Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Headscarf case for the US Supreme Court, Court to consider accommodations for religiously devout employees: In Plain English

    Wednesday, February 25, 2015   No comments
Samantha Elauf
Religion has been a hot topic at the Supreme Court recently.  Last year, the Justices ruled that a town council could start its meetings with a prayer and also that a corporation owned by a devoutly religious family cannot be required to provide its female employees with health insurance that includes access to birth control that the employer equated with abortion.  And earlier this year, it ruled that Arkansas cannot bar a Muslim inmate from growing the short beard that he believes his religion requires.  The latest chapter on the role of religion in our daily lives comes tomorrow, when the Court hears oral arguments in the case of a Muslim woman whom the retail chain Abercrombie & Fitch declined to hire because she wore a headscarf.  Let’s talk about EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch in Plain English.

In 2008, Samantha Elauf applied for a job as a salesperson at an Abercrombie children’s store in Oklahoma. Abercrombie & Fitch employees have to follow a dress code known as a “Look Policy,” which applies not only to clothes and jewelry but also to facial hair and shoes.  Among other things, the policy – which is intended to promote a “preppy” aesthetic – also prohibits caps and black clothing.  Elauf, then seventeen, is a Muslim who has worn a headscarf since she was thirteen because she believes it is required by her faith.  For her interview with an assistant store manager, Elauf wore jeans, a T-shirt, and a black headscarf.  The interview went well, but Elauf didn’t get the job; when a friend who worked at the store asked about the store’s decision, the assistant manager indicated that Elauf hadn’t been hired because of her headscarf.

Monday, February 23, 2015

New documents suggest that NSA and the UK’s Spy Agency Launch a Joint Cyberattack on Iran

    Monday, February 23, 2015   No comments

New documents suggest that NSA and the UK’s Spy Agency Launch a Joint Cyberattack on Iran

An NSA document newly published today suggests two interesting facts that haven’t previously been reported.

The Intercept, which published the document, highlighted that in it the NSA expresses fear that it may be teaching Iran how to hack, but there are two other points in the document that merit attention.

One concerns the spy tool known as Flame; the other refers to concerns the NSA had about partnering with the British spy agency Government Communications Headquarters and Israeli intelligence in surveillance operations.

Full story: http://www.wired.com/2015/02/uks-spy-agency-partner-nsa-cyberattacks-iran/
...

Report: Leaked intelligence document shows Mossad didn't think Iran sought nuclear weapon
Al Jazeera says one of hundreds of intelligence documents it has obtained shows that Mossad assessment of Iranian nuclear threat differed with Netanyahu's statements on the issue.

A new leak of secret intelligence documents obtained by Al Jazeera shows that the Mossad expressed the belief that Tehran was not pursuing a nuclear weapon just a month after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the Islamic Republic was a year away from becoming nuclear-armed.

The Qatari television network, in collaboration with Britain's Guardian will be publishing "The Spy Cables" in the coming days.

The documents, spanning the period of 2006-2014, were written by members of South Africa's State Security Agency (SSA). The documents, according to Al Jazeera, highlight the SSA's dealings with the intelligence services of its allies, including the Mossad and the CIA.

full story: http://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/Report-Leaked-intelligence-document-shows-Mossad-didnt-think-Iran-sought-nuclear-weapon-391902

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Grand Ayatullah al-Sayyid Ali al-Hussani al-Sistani: Advice and Guidance to the Fighters on the Battlefields

    Saturday, February 21, 2015   No comments
In the Name of God, Ever-Merciful, Ever-Compassionate 
In the Name of God, Ever-Merciful, Ever-Compassionate


Praise belongs to God, Lord of the Cosmos, and ever-lasting peace be upon the best of His creation, Muhammad and his noble and pure progeny.

I call your attention to the following:

Let the dear fighters know, the ones who have been given the honour to be present in the battlefield against the transgressors, that:

1.    Just as God, exalted is He, has called the believers to Jihad [against the transgressors] and made it one of the pillars of religion, and just as God has privileged the Holy Warriors over those who do not fight [in Jihad], He, noble is His name, has placed certain conditions and etiquettes [on the conduct of Jihad]. Such conditions are necessitated by wisdom and mandated by the primordial nature of human beings. It is necessary, then, to learn these conditions and etiquettes thoroughly and to follow them sincerely, for one who learns these conditions and follows them sincerely will receive his deserved reward and blessings from God, and one who neglects them will not receive [the blessings] he hoped for.

2.    With regards to Jihad there are general guidelines to which one must adhere even when confronting non-Muslims. The Prophet, peace be upon him and his progeny, advised his Companions to follow these general guidelines before sending them off to battle. In an authentic tradition, it has been reported that the Imam Jaʿfar al-Sadiq (d. 765), peace be upon him, said, “When the Messenger of God, peace be upon him and his progeny, would want to send a fighting contingent he would sit down with them and advise them to represent God justly and to follow the good example of the religion of the Messenger of God. He would [further] say, 'Do not indulge in acts of extremism, do not disrespect dead corpses, do not resort to deceit, do not kill an elder, do not kill a child, do not kill a woman, and do no not cut down trees unless necessity dictates otherwise.'”

3.    Similarly, the fighting against those Muslims who oppress [others] and who wage war [unjustly] has its guidelines and etiquettes, too. Indeed such guidelines and etiquettes informed the actions of the Imam ʿAli (d. 661), who, when confronted with such situations, admonished his followers [to follow them]. The Muslim world agreed in unanimity that the actions, guidelines, and etiquettes of Imam ʿAli are a worthy example to emulate. So pay heed to the example of Imam ʿAli and follow his path. He, peace be upon him, emphasizing on what the Prophet,peace be upon him and his progeny, had conveyed in Hadith of Thaqalayn and Gadir and many others, said, “Set your sights on the Family of the Prophet. Adhere to their direction. Follow their footsteps. Verily, the Family of the Prophet will not lead you away from the path of guidance, nor will they make you return to the path of destruction. If they rise, so shall you; and if they stand, so shall you. Do not traverse the path ahead of them, for you shall lose your way; and do not lag behind of them, for you shall perish.”

