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Ask the Counselor (Counseling Live Session)

Dear Brothers & Sisters,

Thank you for participating in the counseling session with your questions!

Due to the counselor’s limited capacity of answering questions, here are the 4 questions that our counselor has provided an answer for. We apologize for not responding all the other questions.

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If you have not received an answer below at this time, please submit your question to one of our upcoming Live Sessions. Thank you for your understanding.

Question 1. Hurt

How to deal with prolonged unhappiness caused by neglectful, oppressive, abusive parents? How to overcome hurt feelings when I’ve exhausted myself and tried everything to calm my oppressed heart?

I hate my parents. I’ve always done everything within my power to fulfill their rights and be good to them. I tried to be a good daughter. I tried nearly everything that could ever be advised. I sometimes wonder this must be what it feels like to be an orphan. I wish I knew how can I ever be compensated for all the kept in the stress of all the unexpressed emotions such as anger, sadness, hurt etc. I know Allah hates oppression but my parents have abused me, hurt me and neglected me all my life. I don’t feel ungrateful for the good they’ve done for me. But my father always takes credit for anything good he sees in me but whenever I slip up or make a mistake, he turns his back on me criticizes me and speaks abhorrent loathsome words towards me like he half expects me to be stabbed alive by his abuse. That’s why I don’t want my parents to be a part of the happiest occasions in my life though it may be wrong to feel this way.

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Because of them, I was left scarred; emotionally, mentally and physically damaged. I felt lonely and depressed because they never appreciated the good in me and even when they did they always ended up hurting my feelings all over again which nullifies all their kindness towards me that’s how painful and traumatizing their toxic behavior is. 

I know I should pray to Allah for relief and patience and lots of endurance but I’m so seriously tired of them. Sometimes I even wonder what my life would look like if they were dead. Sometimes I really do wish they were dead because I want to know what it feels like to live without them and the freedom, I would get of living without my overbearing parents who have no understanding for me. I can never even share my problems, my happiness or my sadness with them. their parenthood is so dysfunctional. I mean I try so hard to make them understand but they ignore the fact that as their daughter all I want is them to acknowledge me and appreciate me for always trying my best to be successful and to serve them for Allah’s sake. I mean, it already feels like they are not an important part of my life because of the way they mistreated me.

They’ve been oppressive and unfair all my life. Tell me should I pray for their demise? Because I don’t want to be deprived of patience and sometimes, I feel they pushed my buttons way too much and I could end up hurting myself or hurting them. Wouldn’t it be better if they just passed away in peace? Because I read that sometimes it’s better something gets taken away from you than your iman.

I don’t want my parents to be the reason I lose my iman because at the end of the day my parents cannot grant me jannah only Allah can. Nor can they save me from the jahannam. It’s written in the Quran that people will run away from their loved ones both friends and family on judgement day. I was suicidal, traumatised, depressed, unhappy because of them. How come they never learn from their mistakes? Why do they have such unrealistic expectations from me but never actually fulfill my rights? Why is my father so reluctant to provide for me? When it comes to outsiders, my father never hesitates to reach out and offer a helping hand but when it comes to me, he is always a stingy miser. Help me because no matter how many times I ask these questions they till keep bothering me and sadden me. I don’t want my parents to be punished for their sins. But at the same time, I don’t want them to be a part of life my happiness my future anymore, either …

Answer:

Salam alaikom dear sister,

Thank you for turning to us with your concern. I feel really sorry for everything you have been going through these years. 

Your relationship with your parents, especially with your father, is very sad. As you wrote, you have been suffering from constant abuse, hurt and negligence. You were not appreciated for the good in you, while you faced too much criticism for the mistakes you made. And that all you would like is to be acknowledged for your success and for serving them for the sake of Allah. 

You also mention that you sometimes think about death, either yours or theirs’, as some kind of freedom from the burden of your overbearing parents. I will start with this, my dear sister. I understand what you say, but you have to understand that taking away your life will not be a solution.

So, if you often feel suicidal, please seek professional advice through counseling. You can turn to your GP as well, as they need to keep confidentiality and not disclose your condition to your parents. If in your country, immediate counseling is not available for some reason, you can call international helplines as well.

