An open letter to the West from a Muslim

Published: January 23, 2015
The writer is a scholar of constitutional democracy and has written widely on human rights and international law in academic journals and newspaper outlets including The Guardian and Foreign Policy

The writer is a scholar of constitutional democracy and has written widely on human rights and international law in academic journals and newspaper outlets including The Guardian and Foreign Policy

This week, the British Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government wrote a letter to Muslim leaders in Britain urging them to do more to combat radicalisation. This article is a response to the letter. 

Dear Rt Hon Pickles and Lord Ahmad,

Peace be upon you too, or, Waalaykum Asalam.

Thank you for your letter to Muslims living in Britain.

In this difficult climate, where violence and extremism has been testing bonds of inter-communal harmony and tolerance, your letter reaching out to us means a lot. In particular, we appreciate that you acknowledge that “acts of extremism are not representative of Islam”. We also wholeheartedly agree that “there is more work to do” and that “integration and radicalisation cannot be solved from Whitehall alone. Strong community-based leadership at a local level is needed”.

We share your concerns: we are also alarmed and concerned about the rise of fundamentalism and extremism within the Muslim community. The Paris incident shocked Muslims as much as it shocked non-Muslims. As a religious community, we fully recognise that if individuals within our community are inciting hatred or depriving others of rights — whether that be the right to life, to freedom of expression, to speech or any other right — we as leaders and indeed the community must help discourage such actions, in particular by persuading youth vulnerable to commit such acts to refrain from them and express their disagreements in peaceful ways.

Yet, we cannot do this without your help. Indeed, until you share our burden and take concrete steps to defeat the root causes of radicalisation, I am afraid we will just be pointing fingers at each other and will achieve little. That is, the challenges of radicalisation cannot be solved in mosques alone; the British government has a much larger role to play than you seem to acknowledge.

Let me explain.

As experienced British politicians, you must know that in order to persuade anyone to do anything differently, one must have credibility. That is, we must not come across as Janus-faced or hypocritical when we talk about “values” and “rights”.

And therein lies the problem.

British politicians and government continually deploy the rhetoric of ‘British values’, ‘human rights’ and ‘freedoms’ internationally to do precisely what the extremists do; that is, ‘destroy’ the freedoms of those who look or talk and believe differently to us. Britain has violated international norms and human rights on multiple occasions. Indeed, we have seen terrible things committed in the name of ‘British’ or ‘Western’ values. Such actions are an affront to the greatness of Britain.

How then can we persuade others that we are serious when it comes to, as you say, “free speech, the rule of law and democracy”?

Here is what we think you can do to change things. You, as persons in power in Britain, are in a unique position in British society. You have a precious and historic opportunity, and an important responsibility. We believe that together we have an opportunity to demonstrate the true nature of British values and demonstrate that we actually believe our own rhetoric about rights and that we will not apply them selectively and with discrimination.

Accordingly, we have a few simple suggestions.

First, you must assure us that you will not drag Britain or its values down by continuing to invade weaker countries in the name of ‘self-defence’ causing immense destruction. Around 350,000 people have been killed by the wars started by Britain and its ally, the United States, since 2001 alone. At the very least, 174,000 of these were civilians who never attacked nor harmed Britain. You may craft interesting theoretical arguments to justify why British violence was somehow different or justifiable; you may say that the attacks of 9/11, which killed around 2,753 innocent people motivated these “necessary” invasions but that is precisely the kind of causal logic that terrorist groups deploy to justify attacks against British or Western interests; the difference lies in their choice of words — they use the rhetoric of ‘Islam’ and you invoke the rhetoric of ‘Western values’. The bottom line does not lie: 174,000 innocent people have been killed. Simply because we do not see 350,000 dead or hear their stories on television does not erase the enormous magnitude of destruction that Britain has participated in.

Next, you must promise us that Britain will not aid or abet or participate in illegal and aggressive wars: yes, by this, we mean Iraq; it was not so long ago that a government of Britain acted in concert with George W Bush to invade a country that had not attacked any other country, on false pretexts, such as the existence of “weapons of mass destruction” or because, as Tony Blair felt “Saddam was a “monster”. Today, Iraq is a broken country with hundreds of thousands of families devastated. Can you promise that Britain will never again take actions that tear a country apart and rob people of the right to life?

