Sayyid Qutb: influential Islamic author

Sayyid Qutb: Influential Muslim author

April 4 2009

I’m not an expert on religion. Reading story-tellers of my generation gives me a headache, and for me, reading religious texts is several times harder than that. Qutb was a literary critic, so I am out of my water. Unfortunately, I still know more than most of the Amerikkkans commenting on politics and Islam.

We have a number of recent political problems that compel a closer look at Islam. First, we need to distinguish MIM from other supposedly Marxist organizations. Ex-Trotskyists became the neo-conservatives who ran the Bush administration and various wars on Islam. We also have crypto-Democrats and CIA agents who have shifted their position on Islam over the years. Secondly, sometimes we see direct religious disputation between Muslims on the one hand and the Crusaders and Zionists on the other hand, so we should know what that is about. Finally, it turns out to be good market research for the party, to know what many people are thinking. The Islamic World is about one third of the Third World, the most active part right now because of the U.$. wars. Within that, Qutb is one of the most read authors.

The Egyptian government hanged Qutb in 1966 for his work organizing Muslims. Today there is a debate to what extent Qutb influenced Al Qaeda. Certainly Qutb was involved with the precursors to Hamas.

Until recently, I didn’t know anything about Islam. The government and my persynal enemies force-drafted me into involvement with issues that I would not have known about without its plots against me. The U.$. government gave Al Qaeda major aid in Afghanistan and the Clinton administration was also dealing with Al Qaeda-like organizations in Algeria, when the U.$. government dragged MIM in in a failed attempt to destroy MIM.

Now that I have read some Shari’ati and Qutb, I have a better idea about what Islam is about. My improved knowledge of Islam is a silver lining in the U.$. government’s conspiracies. MIM always had anti-imperialist and anti-militarist obligations, but now we know more specific things about the Islamic world and how some Islamists see the politics and religion of the West.

I will now be writing on 1) the very current relevance of Qutb; 2) Qutb’s religion; 3) Qutb, Shari’ati and Khomeini on the womyn question. In this paper, we handle questions of Qutb’s version of religion.

“There is no God but God”

The first 80 pages of Qutb’s last work Milestones reads like lifestyle anarchism, as another U.$. analyst pointed out before MIM. MIM was very much at home with the issues involved in the first half of Milestones. The only difference is that the lifestyles promoted by Qutb would differ from those chosen by our hippie-yuppie anarchists in the United $tates and Qutb’s lifestyle anarchism would be more anti-racist and internationalist than that practiced in the united $tates.

In fact, our main problem with the first 80 pages of Milestones is that there is no way to account for the failure of lifestyle anarchism or Qutb’s Islam in the West without a Marxist analysis. Qutb would say it all traces back to the way the Catholic Church stifled science and society in the Middle Ages and that since that time the West has had a bad relationship to religion. We would say that the impetus to sublime lifestyle politics like Qutb’s still exists in the West, but it simply has different outlets with different lifestyles chosen.

We agree with Hamid Algar (2000, p. 13) that Qutb did put his finger on something about the relationship of Western Christianity to Marxism. Marx himself was not to blame, but as practiced, we can say there is Christian communist lifestyle and oppositional materialism pitted against otherworldly Christianity. The followers of Satanism founder Anton LaVey made this explicit. It is what enables Islam to pose as some balanced “happy medium.” Qutb would have been interested to see Obama, because Qutb believed that Christian otherworldliness was bankrupt (2000, p. 22) and would end up giving way to communism. Qutb went so far as to agree with Marxist criticism of Catholicism, including that Catholicism was an opiate. (2000, p. 24)

That is why Qutb emphasizes that Islam does not oppose the advance of knowledge or support the Middle Ages. Quite the contrary, Islam celebrates scientific advance. Qutb makes a number of excellent points about fear of knowledge as well. (e.g. 2000, p. 30)

The main thrust of “there is no God but God” is that no humyn is above God, which in turn means that it is up to the individual’s perception of the Divine as to whether a government deserves loyalty. “There is no God but God” is actually an anti-authoritarian statement.

“It is essential that hearts be exclusively devoted to God alone, accepting His law with full submission and rejecting all other laws — from the very beginning, even before the details are shown to attract them.