Here are some: UN Women, Peaceful Families, Nisa Helpline, Child Helpline

If you are still experiencing moments when your physical safety is at risk, try to seek help. If you have a trustful sister in your community or family, turn to her. And if you need immediate help, you can try to contact a domestic violence helpline (listed above).

Your pain is totally understandable, sister. Your parents should be a source of security and comfort in a physical and psychological sense as well. It is very traumatizing when you do not receive love and appreciation from your primary caregivers but instead neglect and verbal or physical abuse. It is a huge test from Allah, who promised us in the Quran not to charge any soul with more than she can bear (Quran, 2.286).

I can reassure you that abuse and negligence are not OK. They are in no way acceptable in a parent-child relationship. Your words somehow reflect that you know that it is not OK, but it is also very important for you to understand that it is not your fault. No matter what mistakes you have committed, negligence and abusive behavior should not be the response. 

Distance yourself

I think, for your own sake, it would be good for you to physically distance yourself from your family. I do not know whether it is possible. Do you have other relatives where you feel safer and could move there for a while? If you remove yourself from a toxic environment, your healing process will be faster and more effective. If you have family members with healthier attitude you can try to spend more time with them instead.

While you are still young, not so much that you could not start a life somewhere else, a bit far from them. I do not know what other options you have: studies, work? Try to make yourself busy with these things, especially with what you find real pleasure in. Meet friends, join a “sisters” circle inside or outside the masjid, do exercise, art, etc. You can discover your qualities through these activities and find sources of positivity

Seek Help

It would also be important to start one-on-one counseling, as possibly these negative experiences have had a long-time effect on you. You need to heal your wounds and recover by fully embracing the fact that you are indeed a lovable, smart, and beautiful human being. The love of your parents should be unconditional and not dependent on your good or bad actions. With professional help, you can put these events into the right perspective, and gain a healthier attitude towards yourself and the world around you.

I would advise you to use your deen and imaan to overcome these feelings of despair. Turning to Allah is the most comforting thing you can imagine. If you have not received mercy, love, or justice from your parents, turn to Allah, the Most Merciful, the Most Loving, and the Most Just. It is Allah whom we need to ask for help and solace. It is Him who we have to serve and seek His pleasure. Doing good for your parents for the sake of Allah is very rewarding. I encourage you to seek His pleasure instead of seeking the acknowledgement of your parents, as this way you surely will not be disappointed. 

“As for those who believe and do good, the Most Compassionate will ˹certainly˺ bless them with ˹genuine˺ love.” (Quran 19:96) 

Tell them what you feel

Regarding your parents, it may help if you try to understand where they are coming from. Their behavior is most likely a result of some negative experience as well, as they clearly lack healthy parenting patterns. Trying to understand them does not mean accepting and validating their actions. But you may have some relief by forgiving their wrongdoing. As humans, they are accountable for their actions but not perfect. 

You can also try to speak to them and let them know (in a calm moment) that their behavior is really hurting you. Maybe they are not conscious of the negative effects of their words and actions. In particular, this could be the case if they are coming from a “family culture” where sadly abusive behavior is considered “normal.” They also need to realize the gravity of their actions and change their perspective.

You are asking how to overcome these feelings. Let me share with you some further tips.

Expressing your feelings

Start activities that help you express your feelings. Allowing yourself to feel these emotions and expressing them through art, for example, would help you let them go. Writing, painting, sculpting, whatever you like. You can start experimenting as well, until you find what you like most. Just do it for yourself, not for anybody else. Let yourself freely express what you feel. Here you can find some ideas.

And as stated before, spiritual exercises would strengthen your soul. Extra prayers alone or with other sisters in the masjid, it depends on you.

Furthermore, getting involved in some voluntary action like charity, or even helping others who are also somehow oppressed, would contribute to overcome feelings of hurt and pain. You would also realize that you are not alone, and you can support each other.

I wish you ease and comfort, sister.

May Allah bless you.

Question 2. I feel that I don’t deserve a good spouse and it breaks my heart

Assalam O Alaikum!

I’m single because my family had a belief that marriage should only happen within one’s family. Since there weren’t a lot of counsins in my generation, it couldn’t happen. My family doesn’t socialize outside the family. They’ve tried to find a match outside the family a few times, but got dishearted and scared. I’ve realized that I’ll have to ask my own sources like friends etc to help me find a spouse.

