The Lesser of Two Evils

Discussion in 'Islam in General' started by Islam21c, May 2, 2012.

  1. Islam21c

    Islam21c New Member

    View attachment 7867

    The Lesser of Two Evils
    By Alomgir Ali
    "Throughout the last election campaign there were frequent discussions amongst Muslims regarding the permissibility of participating in the electoral process. This brief article does not intend to address that specific issue (dealt with by scholars elsewhere), but instead, debunk a current myth amongst many people that one of the principles that was used to justify the permissibility of voting (although not the main argument used which many people do not realise), “the lesser of two evils”, only pertains to matters of life and death and can only be applied in matters of coercion and necessity. Although this misconception is often attributed to laymen, it seems to have also found its place amongst certain callers to Islam (du’at)."
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  2. AbdulMatin

    AbdulMatin New Member

    read this article when it originally came out, and was unimpressed with it.

    there are numerous explanations of the lesser of two evils as a maxim, but this type of loose explanation to fit the reality of voting in the UK is a stretch too far. The claim that "this isn't the only proof" used actually weakens the whole proposition in any case, given that the maxim is used when necessary and not optionally.

    Anyhow there is a short refutation elsewhere which is clearer in my opinion, this is part of a longer article on the issue of voting in the UK, and it doesn't fall into any grand statements about shirk etc.

    Btw - the most obvious weakness in the pro-voting camp is the scholars approach - the last video had them all smiling in the camera basically saying "just do it" - hardly the lesser of two evils.

    Voting and Participation within un-Islamic Systems – Refuting Spurious Assertions | Islamic Culture

    "7. Voting for certain candidates to prevent others from coming in, is the lesser of two evil:
    The principle “lesser of two evils” is a sub-principle of the principle “Harm is to be lifted”[4] and is only applicable when the Shari’ah has defined the two evils, and defined which is the lesser of the two, such as the example given by al-Zayla`i and quoted by Ibn Nujaym in Ashbah wa’l-Naza’ir: “An example is that of a man who has a wound where if he were to prostrate in the Prayer the blood will flow from the wound but if he did not, then it would not flow. In this case, he must sit and pray indicating his act of bowing and prostrating because to leave the act of prostration is less evil (ahwan) than praying in a state of impurity. Is it not the case that leaving the prostration is permitted in certain conditions where one can choose not to do it like in the case of offering optional prayers while on a riding animal whereas being in a state of impurity and praying is not permitted at all…”[5] Another example Ibn Nujaym quotes is: “Likewise is the case of an elderly person who is unable to recite the Qur’an in the prayer while standing but is able to do so in a sitting posture. If this is so, he prays in a sitting posture because it is permitted to either sit or not to sit in optional prayers whereas it is not permitted to abandon the recitation in the Prayer in any circumstances…”[6]

    Here, the mind is not used to outweigh the lesser of the two evils or to decide what action to take but the text and its indications. Other examples include the difficult situation of a mother giving birth and where both are in danger of losing their lives, who then ought to be saved. Thus, the examples are connected with inevitable evils and not in cases where options to avoid the evil exist.

    Therefore, it is wholly inapplicable to apply the principle of the “lesser of the two evils” as a default premise because it forbidden to commit a haram in origin and the principle is invalidated whenever a third option exists that does not require one to commit an evil. In the case of voting for mainstream political parties, no coercion, compulsion or necessity exists. The third option is a permitted one which is to abstain and warn others from doing it. It is also not possible to tell which is the “lesser” or “greater” evil in a given situation especially when voting for these major political parties and it inevitably becomes a case of voting for who brings personal benefit. For example, in these elections none of the major parties in Britain are against the war in Afghanistan, while the xenophobic BNP is. So which is the lesser evil – increased prejudice against Muslims in the UK, or the killing of Muslims in Afghanistan? Whoever you vote for – you share responsibility in their actions since you actively empowered them.