“The love of the Divine Law al-Shari’ah should be a consequence of pure submission to God and of freedom from servitude to anyone else, and not because it is superior to other systems in such and such details.”(2001, p. 36)

A similar statement is as follows:

“Any human being who claims the right to decree laws of his own or a community of people actually and practically claims Godhead, even though he may not put such a claim in words. Anyone who recognizes such an authority as belonging to a human being admits that Godhead belongs to that human being, whether he calls it such or not.” (2008, p. 57)

To accomplish the negation of servitude, Qutb said,

“Gradualness and teaching at intervals is desired, so that a ‘living community’ based on its beliefs may come into existence, and not merely a ‘theory.'” (2001, p. 40)

When Qutb says theory he usually means ideology, not what MIM refers to as an attribution of cause and effect. What Qutb says is the more commonplace usage of “theory” by the people, however. The concept of “hypocrisy” lies behind this usage of theory, which is more like setting up “principles and practice” or more accurately, “ethics and lifestyle.”

MIM has already attacked the notion of “hypocrisy” as inherently conservative, because according to this conservative idea one cannot wish for a change without already living the change first. So if someone wants Social Security, it is impossible and supposedly “hypocritical,” because the state does it simultaneously and not one lifestyle at a time. The concept of “hypocrisy” has conservative design to break up the solidarity of people.

“There is no God but God” had original relevance with the Arabs who were polytheists. Polytheists might worship rocks, trees, streams etc. with the point being there is more than one object of worship.

There is idolatry that people also do not think of as polytheism. The dollar is held in such regard that the world’s people hand Amerika goods and services for nothing in exchange, but the dollar. They don’t spend that dollar for goods and services in return. Another example, I have made oblique self-criticism for idolatry regarding an ex-girlfriend. Idolatry could be anything, and in fact, Amerikan Satanism advocates just such idolatry.

Subsequent to the initial advance of monotheism among the Arabs, polytheism hides as monotheism and becomes Islam’s worst enemy according to Qutb and Shari’ati. According to Qutb, Islam criticizes Catholicism for the Holy Trinity idea and disputes Jesus’s being son of God. For Qutb, the point is that there can be no earthly authority on par with God. According to Qutb, Jesus was a prophet or messenger, but son of God status would be a violation of “there is no God but God.”

Although critical of the Trinity idea, Qutb was consciously favorable to Martin Luther and Calvin for restoring aspects of monotheism to Christianity. (2006, p. 61)

Atheism as superior attack on polytheism

“Shirk is an Arabic word which refers to ascribing the attributes, power or authority of God to others besides Him and/or worshipping others besides Him.” (2001, p. 45 footnote)

In practice, the Pope has pointed out that Africans do not choose atheism. In fact, the Pope sounds rather like MIM in believing the future of Catholicism to be in the Third World. The Pope also points out that with the example of Jesus, religious organizers will have the ultimate example of going among the people, that there is nothing aloof about God. So MIM would see this as an example where Qutb’s Islam is better for anarchism and the Pope’s Catholicism is more analogous to raising mass line to par with other Maoist concepts. (MIM is known for rational-knowledge heavy theory or opposition to populist conceptions of “masses,” because we first have to calculate who is exploited and who is not.)

In any case, up to now, MIM would certainly have assumed that atheism is a better attack on polytheism than monotheism is. Whenever there is room for the unknown and mystical, there is also room for polytheism and disguised polytheism.

“The question may be asked, ‘Is not the good of mankind the criterion for solving actual problems?’ But again we raise the question which Islam raises itself, and which it answers; that is, ‘Do you know better, or God?’ and, ‘God knows, and you do not know.'” (2001, p. 86)

Qutb’s use of the unknown is the same thing that justifies Sufi versions of Islam in which people worship shrines or specific locations in Nature. Once one allows the unknown and mystical as part of God, there is no stopping polytheism.

Oddly enough, Qutb defends Islam against the Marxist charge of being a humyn projection, but Qutb uses the Marxist argument against polytheism. This reviewer heard this argument from Marx first, not religion. We can now guess that Marx himself took the argument from within religion.

Qutb also says that without God, individuals will arrive at subjective conclusions and a myriad of conflicts. That’s exactly another reason we say we should not dwell on the unknown, because it amounts to a call to humyn division. We should argue over the line between exploiter and exploited in the concrete and how to get rid of borders. Hopefully enough of us will get on the same path to succeed. Property and borders will be plenty to divide individuals without adding the unknown.

