An apologist says that Islam is the best way to prevent sexual abuse

In the panoply of “this must be a joke but isn’t” articles, here’s one from the new Independent (click on screenshot to go there). The author, Qasim Rashid, is identified as “an attorney, author, and national spokesperson for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA.”

I was of course startled to read this, as the tenets of Islam as it’s practiced in some places would seem to promote sexual abuse (not necessarily rape, but beatings, mistreatment and spousal rape), particularly in the institutionalized denigration of women, the stipulation that they cover themselves to avoid enticing men, the prevention of women from getting jobs and their assignment to domestic roles, and so on. What teachings of Islam would prevent sexual abuse?

It turns out that Rashid, a Muslim apologist, is of course simply using his faith to hitchhike on the Harvey Weinstein scandal.  And by “teachings of Islam,” what he means is “what I interpret the Qur’an to say”. If you construe the “teachings of Islam” to mean instead “How the Qur’an is interpreted in many places”, then Rashid’s argument falls apart completely. Remember that the teachings of Islam are based not just on the Qur’an, but on the reputed sayings of Muhammad (the hadith) and the described sayings, deeds, or practices of Muhammad (the sunnah)  and more recent interpretations by mullahs.  And for every Qur’anic verse quoted by Rashid, I can quote another that counters it (see bottom of this post).

But the big problem is using selected bits of the Qur’an to represent the “teachings of Islam”. What about how it’s interpreted? That has led to female genital mutilation (approved and promoted by at least three schools of Islam), the female-oppressive sharia laws that dictate that a woman’s word is worth but half a man’s in court (from the Qur’an, by the way), the dictate that a daughter inherits only half as much as her brothers, and, of course, the numerous other ways that Islam oppresses women in many places—via laws, dress, restrictions, and so on.

It turns out that Rashid is just another version of Reza “Whitewash” Aslan. First he says words familiar to American feminists:

I’m a Muslim, and a civil rights lawyer with a special interest in advocating for women’s rights. My advocacy is informed not just by the law, but by strategies detailed in Islamic teachings and Prophet Muhammad’s example to pre-empt sexual abuse. Yes, the cancer of sexual abuse against women that we see in Christian majority America is just as prevalent in Muslim majority Pakistan, but also in Hindu majority India and state atheist China. This proves that men worldwide are failing in our responsibility to end sexual abuse and gender based violence.

Where are the data? And what about the likelihood that sexual abuse in strict Islamic countries may not be reported as often—for good reasons? Women aren’t believed in court given that their testimony counts half as much as a man’s! And, as The Religion of Peace notes:

Under Islamic law, rape can only be proven if the rapist confesses or if there are four male witnesses.  Women who allege rape without the benefit of the act having been witnessed by four men (who presumably develop a conscience afterwards) are actually confessing to having sex.  If they or the accused happens to be married, then it is considered to be adultery.

Rashid’s article continues.

Let’s start by understanding two facts. First, a woman’s attire, alcohol intake, marital status, and education level do not contribute to sexual abuse – abusive men do. Second, sexual abuse doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Every level of society – social norms, media, and Government – is complicit in promoting the rape culture that perpetuates sexual abuse.

First of all, I take issue that every level of society, including the U.S. government, perpetuates “rape culture”, or even that America has a rape culture (the term is never defined). If you interpret it as Rashid does—that the laws and government are complicit in perpetuating sexual abuse—you can make a strong argument that he’s wrong. American society does not approve of rape, and convicted rapists get harsh punishments. The government—at least before Obama—issued strong guidelines for universities that made it easier (too easy, in my view) to convict an accused rapist or harasser.  All over America women are speaking out against sexual harassment, and it’s far more prevalent that we’d like (ideally, none), but that does not mean that we live in a “rape culture”, any more than we live in a “burglary culture”. I have never heard any man say it’s okay to rape women.

