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In the Name of God بسم الله
  1. Zulfiqar1472

    Zulfiqar1472

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      This was co-written with chatgpt4o
      In the bustling city of Uthmaniya, where the skyline is dominated by minarets and modern skyscrapers, Ahmed was the unchallenged king of signs. His business, "Visionary Signs," was the go-to for creating grandiose displays for conferences, exhibitions, and governmental offices. Ahmed’s workshop was a hive of activity, always buzzing with the latest projects commissioned by the government.
      Every new initiative, every plan, no matter how nebulous, required a sign. These signs were not mere informational boards; they were masterpieces, adorned with resplendent images of the rulers, their eyes looking far into the future, with slogans that promised greatness. The text, always laudatory, spoke of unprecedented progress and prosperity, though specifics were conspicuously absent.
      One day, Ahmed received a call from the Minister of Public Enlightenment. "Ahmed, we need a series of signs for the new initiative. The Global Vision 2030 Summit is next month, and we must impress our international guests."
      Ahmed knew the drill. He listened patiently as the minister outlined vague goals of development, innovation, and cultural enrichment. “Of course, Excellency. Leave it to Visionary Signs. We will ensure that every sign conveys the magnificence of our vision.”
      In his workshop, Ahmed gathered his team. "Alright, folks, we need to design signs for the Global Vision 2030. Remember, it’s all about grandeur. The words must sing praises, the images must captivate, but as always, we keep the details fuzzy."
      His designers got to work, crafting enormous signs with majestic images of the rulers. The captions read: "Towards a Brighter Tomorrow," "Innovation at its Peak," and "Cultural Renaissance for All." The wording was eloquent but evasive, avoiding specifics like timelines or measurable outcomes.
      As the summit approached, international guests began arriving, and Ahmed’s signs were strategically placed throughout the city and the grand conference hall. The guests, impressed by the splendor, often paused to admire the signs. They would nod appreciatively, making polite comments about the visionary leadership and the ambitious goals.
      During the opening ceremony, the rulers themselves mingled with the attendees. Ahmed found himself face-to-face with the Emir. "Ahmed," the Emir said, a faint smile playing on his lips, "your signs are quite impressive. They speak volumes to our guests about our aspirations."
      "Thank you, Your Highness," Ahmed replied, bowing slightly. "We strive to capture the essence of your vision."
      The Emir’s gaze was steady. "It is important that our international friends see the progress we are making, even if we are still in the planning stages. A good message is key, Ahmed. It is the impression that counts."
      Ahmed nodded, understanding the unspoken directive. The real work, the actual implementation of the grand plans, was secondary to the portrayal of ambition and vision. As long as the signs were convincing, the world would believe in the progress of Uthmaniya.
      The summit concluded with numerous accolades and polite applause. The international guests left, carrying with them memories of impressive signs and lofty promises. Ahmed, back in his workshop, received another order for a new initiative, equally grand and equally vague.
      In Uthmaniya, Visionary Signs continued to flourish, a testament to the power of perception. Ahmed knew that as long as his signs could speak of greatness, the city’s image would remain untarnished, even if the ground beneath them changed little.
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      Most of us struggle with purpose in our life when we are young. However, even older people, who thought they had direction and purpose, find their life has changed and they must think about it again. Purpose is our 'reason for being' or called Ikigai in Japanese. Purpose is important and I pray that everyone contemplates their purpose and stays on the straight path. See the image below:

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      Take:
      Everyday   ,   Every second,         Every situations,         Every difficulties,           Every achievements 
      Take all these a test and trials where your patience is tested, your faith is tested, your ability to control your desires and emotions are tested, family relations is tested etc.....
      Focus on passing these tests with patience, faith in God, doing religious obligations, praying to God, always seeking help from God, seeking forgiveness and thanking him in every situations we are in.  
      Remember God has something better waiting for you in the after world so try and somehow put a smile on your face every now and then...
         5 comments
      قال أبو عبد الله عليه السلام: رحم الله زرارة بن أعين لو لا زرارة و نظراؤه لاندرست أحاديث أبي عليه السلام
      Abu Abdillah عليه السلام said: May Allah have mercy on Zurara b. A`yan, if it was not for Zurara and his peers the narrations of my father عليه السلام would have perished
      سمعت أبا عبد اللّه عليه السلام يقول: لعن اللّه زرارة!
      I heard Aba Abdillah عليه السلام saying: may Allah curse Zurara!
       
