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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 12 Jul 2016, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Burqa Revolution' In Kerala Was an Early Sign of Islam Radicalisation in the State

New Age Islam News Bureau

12 Jul 2016

 Photo: In many other parts of India as well, the burqa found increasing favour with Muslim women, prompting some writers to call it a ‘burqa revolution’. Reuters


 Yazidi Female Fighters Tell Daesh They'll 'Wipe Them Out'

 ‘I Dodged Sniper Fire with The Brave Kurdish Women Fighting ISIS’

 Who Are They, These Revolutionary Rojava Women, Bearing Arms Against ISIS?

 Why it’s ‘Perfect Timing’ For a Muslim Woman in Australian Parliament

 Ridge Designer Makes Demure Clothes for Muslim Women

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




Burqa revolution' in Kerala was an early sign of Islam radicalisation in the state

JULY 12, 2016

Till some 20 years ago, the burqa was not a Muslim woman’s default costume in Kerala. Muslim women wore kachathuni (a mundu or dhoti), pennu kuppayam (a full-sleeved loose blouse) and thattom (long scarf). This outfit differed only slightly from what the Christian and Hindu women wore. Or like the others, some Muslim women wore sari and blouse or modern attires, Indian or western.

But all this changed by the year 2000. Surveys conducted around that time reported that the number of burqa-wearers in the Muslim-dominated northern districts of Kerala had gone up from less than 10 percent to over 30 percent. Burqa-clad girls and women gradually became a familiar sight in Kerala’s offices, colleges and other institutions like never before.

In many other parts of India as well, the burqa found increasing favour with Muslim women, prompting some writers to call it a ‘burqa revolution’. But nowhere was the trend more noticeable than in Kerala and the reasons for the veil’s new popularity too were different in the southern state.

In Kerala, the ‘burqa revolution’ was one of the first visible signs that the state’s Muslim community was radicalising itself.

If 15 young men and women have vanished from the state and apparently joined the Islamic State (IS), it’s not the result of a dramatic overnight phenomenon. It’s the result of a process that began a long time ago.

And the process continues.

And it’s not a coincidence that the rise of the burqa as a high-fashion costume closely followed the boom in Gulf jobs. It was first the Muslim men working in the Middle East, who began to insist that their women back home must don the hijab.

Many migrants believed that the Islam they found in the Gulf was the “real” Islam and the Arabs who practised it were the “real Muslims”. Many Muslim men of Kerala began to ape not only the customs of Arabs but also their costumes. The women accepted it and even made it a piece of haute couture. Many shops have sprouted to sell a wide range of designer burqas. Amazon and Snapdeal, among others, flaunt a stunning variety of burqas, some of which beat the best party gowns in look and design.

At the same time, clean-shaven Muslim men began to grow beards. Those who had beards grew them longer.

Yet, it is preposterous and grossly unfair to Islam to say that every woman who switched to the burqa and every man who sported a beard turned traitor and terrorist. Radicalisation was a loose word used to describe a process which, for most Muslims, simply meant assertion of their religious identity.

I know many Muslims who have become more religious, but who continue to be as fiercely patriotic and remain as fervently opposed to terrorism as before. For many, burqas and beards were also just a harmless reaction to what they perceived to be Western propaganda against Islamic symbols. And they had a right to assert their identity.

At the same time, this also threw up a major warning. For a very tiny fraction of misguided and vulnerable Muslims, the process of radicalisation meant more than identity assertion. It meant militancy. But nobody — neither the fiercely nationalistic Muslim scholars, nor the police or political parties — took note of the warning.

And there was always the subtle and soft propaganda by ostensibly respectable outfits such as the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind (JIH) that tossed around words like “Islamic movement” and “old order of Islam”. This was long before terrorism preachers such as Zakir Naik came on the scene. Jamaat-e-Islami had been founded in Lahore in 1941 and, after India’s partition, split into Jamaat-e-Islam Pakistan and Jamaat-e-Islam Hind.

Look at this gem that JIH posted on its website on Sunday. It called Zakir Naik a “renowned Indian personality of international repute”. It condemned the “negative propaganda” against Naik as “sad and against the Constitutional freedom of practising one’s faith and freedom of speech”.