Moving on, you must put systems in place so that Britain does not continue to violate or help others violate humanitarian law. Will you commit that Britain will never again help other countries (by for example, providing intelligence) or act on its own, in bombing and killing women and children as they sleep or attend weddings and funerals several thousand miles away from the British border, through drone attacks or otherwise?

We know European lives matter, but so do the lives of children and women in Pakistan. The United States says it miraculously only targets the guilty, but surely we in Britain do not believe in being judge and executioner on such a large scale?
Further, it is now common knowledge that “in recent years a number of people who have been subjected to torture and other ill-treatment in Guantanamo Bay, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Egypt and Morocco and elsewhere have alleged that UK officials knew of their ill-treatment and not only did nothing to prevent it but actively assisted their abusers”. Can you promise that Britain will not be complicit in violating the right not to be tortured or engage in ‘extraordinary rendition’ again?

We must also not be two-faced when we talk about the ‘rule of law’ and ‘free speech’ whilst quietly aiding regimes abroad that believe in the precise opposite of such values: one need not look any further than the Middle East to see how Britain beds itself with regimes that have little regard for “British values”, lest we forget that the “monster” Blair referred to (Saddam) was a friend of Britain, even as he gassed the Kurds. Indeed, “£2.35billion of loans [were] handed out to foreign … countries much of [which] has been spent on British-made arms, which are then used to control citizens of repressive regimes.”

Finally, in the same way that Muslims in Britain have been asked to identify vulnerable persons who are at risk of radicalisation, it is only fair that you do precisely the same by invoking the rule of law and punishing those in positions of power who ended up wrecking countless non-European lives and countries.

We are confident that if we together work by taking steps to truly and visibly signal that freedom and human rights matter, we can be successful and treat the cancer of ideological radicalism and overcome those who wish to spread war and destruction, whether in the name of ‘Islam’ or the ‘West’.

We welcome your thoughts, ideas and initiatives on how to ensure that Britain’s true message of peace triumphs over those who have tortured British values in recent times.

Yours faithfully,

Muslim leaders.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 23rd,  2015.

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Reader Comments (42)

  • Nisar
    Jan 23, 2015 - 2:25AM

    Very disappointed to see this type of article in a progressive news paper like ET. None of the arguments, let me repeat NONE of the arguments raised by the author justify acts of terrorism carried out by Muslims born and raised in the West against their native countries. These types articles generate more hostility against us, not less.
    There are British and American Christian citizens who vehemently oppose Iraq war and other policies. Bombing buses, trains and using machine guns to slaughter civilians are not the way to protest.


  • Imran Bhatt
    Jan 23, 2015 - 3:03AM

    Keep calm and keep on comparing apples with oranges.


  • MP
    Jan 23, 2015 - 3:17AM

    I hope this letter is not representative of muslims else they will continue to be seen as potential terrorists across the world. First muslims will go to a peaceful community, then try to keep practicing savage laws and will also try to propagate them in the name of freedom of speech and when someone will expose that, they will attack and kill them and afterwards if the community members request them to stop such nonsense they will write foolish letters like this.


  • Ejaaz
    Jan 23, 2015 - 3:54AM

    Fascinating. If I understand correctly, the decision taken by the parliament wrongly or rightly should be judged by the country’s Muslim immigrants. If they think the Parliment acted unjustly towards the Muslims around the world then they do not need to do help out the unjust state they moved to. Did I get that right?


  • CV
    Jan 23, 2015 - 3:58AM

    Nice long rant just to avoid you saying that you do not reject blasphemy on principal grounds. Let’s not kid ourselves. Before the Iraq invasion, there were and still are dozens of Muslim countries with blasphemy laws. People were killed before any Blair led soldier stepped a foot in Iraq. Think of the Rusdie affair. Westerners and people of Islam think fundamentally different on issues like blasphemy or democracy. No amount of sophistry can hide that.


  • ajeet
    Jan 23, 2015 - 5:14AM

    An open letter from Hindus to Muslim leaders
    Dear leaders
    Why is it that minorities don’t have any rights in most of the Muslim countries, but Muslims want exceptional rights in non Muslim countries. Also, why there are no extremism among minorities in Muslim countries though they are treated worse than what Muslims face in non Muslim countries?

