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27 May, 2012

“Experience An Exotic Music Festival In a Rainforest” & More


A compilation of stories of interesting events and developments in the world of Islam for the week ending 27 May 2012. Pls click on any of the headlines to go to the story.

Experience An Exotic Music Festival In a Rainforest

Australia, Malaysia Sign Free Trade Agreement

Islamic Environment Ministers Adopt Declaration On Sustainable Development

Pakistan To Open New Islamabad Airport In 2014

Conference On Investment Opportunities In Algeria In June

Kazakhstan Seeks Silk Road Investment

Handbook On Islamic View Of Nature To Be Launched Soon

Indian Brands Get ‘Halal’ Stamp, Set To Woo Muslims In Global Markets

New French Cabinet Includes Three Muslims

Indian Ministry Of Civil Aviation Gears Up For Haj 2012

Leicester Gets First Muslim Mayor

Qatar Signs QR6.6 Bln Infrastructure Contracts

Hoteliers Build Their Hopes On Egypt

Qatar Airways Begins Iraq Service

Malaysia, Indonesia To Meet Global Demand For Palm Oil

Call for More Malaysia-Kazakhstan Connectivity

800,000 Tourists Targetted For Melaka River Carnival

Malaysia Offers Expertise For Bangladesh’s Tourism Sector

Bangladesh To Train Afghan Pilots, Civil Aviation Officials

First Bangladesh 20-Year Road Master Plan Published

Brunei Tourism Promotes Unique Islamic Artefacts & Experience

Adau Gayo Celebration Has Huge Tourism Potential

Kyrgyzstan, China Plan To Build Joint Railway

Kazakhs, Turks To Expand Trade

Historic Istanbul Hotel to Reopen Doors in July

ISESCO Co-Organizes Islamic Culture Week In Rome

Handbook On Islamic View Of Nature To Be Launched Soon

Book To Promote Islamic Concepts Of Economy

Islamic Art Exhibit At Central Park Library Through May

Experience An Exotic Music Festival In a Rainforest

Music from Sarawak’s traditional Sape, the boat-shaped lute that has become the symbol of the Rainforest World Music Festival, gongs of all sizes and bamboo instruments, the sitar and tabla (the influence of Hindustani music in Malaysia), dhol drums with Malaysian flavours. All these you will hear alongside music from across the globe at the Rainforest World Music Festival to be held between 13 to 15 July 2012.

Every year, thousands and thousands of music lovers travel across the globe to Santubong, a 45 minute drive from Kuching, the capital city of Sarawak. It is like an annual pilgrimage for them. The Rainforest World Music Festival has been voted by Songlines, a renowned world music magazine for 3 consecutive years as the top 25 international festivals. This annual event, now in its 15th year, is organized by the Sarawak Tourism Board and is a 3 day celebration of daytime music workshops and action-packed nightly shows. Under the imposing shadow of Mount Santubong, and in the midst of a virgin rainforest, the unique festival brings together renowned world musicians from all continents and indigenous musicians from the interiors of Borneo.

Lovely ladies on fiery fiddles, balafon and talking drums that mingle with the ancient oud (an ancient string instrument); exotic instruments, like the carimbo of the Brazilian Amazonian Indians and mythical txalarpartas – an instrument which is made from long wooden boards and will be played by the Basque band from Spain. There will also be traditional music dating back to the slave days, slave chants which are close to extinction, all these in the Creole language accompanied by traditional instruments– the kayanm, bob and rouler. – music which evokes welling emotion, spiritual intensity and ecstatic rhythmic trance. You will get to hear incredible throat singers from Mongolia and their musical instruments like horse head fiddles and zither among others as well as French chanson and gypsy music. And if that is not enough, the Kanda Bongo Man and his Kwasa Kwasa dance will surely make you dance. As the famous saying goes – “If Kanda Bongo Man doesn’t make you want to dance, call an ambulance. You’re dead.”

Three days beginning at 2pm everyday with workshops that allow festival-goers to interact with the musicians and experience the music and dance of the different cultures up close. The nights are five-hour concerts that take place on a main stage and smaller “Tree Stage” that carries on past midnight. Nighttime concerts are held on a stage built by the lake, under the open sky and in an informal ambiance, sitting on the grass lawns and dancing to entrancing world beats. The festival then culminates in a huge finale on the final night, where all performers are invited to play onstage as one.

This year’s line-up has been confirmed. There will be performers from Burkina Faso; Mamadou Diabate, Le Trio Joubran from Palestine, Khusugtun from Mongolia, Raiz De Cafezal a group of Brazilian Amazonian Indians, Oreka TX from Spain, La Zikabilo from France, String Sisters comprising fiddlers from the Scandinavian countries, Scotland, Ireland & the United States, Kanda Bongo Man from Congo, Cankisou from Czech Republic, Daniel Waro from the Reunion Island and Hata-The One comprising musicians from Malaysia, Korea, Turkey and Taiwan. They will also be joined by Malaysian musicians like Samuel Dass and Prakash, Diplomats of Drum as well as Sarawakian very own Rhythm of Borneo, and The Music of Sarawak who representing the diverse and poly-layered local music and instruments.

Sarawak is a place for history, mystery, romance and exotic adventures, the land of the fabled white Rajahs, the Hornbills and the Orang Utans. Its rainforest houses the world’s richest and most diverse ecosystem. The ancient virgin forest is also home to 27 ethnic groups with their own distinct languages, culture and lifestyle. Their ancient cultures may differ but they have one thing in common, their warmth and hospitality.

Apart from the music, there will also be a smorgasbord of delectable delights at the Food and Village Mart set against the talismanic Orang Ulu and Iban longhouses, which encircle the venue for the whole duration of the festival. Take back with you a variety of arts and craft, event memorabilia as well as CD and recordings of the performing artistes.

Music is not all about sound; it is an art-form, and with it comes culture, diversity, creativity, talent, and spellbinding performances. As one foreign journalist puts it, the festival is “one of the most extraordinary festivals I have attended in terms of the camaraderie amongst the performers, the lakeside setting under Mount Santubong and the warm welcome of the hosts.”

Tips for an enjoyable Rainforest World Music Festival experience:

• Be there early. There are usually long queues at the gate for tickets or access to the venue due to ticket verification and other security measures.

• Please do not bring non-permitted items (knives, sharp items) as they will be confiscated

• No food & drink and animals are allowed to be brought inside the venue.

• Food, beverage, CDs, souvenirs and crafts will be on sale at the event. All items are sold on CASH Terms except where indicated and there is no ATM machine at the venue so please prepare accordingly.

• Limited car-parking facilities are available near the festival site. However, to avoid any inconvenience, you are encouraged to catch the shuttle buses which will operate at regular intervals during the event.

• You can bring your own lawn chairs or mats.

• Bring along a desire to be at one with nature and a yearning to celebrate and unite with kindred spirits from around the globe.

