on The Last Word last night about the President’s comments regarding the crusades that touched on this issue quite well. The video is on the Last Word web site if you want to watch it. It’s worth a look, IMO.

  14. Randy Schenck
    Posted February 10, 2015 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

    If there is any way to get this video to the President or to any number of apologist out there, it would be great. I don’t think anyone has said it better than this fellow.

  15. Ionescu
    Posted February 10, 2015 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

    The other news: in France, a University lector is suspended for commenting against the veil.[1] The article is in French. The University president thinks that is a good idea as the veil is Okay for him.

    [1] http://www.20minutes.fr/societe/1537891-20150210-enseignant-paris-13-demis-avoir-menace-plus-faire-cours-devant-etudiante-voilee

  16. Larry Esser
    Posted February 10, 2015 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

    This is a very, very brave man.

  17. Posted February 10, 2015 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

    Certainly Eissa is brave as a devotee who is speaking out about the sins of his co-religionists, and their rooting in scripture, while he is living in the hornet’s nest. Brave indeed.

    But it isn’t particularly courageous for all of us to look down our noses at people in other countries for supporting religiously-inspired violence, when we are not questioning the religiously-inspired violence that is baked into the fabric of US society, foreign policy, and militarism. Fundamentalists have been taking over the special forces and other parts of the military, spreading a crusading ideology of intolerance and hate. Read American Sniper and you’ll get the idea. Or take a look at this recent Truthout article: http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/28719-us-army-special-forces-officially-recruit-for-mission-for-god#.

    The US, the world’s greatest purveyor of violence, has been at war with the Arab and Muslim world for 25 years, killing a million innocent Muslims and displacing millions more. Remember Ann Coulter’s crusading ideology: “Invade their countries, kill their leaders, and convert them to Christianity.” Today, at a time when Washington’s warfare queens are leading us down the slippery slope to Iraq War 3.0, it doesn’t show much courage to echo the Islam-is-a-violent-religion meme that plays regularly in the US mainstream media, and every day on Fox News.

    If you want to show bravery, the thing to do would be to discuss how ongoing violence in the Middle East connects directly with Christian (apocalyptic) and Jewish Zionism based on the most barbaric elements of Old Testament tribalism. In this theology, God gave one tribe the right to a huge chunk of the middle east, and this tribe has an unconditional right to occupy the land no matter which other tribes actually live there.

    The sacred texts of Christianity and Judaism are perfectly clear about how to claim this birthright violently, by slaughtering entire towns. I highly recommend Genesis 34, the story of Dinah. One of the locals sleeps with (aka rapes) Jacob’s daughter, falls madly in love and wants to marry; his father goes to Jacob to ask for her as a bride, offering to pay any dowry Jacob asks, and inviting Jacob and his tribe to live in the area and intermingle with the town; Jacob’s boys trick them by saying the town’s men need to be circumcised first, which they agree to do, and then when they are all in post-op recovery, Jacob’s boys sneak in the town and slaughter all the men; the next day they capture the livestock, and carry off the women and children as slaves. Trick them, kill them, enslave them, and take their land.

    Today the Zionist imperialist project looks a bit different– turning the captive Palestinian land into an ever-smaller, ever-more-desperate prison camp, bombing people, bulldozing homes, destroying orchards, taking land, building settlements, etc. In complete violation of international legal norms and its own stated principles, the US supports this project of taking land from the non-chosen people and giving it to god’s chosen tribe, in the amount of $5000M per year in military support plus an automatic UN veto to oppose any international constraints. Last year, US support ensured that these religious tribalists could kill another 2000 inmates in the prison camp, expand tribe-specific settlements on stolen land, withhold taxes, and other affronts. If you live in the US, your congressional representatives, on your behalf, are supporting this tribal zealotry every chance they get, and if you live in a red state, there is a good chance your representative is using coded language to report back to Christian Zionists about what a great job he is doing to ensure that biblical prophecies are fulfilled.

    So, how about starting a Judaism-is-a-violent-religion or Christianity-is-a-violent-religion meme on WhyEvolutionIsTrue to counter the Islam-is-a-violent-religion meme that plays on Fox News? Otherwise we are just pawns in a culture war who dutifully play their role of picking on politically weak enemies, while sparing official allies the same criticism.