    Some claim that by not voting you have an impact upon the result and therefore you are intrinsically involved in the action. Such a claim is demonstrably false, since its parallel would be the claim that the Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) should have participated in the ruling in Mecca, a position he was capable of given his position and stature amongst his people, since if he didn’t participate others would in his place and impose harsher laws upon him."
    Tuwaylib likes this.
  3. Tuwaylib

    Tuwaylib Anti-Defeatist

    Valid point brother AbdulMatin but, one of the points the original article did raise was that it is a legal maxim that is not neccessarily only used in issues of dharurah. Unfortunately, you have some brothers that have that understanding.
  4. Expergefactionist

    Expergefactionist hmmm... Staff Member

    I didn't advocate voting in these (or previous) elections because I couldn't see any tangible real Islamic interest, and I can't speak on behalf of Alomgir or Sh Haytham, however, my take on it is as follows:

    1) Voting for a Kafir candidate with Islamic interests at heart is not Haram to begin with, and hence, presenting abstinence as the only Halal possible option is inapplicable here.

    2) The two evils/harms being referred to here are not a) evil of a bad candidate and b) evil/harm of voting for Islamic interests -because as I said, b is not an evil to begin with. The two evils actually refer to the two candidates, a) a bad candidate for Islam and Muslims, b) a much worse candidate for Islam and Muslims.

    3) On the basis that it is not haram to vote for a kafir candidate with Islamic interests at heart, making it a Shara'i viable alternative, abstinence would mean doing nothing to minimise the harm which is in itself haram.

    As you can see, all of this is based on one maxim, and that is: Voting for a non-Muslim candidate purely out of Islamic interests is not Haram.

    What would be your criticism on this?
  5. AbdulMatin

    AbdulMatin New Member

    this is the crux of the discussion

    the criticism is as follows:

    this is a representative democracy
    this means you select a candidate, and through voting, give them their legitimacy to be your representative

    in Islam - it is permitted to give someone the right to represent you in those issues that are halal, and it is not permitted to give someone the right to represent you in those issues that are haram

    In this case - the representative, or candidate, is running on a political platform/ program. We all agree that the platform he is running upon is an unislamic, and therefore haram, platform.

    so to give your vote to that candidate would be haram, as you are - through voting -giving them legitimacy to be your representative upon his (haram) platform.

    this is based upon the political theory of representative democracy, and what voting means and entails - it is not simply a shahada as argued (and even if it was - how could you give it to these candidates!?!), but is closer to a form of wakala.

    And therefore a good intention does not free one from the implications of taking the action, similar to any other haram act, the haram in this case being giving someone your representation in that which is haram

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  6. AbdulMatin

    AbdulMatin New Member

    but actually the article does not clarify it correctly

    the point is the maxim is actually a sub-rule from the main rule regarding darura

    and it is a branch of that - in that you are compelled to take one of 2 actions
    eg. either pray sitting while wounded, therefore leaving the rukn of qiyam or not pray/ either grab the man therefore making the urine go everywhere, or leave him and the urine going to one place


    So it is correct to say it does not only apply in life and death situations, but it is not correct to claim it is applied in situations where there are various other options other than those which are in origin evil. This is a real misunderstanding.
    Last edited: May 5, 2012
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  7. AbdulMatin

    AbdulMatin New Member

    But to be honest, the difference in the rule is not as problematic IMO as the naivete of those pushing people to vote.

    Lets apply the lesser of two evils in a different way:

    the Western government are tryoing their best to integrate and assimilate muslims into their societies, and getting them to give up their Islam.

    One way - is to get them to identify with party politics, and therefore the big push to get Muslims into local and national politics through the established and independent political parties

    So pushing people to vote - the layman will inevitably be more affected by the integration policy, partially as a result of the encouragement of the "shuyukh" etc. to participate.

    So what is the lesser of two evils?
  8. The problem is when we have a situation developing where every layperson makes this determination for themselves and their vote.

    I don't consider you a 'layperson' rather I'm easily imagining your way of approaching the situation in 'seeing Islamic interest or not' being applied by those without the ability or knowledge necessary to make a determination of what constitutes a sound/valid Islamic interest.

    Also, coming out as a proponent of 'voting' without qualifying it with conditions engenders the risk of others coming along later using one's words as a general permission. This happens all the time with the words of leaders and scholars such that actions they would not approve of are sanctioned using their rulings and words out of context.