More updates on the Rainforest World Music Festival 2012 are available online at www.rainforestmusic-borneo.com.

Australia, Malaysia Sign Free Trade Agreement

22 May 2012 (Bernama) – Australia and Malaysia today signed a comprehensive free trade agreement (FTA) that will open avenues for Australian goods and services into the Malaysian market. The agreement will further integrate the Australian economy with the fast-growing Asian region, benefiting Australian exporters, importers and consumers.

It was signed in Kuala Lumpur by Australia’s Trade and Competiveness Minister Craig Emerson and his Malaysian counterpart Mustapa Mohamed. Today’s signing follows an undertaking in March last year by Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Najib Tun Razak, the Malaysian Prime Minister, to complete negotiations within a year.

Under the accord, Australia will be as well-positioned in the Malaysian market as Malaysia’s closest trading partners in ASEAN, and in some cases better. For Malaysia, the accord allows the same tariff-free entry to Australia currently enjoyed by Singapore.

The FTA will guarantee tariff-free entry for 97.6 per cent of current goods exports from Australia once it enters into force. This will rise to 99 per cent by 2017. Malaysian exporters, meanwhile, will enjoy duty-free entry to the Australian market.

Australia has also agreed to provide a three-year package of up to 21 short and long-term scholarships, fellowships, awards and exchanges to support Malaysia’s economic reform efforts. This complements existing exchanges between Australia and Malaysia on public sector and economic governance, including through the Endeavour Scholarships.

Malaysia is Australia’s 10th largest trading partner, with two-way trade worth almost $16 billion in the 2010-11 financial year. Australian exporters of automotive parts, iron, steel and dairy products will benefit from improved market access under the agreement.

The FTA will also help diversify the trading relationship by opening Malaysia’s services sector to Australian companies. Malaysia has committed to allowing majority Australian ownership of service providers in a range of industries, including telecommunications, insurance, education, tourism, research and development, accountancy and mining-related services.

The signing of this FTA is an early outcome of the white paper on Australia in the Asian Century. The agreement goes well beyond the lowering or elimination of import tariffs. It is a vote of confidence in the Malaysian people, in their economic reform process and in the importance of the Asian region to Australia.

The FTA will also complement benefits already flowing from the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand FTA.

Islamic Environment Ministers Adopt Declaration On Sustainable Development

20/05/2012 (OIC Media release) – The 5th Islamic Conference of Environment Ministers concluded with the adoption of the Islamic Declaration on Sustainable Development. The Conference was held from 17-18 May 2012 in Astana, Kazakhstan, under the patronage of Mr. Karim Massimov, Prime Minister of Kazakhstan. The Conference was chaired by Prince Turki bin Nasser bin Abdul Aziz, President of the Presidency of Meteorology and Environment of Saudi Arabia and attended by Ministers of Environment of the OIC Member States, high-level officials, representatives of relevant OIC institutions and international agencies and organizations.

In his opening remarks, Ambassador Abdul Moiz Bokhari, OIC Assistant Secretary General, underscored the centrality of sustainable development to the overall agenda of the OIC which encompass, inter alia, economic development, poverty alleviation, trade enhancement, environmental protection and health. Referring to the OIC Ten Year Programme of Action and the corresponding transformation in the OIC to make it more relevant to the contemporary challenges, he drew the attention of the participants to the efforts of the OIC including the adoption of the OIC Water Vision 2025, preparation of the OIC Green Technology Blue Print and the establishment of a mechanism for regular consultations among OIC Member States on environment and climate change related issues.

The Islamic Declaration on Sustainable Development adopted by the 5th ICEM reaffirms the commitment of the OIC Member States to the principles and objectives adopted by the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in 1992. It calls upon the international community to renew its efforts to meet the goals defined by the UNCED through strengthened international cooperation, more robust and effective institutional framework for sustainable development backed by the necessary financial and technical resources. It further calls upon the developed countries to honour their financial commitments for sustainable development and take concrete steps towards debt cancellation, easy access to markets, technology transfer and capacity-building assistance.

The Declaration cautions against narrow focus on specific technologies or prescriptions which could lead to the creation of new technology dependence, erection of trade barriers or conditionalities on development finance. It emphasizes the necessity for the developed countries to assume their responsibilities in terms of reduction of emissions in accordance with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol.

Pakistan To Open New Islamabad Airport In 2014

Dubai, May 23, 2012: At a seminar held on the sidelines of The Airport Show-2012 running at the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre (DICEC) until Thursday, a senior Pakistani civil aviation official has announced details about the airports developments in the Islamic republic, especially the upcoming Benazir Bhutto International Airport (BBIA) in Islamabad.

Mr. V S Sodha, Project Director of BBIA, said: “Work is currently underway on the new airport which is located 30 kilometers southwest of the existing one in Islamabad. The new state-of-the-art facility will be airy and user-friendly as many unique innovative design features have been included in the airport facility. The facility is expected to handle nine million passengers in the first year of operation, 15 million by 2019 and an estimated 25 million passengers by 2024.”

The new 3,200-acre (13 square kilometers) airport site is situated on a plot of land acquired by the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (PCAA) in the 1980s at Pind Ranjah near Fateh Jang (an additional 400 acres have been acquired to build the two runways).

The Phase II of the project is underway. It will have car parking for 2,000 vehicles, a covered plaza area for 200 cars, a control tower, maintenance hangar, a 15-gate terminal with ten remote gates, 42 immigration counters, nine baggage claim Carousels, 12 X-ray machines and office and administration facilities.

There will also be a hotel, convention centre, duty-free shops, airside mall, business centre, food court, leisure facilities and banks at the new terminal. The airport will have an 180,000 square metre modular terminal building which will initially be able to handle nine million passengers a year. There will also be a cargo complex capable of handling 100,000 tonnes a year, four rapid-exit taxiways, apron parking sufficient for the contact stands, underground cable network, parking for ground handling vehicles, secure cargo areas and major airport road infrastructure.

The airport infrastructure was designed by ADPI (Aéroports de Paris ingénierie) along with Acorp, Mushtaq and Bilal Mahboob Associates. The terminal building was designed by CPG Corporation of Singapore in a joint venture with National Engineering Services Pakistan. This will be the first Greenfield airport ever constructed in Pakistan. The Benazir Bhutto terminal building is being constructed on a modular basis for easy future expansion.

The first test flight to check the runway at the new airport took place on March 15. The new airport will have bigger halls as compared to Jinnah and Allama Iqbal terminals in Karachi and Lahore and will handle 6.5 million passengers annually. The construction of two runways have been completed; however, the remaining work is in progress and likely to complete by end of June 2013.This airport will be a modern landmark structure representing the 21st century Pakistan, as it will be the diplomatic and business gateway to Pakistan through the capital city of Islamabad.