      Did the Imam Curse Zurara?
      Zurara is such an important narrator in the Madhhab. No one has narrated more narrations than him. There are more than two thousand surviving Hadiths attributed to him in our books. No surprise then to find that we have a lot of reports of praise from the `Aimma confirming his esteemed status. A bit more difficult to explain away is the not insignificant number of narrations that portray him in a negative light. These have been latched onto by polemicists who believe that they can damage the Madhhab by weakening this man who transmitted such a lot of knowledge from the `Aimma that he became a cornerstone of our Fiqh. How do we defend him? There is a reliable text preserved by al-Kashshi in his book which I believe is useful in explaining this phenomenon preserving as it does a candid assessment by the Imam of the real situation.
      The words of the Imam are indented and a relevant commentary is provided directly below each section. The  text can be accessed in its entirety here https://sites.google.com/site/mujamalahadith/vol1/book-of-narrators/zurara-b-ayan [See No. 17/172]
       
      Abdallah b. Zurara said: Abu Abdillah عليه السلام said to me: convey my salutations of peace to your father and say to him …
      The letter that the Imam dictates to this son of Zurara is done in confidence and with the expectation that no one else will come to know of its contents. It seems to have been prompted by Zurara’s grief, conveyed directly to the Imam, for censuring him to fellow companions and others, such that word reached back to him. Zurara seeks to clarify what the Imam’s true opinion of him is.
       
      I only defame you as a way of defending you, for the masses and the enemy hasten to whomever we draw near and praise his station so as to cause harm to the one we love and bring close. They accuse such a one because of our love for him and his closeness and intimacy with us, and they consider causing him harm and even killing him as justified. On the other hand, they praise every one whom we fault even if his affair is not praiseworthy. Thus, I fault you because you have become notorious as a result of your association with us and your inclination towards us, which have caused you to become blamable in the eyes of the people and your works to be looked upon unfavourably, all this because of your love for us and your inclination towards us. So I wished to fault you so that they can praise your religious stand as a result of my denigrating and diminishing you, and this becomes a way of warding off their evil from you. 
      This narration is important because it is the lens through which all the negative narrations about Zurara should be seen. The Imam explains his rationale for publicly cursing Zurara i.e. the Imam is defending his companion through Taqiyya.  As he notes, the enemy wishes to bring down everyone they draw near, a fate which he does not wish for Zurara. Zurara was particularly at risk because of how many narrations he had from them and how closely he was associated to them.
       
      Allah Majestic and Mighty says: “as for the boat then it belonged to the poor working at sea so I wished to damage it because there was a king after them who seizes every good boat by force” (18:79) … No by Allah! he did not damage it except that it be saved from the king and is not ruined in his hands. It was a ‘good’ boat which had no question of being defective Allah be praised, so comprehend the parable, may Allah have mercy on you!
      The Imam likens his act of criticizing Zurara to Khidhr damaging the fisherman’s boat, both seem ostensibly cruel on the surface but they are ultimately done to secure the very person they seem to hurting.
       
      … this is a revelation from Allah [including the word] ‘good’ …
      The Qira’a of the Ahlulbayt includes the word صالحة in the verse which is not there in our existing copies. This can be seen as an interpretive addition which happens to be quite straightforward and does not go against conventional understanding. This is also how Ibn Mas`ud and Ubay b. Ka`b read the verse [See Tafsir al-Tabari].
       
      You are by Allah! the most beloved of people to me and the most beloved of the companions of my father in my estimation both in life and after death. Indeed you are the best boat in that tumultuous and stormy sea, and there is a tyrannical and usurping king after you, keeping watch for the crossing of every good boat returning from the sea of guidance so that he can take it for himself and seize it and its owners, so may the mercy of Allah be upon you in life and His mercy and pleasure be upon you after death.
      This is the true status of Zurara in the eyes of the Imam. It becomes very clear that Zurara is the principal companion of al-Baqir and al-Sadiq and the closest to them. This tallies with the Madhhab’s conception of his status where he is seen as the greatest of their companions barring Muhammad b. Muslim which is arguable.
       
