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Conflict Resolution in Pakistan

Interfaith dialogue has rarely, if ever, brightened up a neighborhood — it causes confusion instead of forging the requisite affiliations for conflict resolution. The representatives of each religion believe that their faith has a copyright on truth. To reinterpret and syncretize being heresy, interfaith dialogues flounder on this reef of exclusivity, surviving on toothless announcements of mutual admiration.

So these dialogues are neither about faith and nor among equals. One faith being temporally stronger than the others, it’s about concessions and handouts which means condescension and consequent resentment. Religious leaders play politicians pretending to resolve conflict while bargaining concessions and preparing tidy little press statements.

Since interfaith dialogues have done little to resolve inter-communal clashes, then maybe the existence of different faiths is not, in itself, a cause of conflict. Somewhere down the line pragmatic religious leaders hope that inter-faith dialogues grant them inter-communal leadership.

The logical alternative to pre-determined failure is an inter-communal dialogue.  That too, is fraught with danger, especially in countries like Pakistan where communities are identified by their faith and not by their geographical location or ethnicity.

So communal identity needs to be tackled and faith left to its own dynamics.  As such, leaders of different faith communities should just meet and commune regularly over gourmet meals of which all clergies are known to be connoisseurs. At these communions, religious discussions should be taboo, engendering secular relations which may then blossom into inter-communal friendships.

And since Pakistanis are no longer Mughal or British subjects, but citizens in their own right, they should not wait for the state to organize and finance the mughlai dishes, halvas and venues of such meetings. Local businesses, business associations, associations and foundations should organize a national competition of the best inter-communal meals and the best discussion results judged through public-access to the menus and minutes on the Internet.

In times of communal tension, it is these Maulanas, Padres, and Hindu, Parsee and Sikh priests who will be orchestrating peace on their mobile phones instead of gasping, overworked police officers.

Chief Justice Alvin Robert Cornelius was a stellar example of the attitude to inter-communal relations.

Cornelius Sahib was so beloved of devoted jurists that they would affectionately refer to his initials as Allah Rakha since he stood up to President Ayub Khan! His oft-quoted statement “I am a constitutional Muslim” was neither a declaration of faith, nor a desire to convert to Islam. As one of the world’s renowned constitutionalists, he had appreciated that Muslims, claiming Islam to be a culture in itself, had engineered the creation of Pakistan. As such, all Pakistani citizens, regardless of their faith, were constitutional Muslims. One may add that all citizens of Pakistan are also cultural Muslims.

On July 25, 2014, decades after ‘Allah Rakha’ Cornelius’ statement, Goa’s Deputy Chief Minister Francis D’Souza declared that “India is a Hindu country. It is Hindustan. All Indians in Hindustan are Hindus, including I — I am a Christian Hindu”, sparking a merry controversy that let him have his day on the front pages.

It is such acceptance by minority faith communities that allow their goodwill to be reciprocated by their neighbors. Eastern Christians suffer from the reputation of their western co-religionists. Western Christianity still bears the scars of the Crusades, the Inquisition and colonization in which Eastern Christians played no part.

Yet, the residual tarnish has hardened the lives of Christian minorities in the East.

At the end of the day, Christianity is an Eastern religion, the Gospels of which encourage fellowship parallel with internal, spiritual development. Temporally declaring oneself to be a cultural / constitutional Muslim or Hindu is not a cop-out — it only enhances faith.

Thus it is that by and large, across Pakistan, Christians and Muslims cohabit in peace without the assistance of inter-faith cowboys, happily communing at Eid and Christmas. The occasional tension erupts from jealousy and land disputes, although the recent massacres and church bombings are singularly distinct.

Justice A. R. Cornelius and Sri D’Souza’s exemplary attitudes accepting socio-political reality have not been duplicated by Indian or Pakistani communities in the West. They still expect largesse to be doted out by the state, a ryot mentality of subjects. To go and get it while standing tall is the prerogative of integrated citizens.