The trouble is, I’m scared, and sadly, I also don’t have friends with social connections. The professional matchmakers have very high standards when it comes to women. If you’re older than 25, not breathtakingly beautiful and rich, they don’t even bother introducing you to nicer families.

I don’t like using the word ‘standards’ when talking about human beings, but i have lowered my standards all the way down to hell, and it made me realize it’s also not a good strategy for a woman. I have tried to shed away my unfair desires, like I don’t seek the merits in a partner which i don’t have myself. I’m not VERY attractive, so I’m not looking for beautiful partner, although i do need some level of physical attractiveness, but my priority is someone who is beautiful inside. It is a cliche, but as a woman in q patriarchal world, i don’t want to end up with an abusive person who isn’t an evolved soul. I have a Masters degree, but I’m not too fussy about my partner having a certain degree. So when i talk about wanting an educated partner, it means someone with an evolved, civilized, and educated mind. And yes, i do need some level of financial stability. I’m not trying to do the math too hard. I’ve suppressed a lot of feelings and ideas. But it just confuses me. Is it wrong to want a nice partner unless I’m super pretty and really young myself? Even after doing away with most materialistic criterias, i feel scared that i don’t deserve a good partner. Sometimes i wish i could get a chance with someone out of my league. But i want someone who’s at least a good, well rounded, civil and mature person. I can work on my looks because I’ve been told I’m ugly and no man will want me, but even becoming pretty won’t make my self-image issues go away. Mainly, i have this fear that I’ll end up with a crude, ugly-from-inside, terrible human being because i don’t deserve nice things in life.

Answer:

Salam Alakiom sister,

Thank you for sharing with us your concern. As I understand, you would like to get married, but you are struggling with thoughts about your self-worth, your attractiveness, and your general standards for marriage. You feel that you do not deserve a good partner. And you write that you are “not very” attractive, but you also write that you find yourself “ugly and no man will want you”. 

I am sorry for your situation, sister. But I have the feeling that these issues have a lot to do with how you perceive them, not how actually the situation is. Reading your letter made me remember the following ayat of the Quran: 

Indeed, Allah would never change a people’s state ˹of favour˺ until they change their own state ˹of faith˺.  (Quran 13:11)

If you want to see yourself as a smart, lovable, nice human being, worthy of the love of others, first, you have to change your perception of yourself. How?

Learn to love yourself

Sister, you have to learn to love yourself. Accept yourself for who you are. Accept that Allah created you this way, so certainly there is wisdom behind it. Start with loving Allah with all your heart first and foremost instead of any desires and expectations you are seeking to fulfill. 

Still there are some who take others as Allah’s equal—they love them as they should love Allah—but the ˹true˺ believers love Allah even more. (Quran 2:165)

Here is a powerful dua from Prophet Dawuud, supplicating for the love of Allah and those who love Him:

 “O Allah, indeed, I ask You for Your love and the love of those who love You, and for the action that will cause me to attain Your love, O Allah, make Your love more beloved to me than myself, my family and cold water.”

Also, accept that you are not perfect, nor do you have to be. Everyone has some defects, and everyone has something attractive and lovable. There is no need to look at some artificial standards of social media or manipulated photos, which many times reflect a distorted image of reality. 

Furthermore, attraction is a very subjective thing. There is really no need to worry about it, because there are definitely many people who will find you attractive for some of your physical or inner qualities.

Once you accept yourself and learn to love yourself, you won’t be bothered by what others think about you.

In order to gain self-love, practice more positive thinking and gratitude. Do not be harsh with yourself, but kind when you are thinking about yourself. Ask yourself: what am I good at? It can be anything: good at cooking, making jokes, having good ideas, being organized, whatever. Write them down and make a list of these qualities. You will see that certainly there are many positive things about yourself.

Find the roots

Lack of self-love and self-esteem can be traced back to childhood, when one does not receive enough unconditional love but is subjected to too many harsh critics. If you were not praised for your actions and were frequently chastised for them, whether at home or in school, among peers, etc., you can easily internalize these words over time. These judgments, unfortunately, can turn into your “inner voice”. However, this does not mean that these beliefs are correct!