After the “burqa revolution”, there have been many other warnings.

Jacob Punnoose, who was the first head of Kerala’s Anti-Terrorist Squad, told The New Indian Express on Sunday that everyone accepted the “ground reality” (of the state’s terror link) when four men from the state were killed in an encounter at a Lashkar-e-Tayyaba camp in Jammu and Kashmir in October 2008.

But Punnnoose must remember that “everyone” should have accepted this “ground reality” much earlier. He should remember the man called Thadiyantavide Nazeer from Kerala’s Kannur, who had in the first pace recruited the men killed in the Kashmir encounter. Punnoose should be aware that Nazeer had disappeared after an alleged attempt to kill then Chief Minister EK Nayanar in 1999 and, even as he was on the run, was suspected to be responsible for many terror attacks, including the 2008 Bangalore blasts.

After his arrest in 2009, and trial by a special court of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in the LeT recruitment case, Nazeer and 12 others were sentenced to life in October 2013. Nazeer was one of the early kingpins of Kerala’s terror network.

He probably still is. Shanahas, an associate of Nazeer who was arrested in November 2015, told the police that Nazeer had been sending WhatsApp messages from jail and plotting terror attacks. This happened despite the order by NIA’s special court judge that Nazeer and the others, whom he had sentenced for life, were a big threat to the nation and they should be monitored closely in prison.

Yet, Nazeer managed to lay his hands on a mobile phone to send WhatsApp messages.

The alarm bell rang again. And once again, the ‘snooze’ button was pressed.

There were plenty of other pointers to the immensity of Kerala’s link to terror. Just a few months before the 2008 Kashmir encounter, the police found that the Students’ Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) had conducted a “training camp” at Wagamon in Kerala. Participants in the camp were being trained in the use of arms and the making of bombs.

At the root of the problem is the fact that there has been no political will to heed those warnings. The Congress has been wary of the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), the second-largest partner in the United Democratic Front (UDF). The IUML calls itself a secular party, but its concept and practice of secularism often flummoxes both the Congress and political analysts.

To counter IUML’s — and the UDF’s — influence, the CPM, which leads the Left Democratic Front (LDF), has been flirting with fringe Muslim extreme groups.

And the people of Kerala can only hope that the new LDF Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan will be different.



Yazidi Female Fighters Tell Daesh They'll 'Wipe Them Out'

12 July 2016

Near the front lines of northern Iraq, there are a number of volunteer brigades comprised of locals who have taken on the bold task of defending their villages from Daesh. They are located west of the city of Mosul, the self-proclaimed Islamic caliphate's largest stronghold in the country.

One of the villages, Wadi Shlo, is being defended by an atypical battalion – an all-female Yazidi group. The Yazidis are ethnically Kurdish and native to the region; they practice their own monotheistic religion.

Faced with the prospect of living as slaves under Islamic fundamentalist tyranny, these ladies chose instead to put on military uniforms, take up arms and look bravely into the frightening eyes of the terrorist threat.

Every female soldier has her own task: while some exchange fire with the enemy on the front lines, others provide the support functions that are essential to any fighting force.

Sputnik Arabic sat down with one of the front-line soldiers to learn the details of their day-to-day fighting.

Red-haired 22-year-old Wadhat Khalil Salekh took part in the liberation of Sinjar province, and has been involved since the very first days of the operation. She told Sputnik that female brigades have conducted a number of offensives over the last several months to liberate their homeland from Daesh.

There are hundreds of Yazidi women and girls fighting the terrorists alongside Yazidi men.

“I decided to join one of the female battalions, Yekîneyên Jinên Sengalê, since the terrorists committed genocide against our people in August, 2014,” she told Sputnik.

“Now I am taking part in the military operation in Sinjar province to fully liberate my homeland from the terrorists,” she added.

Wadhat, together with her two sisters, has killed scores of terrorists. Her task is not only fighting at the front-line but repelling counter-attacks during the liberation of occupied villages.

“At first we were being trained by women from the People’s Protection Units of Sinjar (HPG) on the border with Syria and other regions of Iraqi Kurdistan. Nowadays we are mostly involved in operations to liberate Yazidi hostages who have been captured by Daesh. My own relatives are among them,” said Wadhat.