    Remove the 'Islamic interest' part and it becomes Haram. In terms of the 'at heart' part then I don't believe that the Shari'ah takes this into consideration at all. The intentions of the Kuffar should be assumed to be in their own self interest and not Islamic interests. A proven track record of supporting Muslims and their interests must be the only factor used to determine whether a candidate can [knowingly or unwittingly] serve an 'Islamic interest'.

    Notice I use the term 'Muslims and their interests' and not 'Islamic interest' because never should a Muslim believe a Kafir who pretends to know what an 'Islamic interest' amounts to where it comes to public policy or legislation. Also, oftentimes in the West, even Muslims cannot be left to distinguish between a personal/social benefit and an actual 'Islamic interest'; even less so then for a Kafir.

    In this case, the Asl for laypeople is abstinence from voting unless or until people of knowledge inform them otherwise and inform them exactly which candidate fulfills the conditions laid down by scholars. Otherwise we must place the Ijtihad involved in voting into the hands of every Muslim and allow them to vote by 'conscience' which would result in a diminished effect for the simple fact that each Muslim may vote differently or not at all thus negating the ability to achieve the 'Islamic interest' through voting.

    There is also the possibility for further division among Muslims along political lines unless Ijtihad about 'Islamic interests' and 'benefits vs. harms' in Kafir candidates is left to people of knowledge. The door to this type of division among Muslims must be kept closed and anything leading to it would also be Haram as well.

    'B' is only not an evil when 'Islamic interests' are proven and agreed to be involved. This must be proven in each instance of voting as explained in the Fatawa of scholars relied on for the ruling of the permissibility of voting.

    Only when Shar'ee benefits/harms are proven to take place in voting or not voting, according to the above reasoning.

    This would only apply in elections where there are only non-Muslim candidates, in a non-majority Muslim land, and when the 'Islamic interests' have been properly determined by Islamic authorities/people of knowledge.

    Without at least the above conditions, the potential for division among Muslims, divergent Ijtihad in the hands of laypeople, and the potential for contravening overriding 'Islamic interests' may outweigh any benefit that may be had in voting in the first place.
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  9. Expergefactionist

    Expergefactionist hmmm... Staff Member


    One doesn't need to vote for an MP in order to appoint him as his representative. An MP remains a representative of all his constituents, whether they voted for him or not. For instance, Muslims in Tooting, even if they despise Sadiq Khan for a number of valid reasons, and do not vote for him, they are still entitled to go to him and say: You represent us in the Parliament, we are your constituents, and we want you to do A, B and C on our behalf. Sadiq Khan will be obliged to do what he is asked. Legally, he cannot turn around and say: You didn't vote for me, so suffer! (Though, practically, what happens might be completely different)

    Point being, you do not have the option of having or not having a representative. You will have a representative, so the choice here is: Which of the candidates you would rather have representing you.

    And this is only based on the assumption that the UK democratic system is in reality a representative democracy. However, like any other democracy, it is far from being representative of its electorates. In reality, MPs do not represent anyone but their own interests, and to that end, make 101 promises and deliver none. This is why people do not see the point in voting for anyone at all, because the system does not do what it says: i.e. it does not represent the constituents.

    And since things are judged on the essence of what they are, instead of how they appear, it seems elections are all about bringing some MPs to power while excluding others. To many voters, it is nothing more than that. And if this is how it is to many voters, there shouldn't be anything wrong with a Muslim voting one MP in and another MP out, because the former MP is less harmful to Islam than the latter.

  10. That is actually the best argument against voting in the first place if the assertion is that without doing so harm/evil cannot be lifted or benefit/Islamic interest cannot be achieved.

    If the same thing can be achieved by lobbying or mass demonstration of political will, and these are perfectly legal ways of imposing leverage, why present the option which does not necessarily ensure effectiveness but rather immerses the general Muslim public in a situation where fulfillment of conditions to accomplish the same are next to impossible and rather the likelihood of Fitnah and division are greatly increased?

    I'm with Abdul-Matin on this- there is a huge [and false] assumption being made that 'voting' or the paradigm that one of the candidates is 'the lesser of two evils' are the solution to increasing political leverage and influence on behalf of Islamic interests in Dar ul-Kufr. All we have to do is look to other minority groups in Dar ul-Kufr who are political powerhouses and see what their path has been.