I am not sure what experiences led you to not feel worthy enough to be loved and attractive. But certainly, you can change these beliefs and replace them with healthier, more realistic ones. How?

Challenge your thoughts

Challenge them and see whether they are true or not. Write down these negative thoughts about yourself, then replace “yourself” with someone close to you. Would you say that this person is ugly, does not deserve love, and no one will marry her? If not, why are you so harsh with yourself?

Another practice: try to find evidence for your beliefs. Is there any evidence that you are not lovable, that you are ugly, etc.? Also, can you remember moments where exactly the opposite happened? As an example, you were praised for some of your qualities. With these practices, you will realize, insha Allah, that your negative thoughts do not always reflect reality. Try to find the middle path by embracing the positive about yourself. You can learn more about cognitive restructuring here and here.

Write down your criteria

When you are looking for a spouse, write down the criteria you have. You can make a list as a ranking: what is the first most important quality, the second, the third? You can also list the qualities that you definitely would like to avoid. When you are clear about your goals and conditions, it will be easier to express your needs and search with more clarity. Also, you can ask yourself: what is the intention of wanting to get married? As we are going to be measured and rewarded according to our intentions: 

“Actions are according to intentions, and everyone will get what was intended.” (Sahih al-Bukhari 1)

Remember the words of the Prophet (peace be upon him), who advised religiosity instead of outward appearance, status, and wealth. Having a good character is a better indicator of success in relationships than the rest of these conditions. Of course, as you also said, you do not have to disregard these qualities either; just make sure that your priorities are in accordance with the Sunnah.

If you implement these steps and you still find yourself having a lot of negative thoughts about yourself, try one-on-one counseling. In long-term therapy, you can have guided assistance to overcome these patterns and learn to love yourself more.

I wish you success and ease!

Question 3. Past haunting me

Aslm!!

I am a female in mid 20’s. I went to Uni and did many haraam things with boys which I completely regret now. It eats me up and although I have made sincere taubah, I keep going into a depressive state of what if people find out? What will happen to me then? I wish Allah tested me in a different way. I am so ashamed, so sad, so regretful. I have turned over a new leaf a few years ago Alhamdulillah. I am even scared to get married because I feel like any boy deserves to get better and I will be exposed one day. I even have thoughts that every symptom I have is an sti, because somehow I need to be punished (I did not sleep with anyone though). This is taking over my life! I am not the same person anymore. In fact, I am so ashamed of myself that i seem to have lost interest in men in general. I make istighfaar and forget about it for a while, but the next day the thoughts are back. I’m unable to focus on anything.

Answer:

Salam alaikom dear sister,

Thank you for writing to us. 

As I understand your struggle, you committed “many haram things with boys” in your past. But you have gone through a positive change and have regretted and also repented of your actions. But you are still not able to overcome the regret and shame, and you are scared that one day you will be exposed. You also state that you do not deserve a “normal” boy to marry you.

My sister, I am sorry for your feelings and what you are going through. 

I think it is a very good sign that you gave up that behavior and are conscious of the gravity of your actions. This could indicate that probably you are not going to fall into the same “trap” again. 

Forgiving Yourself

You said that you repented, and I am pretty sure that you have asked Allah for forgiveness. But did you forgive yourself as well? 

In order to move on, I think you have to accept that you were not strong enough to resist certain sinful acts. Instead of suppressing it, try to face and “befriend” with it. It’s a part of who you WERE but not who you ARE. This does not mean that you are not strong enough now. And this is what is important: who you are now and who you would like to be

We are not able to change the past. And I can reassure you that all of us have something in our past that needs to be repented of. We all commit sins, greater or lesser ones. Even the prophets committed mistakes.

But the key is to acknowledge these mistakes and not let the past or the future discourage you in the present. You cannot change the past and you do not know the future. So, there is no need to worry about what will happen if others know what you have done. 

The important thing is to focus on the present and try to build a solid future with your worship and good deeds.

Allah is the All-Forgiving

Back to forgiveness: the Quran confirms the ultimate mercy and forgiveness of Allah, The Almighty. You do not need to carry on the remorse if your repentance is genuine and you seek forgiveness from Him. He is “the Forgiver of sin and Accepter of repentance” (Quran 40:3)

Remember the dua of Prophet Musa: “He pleaded, “My Lord! I have definitely wronged my soul, so forgive me.” So He forgave him, ˹for˺ He is indeed the All-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (Quran 28:16)

Just move on, my sister. You are only accountable for your deeds in front of Allah and not anyone else. No one else should judge you for your past sins.