      Let not your heart constrict in grief if Abu Basir comes to you with the opposite of that which you were instructed by my father and by me, for by Allah! we did not instruct you and him except with an instruction that is fitting to act upon both for us and for you, and for each [instruction, even if seemingly contradictory] we have diverse expressions and interpretations which all agree with the truth. And if we were allowed [to explain] you would come to know that the truth is in that which we have instructed you.
      The Imam acknowledges a second problem which Zurara seems to have raised which is the Ikhtilaf [differences] of instructions which are attributed to them. The Imam accepts that these may indeed go back to them but notes that they have a reason for every instruction they give even if the companions cannot fully comprehend the reasons behind them. However, the Imam is very clear that despite the seeming diverse answers there is a way to reconcile them and all agree with the truth. 
       
      The one who has divided you is your shepherd who has been given authority by Allah over His creation. He [the shepherd] is more aware of what is in the interest of his flock and what can corrupt it. If he wishes he divides between them to safe-guard them, then he unites them once more so that it is secure from destruction and the fear posed by its enemy, in such a time as Allah permits, bringing it thereby safety from His place of safety and relief from Him. Upon you is to submit and to refer back to us and to await our affair and your affair and our relief and your relief. 
      The significance of these words of the Imam cannot be overstated. It reveals that the `Aimma would purposely teach different things to different Ashab aiming to purposely divide them. Elsewhere it is explained that they saw Madhhabic uniformity among their followers especially in rituals as being a distinctive marker that would make them a target. What the companions have to understand is that answering differently to different people is the prerogative of the Imam. No one can question this practice. What the companions have to do is submit fully to whatever they receive from the `Aimma and know that it has an explanation behind it for which the time is not ripe. All will be finally revealed when the time comes.
       
      However [if you do not submit wholly then], if our Riser were to rise and our Speaker speak and he recommences teaching you the Qur’an, the Laws of religion, the rulings and inheritance shares the way Allah revealed them to Muhammad the ‘people of insight’ among you will repudiate it on that day a bitter repudiation, then you will not remain steadfast upon the religion of Allah and his path except under the threat of the sword over your necks!
      If the companions cannot submit now, when they have lived through a chain of living Imams, then it augurs badly for the reaction of the self-appointed ‘people of insight’ who will be the first to line up against the One al-Sadiq calls ‘our Riser’ and alternatively ‘our Speaker’. When he comes back after a long period of occultation and recommences teaching them the religion as it is supposed to be the opposition to him from the Shia themselves be deafening! Those scholars who have cherished their dusty books will still cling to them even though the Imam who is the living embodiment of the Sharia is himself telling them otherwise.
       
      The people after the prophet of Allah were left to embark by Allah the same example as those who came before you, so they changed, altered, distorted, and added to the religion of Allah and reduced from it, consequently there is not a thing which the people are upon today [following] except that it is distorted when compared to that which was revealed from Allah. Respond then my Allah have mercy on you away from what you are calling for to what you are being called to, until comes the one who will renew the religion anew.
      Why did it have to come to this? This is the unfortunate consequence of the Umma betraying the will of the prophet. It has become utterly divided. Not having the correct leaders has meant that the authentic message of Muhammad has been irredeemably altered. There is not a single act of worship or belief that has been left un-corrupted because every middling scholar can peddle his interpretation. The temporal rulers are also more than happy to take advantage of the confusion and extend patronage to scholars whose interpretations were power friendly. The Imams themselves cannot openly propagate the actual version without repercussions.
       