4.    By the majesty of God! By the majesty of God! Souls are sacred! Never should you do to them that which God has not deemed permissible. What great travesty it is to kill innocent souls, and what great honour it is to safeguard innocent souls, just as God, exalted is He, mentioned in His book [i.e. the Qurʾan]. The killing of an innocent soul has dangerous consequences, both in this world and in the hereafter. History has taught us that the Commander of the Faithful [i.e. ʿAli], peace be upon him, took much caution to protect the sanctity of the human soul in his wars.  He, in his historical document, said to [his companion] Malik al-Ashtar, whose friendship and proximity to ʿAli is well known, “Be vigilant! Do not spill the blood of the innocent without any right to do so, for nothing is more inviting wrath, greater in evil consequences and more effective in the decline of blessings and cutting life span more than the unlawful spilling of blood. On the Day of Reckoning, God shall judge wisely between those servants of His who spilled blood. Do not strengthen your authority by the unlawful spilling of blood, for that will surely enfeeble and weaken the authority and [may] even cause it to perish or shifting (to other who are wise). There is no excuse for you in front of God nor I, if you kill unlawfully, because that shall cause you punishment.”

If you [i.e. the fighters of the Popular Mobilisation Committees] find yourselves in an uncertain situation from which you fear the Divine Wrath, issue a vocal warning [to those fighting you], or issue a physical warning by directing your bullets in a manner which does not strike the target or cause its destruction apologizing (for such a disliked confrontation) to your Lord and taking precaution not to kill innocent souls.

5.    By the majesty of God! By the majesty of God! The lives of those who do not fight you are sacred, especially the weak among the elderly, the children, and the women, even if they were the families of those who fight you. It is unlawful for you to violate the sacredness of those who fight you except for their belongings.

It was the noble habit of the Commander of the Faithful [i.e. ʿAli], peace be upon him, to prohibit [his soldiers] from attacking the properties of the families, the women, and the children of those against whom he fought, despite efforts by some of those who [claimed to] follow him, especially the Kharijites, who insisted on legitimizing it. To refute them, ʿAli would say, “(Their) men have fought so we fightthe men, but we do not inflict harm on their women and children, for they are Muslims and within the Realm of Hijra (abode of emigration). Thus you have no right over them. But whatever they procured and used against you in the course of fighting, and whatever their army possessed and acquired belongs to you. Whatever is in their homes is an inheritance for their offspring according to the ordinance of God. You have no right over their women or over their offspring.”

6.    By the majesty of God! By the majesty of God! It is [abhorrent] to cast suspicion over the integrity of people’s faith in order to target them and legitimize the taking away of that which is sacred [i.e. their life]. Alike the way of the Kharijites of the early Islamic period and their contemporary followers who are ignorant of the basic tenets of religion, following their own personal moods and whims and have sought to justify their [un-Islamic] actions by recourse to some textual evidence which they never understood. The Muslims of today have to live with the consequences of these misinterpretations.

Know that whosoever bears testimony that there is only one God and that Muhammad is His messenger is indeed a Muslim. That person’s life and property must be safeguarded. If that person falls into the trap of [theological] deviance and  religious innovations, then know that not every misguidance leads to infidelity, nor does every innovation strip one of Islam as his faith. At times, a person is subjected to death penalty due to a turmoil caused by him or due to retribution he still stays a Muslim.

In the Qurʾan, God has addressed the Holy Warriors in the following:
“O Believers, when you are journeying in the path of God, be discriminating, and do not say to him who offers you a greeting, ‘Thou art not a believer’, seeking the chance goods of the present life”. [Similarly] it has been widely reported that the Commander of the Faithful, peace be upon him, prohibited declaring the masses of those who fought him as unbelievers; indeed this was the inclination [i.e. to declare the enemy as unbelievers] of the leaders of the Kharijites in his camp. But he [i.e. ʿAli] used to say that they [i.e. his enemies] were a people who had fallen into misjudgement and error, though this does not justify their repugnant act and could not be an excuse for their obnoxious deeds. In a sound report on the authority of [Imam] al-Sadiq who narrates on the authority of his father, peace be upon them both, that “ʿAli, peace be upon him, did not label any of those who fought him as polytheists or hypocrites but rather he would say, ‘They are our brothers who have transgressed against us’ and he would [also] say about those who fought him ‘We fight them not because we think of them as unbelievers and not because they think we are unbelievers.’”    

7.    Never inflict harm on non-Muslims, regardless of their religion and sect. The non-Muslims [who live in predominately Muslim lands] are under the protection of the Muslims in those lands. Whosoever attacks non-Muslims is a betrayer and traitor. And rest assured that such an act of betrayal and treachery is one of the most repugnant actsin accordance to innate nature and the religion of God.

Regarding those who are not Muslim, God mentions them in His Book, “God forbids you not, as regards those who have not fought you in religion’s cause, nor expelled you from you habitations, that you should be kindly to them, and act justly towards them; surely God loves the just.” The Muslim must not allow the violation of the sanctity of those who are not Muslim and who live under the protection of Muslims. Rather, the Muslim must honour and guard those who are not Muslim as he would with his own family. When we read stories about the life of the Commander of the Faithful we learn that when Muʿawiya sent Sufyan son of ʿAwf from the tribe of Ghamid to carry out raids on the frontiers of Iraq – in order to frighten the people [of Iraq] – and when he [Sufyan] killed the Muslims and those who were not Muslim from among the people of Anbar, the Commander of the Faithful was saddened greatly by this. In a sermon [which followed], he [i.e. ʿAli] said, “And this one from the tribe of Ghamid [i.e. Sufyan]…his horses have entered Anbar and killed Hassan son of Hassan al-Bakri and he pushed back your horsemen from the boarders. And it has been told to me that a man from among them [i.e. the raiders] would enter the house of the Muslim and the non-Muslim women and would then forcefully remove her anklets, bangles, necklaces, and her earrings. And no woman could resist it except by reciting the verse from Qur’an “We are for God and to Him shall we return (2:156)” and seeking mercy.  Then the raiders left overloaded with wealth with no wounds or loss of life. Had a Muslim died as a result of this sorrow and regret [after the raids] then no one is to blame him. But in [in my eyes] he deserves [praiseworthy] mention.”       