But what’s especially  hypocritical is Rashid’s statement that “a woman’s attire. . .do[es] not contribute to sexual abuse.” For it is precisely for that reason that many Islamic states, and much Islamic custom, dictates that women must cover their hair, their faces, or their whole bodies. Women are seen as temptresses, who, by flashing a bit of hair or skin, could unleash the uncontrollable sexual passions of men. In other words, women’s dress, in much of Islam, is seen as a major contributor to sexual abuse, and it is the woman’s responsibility, not the man’s, to prevent sexual assault based on her covering. We all know how uncovered women are treated in countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran, or Afghanistan: they get beaten by morality police. And woe to a Western woman who goes uncovered in Iran!

But Islam has the solution!

This is where Islamic teachings and Prophet Muhammad’s example provide a solution that no state truly can. And while there are people who don’t believe that sexual abuse is even a problem, some on the left will disagree that accountability to a higher power is a solution.

This is a reasonable argument, in part, due to the hypocrisy of allegedly religious men like Congressman Tim Murphy, who condemns abortion and infidelity, yet was caught encouraging his mistress to have one, or former Indiana GOP chair Rick Halvorsen who was convicted of incest. Yes, Islam implores accountability to the creator, but rather than preach empty dogmatic theories, Islam instead prescribes a proven secular model.

What, exactly, is that “proven secular model”, and how is it “secular” if it comes from religion? And where are the data “proving” it?  Rashid simply quotes the Qu’ran, taking verses that he interprets to mean the equality of men and women:

In a recent internationally broadcast lecture given live before roughly 6,000 Muslim women, the Khalifa of Islam said, “Chapter four, verse two of the Holy Quran…clarifies that women were not created out of the body of a man or from his rib. Rather, the Quran testifies to the fact that men and women were created from a single soul and are of the same kind and species.”

Thus, the Quran 4:2 first establishes men and women as equal beings. Chapter 4:20 then forbids men from forcing a woman to act against her will, thereby ensuring women maintain autonomy and self-determination.

I think he means Quran 4:1, which says this (verse 2 makes no sense in his context):

O mankind, fear your Lord, who created you from one soul and created from it its mate and dispersed from both of them many men and women. And fear Allah, through whom you ask one another, and the wombs. Indeed Allah is ever, over you, an Observer.

This says nothing about the equality of women; it just says that men and women were created out of a single soul, bits of which were dispersed among the sexes. Were they dispersed equally? We don’t know.

Verse 4:20, however, does say this:

O you who have believed, it is not lawful for you to inherit women by compulsion. And do not make difficulties for them in order to take [back]part of what you gave them unless they commit a clear immorality. And live with them in kindness. For if you dislike them–perhaps you dislike a thing and Allah makes therein much good.

That’s not too bad, except that it’s okay to inherit female sex slaves in battle by compulsion. But the problem is that we’re taking scripture as the standard, rather than how it’s interpreted—or, as we’ll see, cherry-picked. Were we to use the Bible as a standard of behavior towards people, we would stone adulterers to death, have slaves and beat them under certain conditions, commit genocide, kill children who insult their parents or people who work on the Sabbath, and so on. Rashid simply elides the notion that “Islamic doctrine” includes how it’s been interpreted by the several schools of Islam. This is a favorite tactic of Reza Aslan.

And this is simply dissimulation:

The Quran further obliges men to provide for a woman’s every financial need, while holding that anything a woman earns is hers alone – preempting financial abuse. And when it comes to the Islamic concept of Hijab, it is men who are first commanded to never gawk at women, and instead guard their private parts and chastity, regardless of how women choose to dress – pre-empting sexual abuse.

. . . Accordingly, the Prophet Muhammad by example demonstrated that the burden of modesty, respect, and combating abuse of women rests on men. Indeed, men must take the lead in stopping such sexual abuse. After all, while the Quran obliges women to dress modestly as a covenant with God, Islam prescribes no punishment whatsoever for women who choose to dress otherwise.

The problem, of course, is that in many places women are not allowed to earn anything of their own, for they’re forbidden many jobs, or even to work outside the home. Further, their inheritance is worth only half of their brothers’, and if they’re divorced (by a man saying “I divorce you” three times), they get nothing.  As for “the burden of modesty resting on men,” that’s bullshit; for covering (not dictated in the Qur’an, but now Islamic practice) places the burden of avoiding abuse on women. And as for “Islam prescribing no punishment whatsoever for women who choose to dress otherwise,” tell that to the women in Saudi Arabia, Iran, or Sudan who get beaten if they aren’t sufficiently covered. How dare Rashid tell such lies!

