“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Monday, February 19, 2007

Slavery persists in Saudi Arabia. Slaves from Sudan are ending up in Saudi Arabia.

This is a picture of a freed Sudanese slave. It is one of the many outrages tolerated by Sharia law, the same laws that are beginning to be tolerated in some parts of some western nations. This academic argues that if Sharia is codified into the constitution of Islamic states, a nightmare awaits the unfortunate citizens of that state. Guess what Iraqi law is being based on?

The Future of Shari'a
An interview with Muslim reformer Abdullahi an-Na'im

by Michel Hoebink Radio Netherlands

Islamic shari'a is best off in a secular state. That is what Sudanese Muslim reformer Abdullahi an-Na'im argues in lectures and seminars all over the Muslim world. And the response he gets is surprisingly positive.

Originally a law professor at Khartoum University, he fled his home country Sudan after his mentor, the Sudanese mystic and reformer Mahmoud Taha, was hanged as an apostate in 1985. Today, Professor an-Na'im teaches at Emory University in the USA and is an internationally recognized expert on human rights in cross-cultural perspectives.

His latest project brings him back to the Muslim world: he travels Muslim countries arguing that the future of shari'a is most secure in the framework of a secular state. That begs for an explanation.

RN: What is your project 'The Future of Shari'a' about?

Since the 1950s, the Islamists have hijacked the debate about shari'a in the Muslim world and defined it in their own terms. They made Muslims believe that they have to chose between a secular state and an Islamic state in which shari'a is applied. I dispute this: in my view, shari'a is best off in a secular state.

In the past two years I have toured Muslim countries advocating this view. I travelled to Indonesia, Central Asia, Pakistan, India, Egypt, Sudan and Nigeria. Everywhere I gave lectures and seminars. The reactions of people are surprising. You would perhaps expect them to be angry and even violent, but no: Most people find what I say new and strange, but not objectionable. I believe that most Muslims in fact agree with what I'm saying. The issues of shari'a and an Islamic state, however, are so emotional and intimidating that people are unable to speak out or even to develop their thoughts. My hope is that this project will give Muslims confidence and provide them with the intellectual tools to articulate their objections.

RN: So what exactly do you tell them?

I challenge the way the Islamists define shari'a and secularism. Shari'a, for a start, can never be enacted by the state. Shari'a is a moral code rather than a fixed set of legal rules. It has to be interpreted in order to be applied. When it is enacted by the state, it simply ceases to be shari'a. It becomes the political will of the ruling elite imposing its own religious interpretation on society. An Islamic state is always a state in which one group imposes its interpretation of Islam on others. Take for instance Sunni Muslims in Iran or non-Wahhabi Muslims in Saudi Arabia: They cannot live according to their beliefs because the state holds a different view.

RN: And therefore Shari'a is best off in a secular state...?

Yes. But also here I challenge the Islamist view. Because a secular state is not an anti-religious state, as the Islamists want us to believe. It is not a state that suppresses religion. On the contrary, a secular state is a state that is neutral towards religion. It protects the right of all religious and non-religious groups to manifest themselves in public life and politics, but without one group imposing its views on the others.

RN: Countries like Turkey and Tunisia are considered the champions of secularism in the Muslim world. But it seems they do not fit in with your definition of a secular state...

Abdullahi an-Na'im encourages Muslims to react to his views on the project's website.
He explains his views on the Future of Shari'a in a book that is available on his website in no less than nine languages: Arabic, Persian, Turkish, Urdu, Bengali, Bahasa, Russian, French and English.
Turkey and Tunisia hold a view of secularism that strives to remove all traces of religion from public life. They are not neutral towards religion but rather seek to control it. That makes them a mirror image of the Islamic state: This time a secular elite is imposing its anti-religious views on the religious majority. In my view, the state should be secular and separate from religion, but not society. It is an illusion to think that society can be secular. Religion and politics can never be separated anywhere, not in Egypt or Turkey, nor in France or the Netherlands. Because believers, whether they are Muslims, Christians, Jews or Hindus, will always seek to manifest themselves in politics as believers.