Mirriam Webster defines a citizen as “one entitled to the rights and privileges of a freeman.”

Freemen do not wait for the state to organize regular dinners for the leaders of faith communities to build relationships to preempt or resolve conflict.

As minorities, they do not wait for state patronization, but incite the state to extend it.

And they savour their neighbours’ reciprocal love through hugs, eidee, cakes, sheer khurmas, biryani, jhalfarezis, and namkeen goshts, adding lustre to their precincts and mohallas.

Ritually celebrating each other’s eids, Christmases, diwalis and baisakhis is a win-win situation.

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The Term ‘Islamic’ Terrorism

On November 13, terrorists struck again in the world’s City of Lights. On December 2, it was San Barnardino, in California, USA. Then Yemen. Then London, the Lufthansa flight and where next?

While nations mourn, a well-rehearsed machinery emits enlightened warnings against an uncontrolled backlash, padded by reminders that the situation, being the pre-meditated creation of US-led imperialism, implicitly mitigates terrorist acts. President Obama has made a measured speech against any backlash against American Muslims, unusually broadcast from the Oval Office.

Yet, pictures of the victims with captions such as “While the world media is focused on Paris attack, atrocities continue in Palestine” gloat with impunity to imply that the victims of terrorism have received their just deserts.

And the semantic battle over the use of the signifier Islamic as an attribute renews its vigor.

To grasp the polemics enshrouding the signifier Islamic requires an understanding of the overlapping concepts of Sha’b and Ummah.

Sha’b refers to a nation with a common ancestry or geography, making Chinese, Pakistani or Saudi Muslims distinct entities subject to the constraints, privileges and obligations of their nation-states. No single state can share in the accomplishment or failings of another.

Ummah is a synonym for ummat al-Islamiyah, which means Islamic state as opposed to the nation state, or the transnational collectivity of Islamic peoples. Triumph, failure and tragedy are equally shared by individual and collective components. In practice, the concept of Ummah, enshrines the civilizational accomplishments of Muslim peoples and subordinates that of Sha’b, transiting from Muslim to Islamic.

Islamic being what pertains to Islam, Mirriam-Webster  defines it as “the religious faith of Muslims including belief in Allah as the sole deity and in Muhammad as his prophet; the civilization erected upon Islamic faith.”

Thus, if it is commonly accepted that a great civilization inspired by the Islamic religion may be called ‘Islamic’, when it goes into decline, it does not become un-Islamic.

Islam is a noun for a belief system, and its followers are identified by the noun Muslim. When a person is referred to as a Muslim, the degree to which he is one, is irrelevant as it cannot be judged off-hand. The status of Muslim is immeasurable for non-Muslims and if a person declares he is Muslim, can only be challenged by competent Muslim authority. The signifier Islamic lends itself to measurement due to its liberal use by Muslims with reference to their past.

A person is only referred to as Islamic by the ignorant, unless it is “Islamic peoples”.

Islamic usually qualifies an event, situation, object or act. The acts may be flattering or prejudicial to Islam itself. Thus, there are Islamic conferences, Islamic prosperity, Islamic education, Islamic art or Islamic charity.

Among acts, the achievement of one Muslim nation is claimed by all.

Therefore Muslims and non-Muslims have conjointly referred to the Islamic conquest of Spain, as a continuum of Islamic for science, medicine, education, art and charity.

Thus, the Umayyads, who acquired Spanish real estate, hailed from Mecca were ethnic South Arabians and on the jus sanguinis principle, Saudis even though Saudi Arabia did not exist at that time. Going by jus soli, their seat of government being in Syria, it would be more appropriate to call it a Syrian conquest.

Although the term would exclude Muslims from Kabul to Kashgar, it would also secure them against charges of invasion and colonization in a democratic era of apologies. Whatever the case, Muslims themselves, especially during the decline of the power of Muslim states overtaken by the Enlightenment, have been compensating for their sunset by deflecting focus on bygone Islamic art, architecture, literature and medicine.