8.    By the majesty of God! By the majesty of God! Do not steal the wealth of people. The wealth of a Muslim is unlawful unless he agrees to its procurement. Those who usurp from others, they have obtained a piece of fire from the fires of hell.God, exalted is He, said, “Those who devour the property of orphans unjustly, devour fire in their bellies, and shall assuredly roast in a blaze.” And in a tradition reported on the authority of the Prophet, peace be upon him and his progeny, that he said, “Whosoever steals and usurps the wealth of another, God will turn away from him and will not accept and reward him for his good deeds until he repents and returns the wealth to its rightful owner.”

We also find when we read stories about the life of the Commander of the Faithful, peace be upon him, that he forbade [his soldiers from] taking his enemy’s wealth except for that found in their military encampment. And whenever someone [from the enemy’s camp] brought forth proof that his personal wealth was taken [unlawfully] he [ʿAli] would ask that it be returned. In another report on the authority of Marwan son of al-Hakam, who said, “After ʿAli defeated us in Basra he return to the people [i.e. soldiers] their wealth. Who brought proof was given the wealth and (even) who didn’t had proof was given by a swear on the name of his God.”    

9.    By the majesty of God! By the majesty of God! Do not violate the sanctity of all things sacred.Do not violate or infringe on them with your tongueor action. Be cautious and do not target a person due to the mistakes of others. God, exalted is He, says, “And no bearer of burdens will bear the burden of another.” Do not base on suspicions, distorting the certainty.  Certainty entails caution and suspicion entails attacking others without proof. Your hatred of someone does not justify that you violate his sanctity, for God says: “And do not let the hatred of people prevent you from being just. Be just; that is nearer to righteousness.”

[Moreover], it has been reported that the Commander of the Faithful, peace be upon him, that he said in a sermon in the Battle of Siffin: “Do not disrespect the corpse of the dead, and if you defeat the men of your enemies do not violate the sanctity of their women and their houses. Do not enter their houses. Do not take anything from their houses. Take only what you find in their military encampments. Do not provoke their women by harming them even though they may attack your honour and abuse your leaders and noble men. And, it is reported that after the Battle of the Camel ended, he [i.e. ʿAli] came across a large gathering of wailing women crying over their lost ones. When they saw him they shouted in one voice ‘Here comes the killer of our loved ones!’, but he [i.e. ʿAli] did not respond. After [some time elapsed] he said to some of those near to him, pointing at a room which housed [captives] among them leaders of those who fought him like Marwan son of Hakam and ‘Abdullah son of Zubayr, ‘Had I been the killer of [their] loved ones I would have killed these people, too.’

It has also been reported that when he [i.e. ʿAli] heard that some from among his companions such as Hujr son of ʿAdi and ʿAmr son of al-Hamiq slandered the People of Sham [i.e. Greater Syria] during the Battle of Siffin, he said: “I dislike for you to be of those who slander [others]. It is better for you to describe their deeds and state of action; surely this is the more refine way of speaking [about others] and more justified in excuse and rather than slander them, it is better that you say ‘O God protect our lives and protect their lives and bring harmony between us and them and deliver them from error so that the ignorant can reach to the truth one inclined towards rebellion and revolt could turn away from it.’ They [i.e. ʿAli’s companions] said, “O Commander of the Faithful, we accept your counsel and we [will] strive to imitate your mannerism."

10.    Do not deprive any people, who do not fight you, of their rights even if they anger you. It has been reported from stories about the life of the Commander of the Faithful, peace be upon him, that he afforded those of other faith the same [respect] he afforded to the Muslims so long as they did not wage war against him. And he would never launch a military assault unless he was attacked first. For instance, when he was in the middle of delivering a sermon in [the Mosque of] Kufa a group of Kharijites stood up and interrupted him and shouted on more than one occasion ‘Judgement belongs to God [alone]!', to which he replied ‘Truthful words indeed but couched with false intentions. You have three rights over us: we do not take away [your right] to pray in the mosques of God; we do not deprive you from your share of the spoils of war as long as you fight along us; and we do not wage war against you unless you launch the first attack.’    

11.    Know that most of those who fight you are victims who have been led astray by others. Do not let those who led others astray be better than you. Let your righteous actions, your well-wishing nature, your just conduct, your forbearance, and your avoidance of extortion, sin and aggression serve as an example for them. Whosoever helps misguided souls find the path of righteousness is like the one who saves a soul from perdition. And whomsoever misguides a person knowingly it is as if he has killed him.

We find in the stories about the lives of the Imams of the Progeny [i.e. AhlulBayt], peace be upon them, that they would go to great lengths to dispel whatever misconception those who fought them held, even if there was no hope of acceptance, seeking excuse (for unwanted confrontation) from their Lord educating the Muslim multitudes and their way of setting an example for future generations. It has been reported in some traditions on the authority of al-Sadiq, peace be upon him, that Imam 'Ali, peace be upon him, on the Day of Basra [i.e. the Battle of the Camel], said to his companions: “Do not be quick to judge the enemy until I make clear to them what is between God, I and them.’ He ['Ali] then approached them and said: “O People of Basra have you found in my rule any oppression? They said: “No.” He [then] said: “[Have I] broken a promise?” They said: “No.” He [then] said: “Have I shown desire for this [material] world so that I and my family took something and prevented you from having it, is this why you have breached the allegiance to me?” They said: “No.” He [then] said: “Have I applied punishment unfairly?” They said: “No.”

Imam Husayn followed a similar course of action in [the Battle of] Karbala. He took care to dispel doubt and clarify matters so that the living live and the dead die not in vain but after clear proof has been brought forth before them. In fact one cannot fight a Muslim people without establishing first a clear proof and without trying to dispel doubt and clarify misjudgement. This practise has been established in the Qur’an and prophetic traditions.

12.    Let no one [among you] think that there is a solution in oppression which cannot be gained by justice. Such a thought ascends from a narrow observation of the incidents without considering the mid and long term consequences of such an attitude. The adherents to such thoughts are those who have no information on the tradition of life and the history of nations which alerts on loosing innocent lives and spread of abhorrence in the society as a result of the atrocity of them.

It has been reported in the traditions that ‘The one who finds difficulty to implement justice will find greater difficulty to deal with injustice’. The contemporary history leaves a great lesson for those who ponder on it. Few rulers, for the sake of strengthening their power, oppressed and prosecuted hundreds of thousands of people. And God, exalted is He, came at them from whence they did not reckon. As if they had destroyed their sovereignty with their own hands.