Getting married without fears

If you would like to get married, please do not let these fears overcome you. Concentrate on yourself and who you are now. It is not true that boys deserve better. They will see you as who you are now, not as you were.

I think your worries and thoughts are signs that you are really not the one who was before, as you clearly cannot identify with those actions anymore. Masallah, this reflects a strong imaan and a clear distinction between right and wrong. Just keep going on this path, sister.

Regarding the necessity to reveal past sins, here you can find an answer from our Ask the Scholar section. Sincerity is essential in a relationship, but you are not required to disclose your past sins that Allah has concealed for you, with certain exceptions regarding contagious diseases. 

At the same time, it is understandable that making your future spouse believe something untrue can turn into feelings of betrayal and untrust if, for some reason the truth is revealed. I’d advise you to weigh the pros and cons of disclosing your past once you are about to get married. Is it something that can remain between you and Allah? Then leave it like this, and Allah knows best.

Turn to Allah and make sincere dua to bring you the one who is meant for you. Insha Allah, he will accept you for who you are. 

Positive Thinking

I would advise you to focus on positive ideas. Write down what you think your “best version” of yourself would be, and make steps to strive to accomplish your goals. Do good deeds as it also helps to eradicate the past. Trust in Allah and His Mercy.

Think of it as a test that was meant to get you closer to Allah—and you did! Reframe these thoughts. Think about every piece of wisdom you gained from this experience and from the change you have been going through since then.

To conclude, by forgiving yourself and accepting yourself, including your past, and by reframing the events and seeing them in a more positive light, will make you feel better. If your repentance was sincere, just let it go and move on. Trust in the mercy and forgiveness of Allah. Allow yourself to see who you are in the present moment and let go of your fears about the past and the future.

I wish you the best, sister. May Allah bless you.

Question 4. How can I not be tainted by the haram effects of a public school?

Assalamualaykum. I am a girl studying in co-education in America. It is very hard to remain a true, pure Muslim here, as all the girls in my class are coming dressed in tight clothes which reveal their shape and body parts, and people openly talk about haram and vulgar topics in the hallways, and people are taking boyfriends and girlfriends here and there, and I just feel so confused and scared because I was raised in a very protected, safe household, and my parents kept me very innocent and safe. They still did not let me have a phone, and they tried so hard to keep me away from all evil and haram things. I always come to school in full clothes, and though I don’t wear a hijab, I wear a scarf that covers my chest (the most important part needed to be covered) But here, at my school, if you do not participate in these haram things, you are seen as an inferior person whom no one ever talks to or is friends with. I really don’t want that identity for myself, and even though Allah says that it is better to remain alone than in bad company, I did not do that. Instead, I branched out and started laughing and talking to some girls. Soon, they became my friends, but indeed I know they are bad friends and they are not true, and that I will never be like them. But what I hate the most is when I see some people laughing or talking and I come to join their conversation and they just laugh and say: ‘Oh, you won’t understand, you’re too innocent” and I feel sad. What is the worst is, that I came to this public school and I decided to make some friends with some of the other Muslim girls that I knew from my old Islamic school when I was little. But sadly, they had changed, and are totally whitewashed and are one of the most popular girls in the school. They totally forsaked their religion and don’t behave properly. Also, I feel really sad because before this school, I used to be a very good muslim, I made dua for one hour after every salah and I read the Quran day and night. I still pray, but not as sincerely, and I feel so hollow and confused.

Please give me help!

Answer:

Salam alaikom dear sister,

Thanks for writing to us with your concern. As I understand, you attend a co-educational school in the US, where you are constantly exposed to “haram and vulgar topics”.

Your parents raised you in a safe household, alhamdulillah. You were protected, and now you feel confused and scared, and you do not like that you are labeled by your peers as “too innocent.” You do not want to feel like an inferior person for not taking part in these things with your schoolmates. 