This 22-year-old lady was once a normal girl with academic goals and career ambitions. However, the infamous Yazidi genocide of 2014 compelled her to take up arms.

Now she has the only wish: to liberate all the Yazidi women who were captured by Daesh in Iraq and return peace to the region.

“I am addressing all the Daesh militants and their commanders: “We will wipe you out from the whole of Iraq! You will be fully ruined!” she said.

The Yazidis came to broad public attention after Daesh fighters captured Mount Sinjar in northern Iraq in 2014 and engaged in systematic slaughter.

Kurdish and Yazidi fighters retook Sinjar last fall.

The Genocide agaisnt the Yazidi religious minority in Iraq and Syria has been admitted by the UN human rights panel. It stated that Daesh have committed genocide and other war crimes in a continuing effort to exterminate the Yazidis.

The investigators detailed mass killings of Yazidi men and boys who refused to convert to Islam, saying they were shot in the head or their throats were slit, often in front of their families, littering roadsides with corpses. Dozens of mass graves have been uncovered in areas recaptured from Daesh and are being investigated.

Women of Steel: Meet the Brave Hearts Fighting Against Daesh in Middle East

The UN investigators based their findings on actions taken by Daesh since August 2014 against 400,000 members of the Yazidi community, followers of a centuries-old religion drawing on many faiths.

“Daesh has subjected every Yazidi woman, child or man that it has captured to the most horrific atrocities,” the investigators told reporters in Geneva earlier in June. “Daesh permanently sought to erase the Yazidis through killing, sexual slavery, enslavement, torture, inhuman and degrading treatment, and forcible transfer causing serious bodily and mental harm.”

More than 3,200 Yazidi women were still being held by Daesh, the panel found.

The report compiled by the panel — based on interviews with survivors, religious leaders, smugglers and medical personnel, among others — had identified individuals responsible for acts of genocide and provided “a road map for prosecution”.

Mass killings were only part of the Daesh systematic campaign to eliminate the Yazidi community, the panel found, citing documents that revealed careful planning for treatment of the community after it was overrun and a “massive organizational effort” to coordinate the actions of fighters across Iraq.

Smoke billows on the horizon as Iraqi military forces prepare for an offensive into Fallujah to retake the city from Islamic State militants in Iraq, Monday, May 30, 2016

 “Daesh made no secret of its intent to destroy the Yazidis of Sinjar, and that is one of the elements that allowed us to conclude their actions amount to genocide,” the panel concluded.

In addition to the killings, Daesh fighters systematically separated Yazidi men and women and carried out rape, sexual mutilation and sterilization to prevent the birth of Yazidi babies, and they transferred captured Yazidi children to the fighters’ families and training camps, cutting them off from Yazidi beliefs and practices and “erasing their identities as Yazidis.”



‘I dodged sniper fire with the brave Kurdish women fighting Isis’

JULY 12, 2016

Front line: Marta Shaw with a Kurdish fighter while filming the new Ross Kemp documentary

A London director who dodged sniper fire while filming female Kurdish troops taking on Islamic State has told how they are fighting for a more equal society.

Marta Shaw gained unprecedented access to YPJ (Kurdish Women’s Protection Units) fighters on the front line in Syria and northern Iraq.

The director told how the fighters are feared by IS and respected by their male colleagues both on and off the battlefield. “They were just ordinary women, but the war has brought out extraordinary courage. We met a female commander, who is also a school teacher, and commands a battalion of men and women.

“It’s not just on the front line, either. Women are taking an active role in the new mini-state, which has come into being. At the assembly, men and women sit together with the women making decisions along with the men.

“The Kurds believe in equality and that’s reflected in their society. It’s what they’re fighting for and they’re optimistic they will defeat IS and bring about a wider social change.” Ms Shaw worked with actor and investigative reporter Ross Kemp on the latest instalment of his Bafta-winning documentary series. Ross Kemp: The Fight Against ISIS is to be shown on  Sky 1 on Thursday at 9pm.

The director had been to war zones previously, and even to Syria in 2013, but said it was the first time she had been on the front line and not embedded with an army.

Ms Shaw added: “The Kurds are the biggest allies in the fight against IS and they’re actively taking the fight to them. They were keen to show what they’re doing in one of the most hostile places and they think they’re not getting the international attention they should be.