13.    It may be the case sometimes that when you adhere to good conduct and remain disciplined you suffer [military] losses; this, nevertheless, is more spiritually rewarding, everlasting end and of greater benefit. The example set by the Imams serves as a case in point. They did not wage war unless they were attacked, even if such actions caused them temporary losses. It is reported in a tradition that on the Day of the Camel when the armies gather to fight, a person from the army of the Commander of the Faithful, peace be upon him, proclaimed, “Do not attack until I tell you to.” So some of his companions said, ‘But they have fired [arrows] at us.’ He said, ‘Wait.’ When the enemy’s fired arrows which killed one of them, he said, ‘Fight away with God’s blessing.’ Imam Husayn, peace be upon him, followed a similar course of action on the day of Ashura.    

14.    Be the guardians and well-wishers of those who you are with you, so that they feel secured with you and support you against your enemies. Help the weak among them in whatever you can. They are your brothers and your family. Show compassion towards them just as you show compassion towards you own. Know that you are within God’s sight, and that He counts your actions, intents, and your inner dispositions.

15.    Do not let anything take precedence over your obligatory prayers. There is no better deed than prayers that a person can take towards his Lord. Prayer is the means through which man humbles himself before his creator and is a greeting which one offers toward Him. It is the foundation of religion and the criterion through which actions are judged. In the occasions of fear and war, God has given you some discount to the extent that proclamation of ‘God is Great’ is enough replacing the units of the regular prayer even if the person is not facing the Qibla.

God said: “Maintain with care the [obligatory] prayers and [in particular] the middle prayer and stand before God, devoutly obedient. And if you fear [an enemy, then pray] on foot or while riding. But when you are secure, then remember God [in prayer], as He has taught you that which you did not [previously] know."

God has commanded the Believers to exercise caution and not to gather for prayer at once but to take turns [performing prayer]. It has been reported in the life story of the Commander of the Faithful that he asked his companions to be mindful of the [importance of] prayer. In a sound report narrated on the authority of Jaʿfar al-Sadiq, peace be upon him, that he said, with regards to the prayer of fear, in the midst of war and confrontation: ‘Each person has to pray with indication wherever he is, even in the midst of sword fighting, wrestling and grappling. The Commander of the Faithful, peace be upon him, (even) prayed on the night before [the Battle of] Siffin (the night of Harir). Their prayers were nothing more than proclamations that ‘God is great’ and invocations and supplications. That was their prayer and [even then] the Commander of the Faithful did not ask them to repeat their prayers.’

16.    Help yourselves by remembering God frequently and reciting passages from the Qurʾan. Remember that one day you will revert and stand before Him. It has been reported that the Commander of the Faithful, peace be upon him, was so watchful of remembrance of God that when in the midst of battle, on the eve of Siffin, a carpet was rolled out for him and he offered his recitation while arrows were being fired at him from all directions passing by his ears left and right, and he did not get scared and abandon his prayer until he completed it.  

17.    Strive to act - may God help you- in the same righteous manner as the Prophet and his progeny, peace be upon them, acted in both the times of war and peace so you could adorn Islam and set an example as it deserves. This is the religion which is built on illumination of innate nature, reason, and good manners. Suffices to say that this is the religion that raised the banners of reason and good manners, for its foundations are built on calls to contemplate and ponder the dimensions and horizons of the life and to take lesson from it and to act accordingly God said, “And by the soul ad He who proportioned it. And inspired it [with discernment of] its wickedness and its righteousness. He has succeeded who purifies it. And he has failed who instils it [with corruption].”

The Commander of the Faithful, peace be upon him, said, “God has sent His messengers among them and series of His prophets to them to get them to fulfil the pledges the primordial covenant and to remind them of His blessings to them and to exhort them by preaching and to awaken the dormant intellects."

If only the Muslims follow the true teachings of Islam and abide by them they will surely find abundant blessings that will illuminate their path and expand their horizons. Be careful and do not hold on to the ambiguous readings of the scriptures, and if it is directed towards the people of knowledge - as God has asked you to do so- they would know the proper meaning and crux of the matter.  

18.    Do not be hasty in situations where caution is required else you would cast yourself to destruction. Your enemies wish for you to act in haste and improperly in precarious situations and wish for you to rush without taking any precaution and professional advice. Organise yourselves and coordinate with one another. Do not hasten to take a step forward until you are sure about its maturity, strength, necessary means, implications, guarantee of steadiness and potential results.God said, “O Believers take precaution and [either] go forth in companies or go forth all together.’ And God said, “Indeed, God loves those who fight in His cause in a row as though they are a [single] compact structure.”

19.    Those (civilians) among you should be the well-wishers of the militants, acknowledging their sacrifice and protecting them from evils. They shouldn’t be suspicious about them. God has not assigned any right upon others unless he has assigned the same for them. Each of them enjoys equal rights.

You should be aware of the fact that there is no one well-wisher than amongst you for each other, if you clean your hearts from grudge and unite together to the extent that if anyone of you commits few mistakes or even if many outrageous mistakes you should forgive, forget and overlook it. Whosoever thinks that someone else is more well-wisher than his own family, tribe and fellow citizens, he is mistaken. Those who want to experience things which have already been experienced (by others), would regret. One should know that the person who begins the forgiving and overlooking the mistakes of others is worthy of rewards of forgiveness, goodness and rectitude. God will not waste the reward of those noble deeds and at times will reward it completely in the darkness of Barzakh and the Day of Resurrection. Whosoever supports a Holy Warrior or his family and protects them, achieves an equal reward as that Holy Warrior.    

20.    Everyone must let go of those sentiments which carry hatred and bigotry. Follow the noble manners. God has made people into different tribes and races so that they may know each other. Do not be overcome by narrow-minded views and personal egos. Do you not see how the majority of Muslims today are engaged in self-destruction where they spend their resources, energy, and wealth on killing and destruction of each other? They should instead spend their resources and wealth on the advancement of knowledge and multiplying their resources and improve the welfare of the people. And be aware of a punishment which shall not visit the wrongdoers among you exclusively. Indeed the trouble has arrived. Try to put out the trouble and avoid kindling it. Hold on to the rope of God collectively and do not disunite. Know that if God finds any good in your hearts, He will give you (something which is) better than what has been taken away from you. Indeed God has power over all things.