The construction of the airport costing over Rs60 billion was started in April, 2007. Former President Pervez Musharraf and former Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz laid the foundation of the airport. The PPP-led government renamed it as New Benazir Bhutto International Airport in 2008. The project was to be completed by 2010; however, it remained plagued with problems of water, land acquisition and transportation.

The CAA director general admitted that the construction work remained slow in the past. The contract of terminal construction was awarded in May last year and it would be completed in 2013.The Multan airport will also be upgraded and it will include a new runway and more than US$70 million investment will be involved with this city’s airport project.

Conference On Investment Opportunities In Algeria In June

ORAN (Algeria), May 19 (NNN-APS) — The Japanese capital, Tokyo, will host next June a conference on investment opportunities and partnership in Algeria, Japanese ambassador to Algeria Tsukasa Kawada said. During a visit to the Oran Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCIO), Tsukasa said his country plans to hold this important event to present the Algerian investment potential and make the Japanese investors know about the opportunities afforded by Algeria.

The diplomat expressed his hope that this conference “becomes a platform to boost cooperation between Algeria and Japan and expands areas for action and partnership for branches up to the relations between the two countries”. He said, “We want to bring the operators of both countries through this initiative, which will involve representatives of government sectors such as the Ministry of Economy and Japanese business leaders.”

The Japanese ambassador to Algeria said the economic operators of his country “need sufficient information about investment opportunities and partnership in Algeria” through increased communication and exchange and other initiatives, saying that Japan needs to learn more about investment opportunities and partnerships in various sectors and the human and technical potential.

Tsukasa is planning another meeting in Algeria which will bring together the operators of both countries, in coordination with the competent authorities in Algeria, in addition to encouraging the exchange of visits of delegations and heads of enterprises and create an appropriate climate to meet this goal.

Meanwhile, the first ” Morocco-Algeria Partnership Forum” bringing together private sector representatives of Algeria and Morocco was held in Casablanca, Morocco to create the required synergies for increasing trade volume between the two countries. Initiated by the Moroccan Association of Exporters (Asmex), this one-day forum had on its agenda two panels: “Towards the development of economic and trade partnership between Morocco and Algeria” and “How to take profit of the opportunities and complementarities between the economies of Algeria and Morocco.”

Opened by the Moroccan Minister of Industry, Trade and New Technologies Abdelkader Aamara, the forum was marked by the participation, representing Algerian side, Boualem M’Rakach Chairman of the Algerian Confederation of Employers, Mohand Said Nait-Abdelaziz, President of the National Confederation of Algerian Employers (CNPA), Ali Nasri Bey, president of the National association of Algerian exporters (Anexal) and the Moroccan side Mohamed Tazi president of the Asmex, Driss Houat, president of the Moroccan federation of trade chambers and Rouissi Youssef Director of Attijariwafa Bank.

Kazakhstan Seeks Silk Road Investment

2012-05-22 ASTANA – Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev May 22 urged foreigners to invest in the New Silk Road project, Tengri News reported. Through the project, Kazakhstan seeks to double the tonnage of cargo shipped annually through its territory to at least 50m tonnes by 2020, Nazarbayev told the 25th plenary session of the Presidential Council of Foreign Investors.

Kazakhstan hopes to become the “business transit hub” for Central Asia, he said, according to RIA Novosti. The project includes plans to expand the Caspian seaport at Aktau, build a logistical centre in Aktobe, complete the West Europe-West China International Transit Corridor by 2015, and increase the rail system’s handling capacity, Zakon.kz reported.

Handbook On Islamic View Of Nature To Be Launched Soon

KUALA TERENGGANU (Malaysia), 29 Jumada Al-Thani/21 May (IINA)-WWF Malaysia and the Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia (Ikim) are working together to produce a handbook on conserving the environment with an Islamic perspective. The book, the first of its kind in Malaysia, will be launched in July, said Ikim director-general Datuk Nik Mustapha Hassan.

“This book is produced as a reference for Muslims, particularly leaders who are imam, religious speakers and teachers who can help in the effort to conserve the environment.

“Citing Quranic verses, hadiths and parables of prophets as well as presenting comprehensive facts, the handbook can benefit all levels of society in contributing to the protection of the environment and wildlife in Malaysia,” he said recently. Nik Mustapha said the publication was in line with Ikim’s function, which is to carry out research on the role of Islam and Muslims in facing challenges due to the ever-changing global situation.

“Through this handbook, we would like to emphasise that problems and issues related to the environment and wildlife have relevance to Islamic teachings,” he said. He said Ikim authors visited two WWF Malaysia project sites – the Belum-Temengor Forest Complex in Gerik, Perak, and Setiu, Terengganu – while working on this book.

“Both locations are habitats for various endangered species including the two national icons, the Malayan tiger and turtle, which will be given particular focus in this handbook,” he said.

Meanwhile, WWF Malaysia chief executive officer, Datuk Dr Dionysius Sharma said the project was a continuation of ongoing activities carried out based on the Islamic approach in wildlife species conservation.

He explained that among the efforts made by WWF Malaysia with the local communities and Ikim included the preparation of a Friday sermon text titled “Environmental conservation is our collective responsibility” for 428 mosques throughout Terengganu in 2008.

“Nature conservation is an important aspect that is recognised by many religions around the world,” he said, adding that the world’s five main religions had declared their responsibilities to care for the environment through the Assisi Declaration in 1986. These religions are Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism and Islam. Three others, Baha’ism, Jainism and Sikhism, issued a similar declaration later.

Indian Brands Get ‘Halal’ Stamp, Set To Woo Muslims In Global Markets

BANGALORE (India), 29 Jumada Al-Thani/21 May (IINA)-Islamic branding is an idea whose time has come, as brands tracking a broader consumer base get accustomed to Muslim sensibilities. It’s not just about halal food alone, for it’s at the forefront of the branding repertoire that resonates deeply with Muslim consumers around the globe.

Homegrown brands like CavinKare, Daawat, Bikano, Goldwinner oil, Vadilal ice cream, Amrutanjan Health Care and Gujarat Ambuja Exports are embracing halal-certification to get a better foothold in markets like Singapore, Malaysia and Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) countries.

CavinKare has got a halal certification from Halal India, an apex body for halal certification, for three of its products – Fairever, Nyle herbal shampoo and Ruchi pickle – to expand its footprint in Singapore, Malaysia and GCC. “The certification is a reason-to-belief for customers on quality parameters. The certification will also give an edge over our competitors,” said R S Vijay Kumar, GM of international business at CavinKare, a Chennai-based personal care company.

Nyle shampoo, for instance, cornered a 26.7% share in the Singapore halal-compliant market and 22% in Malaysia for the same segment last fiscal, he added. The Rs 1,100-crore company expects its international business to touch the Rs 100-crore mark in the current fiscal from Rs 70 crore earlier.