    A Hindu.


  • Kamal
    Jan 23, 2015 - 6:16AM

    Hear! Hear! The power of the pen and speech. Also enlist Mr Galloway to add to the eloquence of the message.


  • vasan
    Jan 23, 2015 - 6:26AM

    And by the way what do u intend to do or advise the extremist mobs and muslim countries which support them like Saudi and PakistanRecommend

  • Ch. Allah Daad
    Jan 23, 2015 - 7:19AM

    Prepare yourself for the consequences of your open letter to leader of an evil empire. Police is on its way to arrest you. Within days you will be awarded punishment of 1000 lashes. On every Sunday you will get 100 lashes in front of Canterbury Cathedral.


  • Alfa Romeo
    Jan 23, 2015 - 7:40AM

    Somehow the author seems to justify terrorism exactly in the same way millions of Muslims justify terrorism across various forums. Ask I say is if Muslims in the west don’t like the way of life, just outreach up and leave, live in a Muslim country of your choice.
    Charlie hedbo out other news papers have been publishing cartoons against all religious icons. & that country believes in freedom. If Muslims don’t like it go to Pakistan.


  • Jan 23, 2015 - 7:43AM

    What a strange response to a letter by a British Government Minister who was trying his best to encourage confidence in British Muslims to stand up for themselves…


  • Explorer
    Jan 23, 2015 - 7:52AM

    As a South Asian, I feel the author is protesting too much.It boils down to the choice of the migrants and their progeny— imbibe the values of the country you have migrated to or return to your country of origin.. You can’t have the cake and eat it too. A point to ponder is why Christians, Hindus and Buddhists migrating to Europe have no problems in integrating in those societies.


  • Paul
    Jan 23, 2015 - 7:52AM

    Disappointing to see this article on ET by someone who supports the actions of the so-called fringe elements of Muslim society in the west by bringing up Islamophobia and Iraq and who considers himself to be a spokesperson for “Muslim Leaders” as attributed to in this fictitious missive. Amrullah Saleh once said that Pakistanis constantly indulge in 3D: denial, deflection and deception and this article is nothing but an exercise in deflection — A rather ordinary diatribe that would entrench existing positions and not add an iota to amelioration.


  • Chachoo
    Jan 23, 2015 - 9:12AM

    Meanwhile all Pakistanis state “We hate West. But. Give us the Nationality of any Western Country and we will do everything to reach their shores. Once we will reach there then the DARD of Muslims will be ignited in ourself and we will try to change West with our intricate arguments”


  • Prakash
    Jan 23, 2015 - 9:15AM

    Demonize Bush and Blair, the two democratically elected leaders who did what they had to do for their countries, and idolize Ghazis and Ghazenavis who massacred the innocents without a rhyme or reason. Not mere hypocrisy, but hypocrisy in all its awesomeness!


  • Aphtab
    Jan 23, 2015 - 9:31AM

    The author lacks the intellectual depth to understand the issue. He comes across as a terrorist apologist.


  • Milind
    Jan 23, 2015 - 9:54AM

    I know Pakistanis see Saudis as their role-model, however here are a few tidbits that would help restore clarity
    1. Saudis preach radical Islam, but have tight control on those elements. All the radical elements are sponsored & reared outside the country. Any rebel or terrorist act within the kingdom is brutally crushed.
    Pakistanis mimic Saudis, rear terrorists on their soil, lose control and land in a mess.
    2. Saudis know where to stop. The moment when Saudis saw the danger posed by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, they abandoned it and sided with Sisi.
    Pakistanis have no clue..
    3. Continuation of point#2… Saudis wisely condemned the murder of Charlie Hebdo journos and the Saudi king expressed solidarity.
    4. Pakistanis are still struggling to find their feet on this issue.

    And btw..
    Last time I checked, France opposed the 2004 invasion of Iraq and did not participate in it. It bravely faced hostility from the world’s superpower.
    It voted for Palestine in the U.N.
    Thus your writeup doesn’t hold water. There can be no justification of attacks on CH…


  • Imad Uddin
    Jan 23, 2015 - 11:08AM

    You have questioned too many “fundamental assumptions” at once… for example:
    1 Extremism is what is done by members of a backward society wearing turbans, and not by those eloquently presenting reasons and dresses in expensive clothes
    2 Whats procedural and political should not be termed violence
    3 Western norms are legitimate and Islam and Muslims are illegitimate
    4 More media coverage of incidents in West depicts the correct weight-age in terms of injustice committed
    5 Explanation of causes of extremism equals justifying terrorism
    Those pure souls who are fundamentalists, with regard to these presumptions, will not buy your viewpoint. Take your sinister rant somewhere else.