The part about “men guarding their private parts” is also bullshit. Yes, men don’t walk around in Muslim countries with their genitals dangling freely, but they often dress just like Western men, and certainly don’t cover themselves like women. To say that the degree of modesty in dress dictated by Islam is the same for men and women is to tell a whopper.

In the end, these are not “secular” guidelines, but religious ones that have been cherrypicked to conform to what the West sees (using secular standards, not the Bible) as proper treatment of women. You can confect good sexual guidelines for how to treat people without any notion of religion.

But wait! Is Islam really that woman-friendly, even in the Qur’an? Check out these verses from the page “A woman’s worth” from The Religion of Peace site. And yes, do establish that these verses (in italics) are characterized correctly (Roman type):

Quran (4:11) – (Inheritance) “The male shall have the equal of the portion of two females”(see also verse 4:176). In Islam, sexism is mathematically established.

Quran (2:282) – (Court testimony) “And call to witness, from among your men, two witnesses. And if two men be not found then a man and two women.” Muslim apologists offer creative explanations to explain why Allah felt that a man’s testimony in court should be valued twice as highly as a woman’s, but studies consistently show that women are actually less likely to tell lies than men, meaning that they make more reliable witnesses.

Quran (2:228) – “and the men are a degree above them [women]

Quran (5:6) – “And if ye are unclean, purify yourselves. And if ye are sick or on a journey, or one of you cometh from the closet, or ye have had contact with women, and ye find not water, then go to clean, high ground and rub your faces and your hands with some of it”Men are to rub dirt on their hands, if there is no water to purify them, following casual contact with a woman (such as shaking hands).

Quran (24:31) – Women are to lower their gaze around men, so they do not look them in the eye. (To be fair, men are told to do the same thing in the prior verse).

Quran (2:223) – “Your wives are as a tilth unto you; so approach your tilth when or how ye will…” A man has dominion over his wives’ bodies as he does his land. This verse is overtly sexual. There is some dispute as to whether it is referring to the practice of anal intercourse. If this is what Muhammad meant, then it would appear to contradict what he said inMuslim (8:3365).

Quran (4:3) – (Wife-to-husband ratio) “Marry women of your choice, Two or three or four” Inequality by numbers.

Quran (53:27) – “Those who believe not in the Hereafter, name the angels with female names.” Angels are sublime beings, and would therefore be male.

Quran (4:24) and Quran (33:50) – A man is permitted to take women as sex slaves outside of marriage. Note that the verse distinguishes wives from captives (those whom thy right hand possesses).

And here are a few hadith and surah from the same page:

Sahih Bukhari (6:301) – “[Muhammad] said, ‘Is not the evidence of two women equal to the witness of one man?’ They replied in the affirmative. He said, ‘This is the deficiency in her intelligence.’

Sahih Bukhari (6:301) – continued – “[Muhammad said] ‘Isn’t it true that a woman can neither pray nor fast during her menses?’ The women replied in the affirmative. He said, ‘This is the deficiency in her religion.'” Allah has made women deficient in the practice of their religion as well, by giving them menstrual cycles. 

Sahih Bukhari (62:81) – “The Prophet said: “‘The stipulations most entitled to be abided by are those with which you are given the right to enjoy the (women’s) private parts (i.e. the stipulations of the marriage contract).'” In other words, the most important thing a woman brings to marriage is between her legs.

Sahih Muslim (4:1039) – “A’isha said [to Muhammad]: ‘You have made us equal to the dogs and the asses’ These are the words of Muhammad’s favorite wife, complaining of the role assigned to women under Islam.

Abu Dawud (2:704) – “…the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) said: When one of you prays without a sutrah, a dog, an ass, a pig, a Jew, a Magian, and a woman cut off his prayer, but it will suffice if they pass in front of him at a distance of over a stone’s throw.” 

Abu Dawud (2155) – Women are compared to slaves and camels with regard to the “evil” in them.