    We will find that it is all about political contributions and lobbying. Policy is not developed by a single person in any political position but rather over time and by political parties who perpetually have contenders vying for office. Influence the politics and positions of the party and you influence any given politician running for any given office on a party platform.

    Politicians will completely oppose the will of their constituents but not their financial supporters and contributors.

    A'immah would have a much easier time convincing people that spending on this or that campaign/party would yield results than voting for this or that puppet. Not that one is better in terms of supporting Kuffar in their system of Shirk in legislation, rather we should all know by now which is more effective and less likely to require Kafir muppets in the Masajid or speaking on behalf of Muslims and Islam.
    Last edited: May 5, 2012
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  11. Expergefactionist

    Expergefactionist hmmm... Staff Member

    Bro, I wouldn't like it to be another drawn out argument. Please understand the argument first. And then respond, so I may appreciate it.

    I am not saying that candidate A will fulfill his promises if Muslims vote for him!

    I said, it is given that candidate A is generally bad, but candidate B is much worse.

    I would rather I have the bad one than the worst one in, and in fact, I am ordered in Allah's religion to minimize the evil, and not doing so is evil itself.

    So please, let's try harder to understand what a person is saying before attempting to refute.
    Logic lover likes this.
  12. Ok, here goes...

    I didn't think you were and neither was I.

    For me it is not a given that 'B' is much worse, in fact history has shown that not to be the case; hence the whole principle of 'lesser of two evils' when applied to liars and thieves, i.e. politicians, goes down the drain.

    There is plenty of harm done to Allah's religion by those who think they're 'minimizing the evil' then claiming that anyone who does not do so is committing 'evil in itself'.

    Why are you so sure you're immune to that on this issue?

    I've heard this objection before during our discussions and I am going to take a shot at this and chalk it up to us simply not agreeing and it being easier for you to take the 'higher ground' by thinking I don't understand what you're saying rather than actually reply to the points I'm making.
  13. Expergefactionist

    Expergefactionist hmmm... Staff Member

    Then before branching out to other sides of this discussion, let's focus on this and keep ourselves very brief.

    Are all politicians equally evil? Or do they vary?
  14. Ma Sha Allah. Brother, you dig the holes and I'll jump in them? Is that how discussions are conducted?

    The correct question given the topic and your line of reasoning should be:

    How do we qualify 'evil' with regards to Mushrik political candidates and should the judgment be passed on them as individuals or on an issue-by-issue basis?

    I still believe the above line of questioning only makes sense on the assumed basis that simply 'voting' has within it the potential to influence legislation and public policy as opposed to other political actions AND that the positions of politicians can be attributed any kind of perpetuity such that an analysis on their positions would be valid weeks or months from the analysis [or after voted into office].

    I can answer both 'yes' and 'no' and be correct depending on the criteria.

    In Dar ul-Kufr, under systems of government that are based upon Shirk, in political arenas where stances on issues are not binding, and with candidates that are indistinguishable in their allegiance to the enemies of Muslims and their support for Shirk and Kufr, then 'yes'- Islamically-speaking all politicians are equally evil in this regard.

    However, if we look at each Mushrik and gauge their rhetoric, positions on particular issues of relevance to the Muslim community, their voting record, and also determine to what extent support from the active Muslim community might influence their ability to obtain an office, and compare them to one another, then on any given issue, 'no'- a Mushrik candidate's position on a particular issue may potentially be more or less evil compared to others [again only if they were bound in any way to adhere to a position pre- and post-election].

    It simply wouldn't be appropriate or even accurate to venture a guess, informed or otherwise, whether one Mushrik candidate as an individual was more or less evil than another.

    Political campaigns in the West today are simply not designed to put forward individuals who are so polarized on issues that they are complete opposites. Rather there is a latent homogeneity in candidates today that makes their actual voting records and stances on issues practically indistinguishable where it comes to those affecting the Muslim community, i.e. 'national security', war, UN/NATO participation, detention, due process, zoning for Masajid, charities, speech and assembly rights, treaties, etc.

    Either way, public policy and legislation does not rest in the sole domain of a single politician or political office and even when it does, those politicians often lack either the political will or clout to see through their positions in the face of an opposition congress, parliament, or public.