Bikano, the sweet and the namkeen brand from Bikanervala Foods, has seen a 30% jump in soan papdi and cookies sales in Malaysian market in the last one year, partly due to the halal-certification that gave a higher visibility on retail shelves there. “Halal signifies highest standards of quality and hygiene in ingredients, processes and products,” said Sachin Anand, head (international business), Bikanervala Foods.

Amrutanjan has obtained a halal certificate for all its pain balm products exported to Singapore, Malaysia, West Indies and a few African markets. “Islam in many ways is a way of life. To that extent, Islamic branding is all about using brands as good deeds. What starts with halal foods, can move on to halal practice in every industry, be it the pharmaceutical or the cosmetic industry. Islamic branding can embrace broader pastures that cover business practices too,” said Harish Bijoor, CEO of Harish Bijoor Consults.

“With many brands embracing halal, Indian brands may look at an export market opportunity of about $200 billion in the next ten years,” said Mohamed Jinna, CEO of Halal India. The halal stamp can be extended to those brands tuned into the principles of Sharia in faith, good practice and spirit. Globally, the halal market is worth a staggering $2.1 trillion a year, says a report by brand consultancy firm Ogilvy Noor.

The market opportunity for halal products is still untapped in India, but brand consultants are not dismissing its potential in a country with 160 million Muslims. Paul Temporal, founder and MD of Temporal Brand Consulting, feels that there is a lot more room for brand managers to adapt these values for different markets and cultures, whether Islamic or not.

“If you look at Islamic values, most of them are emotional and this makes for good branding and marketing. A more careful look reveals that a lot of these values do not just suit Islamic audiences, but are of a universally appealing nature. The issue or challenge is to find where these people are and to reach them with suitable products,” he added.

New French Cabinet Includes Three Muslims

PARIS, 1 Rajab/22 May (IINA)-France’s first left-wing President in nearly 20 years, Francois Hollande has unveiled a government that includes three Muslim ministers. Of the 34 ministers in Hollande’s government, three are Muslims. They include Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, Yamina Benguigui and Kader Arif.

Morocco born Belkacem, 34, has been appointed as the minister for women’s rights, a position long missing from the French government. The former presidential campaign spokesperson is also the government spokeswoman now.

The second Muslim Minister, Yamina Benguigui, Junior Minister for French Nationals Abroad is a French-Algerian film director. She is known for her films on gender issues in the North African immigrant community in France

The third Muslim minister is Kader Arif, the Junior Minister for Veterans who has been vocal in blaming Israel for French foreign affairs problems, saying Sarkozy’s Mediterranean Union was blocked by Israeli actions in Gaza.

Hollande has appointed Jean-Marc Ayrault, a veteran social democrat and German expert, as his prime minister.

Indian Ministry Of Civil Aviation Gears Up For Haj 2012

23-May, 2012 (PIB) — Mr. Ajit Singh, the Union Minister of Civil Aviation today held a meeting to review the Haj operations 2011 and take inputs from the representatives of the Haj Committee of India (HCOI), State Haj Committees and all other concerned to make Haj operations 2012 comfortable and smooth for the Haj pilgrimage. Mr. Singh said that his Ministry has geared itself to put in place all logistics well before the start of the Haj flights. Announcing that the Haj operations are proposed to commence in the second half of September this year, he said that flights would be operated from 21 embarkation points in the country for ‘Hajis’ in various states.

The Minister said that penalty provisions are incorporated in proposed MoU for Air Charter service to ensure better facilities for Haj yatris during air travel and at the airports. These include penalty clause for non-tagging, non-weighing of baggage, for absence of airline personnel at help desks in Jeddah and Madina. Among other facilities proposed, the Minister mentioned, are round the clock control rooms at Jeddah and Madina and at Heqdquarters in Delhi, proper display of passengers rights at all places in Mecca, Madina, Jeddah and all embarkation points in India.

Mrs Mohsina Kidwai, Chairperson, Haj Committee of India (HOCI) also attended the meeting as a special invitee. She underlined the fact that there has been a significant improvement in the Haj operations since the mechanism for co-ordination among Local Haj Committees, Central Haj Committee, Consulate in Jeddah, Ministry of External Affairs and Ministry of Civil Aviation was introduced last year. She expressed hope that the arrangements would be much better this year as the Civil Aviation Minister has taken pains to have the preparations started early and also to review the process personally.

The representatives of the Local Haj Committees and of the State Governments which included the Ministers were highly appreciative of the initiatives taken by the Civil Aviation Minister so much in advance and they all believed that the Haj 2012 would definitely be much more comfortable, smooth and easy for the Haj pilgrims this year with the initiatives taken by the Minister himself.

The Minister assured that the suggestions and inputs received have been taken note of and would be duly considered.

This year about 1,25,000 pilgrims are expected to visit Saudi Arabia through HOCI to perform Haj. To facilitate the pilgrims, 21 embarkation points for Haj 2012 have been earmarked in the country. These are: Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Kozikhode, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Kolkta, Lucknow, Mumbai, Aurangabad, Bhopal, Indore, Nagpur, Gaya, Ranchi, Varanasi, Guwahati, Jaipur, Mangalore, Srinagar and Goa. At all the embarkation points help desks and control room would be installed to help the Hajis. Simultaneously Facilitation Desks at Jeddah and Madina Airport have also been opened to facilitate the pilgrims.

Dr. Nasim Zaidi, Secretary Civil Aviation and other senior officials of the Ministry were also present in the meeting.

Leicester Gets First Muslim Mayor

LEICESTER (UK) 27 Jumada Al-Thani/19 May (IINA) – An Indian-origin Muslim councilor Abdul Razak Osman has been sworn in as the first ever Muslim mayor in the multi-cultural town of Leicester, the post seen as a challenge as Britain prepares for the Olympic Games. “It’s an important year, with the Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics, so it’s a privilege for me to hold office with everything that’s going on,” Councilor Osman said at the swearing in ceremony, The Indian Express reported on Friday, May 18.

“I want to focus on visiting the communities and raising the profile of the office of Lord Mayor,” he added. Osman was born in Kenya and arrived in the UK in 1971. Joining the city council in 1996, he takes over from Councilor Rob Wann.

“I’m proud to be the first Muslim councilor to hold the position – we’ve had Christian, Hindu, Sikh mayors and now I’m able to bring the Islamic faith to the office which is a great honor,” Osman added. The term of Leicester’s Lord Mayor is one year, and runs from May to May. Though being the first Muslim to fill Leicester’s mayoral post, Osman is not the first British Muslim to serve in a high-profile public post.

In May 2011, Councilor Naveeda Ikram was named as the lord mayor of the district of Bradford, the first Muslim woman to hold this high post. Earlier in November 2010, Lutfur Rahman was elected as the mayor of the East London borough of Tower Hamlets, the first Muslim mayor in Britain.

In 2007, Muslim Labour MP Shahid Malik became the first British Muslim minister after he was named as a minister under Secretary of State for the Department for International Development (DFID). Malik has also served as Justice Minister, Home Office Minister and most recently as Minister for Race, Faith and Community Cohesion.