“We were with them when they crossed the Euphrates into Arab territory to take on IS. They were fighting village to village and we came under sniper fire. It did get pretty hairy. Any concerns I had about being the only woman in a group of men looked idiotic when I saw the women fighting on the front line.”



Who Are They, These Revolutionary Rojava Women, Bearing Arms Against ISIS?

12 July 2016

Meredith Tax just had to find out who they were - the revolutionary women of Rojava, bearing arms against ISIS, building a new world...she had to find their story, for herself, and in her new book, for us.

Berivan, Commander in the PKK. Photo:

Imagine a life amidst war, another war, and recovery from decades of war, where humans decide that all public positions are shared between women and men, and where, in fact, everything is shared.

It’s not a bleak but beautiful fantasy dreamed up by Ursula le Guin, it is here and now on the border between Syria and Turkey. It is Rojava.

Compare and contrast with a rich, lush, green and pleasant land that has just voted - whether it fully knows it or not - to abandon equality and human rights and sharing anything with anyone. It is here and now and it is England.

Across the Atlantic, in New York, a stalwart seeker after equality and human rights, the feminist writer-activist Meredith Tax, noticed morsels of news about that faraway enclave called Rojava and became excited: could it be? Could it be true that amidst the wreckage of the Middle East something beautiful was being crafted?

Two years ago when Daesh attacked Syria’s northern city, Kobane, Tax began to see ‘pictures of smiling rifle-toting girls in uniform defending the city.’ Who were these Kurdish girls?’ she wondered.

The same question animated writer Rahila Gupta to write a six-part series on her journey:  Witnessing the Revolution in Rojava on openDemocracy (her story will also feature in the book we are co-writing, Why Doesn’t Patriarchy Die?). Here in Rojava, she thought, a revolution was being made in our own inhospitable times.

How could these women resist the waves of masked jihadis razing towns, fields and cities, wreaking terror? How could they do what no one else, not Iraq’s army, not the Kurds’ fabled Peshmerga, nor Western bombs, had managed to achieve?

But they did. However, no sooner had these photogenic heroines appeared than they became invisible. They didn’t disappear, of course, but to western eyes they were out of sight and out of mind. 

The Obama administration described the Daesh warriors as ‘an imminent threat to every interest we have’ and yet hesitated - with every interest it had - to become the friend of its enemy’s enemy.

Something about the Rojava confounded and discombobulated the international players, whose hands and footprints already littered the ruined landscape.

Rojava thrilled Meredith Tax, who set about finding out about these women and their mission.

‘I decided it was my responsibility to tell my friends about Rojava,’ Then she wrote an article for Dissent magazine, then she wrote this book, A Road Unforeseen: Women Fight the Islamic State (Bellevue Literary Press, August 2016).

It is the outcome of her swift, intense and forensic inquiry. Her narrative is also informed by the wisdom accumulated during her radical own history: she was a member of one of the founding Women’s Liberation groups of the late 1960s, Bread and Roses - a name branded on the consciousness of activists in the Seventies.

She belongs to a generation of activists and intellectuals who made and were made by the black civil rights, feminist and anti-war movements in the US, that confidently quarried revolutionary theory and practise for inspiration. Between then and now this generation has lived with the rise and fall of revolutionary experiments - it knows all about failure. And so she brings the habit ‘optimism of the will and pessimism of the intellect’ to her inquiry.

The journey takes her deep to the history of Middle East and the fate of Kurds, sliced up between the post-imperialist divisions of the region, and the interminable repressions of Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria. Accommodations were made, tribalisms refreshed, massacres perpetrated, villages evacuated.

Crucial was the US and Saudi sponsorship of jihadis across the region and the resistance of Turkey, Iraq and Syria to any possibility of Kurd autonomy. Kurds were confronted by jihad on one flank, state repression on the other.

During the 1980s, Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq pursued a scorched earth policy against the Kurds - thousands of villages were razed and refugees poured across the borders into Turkey and Iran. Turkey would not tolerate Kurd autonomy. The US didn’t want a fragmented Iraq - though that’s what the invasion in 2003 delivered.