  • Emjay
    Jan 23, 2015 - 11:17AM

    More than enough attention has been given to this Paris issue in our country, especially in the presence of very real existential threats of our own. Enough of showing our non-existent fangs to the west now, and more focus on some of our myriad problems. Trying starting with terrorism.


  • John B
    Jan 23, 2015 - 12:15PM

    Muslim first, British second, Humanist last.

    I am beginning to believe that the problem is systemic.


  • Sashi
    Jan 23, 2015 - 1:45PM

    Just who is this bloke? And he is a Ph.D? You have got to be kidding me! But, what is heart warming is that all the commentators, most of who I presume are “ordinary” and not Ph.D Pakistanis, have unequivocally trashed his logic. I cannot believe this asinine response to an existential crisis worldwide.


  • Parvez
    Jan 23, 2015 - 1:53PM

    When the laws and values of a country are used by those ‘ wearing their religion on their sleeve ‘ to further their rightist views, then that country has a right to take steps to protect itself and it could also mean changing their laws to protect themselves. If it came to that ….guess who would be the loser ?


  • Freeman
    Jan 23, 2015 - 1:56PM

    Conflating different things – immigrant Muslims in Britain and British foreign policy/Ummah politics all rolled into one. You are a holder of a Ph.D. (piled higher and deeper?) and a “scholar” of “constitutional democracy”? Is it not “constitutional Islamic democracy” by any chance? So talking of “British values in Britain is wrong by native British politicians? Should they talk of their “Islamic” values” instead to make guests feel more welcome? It is not surprising to see the xenophobic right-wing parties in the UK and across Europe rising as with the populations of the highly fertile foreign immigrants, who profess and cling to values alien to British, German, French and other European values, which they brought from their native illiberal non-Christian homelands. Such aliens, who would bite the very hands that feed them, would make anyone xenophobic! Dr. Ahmed you need to return to your native land where your anti-intellectual idiotic message would be better appreciated.


  • Puneri
    Jan 23, 2015 - 2:14PM

    So what this author is saying is ” if the british gov. is asking its citizens (muslim citizens in this particular case) not to indulge in terrorism, extremism and hate speech – they should ask their government to ensure the well being of not just british muslims but every single muslim is the world. According to this author before britain decides to act in its self interest, they should take a veto from all muslim communities of the world. This guys should write for extremist groups and not a mainstream newspaper. Shameful that he got published here.


  • John B
    Jan 23, 2015 - 2:58PM

    “This guys should write for extremist groups and not a mainstream newspaper.” – indeed.

    “Shameful that he got published here.” – No .

    ET did an excellent Job by giving him space so that we all can read into the mindset.

    Hopefully, the comments here will help him realize that his education is a waste.

    This article should be preserved in archives. An excellent case study.


  • Pops
    Jan 23, 2015 - 3:06PM

    What does the author have to say about the Islamic extremists that want to turn Buckingham Palace into a Mosque and enforce their 14th century laws on the west?

    Or to the Muslim lady that beat her seven year old son to death because he couldn’t recite the chapter from the Quoran?

    Muslims just don’t integrate into western society, and want to change it to the one they left for a better life.


  • Dr Ghulam Ali
    Jan 23, 2015 - 3:36PM

    Very logical, relevant and to the point. Indeed two extremes are working at the same time: Islamic fanaticism and Western liberal fascism (the latter sugarcoated with “liberal values” “free societies”). Both are dangerous trends.
    Reasons elaborated by authors cannot be overlooked while addressing religious extremism. Happy that someone has the courage to project this view point..


  • Striver
    Jan 23, 2015 - 5:04PM

    After a quick read of some of the comments against this article, one wonders if we are preaching to a people of seared conscience.

    The article is an excellent response. It cuts through the political rhetoric and goes straight to the heart of the problem. If you want to solve the issues of “terrorism” the West needs to do some soul-searching of its own. The article is a good starting point on a pathway of peace.