RN: In many Muslim countries with democratic structures there are fears that a religious group, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, will first use the democratic system to gain power and then abolish democracy…

That problem is not solved by suppressing religious political parties. If you look at Tunisia, Egypt or Turkey you see that the effort to suppress Islamist parties in fact increases their popularity and makes them more radical and dangerous for the democratic process. It is better to make them part of the official political process. That will domesticate them and turn them more moderate. Their participation in the political process also makes it more likely that their dreams of an Islamic state and the application of shari'a are exposed as false and unrealistic.

RN: In your country, Sudan, Islamists have been in power since 1989. What can we learn from the Sudanese experience with an Islamic state?

The Sudanese experience clearly demonstrates that an Islamic state can never work. To the Sudanese themselves it is now perfectly clear that the Islamic project has utterly failed. Everybody understands that, after all, there was nothing religious about it; it was just a group of people trying to gain power in the name of religion. But the price has been high, in terms of suffering for the Sudanese people. All the instability and violence you see today in Darfur and the South is the result of it. When I was in Nigeria, I told my audience: the situation in your country is very similar to that in Sudan two decades ago. Please learn from our mistake. An Islamic state is a dangerous illusion and Sudan paid the price for it. You do not have to pay this same price! I hope that the rest of the Muslim World can benefit from the lesson of Sudan instead of having to go through the same hell.


  1. In an op-ed last week in The Australian, Muslim author Irshad Manji answers: "Would an apartheid state award its top literary prize to an Arab? ... Would an apartheid state encourage Hebrew-speaking schoolchildren to learn Arabic? Would road signs throughout the land appear in both languages? Even my country, the proudly bilingual Canada, doesn't meet that standard."

    She continues: "Would a Hebrew newspaper in an apartheid state run an article by an Arab Israeli about why the Zionist adventure has been a total failure? Would it run that article on Israel's Independence Day? Would an apartheid state ensure conditions for the freest Arabic press in the Middle East?"

    We would only add: What other state airlifted thousands of black Africans from Ethiopia to grant them instant and full citizenship?


    Zahalka himself puts the lie to this claim. He and other Israeli Arab MKs are living proof that Arab citizens of Israel, unlike blacks in apartheid South Africa, have full political and civil rights, can vote and be elected to their parliament, and can even freely (if immorally) support the enemies of the state they are sworn to represent.

    Indeed, many Israeli Arabs do not vote for the Arab parties, which have become so radicalized that they ignore their constituencies, but for Jewish parties. An Arab member of the Labor Party, for example, has just become a minister in the Israeli government.

    And that's just the beginning. Israelis, be they Arabs or Jews, are much freer than anywhere in the Arab world. This is relevant because the "apartheid" charge brands Israel as a human rights abuser. But what sense does it make to berate the only country in the region that does respect human rights, while ignoring the rampant abuses taking place throughout the Muslim world?

    According to the American Anti-Slavery Group ( "Though slavery was legally abolished [in Mauritania] in 1980, today 90,000 slaves continue to serve the Muslim Berber ruling class. Similarly, in Sudan, Arab northerners are known to raid the villages in the South - killing all the men and taking the women and children to be auctioned off and sold into slavery."

    Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries deny equal rights to women, Christians, Jews, Hindus and others. Where are the protests against Saudi apartheid?

  2. Deuce,

    Thanks for an excellent link and your personal commentary.

    Interestingly enough, I note the absence of Saudi Arabia from Professor Abdullahi an-Na'im's travel itinerary. That omission may say all that needs saying about his dangerous, daunting task. Saudi Arabia is not only the enemy of Israel and the West but of much of the Ummah as well.

    Professor Abdullahi an-Na'im is a brave man, indeed. He is also a conscientiously thoughtful one as well.

  3. A leading Saudi government cleric and author of the country's religious curriculum believes Islam advocates slavery. "Slavery is a part of Islam," says Sheik Saleh Al-Fawzan, according to the independent Saudi Information Agency, or SIA. In a lecture recorded on tape by SIA, the sheik said, "Slavery is part of jihad, and jihad will remain as long there is Islam." His religious books are used to teach 5 million Saudi students, both within the country and abroad, including the United States.