      To be continued ...
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      In the shadowy conference room of the Athena Institute, a right-wing think tank in the heart of Washington, D.C., key policymakers and intellectuals gathered around a gleaming mahogany table. Dr. Helen Mercer, the chairwoman, wasted no time addressing the stark issue at hand.
      “The crisis is clear,” she announced. “Birth rates in the West are in freefall, primarily because many are choosing AI companions over human partners. Our data shows a troubling trend: these robots are not just partners, but replacements, diminishing the human connection essential for family growth.”
      Behind her, the projector screen displayed distressing graphs, but one statistic stood out: Muslim communities in Europe were not following this trend, their birth rates were stable and even rising.
      John Reynolds, a sociologist at the table, nodded in agreement. “Muslim communities are largely insulated from this trend, not out of disdain for technology, but due to religious and cultural frameworks that do not condone intimate relationships with robots. This prohibition supports human-only unions, which naturally supports their higher birth rates.”
      Dr. Susan Choi, the institute’s technology expert, proposed a potential solution. “What if our AI could promote values that reinforce human bonds over robotic relationships?” she suggested tentatively.
      Helen considered this, then highlighted the inherent contradiction. “That's a creative approach, Susan, but we face a fundamental disconnect. Expecting AI to promote human-human relationships contradicts their design as companions. It’s like asking a candle to promote darkness.”
      The room fell silent, digesting the irony. Michael Hart, a political strategist, was the first to break the silence. “And there's another layer—legally and ethically, can we justify manipulating AI in such a way? What are the implications of using technology to direct personal choices so intimately?”
      Dr. Liu, an ethicist, weighed in, her tone cautious. “We’re on precarious ground. It's one thing to guide, quite another to coerce. We need to ensure that our solutions respect individual autonomy and ethical standards.”
      Helen steered the discussion towards a broader horizon. “Let’s draw from these observations about Muslim communities. Their cultural and religious practices naturally sustain human relationships and birth rates. Instead of relying solely on AI, we should explore how to cultivate these values more widely in our societies.”
      She proposed an initiative to study and integrate these communal and family-oriented values into Western societies through education and public policy, without overstepping ethical boundaries.
      As the meeting concluded, there was a consensus to revisit the AI strategy, with a new focus on enhancing community bonds and human connections. The group agreed to meet again, armed with more research and a clearer ethical framework, aiming to weave technology with tradition in a way that supports, rather than supplants, the human experience.
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      Summary
      Buying and selling in the market place may provide advantages to minority groups at the expense of the majority. A State that represents the majority may need to act in order to address the imbalance in a manner that may seem on the face of it to be discriminatory.
      The impact of buying and selling in the market place
      The problem with money and markets is that they strip exchanges between people of all social and cultural content. In market-based exchanges, you can buy/sell with complete strangers. This has its benefits and particularly for social/cultural/ethnic/ religious minorities within a society, the market provides an almost anonymous means of interacting with the majority.
      The impact of social networks
      In fact, the story can even become worse for the majority because the denser social links/networks between members of a minority may mean that they can exploit higher levels of trust between each other and thereby compete more effectively in the market-place.
      Over time, of course, this economic disadvantage may lead to significant differences between the wealth of the majority and minority communities.

      In the diagram below is your multiculti, fully assimilated, and integrated, fully equal nirvana. Everyone interacts with all others regardless of their colour or other distinguishing characteristics. There is one group (pink) who are the majority, and the others are minorities.

       
      The reality

      One group of people (coloured brown) realise that they come from the same village back home, they have a shared culture, heritage and so on, they start to spend more time together.
      Trust within minority groups
      These commonalities enable this specific minority to establish bonds of trust between themselves that are stronger than the ones that exist between people of different groups. So they decide to interact with each other more than they do with other groups.
      Role of religion
      The issue is even more acute when they share the same religion because then they are more likely to share the same values - which are even more important when it comes to building trust.
      Boundary spanners
      Accidentally, I drew the first picture in a way that helps illustrate another point. The minority group accrues another advantage, where it can become a 'boundary spanner' e.g. between two different societies (the red line). That advantage is less likely to be open to the majority groups in the two countries in which this minority lives.