Another Muslim MP, Sadiq Khan, was also appointed in 2007 as a government assistant responsible for parliamentary affairs. In the 2010 parliamentary elections, eight Muslims were elected as MPs in the House of Commons. Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, a British-born of Pakistani origin, is the first Muslim woman to serve in the British Cabinet as minister without portfolio.

Britain is home to a sizable Muslim minority of nearly 2 million. The majority of the multi-ethnic minority has Indian, Bengali and Pakistani backgrounds.

Qatar Signs Qr 6.6 Bln Infrastructure Contracts

Kuwait News Agency – 23 May, 2012 – Qatar’s Public Works Authority (Ashghal) signed on Tuesday a number of multi-billion-riyal contracts to build and develop infrastructure, and maintenance of roads and buildings. The 6.6 billion riyals contracts are designed to construct Lusail highway and Industrial street, development of operation and maintenance system for main roads and drainage networks.

Chairman of the Public Works Authority and representatives of the executing companies, Nasser Al-Mawlawi, who signed the contracts, said Lusail highway would provide vital connection into Doha’s Lusail Development area, currently under construction.

He said existing major development areas such as the Pearl and Katara will also benefit greatly from the project with improved interchanges and better journey times for residents, businesses and visitors to the area.

Lusail highway will meet future traffic demands and deliver a modern road network that will connect people and places with speed and ease. On completion, the 5.3 km, dual four lanes, Lusail highway will serve the new development areas in the north of Doha.

Hoteliers Build Their Hopes On Egypt

The National – 25 May, 2012 – Major hotel operators are pushing ahead with plans to expand in Egypt, despite disruption to a number of projects and the decline in the tourism industry caused by political and social upheaval.

“We think there’s tremendous scope,” said Neil George, the vice president of acquisitions and development, Middle East and Africa, for Starwood Hotels and Resorts, which has brands including Le Meridien and Sheraton. The company believes that there are further opportunities for it to open more hotels in areas including Sharm El Sheikh, Hurghada and Cairo.

Egypt “will always remain a massive tourist destination just because of what it has to offer. We’re waiting for everything to come back to normal, so we can get going back in that country again”, Mr George said.

Tourism made up 11.3 per cent of Egypt’s economy in 2010. Last year, there was a 33 per cent decline to 9.8 million tourists, according to official statistics. Revenue from tourism, which reached US$ 12.5 billion (Dh45.91bn) in 2010, fell to $ 8.8bn last year.

Although it is still significantly off its peaks, there has been an improvement in Egyptian tourism, led by the resorts on the Red Sea. The number of tourists visiting Egypt increased by 32 per cent in the first quarter compared with the same period last year, according to data from the Egyptian Tourist Authority.

There are hopes that stability will return soon after the presidential election. Starwood has a St Regis hotel being developed along the Nile as part of a $ 1bn project owned by Qatari Diar. But the pace of the development has slowed because of the political situation.

“It is slow,” said Mr George. “When there’s a revolution in the country, things take a different priority. But it’s going ahead. It’ll happen. It’s just taking a bit longer than we thought because no one could have foreseen what was going to happen.” He said that Starwood also had Le Meridien under construction at the airport, a project that had also slowed, but was still expected to be finished in about a year.

“People who have invested in Egypt aren’t just going to run away. They’re just going to wait for things to return to normal and then get back in there and continue where they left off,” said Mr George. “Most of the deals that we were working on went on hold. The signed ones are all still there. They just haven’t progressed. The ones we were in discussions about, they’re now starting to come back and talk to us about things.” Fairmont, meanwhile, has restarted talks to open a resort in Sharm El Sheikh as part of a $ 1.2bn development.

“We’re moving forwards,” said Frank Naboulsi, a vice president and the general manager of Fairmont Nile City Hotel in Cairo. Hilton Worldwide hopes to open a delayed hotel in Makadi Bay, near Hurghada, towards the end of next year. It also has a hotel under development in Heliopolis in Cairo.

“While in 2011 there was a revolution, Hilton was still very committed to the market,” said Christian Grage, the vice president of operations for Egypt and Levant at Hilton Worldwide. “In 2011, we opened a resort in the south of Egypt in Marsa Alam, around summer. We also rebranded and took over the Zamalek residences as a Hilton earlier that year as well. That was in Cairo.”

He said Hilton was keen on other opportunities in Egypt. “There’s quite a few more that we’re looking at at this point of time. Whether it is within the city, or in resort areas, we are very open-minded because we really believe in this market.”

Qatar Airways Begins Iraq Service

Gulf Times – 24 May, 2012 – Qatar Airways extended its Middle East footprint to Iraq with the launch of scheduled flights to Erbil yesterday. The Doha-based airline is operating four-flights-a-week, non-stop on the route – the first of two new Iraqi services being launched within two weeks.

Qatar Airways will start flights to the capital Baghdad, from June 7, also operating four-times-a-week. Both the Erbil and Baghdad services are being operated with an Airbus A320 in a two-class configuration of 12 seats in business class and 132 in economy.

Qatar Airways senior vice-president (GCC, Levant, Iran, Iraq and sub-continent) Fathi al-Shehab was onboard the inaugural flight which arrived at Erbil International Airport to a traditional water salute welcome followed by an airport ceremony attended by local officials.

Erbil takes Qatar Airways’ global network to 115 destinations worldwide. Qatar Airways chief executive officer Akbar al-Baker said: “Iraq has long been underserved due to the political and economic difficulties the country has faced over the years, but Iraq is undergoing reform, opening up to rapid infrastructure improvements and improved air access in an area for so long depleted by sufficient number of flights.

“With the changes taking place, there are a growing number of opportunities across the country prompting more international air travel. We look forward to making Erbil and our start-up to Baghdad next month a huge success.”

Addressing local media upon arrival in Erbil, al-Shehab said: “Erbil is the latest route launch for Qatar Airways in a busy year that now sees the fifth destination added to the carrier’s global network since January. We have been working with the travel trade and corporations not only in Iraq, but around our network to build these two routes together. Greater air access facilitates movements to and from Iraq and will further promote business and trade. And of course by flying here, we help Iraqis all over the world get a step closer to their families and homes for short breaks or long holidays.”

Located 350km north of the Iraqi capital Baghdad, Erbil is the country’s third largest city and fastest growing with a population of over 1mn people.

Malaysia, Indonesia To Meet Global Demand For Palm Oil

SINGAPORE, May 25 (NNN-Bernama) — Based on the current production and expansion rate, Malaysia and Indonesia, the world’s top two palm oil producers will be challenged to meet the foreseeable global demand 12 years from now, says Pawan Kumar, Associate Director at Rabobank International’s Food and Agribusiness Research and Advisory Division.