There is nothing guaranteeing that atheists are less deluded than monotheists, as we see with the delusional of the left-wing of parasitism. Obama is a nice summation of why atheism can give rise to polytheism. Many of the parties that supported Obama and Obama’s home with the Racist Crap Party all claim to be atheist. Yet mostly they take up Martin Luther King’s diversity project as well.

The idea of diversity instead of unity is an ages-old conception of polytheism. To this day we see such Liberal diversity projects in Hindu culture. When Obama speaks of unity and Martin Luther King, today he is affirming the unity of a multi-racial petty-bourgeoisie fairly sharing in exploitation of the Third World. It is not surprising that many believing in heroes, persynality cults, Ronald McDonald, magi, elites etc. all have the same historical root in polytheism. On this, the main difference with MIM is that Islam is aware of class history going back hundreds of years. MIM tends to focus more recently. MIM is also less inclined to see history as circular with our focus on productive labor and its historically specific nature. Even Shari’ati could see the point of that.

So Obama claims to be for Christianity, but in fact he is a polytheist for diversity in a specific liberal Democrat vein. So we have hand-outs for the bankers, bail-outs for auto companies, jobs for national minorities etc., but it is not to say we have one unified people. Nor is the Catholic Trinity a real unity by Qutbian standards.

So our point is that even atheist so-called communists do take up deluded polytheism in practice through “diversity” projects that they are too stupid to separate from Liberalism. Yet, there are monotheists such as Malcolm X who are less deluded than these atheist so-called communists. At the same time that U.$. communists dropped Stalin and the national question, they turned to integration diversity projects and then Martin Luther King in the 1960s. The integration project is more popular among Blacks than Malcolm X’s project. Therein lies MIM’s dilemma of the current day.

Qutb’s version of Marxism is inherited via other Muslim scholars. Marx and Engels denied that dialectical materialism is only about economics as stated by Qutb. (2006, p. 71) Class was just where Marx and Engels focused their contributions to knowledge. Hopefully MIM readers get a taste of how Marxism is in fact well-rounded.

Qutb expected communism to be the long-range victor in the West in a sort of playoff with Christianity. Then he expected communism and Islam to face off globally in the championships. (2000, p. 318)

Economics in Qutb: early bourgeois internationalism

“What keeps the ordinary American from becoming a communist is not a philosophy of life that rejects an materialistic explanation of the universe, of life, and of history; rather it is the fact he now has the opportunity of becoming rich and the fact that a worker’s wages are high. . . . When wages drop because of the tightening of monopoly control or for any other reason, then the American workers is going to turn right over to communism.” (2000, p. 316)

According to an ex-girlfriend of Osama Bin Laden, Osama Bin Laden is like a liberal Democrat. His Amerikan publicist Gadahn also spoke favorably of the Kennedys.

Justification for such a line can be found in Qutb’s chapter on economics in his book on Social Justice in Islam. In our opinion, Qutb’s line on economics is that there is exploiter, exploited and then Islamist. The only difference with the liberal Democrats is that MIM has more in unity with Qutb, because he is speaking mostly of exploited people, whereas Democrats are generally trying to rise above the exploitation question by avoidance. These days, Republicans also would say that Democrats would never pay the zakat, because Democrats are good with government spending but oppose private charity. Zakat is a portion of disposable income given over to religious charity, perhaps 10%.

As Shari’ati also pointed out, there is something early bourgeois about Islam. MIM would say Qutb’s economic line is early bourgeois internationalism. Islam seeks equal opportunity, (2000, p. 47) including racial intermarriage. Qutb himself says Islam beat the French to the bourgeois revolution by fourteen centuries. (2000, p. 69)

Islam instructs the individual not to fear economic degradation. (2000, p. 59) In fact even battle should never be avoided for fear of economic losses, if the battle serves God. Islamic teachings are well suited for opposing protectionism and the kinds of fears that Lou Dobbs raises on CNN.

MIM fails to see why Islam is not a polytheist project. Rather than transforming the economics of all for unity, Qutb retains the rich and poor in a diversity project, just like the liberal Liberals. True, Islam is not the caste system with a multiplicity of gods defending it. Nonetheless, Islam as spoken by Qutb is certain there will be a rich and poor and so we can say Islam united rich and poor into a unity project – a polytheism by Islam’s terms as far as I can tell.