    Instead of cheering when western news outlets bring on Muslim clerics to repudiate the violent parts of their sacred texts, why not start a campaign to get leading Jewish clerics on TV, and ask them to relinquish violence and repudiate the scriptures (e.g., the story of Dinah) that support taking land from Arabs, and repudiate the settlements justified by this theology? Why not get Christian clerics to go on TV, ask them forcefully if “thou shalt not kill” applies to killing Arabs, and ask if they will repudiate the use of scripture to support the latest US violence?

    I’m not saying you couldn’t get volunteers. *Of course* you could get Christian or Jewish clerics to repudiate imperialist violence, including thousands of clerics in pacifist denominations (Quakers, Mennonites, etc). The point here is that in the US, which is a military empire, the regime of conformity ensures that we don’t expect Judeo-Christian clerics to repudiate *our* violence against the Muslim world in the same way that we expect Muslim clerics to repudiate their violence against us. It would be explosive if NBC (for instance) started calling in priests who explained that US violence in the middle east is not consistent with Jesus’s pacificism, that soldiers who kill people in the Iraq war would be punished for their sins, and that those who invoke Christian scripture to justify killing Arabs are violent extremists who have strayed from the faith. Every day on the mainstream media you can hear religious voices saying that homosexuality is against god’s law, but I’ve never heard religious authorities being called on to explain that torture or cluster-bombs or being the world’s biggest weapons supplier are contrary to god’s law, although I would guess that there are as many Christians who believe the latter as the former. Likewise, it would be explosive if some news outlet started calling rabbis to explain that the Jews who believe in appropriating land from Arabs are not following the true faith, but a violent extremist distortion. Think about that.

    And BTW, this has nothing to do with “barbarity” (chopping off heads with a sword) vs. more civilized forms of violence (chopping off heads with a hellfire missile fired from a $150M helicopter). The US regime of torture is clearly barbaric by any standard. The US mass media could have called in clerics to condemn barbaric torture practices, to condemn Gitmo, as an affront to Christianity or Judaism. They didn’t, so far as I am aware.

    • Posted February 11, 2015 at 4:20 am | Permalink

      I have asked readers to limit the lengths of their posts. In the future please do not put up essays; I am asking for comments.

      And please don’t tell me what to post about; that’s a Roolz violation.

      • Posted February 11, 2015 at 10:39 am | Permalink

        I believe that Dr. Stoltzfus is known for his lengthy commentaries, e.g. over at Sandwalk. He could have made his points in about a tenth of the space, perhaps even in a less confrontational mode. Arlin – do you have your own blog?

    • Posted February 11, 2015 at 10:03 am | Permalink

      ‘Think about that.’ While I don’t like being addressed in the imperative mood, Mr. Stoltzfus, I will answer your demand with this: I HAVE thought about ‘that’ and many other aspects of U.S. foreign policy. Thunk and thunk, as Jeff Airplane sez, but ‘thinking’ didn’t do me no good, people.’ Once the U. S. Dept. of War became the Orwellian Dept. of Defense, the Big Lie of American world-benevolence was fixed in the national mythos. Elsewhere in your post you write of ‘our’ violence toward the Muslim world. But, sir, it is not mine. You apparently believe that simple citizens of this polity are culpable in its rulers’ actions. No. If I have no authority (beyond the ballot) and no power (= great wealth)I am de facto disenfranchised from acting except through civil disobedience. We do not have a democracy; we have an auction. And I am, as are most of us, a penniless bidder.

  18. Posted February 10, 2015 at 9:52 pm | Permalink

    President Obama is expecting other muslims to do the bulk of the fighting against ISIS. He doesn’t have the luxury of being able to be blunt about religion.

    • GBJames
      Posted February 11, 2015 at 7:27 am | Permalink

      Other Muslims?

  19. Posted February 11, 2015 at 8:31 am | Permalink

    Reblogged this on Rainbowman56's Blog.

  20. Kevin Y
    Posted February 11, 2015 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    Arlin Stoltzfus may have committed a “Roolz violation,” but thank you for leaving up his long post. I appreciate being called out as part of a country with a violent crusading ideology. Violence is a complex part of our human nature. Most people are nonviolent but can readily justify violence under certain circumstances. To be completely nonviolent is not only to break from our religious past but from our evolutionary heritage. Religion provides a context for justifying violence, even if the underlying motives may be tribalism or seeking for power. Whether Muslim or Christian or Jewish it is good to look closely into the mirror and acknowledge our rationalizations.