    For Muslims, we need to rework the interpretations used by extremists to justify their actions in the same way as we are asking the West to do. The West must provide the conditions for peace to flourish. The burden for this rests on their shoulders; they have a monopoly on decision-making and know-how to implement their decisions.



  • Khalid Malhi
    Jan 23, 2015 - 6:21PM

    After reading all the comments and the main article. One thinks the world is in wilderness, they have negative thinking about the Muslims Why should’nt they. The Muslims themselves helped the countries to kill Muslims and still continuing. I think the comment writer think Muslims are not human they should be killed by bombs,drones,bobby traps,on busy road by american agents, imprisoned and tortured.
    I just think the writer of the article has rightly pointed out the facts which are clear and he just requires the countries to change their radical nonsensical policies of killing innocent human beings who have no fault of theirs.They themselves train ,fund and place the terrorist in the countries where they want destruction and killing of humans Remember all Muslim countries do not have the technology and means to originate attacks of high calibre.They use Muslims to kill or attack Muslim countries for absurd reasons. Muslims are peace loving non violent,helping, hard working and are participating their major share to the progress of the world as they control 75% of the resources of the world but their thinking is progressive peaceful world. Please stop the disinformation drive against the Muslims come out of your shells and enjoy the harmony between humans. Be a human first stop supporting the killers of millions of humans.No reasoning can justify killing of humans at any cost.,


  • Madhav Das
    Jan 23, 2015 - 7:31PM

    Why is it that mostly Muslims run away from their own country to settle down in the West? And why is it that once these western countries let them in, these same Muslims try and make their adopted country into a copy of the hateful nations that they ran away from in the first place?
    Have you ever heard of anyone from Western countries banging on the doors of Muslim countries begging to be let in?


  • Aftab Siddiqui
    Jan 23, 2015 - 8:50PM

    Bush & Blair are the biggest cons of the world they started an unjust war in a wrong country and sowed the seeds of disharmony among the world communities. And the so called holder of high moral values Blair does rake in millions of dollars from the President of Kazikstan, who is exactly the same autocratic, murderous leader as Saddam was. Hypocracy is at display all across us can we say with hand on our hearts that Blair is guardian of British values.

    It is sad reflection that if any writer attempts to put forward a thesis which tries to go to the heart of the problem we are facing as a country he/she is abused and made an outcast. You may not agree with every argument presented by the author of this piece but it does not make him an apologist for the miscreants and terrorists as in this piece there is no comment where he supports terrorists.


  • Rex Minor
    Jan 23, 2015 - 9:26PM

    This week, the British Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government wrote a letter to Muslim leaders in Britain urging them to do more to combat radicalisation. This article is a response to the letter.
    Let me say in few sentences what the author has tried to say in the article.
    The domestic order among the communities of a country is very much linked and influenced by its foreign policy today than in the past, because of the rapid digitalisation of the globalised world. We as the responsible leaders in our commuities will undertake every possibility to encourage understanding and the tolerence of muslims with non muslims. However, it would be of great help if the Govenment equaly give due consideration to this factor in its foreign policy as well.

    Rex Minor


  • abulfzl
    Jan 23, 2015 - 9:53PM

    Every justification/defence of islam will cause islam to become more fascistic.


  • Freeman
    Jan 24, 2015 - 12:15AM

    @John B: John, I agree 100% with you! More speech, including what may be considered hateful and insulting speech by some, is preferable to less speech as it reveals the mindset of even the most so-called educated people. The readers – most from Pakistan – are almost unanimous in their condemnation, which should hearten anyone. Maybe res should Google his opinions for The Guardian and Foreign Policy magazine.


  • Yo2Da2
    Jan 24, 2015 - 12:42AM

    @Aftab Siddiqui: Yes, Bush, Blair and the West get demonized for all the ills besetting the poor Muslims everywhere. Before 9/11, all the ills were being blamed on European colonialism. “If not for US support for Saudi Arabia and other Middle East dictators” was and is a common wistful refrain, as if the Middle East and its Caliphates were all liberal, freedom loving democracies; ever!. Why do Muslims continue to pour into North America, Europe and Australia despite the resentments against those countries? Is it hypocrisy? Is it a silent declaration of war to convert everyone to Islam? Or is it simply lack of self-respect and self-knowledge? What is it that motivates such contradictory behavior – demonizing the West and wishing to reside there?