If humyns had always lived in class society, we might have to admit that they are inherently polytheist. However, the truth is that Islam arose in class society and mistakes class as God-given. Had there been no God, there could have been no justification for diversity projects.

MIM attacks in the question of the concrete, exploiter vs. exploited.

Qutb’s Islam is bourgeois internationalist in that it especially abhors the practice of merchants whereby they set one price for one ethnic group and another for another group. Islam singles out examples where Islamic merchants (presumably Arab) better seek out Bedouins they cheated and repay them or face the wrath of God. (2000, p. 185)

One might say that Qutb became more radical with time, and as MIM said, it is most at home in Milestones.

“After annihilating the tyrannical force, whether it be in a political or a racial form, or in the form of class distinctions within the same race, Islam establishes a new social, economic and political system, in which the concept of the freedom of man is applied in practice.” (2001, p. 61)

At the beginning of Milestones, Qutb admits that neither communism nor Islam is in practice in any single country anymore. It’s interesting that he said so while Mao was still alive.

How to attack Liberalism

We would consider Islam weak on class by today’s standards, now that we have Marxism. In the day of the Prophet Muhammad of course he said many things that were revolutionary on class. However, whereas Muhammad was too long ago to be the last word on class, Qutb makes sure to show that Islam has nothing to do with soil, race, lineage, tribe or family. (2001, p. 124) He recounts battles with Muslims fighting unbelievers from the same family. Similar ideas are in the New Testament of Christianity.

The Liberal way is to accept the influence of soil, race, lineage, tribe etc. The Liberals hold such influences cannot be eliminated and indeed need to be celebrated. The strength of Islam is that it offers itself to anyone and attempts to overcome these divisions. The way that Islam attacks Liberalism is by holding that the spiritual is decisive over the material, and so there is a plane on which soil, race, lineage, tribe and family can be overcome — not melted together in diversity, but overcome.

Typical of this difference is that Muslims say the imperialists are imperialist because they are Crusaders. We say the Crusaders arise because of surplus-accumulation dynamics in class society. We believe Islam will not succeed in destroying Liberalism, only sanctifying polytheism in new forms.

The Marxist way of overcoming these influences is to tear down borders to eliminate the influence of soil, attack the economic roots of race and work to abolish the family with larger forms of community. So again, Marxism is not Liberal, because it seeks to eliminate imperialism, classes and other influences creating double-standards. Liberalism and polytheism let such multiple and plural influences in the status quo stand.

The Liberal diversity project claims to come up with a complex society-wide tolerance — post-modernism being the most recent Liberal project — but in fact all Liberalism can accomplish is the creation of double-standards, in which the math of factorials or exponents applies.

MIM agrees with Qutb, that one cannot be sure one understands a high-level principle unless the people are capable of separating it from national chauvinism and other aspects of “diversity.” Universality is not celebrating oppression the way that Liberals say.

Marx set about to find a social vehicle to transform society, not to celebrate its divisions. That vehicle is the proletariat, because by definition it was the group in society that had no self-interest in special interests. There are many passages in Islam where the Muslims foreshadow the notion of proletarian. Qutb did not foreshadow Marx, quite the opposite, but the following is an example of Qutb’s employing proletarian reasoning:

“Any country which fights the Muslim because of his belief and prevents him from practicing his religion, and in which the Shari’ah is suspended, is Dar-ul-Harb, [decadent–ed.] even though his family or his relatives or his people live in it, or his capital is invested and his trade or commerce is in that country; and any country where the Islamic faith is dominant and its Shari’ah is operative is Dar-ul-Islam, [righteous Islamic community–ed.] even though the Muslim’s family or relatives or his people do not live there, and he does not have any commercial relations with it.

The fatherland is that place where the Islamic faith, the Islamic way of life, and the Shari’ah of God is dominant; only this meaning of ‘fatherland’ is worthy of the human being. Similarly, ‘nationality’ means belief and a way of life, and only this relationship is worthy of man’s dignity.” (2001, p. 125)

People who understand the above passage understand how Qutb attacks Liberalism. The notion of the universal interest being apart from family, investment and nation is also the definition of proletarian.
Passages such as these have demonstrated to MIM why it is that M. Sultan-Galiyev translated Marxism into Islam. By contrast, it is very difficult to translate Marxism into Liberalism. The essential meaning is lost.