It is especially sad to hear those Muslim girls around you are leaving their religious identity to follow in the footsteps of their non-Muslim peers. This could happen for the following reasons: they have not been able to build a solid ground in Islam that would protect them against “fitna”. And as young adults, peer pressure and the desire to be accepted by others are stronger than their Muslim identity. 

That is why an Islamic school may not be enough if the parents are not aware of the possible challenges Muslim youth face in the West. Your parents seem to have achieved guiding you well, masallah. 

Sister, I can really understand what you have been going through. As a young Muslim who has been raised in the West, soon or later you will experience an inevitable clash of values. And I would say that the bigger the clash, the safer you are, alhamdulillah. 

I have to tell you that your parents are doing the right thing when they want to protect you from the possible harm a young Muslim can face in the West. There are so much thing going on that is not in line with Islamic values, yet we are expected to meet and respond these challenges, as young people, adults, parents, etc.

I also understand that, as a young adult, you would like to fit in. This is very normal at your age. It is normal that you have this desire even if at the bottom of your heart you feel that you will “never want to be like them,” as you said.

It seems to me that you have a healthy self-esteem and you do not want to feel inferior when you are talking to these girls. Yes, you are right. There is absolutely no need to have any remorse for your identity, for your “innocence”, as they say. Actually, I think it is something to be proud of, as you have solid values and you are able to distinguish between right and wrong, even if you feel that you are going against the flow. 

“And judge, [O Muḥammad], between them by what Allāh has revealed and do not follow their inclinations and beware of them, lest they tempt you away from some of what Allāh has revealed to you. And if they turn away – then know that Allāh only intends to afflict them with some of their [own] sins. And indeed, many among the people are defiantly disobedient.” (Quran 5:49)

My sister, “many among them”. This means many people are not following what Allah described for us, and that those who are truly righteous are few in number. It has been that way since the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him). Remember his words:

“Islam initiated as something strange, and it would revert to its (old position) of being strange. So good tidings for the stranger.” Sahih Muslim 145

Subhanallah, think about the validity of these words from the Quran and the Sunnah in our times!

What I want to say is that you, as a Muslim in a world where you are surrounded by non-Muslims and non -practicing Muslims, you will probably feel like a stranger. But exactly this is how you “should” feel, alhamduillah. 

At the same time, I comprehend that, as a young girl, you would like to socialize and to make friends. And maybe that is why you are trying to balance and meet the expectations of these girls from your school.

But my sister, I believe that this is not real interest (from your side), just you still haven’t found a better company. There is absolutely no need to seek their approval, that they let you “join the club”. They have their own standard and you have your own.  Keep your kindness towards them, and your (healthy) pride being different than them. 

It is OK to look for friends, but I would advise you to seek them elsewhere. If there is no one else around you in the school, try to check out the sisters around the masjid, or join online Muslimah groups.

Sometimes it is not easy to find real friends, and you need to be patient, but it is worth continuing to wait and search. You will find, insha Allah, the right company and you will not feel the contradiction of compromising your core values for the sake of being accepted and appreciated. 

I also advise you to learn more about Islam. Learn about the Islamic lifestyle and why we are commanded to refrain from certain things in life. You will realize, in sha Allah, the divine wisdom behind it all.

You can search for material about the challenges Muslims face in the West. Check out this and this article, for example. You will realize, that you are not alone, sister. And if you gain enough knowledge, you can back up your attitude with knowledge, and you will come across as a young Muslimah with confidence, and you will be able to defend your identity and values.

To conclude,

While your desire to fit into your school and your peers is understandable, you do not need to engage in things that are not in line with your values and do not make you feel comfortable. Even if it is confusing that other Muslim girls are behaving in a way that is unIslamic, you do not need to follow them or your non-Muslim mates, especially because you already know for sure that it is not what you want and need.

Try to make friends somewhere else, and learn more about Islam to strengthen your Muslim identity. Embrace the idea that it is something special to be “strange” and “different” as a Muslim. Show your kindness and positive attitude, but alienate yourself from people who would affect your firmness in Islam. 

 I wish you the best, sister,

May Allah bless you!

Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general. They are purely based on the limited information provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, its counselors or employees be held liable for any damages that may arise from your decision in the use of our services.

Saturday, Jun. 25, 2022 | 09:00 - 10:00 GMT

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