    And even if there were a rogue or independent politician who happened to be supportive of positions that clearly benefit Muslims and Islam, there is almost always a statistical impossibility that they have any chance of being elected.

    If you'd like to ask ambiguous questions along a line of reasoning that, given predictable responses, will ultimately prove the point you are trying to make in the framework for the discussion that I have already disapproved of as a basis, then by all means proceed.

    However, if you'd really like to have a discussion where I might have the opportunity to also present my view without having to appeal to the framework your argument requires for validity, then we can skip the whole quid pro quo and present our views and either disagree and say why or simply present parallel arguments that may or may not diverge on the issues.
    Last edited: May 5, 2012
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  15. Expergefactionist

    Expergefactionist hmmm... Staff Member

    Bro, if you answer the questions in a straightforward fashion, instead of assuming I am here to get you or digging a hole for you, it would be very conducive to the discussion.

    So, I don't care what criteria is used to decide who is more evil than who, and the fact that you are jumping to that question shows you are arguing more on assumptions than reality - just as our previous discussion where you already prejudged that we are trying to promote feminism and redefining Shara'i boundaries to that effect.

    Yes, people will have different criteria for deciding who is bad or worse, and some will be right and others will be wrong.

    But this is NOT what we are talking about here.

    So again, are all candidates equally evil? Or is one candidate more evil than the other.

    I am trying to restrict the focus of the discussion here so please stay focused and make your posts brief and to the point.

    Yes, or no?
  16. Plum

    Plum New Member

    I am in no way learned, but choosing the lesser of two evils seems like just common sense.

    Sent from my GT-I9100 using Tapatalk
  17. AbdulMatin

    AbdulMatin New Member

    No, but voting for the MP is appointing him as a representative in all the affairs upon the platform he was running upon. in other words it is through the vote he becomes empowered, and the casting off the votes is part of his empowerment.

    this is true. but is nothing to do with the act of appointment of representation. rather the appointment has been made, and to then seek your rights from him in those issues which are halal is another issue.

    again, the issue is - do we appoint the person and therefore share in his original tawqil, or not. this is what the hukm is related to.

    similarly, the dhimmi in the Islamic state will have no vote for the Khalifa, and yet when he is appointed those who voted for him or not are entitled to raise up any complaints to him. the fact that a person can avail himself to the rights of someone appointed by other than him over him, does not mean that he shared in his appointment.

    i meant it in terms of political theory, the legal sense of voting and what a vote/ voting means and the role in plays in representative democracies. a critique of democracy is for another thread iA.

    insha'Allah the answer is already made above. (its no)

    IMO the overall point here is that you have not differentiated between empowering a representative - and seeking your rights from an already appointed representative

  18. Depends which candidates.

    Some may be equally evil. Others may not be. I don't know. Depends on which ones...

    What's the point?

    Tell you what- if you could invent a new principle in the Shari'ah wherein all candidates are not equally evil then that would make every election one in which it is obligatory to participate according to one view.
    Last edited: May 6, 2012
    Umm DJ-N likes this.
  19. The best way to discuss this issue is through an example, or examples. We could take the case of Bush in '04, or Obama in '08, however something more recent will do as well-

    One example of a situation in which even though it might appear as though 2 candidates may qualify for a 'lesser of two evils' scenario, they really don't is Hollande and Sarkozy in France.

    No doubt the argument can be made that the situation of Muslims in France has greatly deteriorated under the leadership of Sarkozy, however what is the evidence that it would improve or not get worse under Hollande?

    In fact, their campaigns are virtually indistinguishable where it comes to dealing with issues that could be categorized as 'Islamic interests'.

    Case in point, in a recent debate, in fact the only one in the French presidential campaign it is reported that:


    Most of their time is spent discussing matters of interest to the general French public, not Muslims. So scholars would have to look closely at the situation in order to determine what, if any, Islamic benefit can be derived from one candidate over the other.

    The bitter truth about politics both in France and in most western countries with a sizable Muslim population is, according to one political commentator:


    Most Muslims and our leaders have the same approach- we all have our own reasons for seeing this or that candidate as 'less evil' however rarely do we ever see legally valid proof or evidence for this determination which would be required under most agreed upon Fatawa regarding the conditions needed to allow/obligate voting.