      The economic impact
      There is an obvious economic angle to these social relations, since the bonds of trust help reduce the friction of doing business, in fact, trust is more valuable in some industries (the ones with more risk and potentially more rewards).
      Minorities outperforming majorities
      A social aspect to their interaction therefore has economic repercussions. Left unchecked a minority group will gain an advantage over others. Societies can persist with the multi-culti fantasy for years.
      Payback
      But at some point there will be a reckoning, there always is. Obvious trigger points are when the majority face economic dislocation and see how much better minority groups are doing. You can 'hope' that this time there won't be -  but that has not been the case over the previous millennia.
      Longer term implications
      Historically there are lots of examples of this all around the world and the end is never a happy one - with the majority usually seeking to address the problem via physical force. The challenge for societies is for them to offer minorities certain rights but at the same time put in place restrictions on the extent of their participation in the economic life of society so that they cannot dominate the majority.
      Islamic solutions
      In an Islamic society where distinctions between groups are not based on race, but rather of belief, this means that there has to be what seems like discrimination against non-Muslims, but which, is in fact, a sensible means of avoiding longer-term conflct between the majority and minority.
      An illustration of the problem in terms of resources
      The picture below illustrates the above idea. 
      The blue circles represent the majority in a society, each person gives an item of resource to the person immediately to their south and also one to their south-west. And they do so without regard to the 'colour' of the other person. Let's assume this is a very egalitarian society where the affiliations of individuals are completely ignored. The pink circles represent a minority and they behave in the same manner. However the yellow circles behave slightly differently, they give one item of resource without any discrimination to whoever is to their south, but instead of giving one item to the person to their southwest, they give instead to someone of their own tribe/religion/ethnicity/language group/cult or whatever other basis of commonality that they have established. Such an arrangement can be informal and communicated only to the group members - something which is helped by their being a minority in a society. Members of the yellow circle are able to identify each other due to their going to the same places of worship or gentlemen's clubs or 'lodge'. Such interaction may legitimately lead to higher levels of trust between members of the yellow group and their discriminatory behaviour could be argued to be inherently rational i.e. it makes sense from a business perspective.
      Economic performance of members of the yellow group may, as a result of this behaviour be better than that of other groups. It may seem to them that their accumulation is due to their greater intelligence, business acumen or another positive trait. There may well be elements of those present, but their discrimination in favour of their own group could certainly be an important factor.
      Such discrimination on their part can mean greater rewards for members of their own group and it may not be visible to outsiders, other than the realisation that this group of people are relatively better off than others.
      Is discrimination by the State a valid response?
      Any response by the majority to address this imbalance, e.g. by imposing restrictions on the economic or other activities of the yellow minority group is likely to attract charges of discrimination.
      Because such communications cannot be done discreetly, communicating with the whole of society requires broadcasting to everyone rather than taking the narrowcasting approach the minority group pursued when they decided to discriminate in favour of their own group. Such narrowcasting is possible because the minority group are able to communicate with each other discreetly and in a manner that excludes everyone else.
       