Muslims have been able to achieve this semantic and soft-power victory in tolerant western democracies evidenced in the Islamic art shows, galleries, centers etc., and volumes of cut and paste jobs by keen academics!

While mainstream, enlightened Muslims struggle to compensate for the failure of the Ottomans to provide Muslims with a renaissance, misguided Muslims, hoping to revive a Caliphate to reverse decline, have been able to recruit enough dispossessed souls living in misery to initiate acts of terrorism financed by decadent petrodollars seeking to trim western sails without dirtying their hands.

Since mindsets had been prepared to accept architecture as being Islamic because it was designed by a motley scattering of Muslims, terrorism by a few Muslims also acquired the signifier “Islamic” to qualify it. Calling it Islamist only makes a difference to the choir, since the root word remains unchanged.

The impressive resources deployed by Muslims in fighting this term and bickering over blame-shifting is an impressive resource waiting to be deployed against terrorism itself. Terrorism is neither the birth child of an Islamophobic conspiracy, nor a mere blowback of inept American policy, although the existence of both are a convenient umbrella for terrorists and their unwitting sympathizers. The term is a child of terrorist acts committed by lethally irresponsible fringe Muslims.

Proclaiming that the victims of terrorism were a direct result of their nation-states’ foreign policies insinuates that they deserved their fate and renders the narratives of comfort and sympathy meaningless.  We’re talking here of neighbours and compatriots in mourning, who need comfort and not reminders of their nations’ foreign policy shortcomings.

This pass-the-parcel received wisdom should wait until the mandatory chaleeswan forty-day mourning respected by Muslims is over. Jumping the gun on this issue is poor taste at the best, exulting at the worst, either or both of which may come to drench the gloaters with shame.

Blasphemy: The Incident

Azam Gill’s latest novel

The first English novel written by a Punjabi Christian about the Christians of Pakistan.

BLASPHEMY FRONT COVER

Little Muthkar Masih’s life is in mortal danger, caught in Pakistan’s lethal combination of class and communal conflict, inequality, intolerance, fundamentalism and jihad overridden by the blasphemy law. This is the epic saga of lovers trapped in the dangerous world of the fallout from the Afghan Jihad in Pakistan. Louisa Skimmer is a lecturer in English literature. An urban, middle class daughter of a distinguished police officer, she studies at Lahore’s most prestigious ladies’ college. Piaro Masih learns trade craft at his father’s feet. He inherits his rural family’s role as a bandit and smuggler in the Punjab’s heartland. Can their love survive in the conflict between Islam and Christianity, caste and social class, East and West, theocracy and secularism? Testing their limits, considering the condition of women in Pakistani society and the excesses of orthodoxy and fundamentalism, events race to a tragic and blasphemous conclusion. The only witness is a child who must be protected.

Available at 880 bookshops including –

France: http://www.amazon.fr/Blasphemy-The-Incident-Azam-Gill/dp/3659704547 

USA: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=azam+gill+blasphemy 

UK:  http://www.amazon.com/Blasphemy-Incident-Azam-Gill/dp/3659704547/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1448057701&sr=1-1&keywords=blasphemy+azam+gill 

India:  http://www.amazon.in/s/ref=nb_sb_noss/278-2970901-4840127?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=azam+gill+blasphemy 

Canada: http://www.amazon.ca/Blasphemy-Gill-Azam/dp/3659704547/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1448039915&sr=1-1&keywords=blasphemy+azam+gill

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The American Dream and the Living Nightmare

Azam Gill

According to the US State Department’s 2012 International Religious Freedom Report, “Christians were a leading target of societal discrimination, abuse, and violence in some parts of the world.” As an instrument of diplomacy, the State Department’s  choice of “some” over ‘many’ or ‘most’ is hardly surprising. And rightly so. Were it not for diplomacy, the world would be an even more violent demonic playground.