Ishaq 878 – “From the captives of Hunayn, Allah’s Messenger gave [his son-in-law] Ali a slave girl called Rayta and he gave [future Caliph] Uthman a slave girl called Zaynab and [future Caliph] Umar a girl to whom Umar gave to his son.” – Even in this world, Muhammad treated women like party favors, handing out enslaved women to his cronies for sex.

Al-Tirmidhi 3272 – “When Allah’s Messenger was asked which woman was best he replied, ‘The one who pleases (her husband) when he looks at her, obeys him when he gives a command, and does not go against his wishes regarding her person or property by doing anything of which he disapproves’.” (See also Abu Dawud 1664)

Ishaq 969 – “Lay injunctions on women kindly, for they are prisoners with you having no control of their persons.” – This same text also says that wives may be beaten for “unseemliness”.

Tabari Vol 9, Number 1754 – “Treat women well, for they are [like] domestic animals with you and do not possess anything for themselves.” From Muhammad’s ‘Farewell Sermon’.


  1. Posted October 16, 2017 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    The chutzpah in Rashid’s article is strong. He uses chapter 4 of the Koran to assert Islam’s equality of treatment of women. This is the same chapter which talks about women’s testimony being worth half a man’s and the sexual slaves permission. How disingenuous.

    Btw., Jerry, sura is chapter, ayah is verse. (para. 14)

  2. BobTerrace
    Posted October 16, 2017 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    Another case of pot calling kettle black. Guys like this should join the Republican party where they are always so comfortable accusing others of what they do constantly.

  3. Posted October 16, 2017 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    Many ignorant of Islam ask “Why don’t they leave if they don’t like how they are treated?” The reason they do not leave if they feel mistreated is that under Sharia law they need their husband’s approval to travel. Show up at an airport with a ticket … and you still need your husband’s permission to leave the country. Highly organized misogyny. (This happened to an American woman who married a Muslim man in the U.S. and then traveled to her husband’s country and found herself governed by Sharia law. Needed help from the U.S. government to get back to the U.S.)

    On Mon, Oct 16, 2017 at 9:31 AM, Why Evolution Is True wrote:

    > whyevolutionistrue posted: “In the panoply of “this must be a joke but > isn’t” articles, here’s one from the new Independent (click on screenshot > to go there). The author, Qasim Rashid, is identified as “an attorney, > author, and national spokesperson for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Communit” >

  4. Ken Kukec
    Posted October 16, 2017 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    Of all the arrant nonsense in the world, this one really takes the Arabic date-&-honey cake.

  5. Heather Hastie
    Posted October 16, 2017 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    “The example of Muhammad.” That would be the same Muhammad who had eleven wives, including one he married when she was six years old. He was good enough to wait until she was nine before consummating the marriage – truly a prince among men.

    In getting his messages from Allah, Muhammad was conveniently told that there was no restriction how many wives he could have, unlike other men. His messages conveniently solved problems for him just like they did for Mormon prophets.

    And as long as men can have multiple wives but women can’t have multiple husbands, it’s not equal.

    Oh, and that thing about men and women coming from one soul is another excuse to oppose same-sex relationships.

    The Ahmadiyya (to which this guy appears to belong) are a sect that is one of the better ones in Islam. However, most Muslims consider their ways heretical. There is active prejudice against them by other Muslims.

    • Harrison
      Posted October 16, 2017 at 10:49 am | Permalink

      “And as long as men can have multiple wives but women can’t have multiple husbands, it’s not equal.”

      It really couldn’t be equal even then since women obtain significantly less reproductive advantage from multiple spouses.

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted October 17, 2017 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

        True. And any situation like that means some people are going to victimised whether they’re aware of it or not anyway.