After enduring astounding violence, they were only to discover during Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990 that the Bush administration in Washington did not want to reach out to save them.

Tax traces the conjunctures when Kurdish struggles for survival reach out to modern theories of revolution or ancient practises of tribal hierarchy, all the time navigating alliances, seeking spaces of respite where they think afresh.

Ironically, it is in the grotesque aftermath of the Iraq invasion that Kurds, in a sense, re-discover themselves.

In oil-rich Iraq, Kurdistan is established, malls are built, billions pour in, fortunes are made and squandered, and hope of a new dawn for women dashed.

By contrast, the Kurd guerrilla movements based in Syria and Turkey re-think their relationship to their social base.

Women are central to that process, both because their activism is grounded in everyday life, in civil society, in relatives’ movements on behalf of prisoners and lost loved ones, and also because gender becomes a decisive term in the intellectual quest to modernise theory in the wake of so many failed revolutions.

It would not have emerged in the sequestered and hierarchical guerrilla movements themselves - these highly disciplined fighters were governed by profoundly authoritarian and centralised leadership.

But gender equality drives the new thinking of their leader Abdullah Ocalan, whilst imprisoned by Turkey (with the support of the CIA).Incarceration - the fate of so many guerrillas - creates the context, time and space, to read and think.

Indeed, Tax’s story is punctuated by conjunctures that make the Kurd guerrillas re-think and re-group.

A Road Unforeseen: Women Fight the Islamic State.

In prison Ocalan reads and reads - Marxism, anarchism and feminism - and discovers the axis between patriarchy, property and the nation state.

Meredith Tax explains how Ocalan in the 1990s brings that critique to the specific experience of stateless Kurds’ experience of tribalism, imperialism and capitalism.

The commitment to sharing men power with women, and to a political strategy founded upon equality and environmental sustainability, is, to a degree, imposed on the men and enthusiastically embraced by women who had, by then, developed intimate solidarities in the guerrilla militias, in prison and in organising communities’ besieged survival.

Harassed, raided, tortured on all sides, they manage to build something formidable - so poor, but so strong.

It was they, above all, who engineered the liberation of the Yazidis from Daesh warriors.

Now they are improvising a new model of living in an enclave that is not an ethnic state but a confederation of half a dozen ethnicities, organising co-operative economy in an egalitarian borderland called Rojava.

Meredith Tax wonders whether they can survive. But she is inspired. And reading her book, you will be, too.



Why It’s ‘Perfect Timing’ For A Muslim Woman In Australian Parliament

JULY 12, 2016

THE election of Australia’s first female Muslim federal MP has come just in time to counter the anti-Islamic views and policies of Senator-elect Pauline Hanson, a Muslim community leader has said.

Deradicalisation expert turned Labor candidate Anne Aly yesterday claimed the WA seat of Cowan as the nailbiting count of the electorate’s votes went on.

Dr Aly’s Liberal opponent, Luke Simpkins, who has held the marginal seat since 2007, was thought to be ahead in the tight race until it was discovered 200 votes had been placed in the wrong pile. Correcting the error handed Dr Aly the lead with 787 more votes than the soon-to-be ousted MP.

Mr Simpkins is yet to concede as the count continues, but Dr Aly said it was time the people of Cowan had an answer.

“We do have a very strong lead now and it would take a lot to change that lead,” she said.

Muslim community leaders rushed to congratulate Dr Aly and commented on the significance of the win.

Australian Muslim Women’s Association president Silma Ihram told the appointment was significant to all Muslims.

“It shows the diversity and the integrated nature of the Muslim community in Australia,” she said.

“It’s an inspiration for young people who may feel disaffected. I think it’s good that women are still trailblazing in the Muslim community and again shows that women are not subjugated in Islam.”

Dr Aly will join Labor MP Ed Husic as just the second Muslim MP in the federal parliament, and the first Muslim woman in the house.

Her appointment to parliament coincides with the resurrection of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party, which is expected to deliver up to three candidates to the Senate.

The party’s controversial leader and soon-to-be Senator is calling for a “Royal Commission into Islam”, seeks to stop immigration and the refugee intake of Muslim people to Australia, and wants to ban Halal certification.

Ms Ihram said Dr Aly being elected to parliament was “excellent timing considering the re-establishment in the One Nation Party in federal politics”.