He said global palm oil production had doubled in the past decade and the commodity has now become one of the fastest-expanding agricultural products across the globe. “At present, palm oil production is concentrated in Malaysia and Indonesia, with 85 per cent global output between them. Palm oil demand is largely driven by the massive economies of China and India, and by 2020 will constitute a whopping 38 per cent of the world’s vegetable oil consumption,” he told Bernama.

Pawan said long-term demand for palm oil would continue to rise with the population in Asia growing and as economies become more developed over the next 10 years. He said palm oil would also see strong demand from developed economies, driven by the industrial use of palm oil products such as oleochemicals and biodiesel.

On the industry’s future, in particular countries like Malaysia, he said, Malaysia did not have a massive land mass and while it has been leading the pack as the biggest palm oil producer for years, the plantation sector has become relatively mature. “We’re seeing very little land left for expansion. This is a real cause for concern for Malaysian farmers because suitable land could run out in possibly three to four years,” he said.

Pawan said Indonesia was Malaysia’s biggest competitor, with more land available there for opening new oil palm estates at lower costs. He said Malaysia’s palm oil industry started years ago and had reached a more mature phase of industrial development even before Indonesia started its high-growth phase.

In order for Malaysia to go back to its golden years in production growth, he said, major replanting has to be done, but this may take almost a quarter of a century to replant the entire national hectarage. He said the other factor would be the oil palm fruit harvesters’ shortage; this can be overcome if the government eases foreign labour regulations.

“At least 80 per cent of estate labourers in Malaysia are Indonesians, and with Indonesia’s own palm oil industry on a high growth track, there is stiff competition to retain the labour pool from returning to their homeland. There is further potential to increase yield levels through best management practices and seed development,” he said.

With constraints on Malaysia’s own domestic availability, Indonesia is the most immediate opportunity as Indonesia has similar climatic conditions and suitable land available for future growth.

Pawan said there are other regions in Asia which have shown potential like Thailand and Cambodia but both have limitations. He said large land base with suitable climatic conditions are available in Africa and Latin America but they have their own challenges which need to be addressed before they can start sizeable contribution.

Indonesia has not only seen rising export levels, but also significant growth in the domestic consumption of palm oil products. Indonesia, the world’s third largest palm oil consumer, has seen domestic consumption grow at eight per cent compound annual growth rate over the last 10 years. A lot of it has been driven by industrial usage and food consumption, which has grown by five per cent in the same period.

Last year, Malaysia’s palm oil exports to the world stood at 17.9 million tonnes against an estimated 17.3 million tonnes of exports from Indonesia. Industrial usage in Indonesia was a lot driven by biodiesel production in 2011because of better economic viabilities of the biodiesel plants. The viability of these plants will have a detrimental impact on the industrial consumption growth.

Also, the production growth in Indonesia is much higher than the consumption growth, which will, in all probability, make Indonesia a higher exporting nation in the years to come.

Asked whether Malaysia can maintain its leading position as the world’s largest producer in view of the limitation in acquiring new land, Pawan said: “In 2010, Indonesia had already surpassed Malaysia as the world’s largest producer of palm oil, with Indonesia accounting for 48 per cent of the world’s total production vis-à-vis Malaysia’s 37 per cent.”

Last year, Malaysia’s palm oil exports to the world stood at 17.9 million tonnes against an estimated 17.3 million tonnes of exports from Indonesia. Industrial usage in Indonesia was a lot driven by biodiesel production in 2011 because of better economic viabilities of the biodiesel plants. The viability of these plants will have a detrimental impact on the industrial consumption growth.

He said Indonesia had one of the highest production growth rates in 2010/2011 with a 10-year compound annual growth rate of 11 per cent as compared to Malaysia’s four per cent. “With Indonesia’s much higher availability of suitable land for the development of new oil palm plantations at lower prices, Malaysia will be unable to compete for the pole position it once held,” he said.

On climate change, Pawan said climatic condition has always been a factor in the agribusiness space. Recently, he said, the unfavourable weather occurrence has become unpredictable, which is a cause for concern. “We had the El Nino event in 2009/10, which impacted palm oil production, followed by the La Nina event in 2010/11 and 2011/12.

“These events have had a detrimental impact on competing oilseeds in the Americas (soybean) which influences palm oil prices. We are already seeing that due to dry conditions in Latin America; the production of soybean had gone down by 10 per cent in 2011/12,” he said. He said Oil palm is a tropical crop which can be cultivated within a certain band of latitudes on either side of the equator. The most suitable range is suggested to be around /- 10 degrees from the equator although there are examples of oil palm cultivation within 20 degrees latitude from the equator.

Besides Malaysia and Indonesia, Pawan said Thailand was another key producer, while Nigeria and Colombia are the next largest producers although their yields are substantially lower than Malaysia and Indonesia. Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos share similar agro-climatic features with Thailand but have not commenced oil palm production on a commercial scale at this stage.

“Outside Asia, the industry has started exploring the possibility of future supply potentially coming from Africa and South American countries. These regions have similar agro-climatic conditions and have been producing oil palm though on a smaller scale,” he said.

Pawan said both continents contain five main countries with suitable agro-climatic conditions and potential but there are different sets of challenges with respect to each region. He said Africa presents certain challenges on the social, political and legal fronts, and at this stage has not been fully tested. “South America has higher labour costs as well as labour regulatory and social compliance issues.”

On key challenges faced by palm oil-producing countries, Pawan said that pricing advantage, driven by lower production cost, was the primary driver for palm oil consumption in price-sensitive emerging economies. Despite production growth, supply constraints due to limited land and other factors are getting apparent.

He also said palm oil has long been the focus of criticism over sustainability issues due to deforestation and planting on peatland. “Another key challenge lies in reconciling stakeholders’ diverging interests. The demand for sustainable palm oil is rising, led by developed economies, primarily the European Union (EU). Other key issues that remain for palm oil are the discussions about its high saturated fat content and its low viscosity at low temperatures, which discourages palm oil use during low temperature period,” he added.

Call for More Malaysia-Kazakhstan Connectivity

ASTANA (Kazakhstan), May 24 (NNN-Bernama): Malaysia and Kazkahstan should look into connectivity as the most important factor to further spur tourism between both nations, given the increasing number of Kazakh tourists visiting Malaysia, says Tourism Minister Ng Yen Yen.

Malaysia is optimistic of receiving 25,000 Kazakh tourists this year, up from 17,000 in 2011, with the upcoming Malaysian tourism office in the Republic soon and joint technical training programmes, she told Bernama. In 2010, only 10,000 Kazakh tourists visited Malaysia. “The numbers show very good improvement and we hope to attract more tourists this year.

“We need connectivity to enhance bilateral tourism development and I’m sure if there are flights every day, we can achieve the numbers quickly,” she said after a 40-minute closed-door meeting with Kazakhstan Industry and New Technology Minister Asset Isekeshev on bilateral cooperation in tourism development at the three-day Fifth Astana Economic Forum (AEF) from May 22 to May 23.