  4. I’ll be darned, Dr. Barnett and I are on the same side of the gap on this one.
    Do not apologize for the war, Hillary

    “And when we beg off wars for fear of the peace and messy jobs that ensue (COIN, nation-building, economic recovery), we essentially cede the battlefield to China, our number 1 phase-0, SysAdmin competition, and Hamas, the gold standard, phase-IV SysAdmin out there.”


    “So no, Hillary, you're right not to apologize for the war vote. Free Kurdistan (see last night's "60 Minutes"?) alone justifies that call.
    The Kurds have made themselves a nation, the Shiia are fighting for self-rule, and the Sunnis deserve no worse than the Serbs once did.
    Our government's fighting against Kurdish independence is a mistake--the coming bloodletting in Kirkuk notwithstanding. That's where our "off-shoring" of US troops should go.”


  5. Oh, come on guys, slavery in the KSA, Ms Rice would never approve.
    Mr Bush would draw the line, at slavery.
    The UN's Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) would have King Saud up in Geneva, on charges.

    It would give lie to the Religion of Peace rhetoric that flows from the White House.

    No, no, it cannot be.

  6. Actually, rufus, #7 holds the most interest:
    "... that what ultimately happens in Iraq will happen regardless of America’s actions. It’s almost like Odom was saying a Calvinist type of pre-destiny awaits the Iraqis and there’s nothing that the world’s preeminent military power can do to alter their fate in the slightest. ...

    Which is more true than Mr Barnett would like US to believe. The world’s preeminent military power has been unable to secure Baghdad for the past four years. It's ability to alter the long term situation in Iraq IS beyond it's military means, as the military is presently applied.
    It will remain that way, the primary actors have left the stage. The stand-ins not reading their lines correctly. Those pesky Shia militias, no where to be found. Giving Ms Rice fits, she promised the Saudi slave traders she'd get a handle on those pesky Shia, for them.

  7. It is good that those folk can go back to their house again. How that positively effects the National Interests of the US is hard to tell, from here.

    The thugs mentioned have not been eliminated or defeated, only dispersed. Their overlords still enthroned in the Iraqi Government.

    How long will the US troops stay on the streets, providing Security?
    6 months, 12, no more than 24, that's for sure.
    Then what, the Iraqi police take charge? Why wait, let the Iraqi take charge now.

    Ahh, but they don't behave like US.
    Not now, not later, not ever.

  8. The Model has two lines that are instructive:
    "... is a strategic effort that will go on for months, ..."

    Months, in a project that'll take years, years that the Military and Politicians had, but misspent. They cannot be recovered.

    The next line:
    "... families asking the army to stay and not abandon their neighborhood, and showed the officer in charge giving his number to the locals so that they can contact him directly in case of emergency. ..."

    Now if the officer is with one of the "extended" Units, that number is good for another 90-120 days. Then he'll be Stateside. If he's new to Iraq, they've got a year.
    Who do they call, after that?

  9. rufus,

    re: #11

    I take it from previous posts that you are no student of “Old Testament” literature. It can be summarized in the observation that Jewish history is filled with one back-stabbing SOB after another, leading to the eventual destruction of the nation of Israel. Some disagree with me on this, including one profoundly offended Rabbi, but as I told him, “The text is clear, and the prophets agree with me.” Since human nature seems fairly consistent over millennia, all nations seem to suffer the fate of terminal rot within.

    Earlier, DR questioned my ability to objectively assess Israel’s relationships with its neighbors, saying, more or less, that I did not think Israel’s shit stank. Well, Israel’s shit does stink. But the stench pales by comparison to her Arab neighbors. Therefore, any moral equivalency strains credulity to its maximum.

  10. rufus,

    re: Sharon the Straight Shooter

    Who knows?

    Could Labor have been so callous? Probably. Would Labor have been so obviously callous? It seems unlikely.

    Returning for a moment to my initial post referencing "11", there are those who say that Jewish history is filled with good and righteous souls. They are correct, to be sure. What tends to be overlooked, however, is the fact that while a house may take a year to build it can be burned to the ground in an hour.

  11. Oh, allen, I thik you misunderstood my point.

    It is not a question of moral equivalency. Not at all. Never has been.