  • Yo2Da2
    Jan 24, 2015 - 12:51AM

    @abulfzl: Than it already has been throughout its history?


  • observer
    Jan 24, 2015 - 11:25AM

    We must also not be two-faced when we talk about the ‘rule of law’ and ‘free speech’ whilst quietly aiding regimes abroad that believe in the precise opposite of such values:

    You mean Britain should not aid the regimes in Pakistan, Malaysia, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia because they deny ‘rule of law’ and ‘free speech’ to Ahmadiyas and Shias?


  • Aftab Siddiqui
    Jan 24, 2015 - 5:18PM

    @Yo2Da2: Prevalent mood is to mix immigration from east to west and the terrorist issue. Communities and individuals have been immigrating for centuries in search of good life. It is basic human nature we in the west can’t sit on a pedestal now and say we don’t need them. Immigration is a two way street we benefit from their work and talent no wonder all big businesses are against any curbs on legal immigration and the migrating person and families also benefit from it.
    The miscreants who are using religion to hide their evil deeds are in many cases second generation of these immigrants so they are by definition indigenous they are from our societies same as Timothy McVeigh of Oklahoma tragedy. We as society cant disown them we have to engage them and try to be inclusive which is a great hall mark of any good society.
    Demonizing West is not an answer when millions marched in London it was an event supported by all logical and peace loving citizens regardless of origin and religion. It did not demonize the western civilization. However, it shed light on the dark corridors of power where decisions are made not on merit but what profits Halliburton and other oil & armaments businesses can make these are controlled by the Bush lobby. So the demonization if any needs to be done it is to identify the main characters and let them face the full force of law through UN War Tribunal or Intl court of justice. Chilcot inquiry which is 6 years in writing we hope may help the British public understand truth about a conflict that millions of them opposed, whose lethal fallout can still be felt across the world today (source Independent 23 Jan 15)
    Many commentators agree that the mess we see in Syria in the shape of IS is an outcome of the policy played out in the Iraq in the name of western civilization by these so called leaders who had vested interests to start that unjust war and they do not represent true civic and decent values.


  • Toba Alu
    Jan 24, 2015 - 10:14PM

    More and more people in the west start to realise that Islam is not just another religion but also a social, economic, and political ideology, equal to nationalism. Firstly Muslim then country of origin, thirdly host country. Based on the ideology any argument can be used to turn them into extremists, wether social, economic, political or religious all under the guise of freedom of religion. The hard core values of this nationalistic ideology makes integration virtual impossible. Ultimately a clash is unavoidable. No country can have a state within a state. The author proves it.


  • Razi
    Jan 25, 2015 - 11:39PM

    Most of the commentators here are Indians. Their demonisation of the author, particularly by the rabid John B, is all too predictable. That they can simply ignore the number of people killed by the West in recent times and harp about the warped idea of freedom of speech whenever Muslims are involved is expected but shows the inherent evil in these commentators.


  • Yo2Da2
    Jan 28, 2015 - 7:13AM

    @Dr Ghulam Ali: “Western liberal fascism”? That one you gotta explain to me, Dr. Ali. I understand “Islamic fanaticms”.


  • Yo2Da2
    Jan 28, 2015 - 7:30AM

    @Khalid Malhi: Absurd reasons, indeed. Is fighting a war against the jihadis who attacked the US, Britain, Spain, Germany, France, India, Argentina, China, and other countries absurd reason enough? Would you a prefer a conventional war with ground troops, air strikes, and naval embargoes that would totally destroy Islamic countries harboring, training, and arming these global Islamic fanatics? It would be a WWIII, a war to end all wars. Simply blaming the West and other countries for defending themselves is rather ignorant. Yes, most Muslims (80%) are nonviolent and that is reason the war is being fought the way it is (using drones and targeted action) so as not to wantonly kill innocents. But 20% of 1.6 billion is still a lot of people who are violent and take their hateful inspiration from their religion. And these people are either based in Muslim majority countries or from within the Muslim immigrants who have failed to accept Western culture and values of the countries they’re living in. So the choice is clear: You can either join the fight, or for ever hold your peace. Good day!


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