The Office of His Eminence SayyidʿAli al-Sistani
The Holy City of Najaf

February 12, 2015.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Saudi cleric says Earth doesn’t revolve around itself

    Thursday, February 19, 2015   No comments
Founder of Salafism
A Saudi cleric has appeared in a video rejecting that Earth revolves around the sun, claiming instead that it is “stationary.” His statements have incited a fiery response on social media.

When questioned by a student about whether the Earth was stationary or moving, Sheikh Bandar al-Khaibari responded with “stationary and does not move,” Saudi-owned broadcaster Al-Arabia reported.

 He then attempted to support his theory with a strange blend of logic and clerical statements.

“First of all, where are we now? We’re going to Sharjah Airport to travel to China by plane, [is that] clear? Focus with me, this is the Earth,” he said while holding up a sealed water cup.

He proceeded to say that if the plane stopped dead in its tracks in mid-air, “China would be coming towards it in case the Earth rotates in one direction. If the Earth rotates in the opposite direction, the plane would never reach China, because China is also rotating,” he said.



Gulf States side with Qatar in its dispute with Egypt; Is the new Saudi King charting a new path?

    Thursday, February 19, 2015   No comments
Qatar recalls ambassador from Egypt in dispute over Libya strikes

Qatar has recalled its ambassador to Egypt, the state news agency QNA said late on Wednesday, in a dispute over Egyptian air strikes on Islamic State targets in Libya.

The diplomatic row came just two months after a thaw began in relations between the two.

Egyptian jets bombed sites in Libya on Monday hours after Islamic State militants there released a video showing the beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians, drawing Cairo directly into the conflict across its border.


Qatar expressed reservations over the attack at a subsequent meeting of the Arab League, angering Cairo.

Saad bin Ali al-Muhannadi, a Qatari foreign ministry official, cited misgivings on "unilateral military action in another member (state) in a way that could harm innocent civilians".

Despite Qatar's concerns, the Arab League put out a statement on Wednesday expressing its "complete understanding" over Egypt's air strikes and threw its weight behind Cairo's call for a lifting of the arms embargo on the Libyan army.

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U.S. officials, in blunt language, say Israel is distorting reality of Iran talks

    Thursday, February 19, 2015   No comments
The Obama administration on Wednesday accused the Israeli government of misleading the public over the Iran nuclear negotiations, using unusually blunt and terse language that once again highlighted the rift between the two sides.

In briefings with reporters, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki and White House spokesman Josh Earnest suggested Israeli officials were not being truthful about how the United States is handling the secretive talks.

“I think it is safe to say not everything you are hearing from the Israeli government is an accurate reflection of the details of the talks,” said Psaki, who acknowledged that the State Department is withholding some details from the Israelis out of concern they will share them more broadly.

Earnest said U.S. officials routinely speak with their Israeli counterparts. But, he added, the administration “is not going to be in a position of negotiating this agreement in public, particularly when we see that there is a continued practice of cherry-picking specific pieces of information and using them out of context to distort the negotiating position of the United States.”

A spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in Washington declined to comment.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Letter: UK artists announce a cultural boycott of Israel

    Sunday, February 15, 2015   No comments
Along with more than 600 other fellow artists, we are announcing today that we will not engage in business-as-usual cultural relations with Israel. We will accept neither professional invitations to Israel, nor funding, from any institutions linked to its government. Since the summer war on Gaza, Palestinians have enjoyed no respite from Israel’s unrelenting attack on their land, their livelihood, their right to political existence. “2014,” says the Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem, was “one of the cruellest and deadliest in the history of the occupation.” The Palestinian catastrophe goes on.
Israel’s wars are fought on the cultural front too. Its army targets Palestinian cultural institutions for attack, and prevents the free movement of cultural workers. Its own theatre companies perform to settler audiences on the West Bank – and those same companies tour the globe as cultural diplomats, in support of “Brand Israel”. During South African apartheid, musicians announced they weren’t going to “play Sun City”. Now we are saying, in Tel Aviv, Netanya, Ashkelon or Ariel, we won’t play music, accept awards, attend exhibitions, festivals or conferences, run masterclasses or workshops, until Israel respects international law and ends its colonial oppression of the Palestinians. To see the full list of supporters, go to artistsforpalestine.org.uk.

Peter Kosminsky, Mike Leigh, Jimmy McGovern, Phyllida Lloyd, Max Stafford-Clark, Will Alsop OBE, John Berger, Miriam Margolyes, Maggie Steed, Riz Ahmed, Anna Carteret, Jeremy Hardy, Brian Eno, Richard Ashcroft, Gillian Slovo, China Miéville, Aminatta Forna, Hari Kunzru, Liz Lochhead, Hanan Al-Shaykh, Peter Ahrends, David Calder, Caryl Churchill, Sacha Craddock, Selma Dabbagh, Ken Loach, Roger Michell, April De Angelis, Andy de la Tour, Mike Hodges, Rachel Holmes, Ann Jungman, Kika Markham, Simon McBurney, Andrew O’Hagan, Courttia Newland, Michael Radford, Lynne Reid Banks, Kamila Shamsie, Alexei Sayle, Roger Waters, Mark Thomas, Susan Wooldridge, Laura Mulvey, Pauline Melville, Khalid Abdalla, Bidisha, Nicholas Blincoe, Leah Borrromeo, Haim Bresheeth, Victoria Brittain, Niall Buggy, Tam Dean Burn, Jonathan Burrows, Taghrid Choucair-Vizoso, Ian Christie, Liam Cunningham, Ivor Dembina, Shane Dempsey, Patrick Driver, Okin Earl, Leon Rosselson, Sally El Hosaini, Paul Laverty, Eyal Sivan, John Smith, Mitra Tabrizian, Siobhan Redmond, Ian Rickson, Tom Leonard, Sonja Linden, David Mabb, Rose Issa, Gareth Evans, Alisa Lebow, Annie Firbank, James Floyd, Jane Frere, Kadija George, Bob Giles, Mel Gooding, Tony Graham, Penny Woolcock, Omar Robert Hamilton, James Holcombe, Adrian Hornsby, John Keane, Brigid Keenan, Hannah Khalil, Shahid Khan, Sabrina Mahfouz, Sarah McDade, Jonathan Munby, Lizzie Nunnery, Rebecca O’Brien, Timothy Pottier, Maha Rahwanji, Ravinder Randhawa, Leila Sansour, Seni Seneviratne, Anna Sherbany, Eyal Sivan, Kareem Samara, Cat Villiers, Esther Wilson, Emily Young, Andrea Luka Zimmerman, Jeremy Page, Sarah Streatfeild, Colin Darke, Russell Mills, Elaine Di Campo, Treasa O’Brien


Friday, February 13, 2015

Slow progress: Legacy of racism claims new victims in the U.S.