    There is not much equality between the different States in the region.
    And the Israeli are not the worse, not by a long shot.
    They do discriminate against Palistinians that marry Israelis, though. Residency permits or some such restrictions I've read about, in the past.

    No slaves though.
    Gotta give 'em that.

    The Israeli and the US are in a War that most of the citizens refuse to recongnize. Even Mr Peres does not think the struggle with the Mohammedans to be existential, to Israel.
    The Mohammedans not a "real" threat to Israel, much less the US.
    Or else he'd have not been concerned that Likud had won a Peace Treaty, or two.

    The majority of the US Congress, they seem to side with Mr Peres's view of the World.

    If the threat is so thin, as all the Western Governments tell us, why be concerned?

    It is just the Religion of Peace, after all.

  12. I’ll leave the corn and ethanol to Rufus. Now, this is something I could really get into.
    Feeding your brain: new benefits found in chocolate

    Chocolate! Oh, yeah!

  13. It must be that unlike the Israeli, the Sauds and the Sudanese will not go to Geneva to be abused for their discriminatory prractices. If the UN even cares about them.

    Let's look to the Sudan, Darfur to see the results of the UN and the World's "caring".

    Red on red violence in Darfur, Arab Mohmmedans killing African Muslims.
    Three cheers for success?

  14. At wessthawk he's put up this bit of interesting news:

    “The schedule for the Bushehr plant will need to be corrected,'' said Sergei Novikov, spokesman for Russia's Atomic Energy Agency, by phone in Moscow today. The Iranians stopped making scheduled payments to Russia more than a month ago, after insisting on paying in euros instead of dollars, Novikov said.

    Iran's Atomic Energy Organization rejected the accusation over payments, a spokesman, who declined to be identified, said by phone. Iran has made all payments and Russia is responsible for providing all the nuclear plant's equipment, he said. Russia says Iran is responsible for procuring non-Russian components.


    Russia may not want to complete the reactor, said Ruslan Pukhov, director of Moscow-based Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies. The $1.3 billion project, started in 1995, isn't profitable and has been a constant headache for Russia, he said.

    “If Bushehr ceased to exist, it'd be easier for everyone involved, apart from the Iranians, of course,'' Pukhov said.

    Who do ya love?

  15. BAGHDAD, Iraq (Associated Press) -- Insurgents staged a bold daylight assault against a U.S. combat post north of the capital Monday _ first striking with a suicide car bombing, then firing on soldiers pinned down in a former Iraqi police station. At least two soldiers were killed and 17 wounded, the military said.

    Elsewhere, three U.S. soldiers were killed and two were wounded in a roadside bombing southwest of Baghdad on Monday, the U.S. military said. The military also announced the deaths of three Marines and one soldier since Saturday while conducting combat operations in the western province of Anbar.

    Altogether, nine U.S. service members have been reported killed since the beginning of the weekend, six of them on Monday. ...
    Nearly 100 people have died in two days of blasts and sectarian bloodshed in and around Baghdad _ most in areas dominated by the majority Shiite Muslims _ and Iraqi officials who predicted swift results for the security operation have gone suddenly silent.

    "A coordinated attack" is how the U.S. military statement described the raid on the outpost in Tarmiyah, about 30 miles north of Baghdad. It added that a suicide car bombing began the fight, but military authorities declined to give further details.
    In the capital, the bloodshed included at least 11 people killed in a mortar attack on a Shiite enclave and five killed when a suicide attacker detonated a bomb-rigged belt on a public bus headed for the mostly Shiite area of Karradah in central Baghdad, police reported.

    On a highway about nine miles northwest of Baghdad, gunmen stopped a minivan and assassinated all 13 occupants, including an elderly woman and two boys, accusing them of opposing al-Qaida in Iraq, police and witnesses said.

    In the volatile Sunni city of Ramadi, a suicide car bomber attacked a police checkpoint, killing two Iraqi policemen, ...

  16. Japan's pulling out as well.

    The withdrawal is precipitating, and soon Iran will find out that economic incentives can only do so much to buy "friends". Unfortunately for the Iranians, their abject lack of usage of subtle diplomacy ala the Chinese will inevitably engender their downfall.

    Who do we love? Whoever is our "friend" today.