The AEF, an annual meeting of world economists, academics, business leaders and government ministers, officially opened today with participants from 85 countries including Malaysian delegates led by the Tourism Minister.

On the new tourism office to be set up in Almaty, Kazakhstan which was among the issues discussed, Ng said the tourism office has to be set up very quickly to look after Central Asia, the emerging strong market, and Malaysia is seeking support from the Republic’s government for this purpose, particularly on licensing.

“With the tourism office here, we can get our promotions out very quickly. We need Kazakah people to come to Malaysia to understand more about Malaysia, so they can talk more about us. So we offer training for Kazakhs in the tourism industry,” she added.

Another topic discussed was the need for more investment to set up hotels in both countries, she said. “They are looking at opening ski resorts, theme parks in a big way as well as having more hotels, and likewise it will be good to have some Kazakhstan hotels in Malaysia to create a more accommodative environment,” the minister explained.

Moreover, Ng said, with no charge for a visa for Kazakh nationals visiting Malaysia, accessibility is easy.

800,000 Tourists Targetted For Melaka River Carnival

JOHOR BARU, May 17 (NNN-Bernama): The Melaka state government hopes to attract 800,000 tourists during the Melaka River Carnival 2012 to be held for a month starting June 8. State Transportation, Information, Unity and Consumerism Committee chairman Ghazale Mohamad said the sixth edition of the carnival would feature 53 attractive activities from government agencies and the private sector.

“The carnival had attracted 500,000 visitors last year and we are confident the figure will increase this year,” he told reporters when promoting the event at the Sultan Iskandar Information and Broadcast Centre here Thursday.

Ghazale said the international level carnival would also include competitions in kayak and parade of boats that would be open to foreign participants as well. He said participants from Portugal, Holland, United Kingdom and a number of Asian countries had already confirmed their entry. “About 40 boats will be on service at the Sungai Melaka jetty to ferry passengers and tourists for a 45-minute river cruise,” he said.

Malaysia Offers Expertise For Bangladesh’s Tourism Sector

DHAKA, May 24 (BSS) – Malaysia today offered its rich expertise in tourism to promote the sector in Bangladesh as Kuala Lumpur celebrate 40th anniversary of their bilateral ties with Dhaka staging a trade show here.

“Despite being a Muslim country, Malaysia is among the world’s top ten countries in terms of foreign currency earning from tourism sector,” an official press release quoted Malaysian ambassador in Dhaka Jamaluddin Sabeh told the opening of the Expo Malaysia-2012, joined by Industries Minister Dilip Barua as the chief guest.

The envoy said Kuala Lumpur was ready to offer its expertise for promotion of tourism in Bangladesh as it thought “Bangladesh could ensure its rapid economic progress using Malaysian experience”. The three-day trade show displayed Malaysian products and services in the areas of tourism, ICT, health, education, real estate and “halal” food.

Bangladesh has the most liberal trade regime in South Asia region for foreign investment, Dilip Barua said. He said Malaysia is one of the biggest labour market for Bangladeshi manpower as some five lakh labour are working there and sending US $ one billion per year.

Meanwhile, some Malaysian entrepreneurs have come forward to invest energy sector, telecommunications, seaport, waste management, communications, education and health service sector, the minister said. He requested Malaysian businessmen to shift their (Malaysia) high-tech industries to Bangladesh.

Barua urged Kuala Lumpur to invest Bangladesh in the sector of shipbuilding, ship breaking, agriculture product processing, home textile, plastic and handicraft as prospective sector. The function was also addressed, among other, by Chief Financial Officer of Robi Axiata Mahtab Uddin and Zulkifly M Said.

Bangladesh To Train Afghan Pilots, Civil Aviation Officials

DHAKA, May 23 (BSS) – Bangladesh will impart training to Afghanistan pilots and civil aviation officials here to give a boost to the war-torn new SARRC member state. To this effect, an air services agreement would be signed with Afghanistan next month.

This was revealed when Afghan Ambassador to Bangladesh Abdul Rahim Oraz called on Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister Lt Col (retd) Faruk Khan at secretariat here. During the meeting, the Afghan envoy gave a draft copy of the would-be agreement to the minister and it was immediately sent to the civil aviation authority chairman for taking necessary steps, official sources told BSS.

After signing the agreement, Faruk Khan said civil aviation officials and pilots of Afghanistan would receive training at the country’s civil aviation training centre and flying clubs. The minister hoped that Afghan pilots would be able to get necessary training on air traffic as presently a good number of private pilot training academies are functioning in the country.

He also proposed the Afghan envoy to send their youth in Bangladesh for getting hospitality training in the tourism training institutes.

First Bangladesh 20-Year Road Master Plan Published

DHAKA, May 22 (BSS) – A road master plan with long term planning in the road communications sector, its maintenance and development for next 20 years has been published here today. Communications Secretary M A N Siddique handed over a copy of the master plan to Communications and Railway Minister Obaidul Quader at the Secretariat here.

Chief Engineer of the Roads and Highways Department Engineer Aminur Rahman Laskar and members of the master plan formulating committee were also present on the occasion. The Roads and Highways Department formulated the master plan with the help of the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

The committee members during its nine-month time also discussed with its local and foreign stakeholders, reviewed existing laws and policies and considered technical aspects of economic development, government development targets, priority and public interests. Handing over the master plan to the Minister, Communications Secretary said that the master plan would work as a long time guideline in development road communications and its expansion.

Rising population, transports and demands of road in next 20 years have been considered in the plan. It may be mentioned here that there are 21,272 kilometers road, 4507 bridges and 13751 culverts in the country under the maintenance of Roads and Highways Department. Besides, 153 ferries have been engaged in 10 ferry ghats to carry passengers and transports.

Brunei Tourism Promotes Unique Islamic Artefacts & Experience

(Borneo Bulletin Online) With over 150,000 visitors since its inception 11 years ago, the people behind Brunei Tourism are now promoting the rich Islamic and cultural experience at the Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Islamic Exhibition gallery held at Darul Ifta of the State Mufti Building.

Yesterday, tour guides and operators from Freme Travel Services, Sunshine Borneo Tours and Bonasia Holidays as well as staff from the Tourism Development Department made a working visit to the exhibition gallery to enhance their knowledge of Islamic items of the Sultanate.

With the Sultan’s collection of Islamic artefacts on display at the Brunei Museum and the gallery, tourists, especially those from regions that may make it difficult to visit Middle East countries, have a chance to marvel at exquisite and often unique pieces of Islamic art, including miniature Qurans, calligraphy, weaponry, scientific instruments as well as everyday objects of the Muslim world and history.

The exhibition also features various priceless Islamic artefacts and ancient relics from the Sultan’s private collection. Dato Paduka Ahmad Bukhari bin PSRK Hj Abu Hanifah, Director of Administration at the State Mufti’s Office, said that given its present capacity, the gallery can only exhibit the collection on a rotational basis.