    Friday, February 13, 2015   No comments

U.S. gunman kills three young Muslims; motive disputed

A gunman who had posted anti-religious messages on Facebook and quarreled with neighbors was charged with killing three young Muslims in what police said on Wednesday was a dispute over parking and possibly a hate crime.

Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, a full-time paralegal student from Chapel Hill, was charged with first-degree murder in Tuesday's shootings around 5 p.m. two miles (three km) from the University of North Carolina campus.


The victims were newlyweds Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, a University of North Carolina dental student, and his wife Yusor Mohammad, 21, and Yusor's sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19.

All were involved in humanitarian aid programs.

Students at UNC, where Yusor Mohammad was going to join her husband as a student later this year, were gathering on Wednesday for an evening vigil and prayer service.

The suspect, in handcuffs and orange jail garb, appeared briefly on Wednesday before a Durham County judge who ordered him held without bail pending a March 4 probable cause hearing.

Police said a preliminary investigation showed the motive to be a parking dispute. They said Hicks, who has no criminal history in Chapel Hill, turned himself in and was cooperating.

The killings drew international condemnation. The shooting sparked the hashtag #MuslimLivesMatter on social media with many posters assailing what they called a lack of news coverage.

red more >>
________
Judge Carlton Reeves: Resurrecting the Nightmarish Specter of Lynchings in Mississippi

Late one summer night in 2011 in Jackson, Mississippi, James Craig Anderson, an African-American, was set upon in a parking lot by ten white teenagers, beaten and murdered. The gruesome killing was recorded by security cameras, and all ten teenagers, now adults, have pled guilty to various charges. In their pleas they told the court that this incident was one of many trips into Jackson, which they called “Jafrica,” to beat up black people.

Yesterday in Jackson, the first three of the defendants to be sentenced in federal court received prison terms ranging from 5 to 50 years.

The three — Deryl Dedmon, Dylan Butler and John Rice — were sentenced by Federal district court judge Carlton Reeves. In his remarks from the bench, Reeves gave a unflinching account of the state’s violent past: “Mississippi has expressed its savagery in a number of ways throughout its history — slavery being the cruelest example, but a close second being Mississippi’s infatuation with lynchings.”

And he connected Anderson’s murder directly to that bloody history:

    A toxic mix of alcohol, foolishness and unadulterated hatred caused these young people to resurrect the nightmarish specter of lynchings and lynch mobs from the Mississippi we long to forget. Like the marauders of ages past, these young folk conspired, planned, and coordinated a plan of attack on certain neighborhoods in the City of Jackson for the sole purpose of harassing, terrorizing, physically assaulting and causing bodily injury to black folk. They punched and kicked them about their bodies — their heads, their faces. They prowled. They came ready to hurt. They used dangerous weapons; they targeted the weak; they recruited and encouraged others to join in the coordinated chaos; and they boasted about their shameful activity. This was a 2011 version of the Nigger hunts.

Reeves went on to contrast the state’s current criminal justice system with the past, when the system “operated with ruthless efficiency in upholding what these defendants would call WHITE POWER.”

    Today we take another step away from Mississippi’s tortured past . . . we move farther away from the abyss. . . . Mississippi has a present and a future. That present and future has promise. As demonstrated by the work of the officers within these state and federal agencies — black and white; male and female, in this Mississippi, they work together to advance the rule of law. Having learned from Mississippi’s inglorious past, these officials know that in advancing the rule of law, the criminal justice system must operate without regard to race, creed or color. This is the strongest way Mississippi can reject those notions — those ideas which brought us here today.

He closed with hopes for the victim’s mother and the defendants:

    These sentences will not bring back James Craig Anderson. . . . The Court knows that James Anderson’s mother, who is now 89 years old, lived through the horrors of the Old Mississippi, and the Court hopes that she and her family can find peace in knowing that with these sentences, in the New Mississippi, Justice is truly blind. Justice, however, will not be complete unless these defendants use the remainder of their lives to learn from this experience and fully commit to making a positive difference in the New Mississippi. And, finally, the Court wishes that the defendants also can find peace.

Reeves was appointed to the federal bench by Obama in 2010. He is the second African-American federal judge from Mississippi.

Below is his full statement, as prepared:

Syrian rebels call on Israel to bomb Hezbollah, Iran, Syria positions in southern Syria

    Friday, February 13, 2015   No comments
Israeli officials meeting Syrian opposition figures
Mendi Safadi, who served as former Likud deputy minister Ayoub Kara’s chief of staff, has independently met with members of the liberal and democratic Syrian opposition who oppose the Islamists and want friendly relations with Israel.

Safadi met a week and a half ago with Syrian rebel leaders in Bulgaria and has traveled in the region, met with activists, and relayed messages from them to the Prime Minister’s Office.

He was responsible for relaying the congratulatory letters from the Syrian opposition to then President-elect Reuven Rivlin.

Over the past few days there has been a heavy battle going on between the forces aided by Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah against the Syrian opposition, Safadi told The Jerusalem Post in an interview on Thursday.

...

Around 2,000 Syrians have been treated in Israel, according to Safadi.

...

After receiving this hard hit, “Hezbollah and Iran want to show that they can withstand it and still have motivation to fight,” argued Safadi.

“The Syrian opposition contacted me yesterday [Wednesday] in a Whatsapp message and asked for me to relay a message to the [Israeli] prime minister that Israel should give Hezbollah and Iran another hard hit to stop their progress,” reported Safadi.

The Free Syrian Army commander of a large unit in southern Syria, who did not want to be identified, claimed to Safadi that the Syrian allied forces intend to reach the Israeli border and use it to carry out terrorist attacks against the Jewish state.