Liberalism is well-suited for identity politics and service as a pre-cursor to post-modernism. Unfortunately, Liberalism has ensnared the vast majority in the West calling itself Marxist.

When the U.$. Republican Party attacks special interests and places competence and qualifications above identity politics, it is adopting a stance analogous to Islam — an idealist attack on polytheism. When the Republican Party puts the Christian church and family foremost, it can be stressing a lifestyle as Islam does or it could be preparing open dominance of the most regressive and militarist special interests of finance capital the way fascism does.

Since World War II, many believe it is dangerous to teach opposition to Liberalism in the rich countries, because rich warmongering white people will turn it into fascism. MIM agrees with the thrust of that analysis and only extends and purifies it: the Democratic Party also gives birth to fascist elements on a regular basis. For this stage of struggle, we should settle for helping out the bourgeois internationalists in the rich countries until that time when the Third World proletariat is able to impose its will. The Democratic Party shows signs of trade protectionism and of course it is based in fallacies of white worker degradation. Democrats typically cannot admit that Amerikans are exploiters en masse, so that is where nationalism enters and creates a basis for fascism. On economic questions, the social-democrats sow so that the fascists may reap.

Lifestyle oddities

Islam undermines itself as an attack on Liberalism or polytheism with its lifestyle emphasis. Of course, in the West, Islam may overlap with many things in Judaism and Christianity, but attention tends to go to items that would not be in the mainstream of Western opinion. Stoning is one of those items. According to Qutb, one should be stoned within Islam for a few different offenses. 1) Adultery. 2) Accusing someone of adultery and not having four witnesses. 3) Religious corruption, a particular offense of the intellectual leaders we gather. 4) Usury.

A penny of usury counts as 36 acts of adultery. (2000, p. 149) Usury is any business where a steady interest rate applies, so it would include savings accounts & bonds.

According to Qutb, all the world’s wealth is under control by banks run by Jews. (2001, p. 111) MIM has criticized this notion before as the convenient belief of the flabby Arab bourgeoisie looking for excuses why it cannot handle I$rael. Yet when we look globally, we can see an alliance of classes that can handle both Amerikkka and I$rael.

Some other items that do not involve stoning and are controversial but cannot be said to be extinguished in the united $tates or other major religions — polygamy, opposition to drinking and gambling and a mention of justification for hitting wives if they misbehave.

Regarding sexual repression, MIM has said before that the united $tates is going to have a hard time proving that Islam is more oppressive than Liberalism. Although stonings earn more publicity, romance culture related killings occur at a higher rate in the united $tates than in Islamic or other Eastern countries. Of course stoning is bad and counts as a drawback to Islam, but then we have to count the drawbacks of its contenders.

Qutb believes these lifestyle practices are principal, in the vulgar individualist sense of “practice is principal” we see in some pseudo-Maoists, where they really mean, “my practice is principal,” not “my class’s practice is principal.”

We cannot say Qutb is always consistent on this point. He has a very good point where he says social revolution is principal.

“I will be brief in presenting to you the fact that Islam’s advocacy of God’s oneness was not toward a religion, which invites people to certain articles of belief constituting faith.

“In fact, it was a social revolution that gave a direct blow to the stratified classes, which had institutionalized themselves into a priesthood, a kingship, moneylenders, feudal lords and cartel owners reducing people to bondage.” (2008, p. 62)

Readers should notice that Qutb believes all these groups the “priesthood, a kingship, moneylenders, feudal lords and cartel owners” should be eliminated, not celebrated in their great diversity. With this point, we are totally agreed. It is a sense in which we share anti-Liberal unity. Nonetheless, Qutb claimed to oppose “class warfare.” (2008, p. 63)

Qutb was clear to put lifestyle above competence and power-efficiency questions. For Qutb it would be better for a country to suffer military defeat than allow a military leader to deviate from the Islamic lifestyle.

The principal contradiction

Where Islamists would repeat that “there is no God but God,” MIM substitutes questions of concrete knowledge. We judge whether or not people are tolerating national chauvinism based on whether or not they would tolerate the idea that the Amerikans are not exploiters.