As such, from the downgraded semantics employed by professional diplomats and their staff, it is possible to gauge the real extent and intensity of persecution suffered by Christian minorities outside of Western democracies and some Latin American countries. The oppression of Christian minorities barely flits on the periphery of media interest.

Mainly, there is a general belief that all minority Christians are rice bowl converts — the residue of 19th century western colonialism. For the United States to use its power and influence for good…

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Lady Di’s Death Revealed Unchanged Passions: Part 4— Tony, Champagne Charlie, Elton John, hugs & tears

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Mr Blair was able to successfully walk the space between word and act due to the clear signals emanating from the people’s expression of grief at Lady Diana’s untimely demise. The funeral was practically stage-managed by the government, and the hillocks of flowers in front of Buckingham palace combined with the hints dropped in Mr Blair’s speeches pressured the Queen into coming from Balmoral to Buckingham for the funeral. She was not even allowed to passively disapprove of Lady Diana’s manner of living and dying. There were open tears and passionate speeches during the funeral ceremonies, uniting the high and mighty with the lowly and humble. Complete strangers just hugged and wept, and Lady Diana’s brother, also known as “champagne Charlie” made an impassioned speech the contents of which clearly criticised the royal family.

 

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Elton John composed and sang Lady Diana’s eulogy, Candle in the Wind, (putting Marilyn Monroe at par with a Royal) the translation of which was carried on the front page of the prestigious French daily, Le Monde, while not a whisper of reserve escaped from the Royal household to question the appropriateness of Elton John’s sexual preference. There was disappointment from the public about the Royal Family’s dry-eyed stiff upper lip reaction to the tragedy, and the courtiers gave no press statements on the subject. When the public espied Camilla Parker Bowles, she was liberally assaulted with bread-rolls. All these were signs that the Britain of that day was no longer the Britain of preceding years.

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However, before Victoria became Queen-Empress of the British Empire, the British might not have been described as touchy-feely, but they certainly were not Victorian in the sense of the term we now use. Victorianism is not a fundamental cultural or genetic trait of the Anglo-Saxon peoples. The words bawdy and raunchy had never lost their relevance since the Shakespeare. The Elizabethan age was the times of Shakespeare and Marlowe, when what is sexual innuendo today was explicitly expressed on the stage, and moreover, appreciated. We may go further back to the times of the legendary Robin Hood and his Merry Men, when, despite the religious fervour inspired by the Crusades, merriment was a sought after virtue. The British were a rambunctious, hard-drinking lot of tavern brawlers who became successful pirates before being legitimised as corsairs. The tradition of merriment continued to be appreciated through low-brow soap operas and street artists, and has now been democratised in an increasingly heterogeneous society in television sit-coms such as Benny Hill, Fawlty Towers, Yes Prime Minister, The New Statesman, East Enders, Coronation Street and Goodness Gracious Me.

Lady Di’s Death Revealed Unchanged Passions: Part 1— Myth and Reality — the Stiff Upper Lip

The reaction to the death of Diana, Princess of Wales … was meant to mark a profound shift in the history of British sentiment as it moved from the stiffness of upper lips to the quavering intuitions of the heart.” Hywel Williams.

Part 1— Myth and Reality — the Stiff Upper Lip

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Reserved, stiffening the upper lip, being strait-laced and sexually repressed, with tongue-in-cheek, understated humour is how the British stereotype is still described. It is a commonly held belief that as a child, Queen Victoria was encouraged to keep her chin up and maintain a stiff upper lip by a prickly sprig of holly placed under her collar.