       
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      Summary
      For Muslims, the questions around Riba are focused at the level of the individual because we want to know what we can and cannot do. This post looks at the broader societal issue. The conclusion is that riba and the business of lending can increase economic inequality between different segments in society.
      Assuming an Islamic state has an overriding need to address economic inequality - it cannot accede to the provision of credit in a manner that we are used to in the West.
      What is interest?
      This may seem obvious. but it's worth exploring since the result can generate new insights.
      Interest is a price charged by a lender to compensate them for not having the use of the money that they are lending. Interest can also be compensation for the fact that the money they have lent will be worth less in the future than today because of inflation Interest can also reflect a premium charged by the lender in order to account for the fact that some borrowers will not pay them back. The interest charged to the individual borrowers can vary because they vary in terms of their risk to the lender. Less risky borrowers are charged less and riskier ones are charged more. The last point is not immediately obvious to everyone it is important however and we shall come back to it.
      Access to credit
      In a free market, there are all sorts of lenders (e.g. seeking different levels of return and willing to take different levels of risk) and all sorts of borrowers (e.g. those with good 'credit scores vs. those with poor ones). Those with a good credit record can borrow more and more cheaply than those with a poor record. This may be because those with a good record have a history of making repayments on time and so on. And this is where we have our first macroeconomic effect.
      People who are poor and find it difficult to buy food and pay rent will invariably find it hard to keep up with their debt payments and if they don't pay their creditors on time, they will have a bad credit record. As a result, either they will not have access to credit at all or if they do, they will have to pay a higher price for it (a higher level of interest). This sounds crazy, but it is true. Credit is one product where the poor will generally pay more than the rich and it is certainly a product where those who need it to survive (rather than buying luxury goods) may not have access to it at all.
      Therefore in a society where there is credit, there are two mechanisms by which social inequality is increased, lack of credit to the poor and expensive credit where it is available. There is a third mechanism by which inequality is increased. If rich people have access to credit and the poor do not, the rich may bid up the prices of assets so that they become even more unaffordable to the poor. A real-life example of this is the UK property market, at the time of writing this post. Many young people are 'priced out' of the UK housing market because people with access to credit (e.g. investors) have bid up the prices of property.
      Materialism and credit
      A further reason why inequality is increased is that people are encouraged (as consumers) to buy things today and pay for them tomorrow. Over the period they borrow money, they pay interest. The assumption here is that the 'joy' they get for the chance to consume something earlier than they otherwise would have done compensates for the reduced consumption that they will have in the future. They will have reduced consumption because in the future their income will be paying interest for their previous consumption. 
      There is an important principle here. Such an approach to materialism has the following implications. This is a single-period gain. Because the only way you can keep doing it is to keep building up your debts! And at some point in the future, either you go bankrupt or the lender loses their capital or taxpayers' money is used to bail out both you and the lender. A materialist culture, therefore, combined with a system that makes credit easily available, rewards those people who have capital for pandering to the materialistic needs of the consumers but not much else.
      No easy solutions
      It would, however be naive to believe that the solution should be that lenders make credit available to all and at e.g. similar rates of interest. As we saw above interest performs a number of functions and one of these is to compensate lenders for risk. If lenders are forced to lend to the poor and at interest rates lower than they would normally offer, this may lead to losses for them.
      There is another reason why there are no easy solutions. If someone has poor financial circumstances, then offering them more credit and associated interest payments could add to their problems rather than improve them. Credit unions, which do not seek to make a profit and are run for the benefit of their members offer a partial but not a complete solution.
      Involvement of the State
      If the market is unable to lend without increasing inequality then we must consider the role of the State, the criteria it uses to make loans and how it manages demand if interest is not a pricing mechanism that it wishes to use. This may seem radical and an intervention that is far too statist and dirigiste some might even describe it as socialist or even communist.
      To put the above into context it's worth considering the role of the State when it comes to regulation of finance. It is notable that Martin Wolff a columnist writing in the Financial Times (the UK financial industry's newspaper) says:
      https://www.ft.com/content/09bfbb8d-22f5-4c70-9d85-2df7ed5c516e
      He arrives at this conclusion via an analysis of financial crises and not via the lens of inequality that I have used.
      It's worth examining some of the points that Wolff makes, they are widely considered to be true:
      This is a perennial issue, high levels of regulation stymie the returns that the financial sector can make and there is subsequently a call from economic liberals to remove the 'shackles', a new problem then arises, bailouts are needed and accompanied by new regulation.
      the latter being justification for a bailout.
      So state intervention in the financial markets is not an anomaly in a wholly capitalistic system. At the moment such intervention is justified given the damage that a bank run would cause for the whole economy.
      It's not outrageous therefore that if the welfare of the poor is considered to be important, the availability of credit for them and the terms of such finance should be of concern to policy-makers. 
      Practicalities of intervention
      One way of arriving at a solution is to consider why people need loans in the first place.
      It is clear that sometimes people need to borrow money to increase their earning power. Loans for such purposes are obviously a 'good thing'. This is one end of a spectrum and the State should intervene to provide such loans at 0% interest, thus making them completely halal. However, an effect of such intervention could be to encourage training providers to raise prices, so where government is effectively subsidising a sector it may also need to intervene in terms of the prices it is willing to pay. The same applies to goods such as medical services. Buying a car. Now we are moving along the spectrum, is the car for enjoyment or for work? And if it is for work, how blingy or spartan is it? The latter could attract state funding, but the former is less likely to do so. For enjoyment, people should be educated to understand that there is no alternative to saving up. And what about those who have capital?
      My understanding is that having capital is not a problem in Islam. Lending it for interest is a problem. But that is not the only productive use that capitalists have for their capital. They can own shares in enterprises and receive dividends for their risk capital i.e. the profit or dividends they make depends on the risk that they take. Such risk-taking can be inherently more productive than lending capital for interest. It can be applied to the development of new technologies and industries - rather than pandering to the materialist interests of consumers or indeed increasing such materialistic interests.
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