  17. After two hours of talks with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice stood alone in a bare-bones hotel function room to call the session "useful and productive."

    The prospect of any immediate success here essentially was hijacked by Abbas' surprise announcement last week that he will govern hand-in-hand with the militant group Hamas. The United States and Israel list Hamas as a terrorist group and refuse all dealings with the group.

    Speaking to reporters, Rice said the meeting was particularly valuable, however, in light of the lingering uncertainties over Abbas' pact with Hamas.

    "I think the real value here is that they sat down to talk with each other pretty early in this process," Rice said.

    "I could have made the decision that, well, I'll just wait until this all sorts out," Rice said, but she said that could have created new obstacles. "We thought it would be best to go ahead," the secretary added.
    "What we have heard today has nothing to do with a partnership," said Mohammed Dahlan, an Abbas confidant.

    "Abu Mazen is determined to go ahead with this national unity government. There is no backing down," Dahlan said.

    Abbas has said that the deal brokered by Saudi Arabia is the best one he could get from Hamas, and that he would move ahead with forming a coalition. The power-sharing deal is seen as crucial to halting internal Palestinian fighting that has killed more than 130 since May.
    Hamas spokesman Ismail Radwan called Monday's summit a failure.

    "Rice did not succeed in pressuring President Abbas to withdraw from the unity government. We call on the U.S. administration to respect the Palestinian people's will and recognize the government and open a dialogue with the government," he said.

    A senior State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity to describe the closed-door session, said it was an "an irreplaceable opportunity to clear the air."
    Although U.S. officials brush off any suggestion the pact has tainted Abbas, diplomats have not hidden their displeasure with both the content and timing of the deal he made.

    Both the United States and Israel have said they will continue to deal with Abbas, although it is unclear how much authority he will command in the new government.

  18. Seems, sure as shootin', that those M16s, the 3,000 of them that the US gave Mr Fatah, now will be in the arms room of the Hamas Government.
    Hamas & Fatah, brothers in blood.

    Not to worry, though.
    The US only supplied 3,333 5.56mm rounds per weapon to the Palistinians. A million rounds, total. They'll use those up in no time.

  19. The question of:
    Who we gonna call?
    has been answered.

    Coming out of a short semi-retirement, after decades of service in Washington DC, an old and dear friend of both Predident Bush 41 & 43 has been making the rounds.
    Peace in our time, Prince Bandar to the rescue:

    In the past month Bandar has held three meetings with the Iranian national security chief, Ali Larijani, most recently last Wednesday in Riyadh. He's met twice with Vladimir Putin, in Moscow and Riyadh, to talk about Middle East affairs; overseen talks between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas leaders; and quietly shuttled to Washington to brief President Bush. He helped broker this month's Palestinian accord on a unity government as well as a Saudi-Iranian understanding to cool political conflict in Lebanon. And he's been talking with the most senior officials of the Iranian and U.S. governments about whether there's a way out of the standoff over Iran's nuclear weapons. ..."

    The Wahabbists start the War.
    The Wahabbists end the War.
    Bet the Wahabbists have won the War, too?

  20. Baghdad on the Potomac
    An interesting read from Patrick Buchanan.

    Not one line about Israel, nor the Jewish lobby. Nothing about the Border or Trade, nothing so mundane.

    Both houses of Congress have now gone on record opposing Bush's dispatch of 21,500 more troops to Iraq. Yet neither house is willing to end U.S. involvement by cutting off funding for the war.

    Transparently, this is not a strategy for victory. It is a hold-the-line, stay-the-course strategy until America concludes that the price in blood and treasure of averting defeat is too high, and demands that U.S. troops be brought home, no matter the consequences.

    Absent a deus ex machina, we are on the road to defeat. The timing alone remains in doubt.

    Colin Powell says we are losing the war. President Bush says we are not winning. If more troops are ruled out, stalemate seems the best outcome.
    Bush is determined no defeat will happen on his watch. And he has the power to prevent Congress from forcing a withdrawal. He can ignore non-binding resolutions. He can veto laws that restrict or cut off funds for the war or the troops. A third of one house will surely sustain a Bush veto, until 2009.