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted October 16, 2017 at 11:43 am | Permalink

      What he says is a load of hooey. However, I think it bears taking a look at the Wiki on the Ahmadiyya sect, because as Heather Hastie says, they are a specific sect within Islam, though, as the Wiki states, “Many Muslims consider Ahmadi Muslims as either kafirs or heretics”; and that “Ahmadis view themselves as leading the revival and peaceful propagation of Islam.” During the past year or so, the host of a radio program I listen to has had an Ahmadi on her show several times to explain the ‘true’ Islam. She takes the man at his word — but what he presents as the real Islam is Ahmadiyya theology, eliding painful truths, twisting some doctrines to fit their perspective, all nice and whitewashed. And of course he/they get props for being persecuted. True, it is “one of the better [sects] in Islam,” but they’re still proselytizing, and it’s still built on a bunch of hooey and shifting sands.

      • Jenny Haniver
        Posted October 16, 2017 at 11:44 am | Permalink

        Ahmadiyya Wiki —

      • somer
        Posted October 16, 2017 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

        Yes the Amahdiyah sect is milder than standard Islam but is highly unrepresentative – having only 10 million people and being neither sunni nor shia

    • nicky
      Posted October 16, 2017 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

      It was Aisha (that same one married at six and consummated (consumed?) at the ripe old age of nine), who called Mohammed’s ‘revelations’ into question by pointing out they were always highly convenient for him at the moment concerned. The same that said that Mohammed made women into dogs or asses.
      Aisha’s criticisms* -and (related) satanic verses- gives us some reason to think there might indeed have been a ‘real life’ Mohammed, and that he is possibly -ever so slightly- more historical than Jesus or Moses.

      *[absolutely devastating criticisms, immo]

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted October 17, 2017 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

        Yes, Aisha was good at that, and given that her importance is acknowledged I always wonder why they don’t take more notice of what she said.

  6. Posted October 16, 2017 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    Someone on twitter noted this article in relation to the above–

    “A Saudi investor has taken a significant stake in the Independent, potentially pumping millions of pounds into the liberal news website…”

    • Nobody Special
      Posted October 16, 2017 at 10:55 am | Permalink

      And irony dies screaming.

  7. Posted October 16, 2017 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    Isn’t Ben ‘Buttman’ Affleck implicated in the scandal? His love of Islam doesn’t seem to have helped.

  8. Nobody Special
    Posted October 16, 2017 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    I see his point; in certain Islamic countries a rapist or sexual abuser might be flogged but the victim is liable to be stoned to death. Therefore women are less likely to report rapes and sexual assaults. The less that women report such attacks the lower the official crime stats, ergo those Islamic countries have fewer rapes.
    A tad circular, but that’s religion for you.

    • Paul S
      Posted October 16, 2017 at 11:04 am | Permalink

      Saw this too late.

  9. Paul S
    Posted October 16, 2017 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    Rashid is sort of correct. A la Islam, if you treat women as chattel, devalue their testimony and stone them, it would significantly cut down on abuse scandals.

  10. Barney
    Posted October 16, 2017 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    As it happens, a survey of “worst large cities for women” came out today. In the “sexual violence” category, from worst (01) to best (19) are:

    01 Delhi
    01 Sao Paulo
    03 Cairo
    04 Mexico City
    04 Dhaka
    06 Istanbul
    07 Jakarta
    07 Kinshasa
    09 Karachi
    10 Lima
    11 Buenos Aires
    12 New York
    13 Manila
    14 London
    14 Lagos
    16 Paris
    17 Shanghai
    18 Moscow
    19 Tokyo

    Notable that Muslim cities tend towards the worst end. Overall, which also includes access to healthcare, cultural practices and economic opportunity, Cairo is worst, with Karachi second.

    • nicky
      Posted October 16, 2017 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

      ‘A convicted rapist is the best way to ensure safety in a girl’s orphanage’. Yes, absolutely.

    • darrelle
      Posted October 16, 2017 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

      This list is probably missing some of the worst cities simply because data from certain cities is hard to come by for various reasons. Might also be issues with large variations in under-reporting between cities due to cultural differences.

  11. Randy schenck
    Posted October 16, 2017 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    Taking any behavior direction from the bible or the Quran is an exercise in regressive thinking. Stone age thinking in 2017, makes perfect sense.

  12. Curt Nelson
    Posted October 16, 2017 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    But it’s not the best way to prevent terrorist attacks.