Faced with misfortune or adversity, the upper lip tends to quaver, and stiffening it is an external sign of inner resolve. Emotion perceived by an audience deemed inferior democratises the relationship between superior and inferior, an undesirable change for the continuity of aristocracy. The class society of Britain relied on distance and exclusivity for its perpetuation. Entrants from the middle or lower middle classes into the colonial services maintained this trait in their relations with native peoples they considered their inferiors just as in the hierarchy of the aristocracy in Britain these colonial officers, by birth, were near the lower rung of the social ladder. As Queen Victoria grew up, and eventually became Queen-Empress of the British Empire, maintaining a stiff upper lip in the face of adversity assumed the proportions of a national virtue common to all classes in Britain. It enlarged its scope from facing adversity with dignity to suppressing emotion, and at all costs, avoiding its tactile expression.

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The heart might quaver, but the upper lip would not betray it. Intuition, something that the science of the second half of the nineteenth century was incapable of explaining, was not taken into consideration. It was only after the twentieth century was well into its way that writers such as E.M. Forster were able to deal with this subject by comparing the intuitive and emotive approach of the Italians with the tight-corseted attitude characteristic of British females.

Pakistan’s Muslim Clergy condemns mob killings of Christians: Pakistan’s blasphemy laws explained.

Asma Jehangir, champion of human rights in Pakistan and an Officer of France’s Order of the Légion d’Honneur, has hailed the long-awaited participation of the Muslim clergy in condemning the misuse of Pakistan’s Blasphemy laws. Since the 1980s, minority communities, mainly Christians, have been suffering under the misappropriation of this law. Passed under Zi-ul-Haq’s dictatorship, these laws boil up simmering passions within people which only the clergy can redirect. Only a hearts and minds campaign will alleviate this suffering, and the Muslim clergy have the power and competence to institute this change.

Condemnation of Christian couple’s killing by religious parties good omen: Asma.

Dawn, November 21, 2014

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LAHORE: Condemnations by Pakistan’s top clerics and religious parties against the misuse of blasphemy laws could help reverse a rising tide of mob killings, according to Asma Jahangir, Pakistan’s leading rights activists.

A Christian couple accused of desecrating the Holy Quran were beaten to death this month, by a mob of 1,500 and their bodies thrown in a furnace in a spate of lynchings in Pakistan.

A day later, a policeman hacked a man to death with an axe, who had been accused of blasphemy while he was in custody.

Read more: … http://www.dawn.com/news/1145980/condemnation-of-christian-couples-killing-by-religious-parties-good-omen-asma

What are Pakistan’s blasphemy laws?

BBC 6 November 2014

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Pakistan’s blasphemy laws carry a potential death sentence for anyone who insults Islam. Critics say they have been used to persecute minority faiths and unfairly target minorities.

Read more: … http://www.bbc.com/news/world-south-asia-12621225

India: The First Soft Power

The Durga Vahini women’s movement limited to two districts of India is part of that nation’s latest three-hundred year old Hindu revival. The Canadian filmmaker Nisha Pahuja’s quest to make a documentary on this movement finally ended in success. Writing for the BBC, she raises questions but expresses no alarm at this movement, based on pride and history — The World Before Her https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=umjDyRaikqQ  and http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-29798148).

The more one studies India’s history, the more it eludes one’s grasp, retreating constantly into the mists of time in a tantalizing dance. This mother lode of all that is Indo-European can stake its claim on the basis of holding the archives. Other components of and claimants to Indo-European roots only have oral history on their side, but India has the Vedas – sacred documents dated from between 1800BC to 3000BC, or even earlier.

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The total time span allotted to Indian history is so wide that were a subject called The Rise and Fall of Indian Civilization be introduced in academia, it would fall flat on its face. Indian civilization demands the plural, despite its continuing integral core. It expanded and receded several times, the components cohabiting comfortably with each other’s characteristics.

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 One of the most remarkable features of this civilization is its influence which stretched from Macedonia to the limits of East Asia without any evidence of hard power projection. India can bask in its status as a pioneer of Soft Power.

That finesse did not stop other civilizations from penetrating India’s refined screen to raid, loot and settle as minority rulers over much of its territory.

 

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The last ones to do so failed to integrate, were unable to settle and had to leave sixty seven years ago, leaving behind a free press and the cherished structure of parliamentary democracy.