    Democrats, realizing what happened to their party when they tied Nixon's hands and cut off Saigon, and South Vietnam was overrun and Cambodia fell to the genocidal rule of Pol Pot, want to end U.S. involvement but not be held responsible for what follows. For what will surely follow is a crushing defeat for U.S. policy in the Middle East, a humanitarian disaster, and a wider, bloodier war.
    Yet if Bush-Cheney are unwilling to withdraw, and Democrats and a growing number of Republicans are unwilling to invest any more blood and treasure to achieve victory, what is the likely future -- for us at home?

    As war deaths rise over the next 23 months, opposition to the war will grow, acrimony will grow, bitterness will grow, and recriminations will escalate. Republicans have already split over the surge, with the opponents being called cowards by their colleagues. Democrats will soon divide over whether to cut off funds. For Harry Reid cannot long hide the division in the Democratic caucus, and Nancy Pelosi and John Murtha are prepared to fight it out with fellow Democrats in the House.
    The White House is preparing a case that the war has gone badly because Syria and Iran have provided terrorists free passage into Iraq and the most lethal of the weapons killing Americans. And not only the U.S. naval and air buildup in the Gulf, but reports of attacks on the Republican Guard in the non-Persian, non-Shia regions of Iran suggest someone has decided that Tehran will pay a price in blood for meddling in Iraq.

    The Iraq Study Group blames no one for the disaster, but urges that we turn around and get out, the idea being that if we cannot save Iraq, as least we can save the American establishment from a political civil war breaking out here in the USA.

    The real regime crisis that is coming may be right here in River City.

    And that, brothers and sisters...
    spells trouble.
    With a capital T
    Right there in DC.

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  23. Blue on Blue violence

    Chris Hitchens brings the matter up in his latest piece.
    The War Within Islam
    The growing danger of the Sunni-Shiite rivalry.

    The civilized world—yes I do mean to say that—should find its own voice and state firmly to Muslim leaders and citizens that respect is something to be earned and not demanded with menace. A short way of phrasing this would be to say,
    "See how the Muslims respect each other!"

    Interesting perspective, depends on what the "real" mission is, though.

    Go Bandar Go!!!

  24. Actually, it's Green on Green violence.
    Those Mohammedans are Greens, it's their favorite color.
    They'll soon have it at Home Depot, in the paint department.
    Mohammedan Green.

    Green is the color of the prophet Mohammed who himself declared it his favourite color and who's cloak and turban were green. Even today only his direct successors - the Kaliphs - are allowed to wear a green turban. The Holy Banner - the most precious relic of Islam - is green with golden embroidery. Mohammed supposedly carried this very banner into the holy war which resulted in conquering Mecca. Green is also the predominating color in Paradise where it stands for flowery fields and eternal oases. Green is the color of the Arabic League and many Arabic countries have included green in their national flags as it symbolizes the unity of all arabic nations.

    Then again, the US occupies the Green Zone.
    ahh well, live and learn.
    Even a caveman can do it.

  25. Of note on FOX today was the ongoing story of aQ bases in Pakistan. Adminstration sources, background and file footage.
    New bases, not as large as had been in Afghanistan, that the General President could not deal with.

    Mr Bush is promising an Afghan Offensive.
    Look for some overt airstrikes against that Taliban infrastructure in Warizistan, soon.

  26. Bob, if you double click the photo of the woman you will really appreciate her beauty and nobility.

  27. ...And Musharraf has just returned from a nine capital tour, including Tehran, where he presented his Action Plan designed to unite the Islamic world and one of the most unifying issues for them is Delhi's oppressive rule in Kashmir. The intention may be to force India to respond by attacking Islamic militant bases in Pakistan, which would set off the fourth major war between them, one that Tehran is now prepared to enter.

    A lot of the missiles Iran's Revolutionary Guards are testing in their current three day maneuvers will be launched at India.

    I suspect Delhi is conducting an investigation to determine who is responsible as they did after the Mumbai train bombings last July. India's investigation concluded Pakistan was directly involved.

    Californian Op-ed Piece

  28. You're so interesting! I do not believe I've truly read something like this before.
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    Seriously.. many thanks for starting this up.
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