  13. Posted October 16, 2017 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    I have not come across a definition of rape culture, but when people bring it up it is to refer to institutionalized suppression of justice after an accusation of assault. So if a woman in college accuses a student of rape, the university takes action to keep it quiet and keep it from reaching the police. If players on a football team are accused of assault the coaches move to discredit the accuser and protect the players.

    • Posted October 16, 2017 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

      Some people’s rape culture is other people’s due process.

      • Posted October 16, 2017 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

        Oops pressed “post comment” too soon. I was going to add (derped for trying to edit out the quote);

        I’ve seen the argument phrased as “Some people’s rape culture is other people’s due process.” Which only confuses things more.

      • Posted October 16, 2017 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

        Due process is the operation of the wheels of justice within a system where the accused is presumed innocent until shown otherwise beyond reasonable doubt. I am referring to an informal system of sweeping things under the rug and discrediting and tarnishing the accusers so they are discouraged from going further. This does in fact happen, and so that may be the elusive rape culture. It is real enough, unfortunately.

  14. Liz
    Posted October 16, 2017 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    When I clicked on the link for Quran (5:6) it said to purify oneself if in a state of Janaba. It looks like that is directed at the men having just ejaculated. It’s interesting that there is sexual shame in that also. In that case, it doesn’t seem to be just about the women. It seems to be about being pure of anything sexual for prayer. The link for Quran (2:223) looked like there wasn’t too much room for interpretation. I don’t know why there is all of this sexual shame in any religion. I was raised Catholic so I am very familiar. “‘The one who pleases (her husband) when he looks at her…’” I would love to know how many Muslim men know how to please the women. I wonder if research has been done on this.

  15. Richard Sanderson
    Posted October 16, 2017 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    Ah! I’m familiar with this goon on social media.

    You will not be surprised to learn he is often cited and subteweeted by the usual suspects: Johnny “Israel Lobby” Spooner, Sacha “seminal work” Saeen, ** ********.

    • somer
      Posted October 16, 2017 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

      There are so many examples of the culture of misogyny that Islam fosters. A good recent example features young Egyptian men/boys interviewed about their attitudes to sexual harassment of women

  16. ashdeville
    Posted October 16, 2017 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

    The Ahmadiyya are disingenuous. They are despised by all the other islamic sects who consider them blasphemous and there was an incident in the UK a couple of years ago where one was murdered for his beliefs by a muslim.

    However, they are really really desperate to be liked and accepted by the Sunnis and Shias that they do their utmost to drum up positive PR for muslims in the hope that they can be allowed to join the Big Boys Muslim Club.

    Every time I hear a muslim being open minded and rational I always double check that they aren’t an Ahmadiyya. If they are then they can immediately be disregarded as being unrepresentative.

  17. Liz
    Posted October 16, 2017 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

    I only just noticed the (8:3365) complement to (2:223). “‘…being on the back or in front of her, but it *should* be…'” That’s definitely open to interpretation. I’ve never had this much fun with scripture. Maybe a Muslim scholar would know.

  18. Posted October 17, 2017 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    “I think he means Quran 4:1, which says this (verse 2 makes no sense in his context)”

    The Ahmadiyya muslims count the verses differently. They see the Basmalah as number one, so what is normally counted as verse 1 is verse 2 for Ahmadiyya muslims.

  19. Matthias
    Posted October 20, 2017 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    You made a mistake with your analysis of Quran 4:1.

    The verse clearly states that God made ‘you’ [presumably Adam] first from one soul and then created from that which he had created [you] a mate [presumably Eve].

    The mate does not come from the one soul.

    And from those two were dispersed many men and women [through sex of course!]. In other words: from that which was made from one soul and from its mate that was created from it came men and women. So the female part is not made as an equal part but as a subset of the male part.

    This story obviously references Genesis 2 where Adam was created first and Eve was created from Adam. In other words, this passage does not emphasise equality between the sexes. The usage of this verse by Qasim Rashid is a typical example of apologist Muslim whitewashing. So frustrating.

    The Verse:
    “O mankind, fear your Lord, who created you from one soul and created from it its mate and dispersed from both of them many men and women.”

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