“The commander relayed to me coordinates where Syrian and Hezbollah forces are located,” said Safadi, adding that he cannot reveal this information.

Read more >>  http://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/Syrian-rebels-call-on-Israel-to-bomb-Hezbollah-Iran-Syria-positions-390896

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Security Council approves resolution targeting sources of financing for ISIL

    Thursday, February 12, 2015   No comments
Urging global cooperation “to impair, isolate and incapacitate” terrorist threats, the United Nations Security Council today approved measures targeting sources of funding for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and Al-Nusrah Front (ANF), condemning those buying oil from the groups, banning all trade in looted antiquities from Iraq and Syria, and calling on States to end ransom payments.

Unanimously adopting a Russian-led resolution, the Council reiterated its deep concern that oilfields, as well as other infrastructure such as dams and power plants, controlled by ISIL, ANF and other Al-Qaida-associated groups, “are generating a significant portion of the groups' income, alongside extortion, private foreign donations, kidnap ransoms and stolen money from the territory they control.”

As such, the Council, acting under Chapter VII of the UN Charter – which authorizes the use of force – condemned any engagement in direct or indirect trade, in particular of oil and oil products, and modular refineries, with ISIL, ANF and Al-Qaida affiliates, and reiterated that “such engagement would constitute support for such individuals, groups, undertakings and entities and may lead to further listings” by the relevant Sanctions Committee.

Today’s resolution, which bolsters the Council’s previous measures to cut off financing for ISIL and its affiliates, reaffirms the existing obligations of Member States to “freeze without delay” funds and other financial assets or economic resources of persons who commit, or attempt to commit, terrorist acts.

Coming in the wake of a spate of particularly vicious killings, including the beheading of a Japanese journalist and the immolation of a Jordanian pilot by ISIL in the past two weeks, the Council’s resolution reaffirms its condemnation of kidnapping and hostage-taking committed by the groups, further strongly condemns abduction of women and children, and expresses “outrage at their exploitation and abuse, including rape, sexual abuse, forced marriage.”

Friday, February 06, 2015

Erdoğan wants more power, so he asks for 400 deputies for his former AKP at Turkish elections -- Fethullah Gulen: Turkey’s Eroding Democracy

    Friday, February 06, 2015   No comments
Erdoğan wants 400 deputies for his former AKP at Turkish elections
Disregarding opposition criticism of his direct involvement in politics, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan once again appealed for votes for his former Justice and Development Party (AKP) without explicitly giving the party’s name, declaring that “400 lawmakers” are needed for a “new Turkey.” 

“If we want a new Turkey at the June 7 elections, we will give it 400 lawmakers,” Erdoğan said, speaking at a public rally in the northwestern province of Bursa on Feb. 6.

He linked several key issues to this newly set goal, including his desired shift to the presidential system.

“What we say is that if we want a new constitution, we have to reach 400 lawmakers,” he said.
At least 330 deputies in parliament are needed to change the constitution.

“If we want the presidential system, then we have to give 400 lawmakers. If we want the resolution process to continue, we have to give 400 lawmakers so that a strong party can come to power to realize it,” Erdoğan added, referring to the ongoing talks to find a peaceful solution to the Kurdish issue.

read more >>

____________
Fethullah Gulen: Turkey’s Eroding Democracy
By FETHULLAH GULEN

SAYLORSBURG, Pa. — It is deeply disappointing to see what has become of Turkey in the last few years. Not long ago, it was the envy of Muslim-majority countries: a viable candidate for the European Union on its path to becoming a functioning democracy that upholds universal human rights, gender equality, the rule of law and the rights of Kurdish and non-Muslim citizens. This historic opportunity now appears to have been squandered as Turkey’s ruling party, known as the A.K.P., reverses that progress and clamps down on civil society, media, the judiciary and free enterprise.

Turkey’s current leaders seem to claim an absolute mandate by virtue of winning elections. But victory doesn’t grant them permission to ignore the Constitution or suppress dissent, especially when election victories are built on crony capitalism and media subservience. The A.K.P.’s leaders now depict every democratic criticism of them as an attack on the state. By viewing every critical voice as an enemy — or worse, a traitor — they are leading the country toward totalitarianism.

The latest victims of the clampdown are the staff, executives and editors of independent media organizations who were detained and are now facing charges made possible by recent changes to the laws and the court system. The director of one of the most popular TV channels, arrested in December, is still behind bars. Public officials investigating corruption charges have also been purged and jailed for simply doing their jobs. An independent judiciary, a functioning civil society and media are checks and balances against government transgressions. Such harassment sends the message that whoever stands in the way of the ruling party’s agenda will be targeted by slander, sanctions and even trumped-up charges.

Turkey’s rulers have not only alienated the West, they are also now losing credibility in the Middle East. Turkey’s ability to assert positive influence in the region depends not only on its economy but also on the health of its own democracy.

read more >>

Thursday, February 05, 2015

At Prayer Breakfast, Obama Decries 'Distortions' of Faith to Justify Violence

    Thursday, February 05, 2015   No comments
Speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington Thursday, President Barack Obama decried groups like ISIS that commit violence in the name of religion and warned that such "distortions" are not unique to any one group of people.

"We see faith driving us to do right," he said. "But we also see faith being twisted and distorted, being used as a wedge - or worse, sometimes used as a weapon."


Calling the Islamic terror group known as ISIS or ISIL "a brutal, vicious death cult," Obama noted that its extremists oppress minorities and rape women in the name of religion.

And, he said, any faith can be "twisted" by humans to justify acts of injustice and violence.

"There is a tendency in us, a sinful tendency, that can pervert and distort our faith," he said.




read more >>

ISIL kills 3 of its Chinese members who attempted to leave

    Thursday, February 05, 2015   No comments
The Islamic State (IS) has killed three Chinese militants who tried to leave the group, an official from the Kurdish security force in Iraq told the Global Times.

The Kurdish security official  said Wednesday that in the past six months, IS has executed 120 of its members who attempted to escape from the group and leave Iraq and Syria. Among the 120, three were Chinese citizens and were members of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), a terrorist organization that is also known as the Turkistan Islamic Party.