Islam is very suspicious of racial and national oppression and so for today’s Islamists to see class breakdown so clearly by nationality and religion — MIM would claim this puts our Islamic bourgeois internationalists in a position of frequent agreement with us. If the ones appropriating the vast majority of labor are in the West, the former colonizers, Muslims should see something that needs further investigation. The imperialists have turned national oppression into class exploitation.

At several points in his work, Qutb restates the definition of proletarian but he calls it Islam. Qutb says that Islam cannot be replaced by the class and nation struggle. He says Islam arose where there was no obvious change in the mode of production or sudden upsurge in class struggle. (2000, p. 173) MIM would say that just tends to prove that Islam is not that much different from the other religions it sprang from. The economics of the situation supported Islam and those other religions. Monotheism was in the air long before Islam. Islam dusted off monotheism and applied it with more emphasis.

The spiritual strength of the vanguard

Like Shari’ati and other Muslims, Qutb criticizes Marxism for seeing humyns as mere animals with need of vegetables and minerals. Marxism supposedly leaves out spiritual needs as “opiate of the people.” Actually, we have ideology, just not a permanent one for all time, but for medium-run lengths of time relevant to the existence of classes and nations.

In response Qutb says,

“One cannot say that some moral values are ‘agricultural’ and others ‘industrial’, some are ‘capitalistic’ and some others ‘socialistic’, some are ‘bourgeoise’ (sic.) and others ‘proletarian’. Here, the standards of morality are independent of the environment, the economic status, and the stage of development of a society.”(2001, p. 97)

He adds there is a need “for a concept that has fixed fundamentals and values, deriving from a fixed source of knowledge and will.“ (2006, p. 87) On the other hand, even Qutb knows this is not really true, because he says in recent centuries societies have not achieved Islamic goals. This admission comes in the discussion of slavery.

If values are permanent parts of the humyn, then Muslims can tell us plainly whether or not slavery is part of Islamic values. If so, then we would have to admit that Muslim prophets took slaves in battle.

Qutb’s explanation that people like stability and balance also violates his own prohibition on taking up an idea just because it is popular. Elsewhere he demonstrated a repeated sense of being willing to accept an unpopular version of religion with higher quotients of principle.

“’God has granted you His support on many a battlefield, and also in the Battle of Hunayn, when you took pride in your numerical strength, but it availed you nothing.’” (Verses 25-27 in 2008, p. 113)

Thus Islam has that similar idea that Lenin and Mao have of not needing the largest numbers but the most principled fighters. Qutb is often thought of as the creator of the Islamic vanguard idea. In a particular Muslim story, an Islamic army of 12,000 turned out not to win, but a small group separately defeated the entire enemy army. (2008, p. 114) Qutb concludes:

“The triumph of faith has always come about through the efforts of the hard core of firm believers who are ready to sacrifice all for their faith.” (2008, p. 115)

The publications of China’s Communist Party usually referred to the strength of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse-tung Thought as a “spiritual atom bomb.” In this sense, Qutb and the Communist Party of China did not disagree. In a party where the comrades share a common understanding of reality, such as the line separating exploiter and exploited, the question of whether the spiritual or the material is principal can be blurred with less damage to the party. MIM has stressed that science is decisive because of the prevalent denial of exploitation in the imperialist countries. In the exploited countries, it may be possible to take a more spiritual approach, because the average persyn one meets will be exploited. MIM rips away a minority of forward-looking exploiters with its work without making any concessions to exploitation.

We can certainly admit that we have met the kind of so-called Marxists that Shari’ati and Qutb caricaturized — mechanical materialists and contemplative materialists. According to Qutb, Marxist materialism makes its users “entirely passive.” (2006, p. 156) We would retort that Qutb expunged Darwin as well. (2006, p. 80) Struggle is in nature. Struggle is part of what is.

Qutb, Sayyid. 2000. Social Justice in Islam. Oneonta, NY: Islamic Publications International.
Qutb, Sayyid. 2001. Milestones. New Delhi: Islamic Book Service.
Qutb, Sayyid. 2006. Basic Principles of the Islamic Worldview. Trans. Rami David. North Haledon, NJ: Islamic Publications International.
Qutb, Sayyid. 2008. The Sayyid Qutb Reader: Selected Writings on Politics, Religion, and Society. Albert J. Bergesen ed. NY: Routledge.


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