  21. Posted February 11, 2015 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    This post once again brings up a question that I have been thinking about for some time – “What can a single person do on an individual basis to have an impact against the murderous religious fanatics, currently predominated by Muslim radicals?” Letters to papers, letters to politicians, …… ?

    • Posted February 11, 2015 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

      … encourage moderate/secular Muslims and imams to speak out against these barbarities…

    • Dermot C
      Posted February 11, 2015 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

      Douglas, the short answer is that we all do what we can. But I’d say…

      1. Read the Koran – be prepared for the shockingly high proportion of immoral and outmoded moral propositions. Strikingly more so, I’d say, than in the Bible overall.
      2. Read or watch Ayaan Hirsi Ali for the lack of wriggle-room in interpreting the text in a liberal or non-violent way. And the lack of clerics who do.

      If you find yourself debating a Muslim who calls Islam a religion of peace, my experience suggests these 4 rules. That…

      1. Very close to the cherry-picked quotation from the Koran, there will be a but, a however or an except. Or very near to that quotation there will be a morally repugnant idea.
      2. They will lie to you about the most reasonable interpretation.
      3. They will allege that you misinterpret it.
      4. And contingently, when you point out barbarities in the founding documents of Islamic texts to Muslim apologists, you will be told to shut up.

      In another context, you should also be prepared to be called a ‘racist’ by people whose political ideas you would otherwise agree with in 90% of cases. Even Sam Harris seems to be becoming wearied by the barrage of misinterpretation and vitriol directed towards him. And on SH, he rather wittily recommends that you should suggest in that case a cartoon contest: I’ll publish a cartoon satirizing any leader of a world religion and you publish one lampooning Mohammed. x

      • Posted February 12, 2015 at 11:15 am | Permalink

        Thanks Dermot – very good information.

  22. Aiya
    Posted February 12, 2015 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    The first Caliph Abu Bakr cited Qur’an 35:6 to justify burning his enemy al-Fuja’ah alive.

    Google Books has a translation of Abu Bakr’s “Letter to the Apostates” (search “The History of al-Tabari Vol. 10“):

    “He will not spare anyone he has mastery over, and may burn them with fire, slaughter them by any means, and take women and children captive.”

    By burning the Jordanian pilot alive, Daesh is simply following the Qur’an in the example of the very first Muslim Caliph.

  23. Posted February 12, 2015 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    Is “Issa” and “Eissa” transliterations of the same name?

    • Sal
      Posted February 14, 2015 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

      Yes, it is. It means “Jesus”. Ibrahim Eissa is Christian leftist.

  24. Sal
    Posted February 14, 2015 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

    The name Eisa is a Chritain name, he is Christian born, not Muslim, and he provides zero proof for what he is alleging. He reported claiming he had seen police shooting protesters in Egypt and later contradicted himself in court saying such a thing did not take place –he is a proven first class liar.

    • rickflick
      Posted February 14, 2015 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

      Wikipidia says he was given many journalistic awards for covering a wide diversity of topics. Whether Christian, Muslim, or Pastafarian…what’s in a name.

    • Asim
      Posted February 18, 2015 at 11:42 am | Permalink

      This is what Wikipedia says (with references therein) about Mr Eissa’s testimony in Hosni Mubarak’s trial:

      “Eissa has been criticized by activists for shifting his testimony during Mubarak’s 2011 trial and 2014 retrial. Eissa originally accused police forces of shooting protesters, but said in the retrial he did not witness shootings. He also stated in the retrial that Mubarak was a patriotic president who neither ordered the use of force against protesters or the cutting of phone and internet lines, and only called on security authorities to use necessary measures to contain chaos.”

      Very brave of him to change stance on such a serious issue! Hundreds, and possibly even thousands, had died as a direct result of brutalities committed by the security authorities, on direct orders from Hosni Mubarak.

    • Steven Carr
      Posted February 19, 2015 at 1:09 am | Permalink

      Zero proof?

      You just need a Google search to see that abu Bakr had somebody burned alive and that this is documented in Islamic sources like al Tabari.

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