One of the Chinese militants was seized and executed last September, according to the official. He became disillusioned with IS after arriving in Syria, but was later caught and executed after an unsuccessful attempt to flee to Turkey.

The official said the other two Chinese militants were executed last December in Iraq along with 11 other IS members from six countries. They were executed for "treason."

read more >>

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

More evidence about Saudi connections to terror organizations emerging at an increased rate

    Wednesday, February 04, 2015   No comments
There has long been evidence that wealthy Saudis provided support for bin Laden, the son of a Saudi construction magnate, and Al Qaeda before the 2001 attacks. Saudi Arabia had worked closely with the United States to finance Islamic militants fighting the Soviet Army in Afghanistan in the 1980s, and Al Qaeda drew its members from those militant fighters.

“I am convinced that there was a direct line between at least some of the terrorists who carried out the Sept. 11 attacks and the government of Saudi Arabia,” wrote Mr. Graham, who has long demanded the release of 28 pages of the congressional report on the attacks that explore Saudi connections and remain classified.


Mr. Kerrey said in the affidavit that it was “fundamentally inaccurate and misleading” to argue, as lawyers for Saudi Arabia have, that the 9/11 Commission exonerated the Saudi government.

The three former officials’ statements did not address Mr. Moussaoui’s testimony.

The 9/11 lawsuit was initially filed in 2002 but has faced years of legal obstacles. It was dismissed in 2005 on the grounds that Saudi Arabia enjoyed “sovereign immunity,” and the dismissal was upheld on appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

read more >>

No limits to ISIL cruelty: Jordan, Qatar, Turkey and Saudi Arabia facilited the funding and arming of fighters who eventually joined ISIL

    Wednesday, February 04, 2015   No comments
Just when its cruel and degrading ways is thought to have peak, ISIL finds ways to shock even its own supporters: Jordanian Salafis and others react.
Safi al-Kasasbeh, the pilot's father, called for the Jordanian government to do "more than just executing prisoners".

"I call for [IS] to be eliminated completely," he told reporters on Wednesday.

An official Saudi Arabian source quoted by the country's SPA news agency described the killing as a "barbaric, cowardly act, which is not sanctioned by the principles of tolerant Islam... and cannot be perpetrated except by the bitterest enemies of Islam".

Arab League secretary general Nabil al-Arabi said the killing was "brutal" and "beyond belief", adding that IS was "a menace which should be stopped".

Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of al-Azhar University in Egypt and one of the leading authorities in Sunni Islam condemned the killing, saying the burning to death of Lt Kasasbeh violated Islam's prohibition on the mutilation of bodies.


Even clerics sympathetic to the jihadist cause said the act of burning a man alive and filming the killing would damage Islamic State, an al-Qaida offshoot which controls wide territory in Syria and Iraq, and is also known as ISIL or ISIS.

"This weakens the popularity of Islamic State because we look at Islam as a religion of mercy and tolerance. Even in the heat of battle, a prisoner of war is given good treatment," said Abu Sayaf, a Jordanian Salafist cleric also known as Mohamed al-Shalabi who spent almost ten years in Jordanian prisons for militant activity including a plot to attack U.S. troops.

"Even if the Islamic State says Muath had bombed, and burnt and killed us and we punished him in the way he did to us, we say, OK but why film the video in this shocking way?" he told Reuters. "This method has turned society against them."

SITE, a U.S.-based monitoring service, quoted Abdullah bin Muhammad al-Muhaysini, whom it described as a Saudi jihadi, as saying on Twitter it would have been better if Kasaesbeh's captors had swapped him for "Muslim captives." His killing would make ordinary people sympathetic to Kasaesbeh, he said.


America's Allies Funded ISIL

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), now threatening Baghdad, was funded for years by wealthy donors in Kuwait, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia, three U.S. allies that have dual agendas in the war on terror.

The extremist group that is threatening the existence of the Iraqi state was built and grown for years with the help of elite donors from American supposed allies in the Persian Gulf region. There, the threat of Iran, Assad, and the Sunni-Shiite sectarian war trumps the U.S. goal of stability and moderation in the region.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Jordan to Execute al-Qaeda Prisoners After ISIL Burns Pilot Taken Hostage

    Tuesday, February 03, 2015   No comments
Jordanian pilot taken hostage by ISIL in December has been killed by the militant group. Jordan will execute al-Qaeda prisoners: Sajida al-Rishawi, Ziad al-Karbouli and four other militants.

The Jordanian pilot, Muath al-Kasaesbeh, who was captured by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in December after his plane crashed on the terrorist-controlled territory in Syria, has reportedly been burned alive on Tuesday.

Jordan has been making efforts to exchange the pilot for an al-Qaeda prisoner Sajida al-Rishawi, who was arrested after a failed suicide bombing attempt. However, one of the conditions for the exchange was that ISIL shows proof of the pilot being alive.

Earlier, Jordan has threatened to hang every ISIL prisoner they currently hold if their pilot was harmed.

A video that shows the pilot being burned alive was distributed on a twitter account that posts ISIL related propaganda.

The video shows Kasaesbeh wearing an orange jumpsuit, inside a cage, being consumed by fire.

The pilot's family and Jordanian officials have confirmed the video is authentic. Jordanian State TV reported that he was killed back on January 3, 2015.

read more >>

Sunday, February 01, 2015

How Americans really feel about Netanyahu and why it matters

    Sunday, February 01, 2015   No comments
 By Shibley Telhami January 30

 The controversy over an invitation to Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to address Congress shortly before Israeli elections has polarized the U.S. political scene. Netanyahu has been here before, of course. His transparent support for the Republican candidate for president in 2012, Mitt Romney, generated much resentment in the Democratic Party hierarchy, and certainly in the Obama administration. But this time – together with House Speaker John Boehner – he is a central player in a highly charged national political environment pitting a Republican-controlled Congress against a Democratic president; public and media attention is much greater, and the consequences potentially higher.


How this will play out in terms of U.S. politics and the impact on relations with Israel depends in part upon a more basic question: How do Americans see Bibi Netanyahu in the first place? And how do these attitudes play into a broader, and growing national divide about policy toward Israel? Some of the questions in a November 2014 poll I conducted – fielded by the research company GfK – among a nationally representative panel of 1008 Americans offer some intriguing evidence.

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