The sheer force and prestige of Nehru’s personality dragged India through its period of socialism, but since its heyday there has been a turnaround. The most positive result of that is the continuing economic growth and progressing health and literacy rates despite the population increase since 1947.

Famine, rife under the Mughals and the British, has disappeared.

India is coming back into its own.

On the flip side, some Indians, basking in their new-found independence, seem to be taking the occasion to show that they are not softies. That they aren’t is an opinion buoyed by the reputation of the Indian Army for efficiency, not to speak of its millennia-old battle record. Militant groups and movements appear to be challenging world-wide extremist obediences in a race for each to prove that they’re the toughest on the block.

The Durga Vahini just might end up being one such movement, the female equivalent of the Bajrang Dal and part of the Vishva Hindu Parishad. The stated purpose is to involve more women in a Hindu revival through physical, mental and knowledge development in order to involve them in social services.

Considering India’s population of 1.252 billion, there are only about 8000 women involved in Durga Vahini. The movement is more local than national and, in general, most Indian Hindus have no hang-ups about settling scores with remnants of erstwhile minority rulers. Shouldn’t have any, in principle. Not after the last Hindu revival.

In the 18th century, the Marathas, by becoming the pre-eminent power in India effectively eclipsed the effete Mughals of that time, engendering a Hindu revitalization that continues to grow in most desirably impressive directions.

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It is confidently hoped that this balance will be maintained in a world where perceptions and soft power have superseded the old hard power, as obsolete as a nuclear weapon!

The world’s soft power pioneer is no doubt aware of this.

Many others are!

http://qz.com/271585/from-the-buddha-to-bollywood-to-bpos-a-brief-history-of-indias-soft-power/

Asian and White school results in the United Kingdom

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On November 12, Nihal, my favourite BBC Asian Network DJ got more of my attention than usual. I learned that children of Indian immigrants in the UK obtain the highest GCSE scores. That started me thinking, and for a change it didn’t hurt – well, maybe just a little.

The two-nation theory is believed to have, among other things, led Muslims to demand their severance from the rest of India by creating Pakistan. Mission accomplished, the theory often carries more weight in its political rather than historical context.

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However much Muslims of Pakistan may be tempted to graft their historical cultural roots on their belief system and end up in a Middle-Eastern state of Semitic mental limbo, the lure of the Indo European macro culture is as irresistible as it is undeniable. More so when they realize that the response from the Middle East is disproportionate to the initiative.

So the distinction between the contemporary application of the two-nation theory and the reality of the historical Indo-Euroean roots is a yo-yo comet leaving a zig-zag trace.

And there things stood until Nihal unwittingly landed on this comet to set my head spinning.

So I spent some time in space and here’s what I found from reputable sources such as, among others, the BBC’s Education Correspondent and the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies.

http://www.crimeandjustice.org.uk/resources/primary-and-secondary-education-and-ethnic-penalty

The progress rate of British Pakistani children might outstrip that of their white and British Indian peers, but a lead of thirteen points is not a lead of three plus one equals four as Einstein would have made it and ended up with another atomic split.

Poor results are also explainable by permanent exclusion. The rate of British Pakistanis at 0.05% also exceeds the almost 0% of British Indians although it lags honorably behind the nearly 01% of White British — funny, I wanted to write British White, but it kind of ended up reminding me of the latest upgrade in a teeth whitener.

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Which means, the children of Indian and Pakistani parents are more British since they are British first and not second even if some of their parents  are accused of cheering the Indian and Pakistani cricket teams in the UK. And over mounds of artery clogging samosas and pakoras fried in ghee followed by moti choor luddoos and kaju katli they still argue about the one versus two-nation theory.

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Thanks to DJ Nihal, that argument can be laid to rest, substituted by the relative merits of butter chicken and palak paneer savouries.

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Safer.

Clearer.

No possibility of a cease fire violation — not in the UK — or one may hope!

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