    In fact, Hollande is no different than Sarkozy with respect to Muslim interests in France:

    Hollande-No laws to satisfy Muslims

    But that won't stop an estimated 64%+ of Muslims from supporting Hollande against Sarkozy.


    Given the facts about the identical positions of Sarkozy and Hollande towards Islam, did that stop A'immah from insisting that politically active Muslims seek out different ways to influence the patently anti-Islamic policies in France?


    What was the rebuttal of a leading Islamic figure in France:

    This is just as irresponsible as telling Muslims to vote for the wrong candidate.

    Similar examples of the complete failure of leaders and scholars to regulate Muslim voting in the US, UK and elsewhere are all examples of the results of promoting some half-baked idea of the general permissibility of voting based on broad Islamic principles. These principles, while usually serving as blunt tools in the hands of scholars, become sharpened razors in the hands of the common people and irresponsible leaders.

    Rather our leaders will continue following the tide of public opinion regarding politicians and getting fooled by campaign promises and superficial differences between candidates when the fact is change in public policy and national legislation rarely, if ever, occurs through voting in general elections. That it does is simply a misconception propagated by the political establishment in order to encourage voter turnout so that they can continue to justify the election system and legitimize results.

    Every election in which there is a potential for Islamic interests to be served must be analyzed and ruled on by the scholars IF Muslims are to begin effectively utilizing 'voting' as a tool to wield political influence in the West, however it MUST be a part of a comprehensive strategy that includes lobbying, campaign contributions, and other equally if not more important tools.

    Does every single Muslim need to be a part of this? No. Should only knowledgeable and well-established Muslims take part in these activities in order to ensure the separation of participation for the sake of Islam and participation for the sake of self-serving motives? Yes.

    In this way, western politicians would learn to fear the 'voting Fatwa' every applicable election cycle. They would come to know that when an Islamic interest is involved and the A'immah get together and declare a vote for a particular candidate, that millions of votes and millions of dollars would automatically come into play. If you want to see politicians falling all over themselves like they do for the Jewish vote, then that is the path that must be taken.

    However I don't hold out any hope for the above scenario, even though it is the only one in which the Shari'ah objectives of political participation on the part of common Muslims can be realized.

    This will remain an issue on which advanced students of knowledge and scholars can brow-beat others into accepting theories while communities of Muslims in the West continue to suffer the inevitable results of theoretically valid Usul/Fiqh arguments but poorly planned and inconsistently implemented rulings- continued political irrelevance and anti-Islamic public policies despite demographics in our favor.

    I'd really like to see the other side of the argument that attempts to show how one or the other candidate in the presidential election in France was more or less evil.

    And a really neat trick would be to make the determination of more or less evil before an election with then available information and to come out being correct even half the time. That would literally require political analysts working in conjunction with Islamic scholars and A'immah of Masajid. However I can't count the number of times I've seen disappointed and disillusioned political analysts on Sunday talk shows only months after elections are over.

    Does that mean we shouldn't even try? No. But it does mean that every effort must be calculated, precise, and concerted to ensure the least amount of risk to common Muslims in terms of encouraging Shirk in al-Hakamiyyah, and the greatest amount of benefit in terms of effective political influence.
  20. Expergefactionist

    Expergefactionist hmmm... Staff Member

    JK for summing it up. This is precisely the issue. However, the question here is not about appointing a representative; because you do not need to. Whether or not you vote, as a citizen of UK you are represented anyway, whether you like it or not. This isn't something where you have a choice. The Hukm Shara'i we are talking about here is not about something we have no choice in, i.e. empowering a representative.

    Rather, it is about empowering the bad instead of the worst of the inevitable representatives, for this is something you do have a choice in. For example, you are dying of thirst, and someone offers you i) alcohol or ii) poison, and says: If you don't drink alcohol, we will give you poison. So naturally you opt for alcohol. This scenario is exactly the same as the current voting scenario where you will have representatives anyway, whether or not you vote. So you can either vote for a bad representative, if not, you will end up with the worst of the two.

    In this sense, the differentiation between empowering a representative and accepting a representative after he has been elected (which itself is as questionable as empowering in the first place), is a moot point.

    What do you think?

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