Last week, Dr Aly said the election of Ms Hanson would create an opportunity for “transparent discussions” about Islamic extremism, and wasn’t afraid to challenge her.

“I don’t mind standing up and talking with Pauline Hanson about issues to do with Islamic extremism, but let them be informed and let them respectful and let them be based on facts,” she told Sky News.

Anne Aly isn’t afraid to have a discussion with One Nation's Pauline Hanson, who will enter parliament as a Senator at the same time.

Anne Aly isn’t afraid to have a discussion with One Nation's Pauline Hanson, who will enter parliament as a Senator at the same time.Source:Supplied

Dr Aly yesterday said the reality of being the first female Muslim MP had not quite sunk in, but acknowledged it was significant.

“Having a diverse parliament in these very trying times is an absolute positive and bodes well for the future of Australia,” she said.

“I think it’s going to make for some very robust discussion and I’m looking forward to that.”

The first-time MP has also put up her hand for a frontbench position, telling The Australian she believed she could “jump into a role like that fairly easily”.

Dr Aly became a figure of controversy throughout the election campaign.

In the lead-up to the election Justice Minister Michael Keenan said Dr Aly had shown bad judgment by penning a letter that helped reduce the sentence of self-styled preacher Junaid Thorne. Former prime minister John Howard supported the comments.

In her letter Dr Aly said Thorne, who was jailed for flying domestically under a false name, was a perfect candidate for a deradicalisation.

The counter-terrorism expert described the comments against her as personal attacks, and said although they probably didn’t play a big part in the result, they may have moved some votes her way.

“There were whispers that the Liberal Party were looking for something — some kind of dirt, I guess — against me. I thought that we held up very well,” Dr Aly said.

“I do believe that it backfired. It certainly didn’t lose me any votes.”



Ridge designer makes demure clothes for Muslim women

JULY 12, 2016

A Bay Ridge woman has turned frustration into inspiration, starting a body-covering clothing line for Muslim women after struggling to find fashionable threads that still leave a little to the imagination. The Egyptian-born, Bensonhurst-raised founder of Urban Modesty said she got the idea because her only other options were donning stuffy traditional garb or cobbling together a hodgepodge of Western clothes.“Finding an outfit for any occasion is always a nightmare — my peers, friends, young women, older women, they all had the same problem,” said Sherihan Moustafa. “You either dress very traditionally, or you try to put something together by layering clothes from five different stores.”

Moustafa, a 29-year-old City College economics grad and self-described fashionista, stitched together Urban Modesty in 2013 after she took an entrepreneurial business class. She has no formal fashion training, but designs the pieces herself before sending patterns to China for production, she said. Moustafa hit the market with eight designs, but now offers more than 70 tops, bottoms, dresses, gowns, and cover-ups — in addition to kids’ digs and jewelry. Most pieces sell for $25–$70, but formal gowns can go for up to $230.

The store is a godsend, according to one shopper who picked up some threads at the Arab American Bazaar in Bay Ridge last weekend.

“I saw those long dresses that I do not see in stores, I always felt I should have a piece like that in my closet, but I did not know how to get it,” said Bay Ridgite Abeer Assad.Moustafa relied on word-of-mouth among friends and family in Bay Ridge to spread her brand early on. New Yorkers are still the biggest buyers, but frequent trips to Islamic conventions outside the city have helped spread the word nationally.

She recently made progress in the Great White North during a showcase in Toronto, she said.

“We walked in with six laundry bags full of clothes and walked out with one half-full,” she said.

Moustafa has carved out a niche in a growing industry — Muslims spent roughly $230 billion on clothing worldwide in 2014, and that figure could grow to $327 billion by the end of the decade, according to Dinar Standard’s Global Islamic Economy Report. Not all of that is on modest fashion, but the top brands Dinar Standard highlights in the report make demure duds.

Next, she’s taking on the major retailers, and hoping to expand her reach outside of the Muslim community, she said.

“We have cover-ups that you can throw over jeans or whatever you want, so [non-Muslims] have bought those too,” she said. “It’s cute and trendy and now if you look, Forever 21 sells a maxi dress cover-up as well, that’s who we are competing with.”




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