It comprises 300 Quranic manuscripts, 700 manuscripts on Islamic knowledge, 200 walking sticks, 60 beads, various types or artefacts and fossils and, most recently, a group of articles called ‘Prophet’s Swords’.

According to Dato Paduka Ahmad Bukhari, there are also plans to build a permanent building to house the collection, which is expected to materialise some time in 2016 or 2017. The gallery will be a centre for research and development on Islamic heritage, verification and translation thereof, as well as dissemination of the said research and development in particular and Islamic knowledge in general.

Adau Gayo Celebration Has Huge Tourism Potential

(Borneo Bulletin Online) With the country’s rich heritage, Brunei Darussalam’s cultural gatherings can potentially be turned into a product investment focussed on attracting tourists into the country.

One of the biggest local celebrations among the Dusun community, the Adau Gayo, suggested Special Duties Senior Officer at the Ministry of Home Affairs Awang Metussin bin Orang Kaya Sura Haji Tuba, could be made into a significant yearly gathering in the country’s calendar such as what is currently being practised by our neighbouring country where the Dusun community plays an integral role in enriching society’s history.

The senior government officer explained that with proper management, organisation and fixed scheduling, the once-a-year event that takes place in the month of May to give thanks for the harvest season, can be transformed into an important event highly anticipated by the general population.

“We have an agency that can help in promoting these events should we decide to include it in the tourism calendar,” he said in his speech during the opening of the Adau Gayo celebration in Kampong Bukit, Tutong, yesterday.

To achieve this ambition, Awang Metussin also highlighted that a bigger venue should be provided to accommodate a bigger crowd and, instead of carrying out the celebrations in different groups, organisers should consider having one major and all encompassing gathering with cooperation from the entire Dusun community.

“With the existence of such teamwork, we will be able to witness unity and understanding in the Dusun community that we wish to see whilst at the same time uplift our society’s culture.”

Confident that a bigger celebration would further strengthen relations among the Dusuns, the uniqueness of the culture, its tradition and way of life will be an attraction in itself and that its identity should be preserved and its heritage should be handed down to future generations to ensure its survival in a globalising world.

“In Brunei, the Adau Gayo celebration is observed by the Dusun community and many of them are in the Tutong District. This celebration is indicative that Adau Gayo does indeed belong to the Dusuns,” he said.

“Therefore, it is a Dusun identity and as a community, Dusuns should be proud as each community is valued by the way its members are dressed, by their language and by their practice.

“We do not need to copy, need not follow and need not seek a new culture for our society because we already have one … therefore, defend it, bequeath it to your children and grandchildren because the Dusun community is a community that is recognised as one of Brunei Darussalam’s tribal identities,” he added.

Kyrgyzstan, China Plan To Build Joint Railway

Centralasiaonline.com 2012-05-22 BISHKEK – Kyrgyzstan and China are negotiating the building of an estimated US $2 billion (94 billion KGS) Trans-Asia main railway line that will include 286km of track across Kyrgyzstan. The railway would run from the Torugart checkpoint on the Kyrgyz-Chinese frontier to Karasu station in southern Kyrgyzstan. The route would pass through barely accessible mountain terrain, and plans include 48 tunnels, totaling 50km, and 95 bridges, totaling 20.9km. The parties have agreed to produce a feasibility study for the project within a year.

China is interested in the project because it will speed delivery of exports to Europe and the Middle East. For Kyrgyzstan, the project will help to link the north and south of the country, earn transit fees, improve regional co-operation and create jobs. The project has aroused disputes among politicians, officials and the public even though it promises to help develop Kyrgyz communications and regional links.

“We see only two versions for realising the project,” Mirlan Mamataliyev, head of the government’s Real Property Sector and Infrastructure Department, said in Bishkek April 17. “In the first, China provides the funds for building the rail bed in Kyrgyzstan, and we in return grant it the right to use the railway for a certain time, namely, until the Chinese side recoups its investments and obtains a certain profit. This will take about 10 years. The other version entails setting up a joint venture, in which 51% of the stock will belong to Kyrgyzstan and 49% to China.”

Kyrgyzstan needs the railway, contended Mirsulzhan Namazaliyev, executive director of the Central Asian Free Market Institute. “It will increase the flow of goods and possibly also of passengers, and all this means not only money but also prosperity,” Namazaliyev said. “All we need to know is how to pay for it. Another aspect is that we do not know to what extent our economic activity and development will attract these goods and passengers.”

Proponents point to some advantages. “According to forecasts, the railway will carry up to 15m tonnes of freight a year, and up to 250,000 passengers a year,” said Sheraly Abdyldayev, deputy minister of transportation and communications. “The recoupment period is about 10 years. The annual profit from transit fees will be $260m (12.2 billion KGS).”

Supporters also foresee a better round-the-clock transportation connection between the north and the south. Today, only a highway vulnerable to avalanches and snowdrifts links the country’s halves. Existing rail lines in north and south do not connect to each other; instead, they lead abroad.

“Opportunities will also be created for exploiting mineral deposits in the high mountains along the proposed route, which will lead to new jobs,” said Raikan Tologonov, a deputy of the Ata-Meken Party. The railway is needed to guide the country out of its economic crisis, Azamat Arapbayev, a deputy of the Ata-Zhurt Party, said. “The railway will make it possible to develop the mining industry and to exploit our rich mineral deposits, which will bring the whole economy along with it and will relieve us of external dependence,” he said.

It will also open the doors to exporting goods to South Asia and the Middle East, said Kanat Abdykerimov, head of the State Directorate for Planning and Building Railways. “As far as rail transportation is concerned, our country is a dead end,” he said. “If the project is implemented, we shall automatically gain access to the South Asia main line from India, and on to the countries of the Persian Gulf and Europe. The new railway will carry not only Chinese goods but also Russian, Kazakhstani and European goods. The country will be connected to the world transportation structure.”

The railway also would enable the construction of hydro-power stations on rivers in presently hard-to-access mountain regions, economists say. Hydro-power is seen as a key revenue source for oil-poor Kyrgyzstan.

But doubts remain. Those hopes, though, don’t answer all the questions, opponents said.

“Why do we need this railway?” asked Aibek Zhanybek of the Ata-Meken Party. “What shall we carry? We don’t produce anything. We don’t have any factories. Instead of goods, we shall be overwhelmed by an uncontrollable influx of Chinese immigrants, who already are overwhelming our wholesale markets. If this project were worthwhile, the railway would have been built long ago.”

Opponents are displeased that, in exchange for a $2 billion (94 billion KGS) investment, the Chinese are asking for permission to mine minerals along the route. Igor Gusarov, the Ar-Namys Party MP who heads the parliamentary Transportation, Communications, Architecture and Construction Committee, is cautious about the project, but agrees that the railway will stimulate the country economically.

“It is probably useful in any case, but giving away subterranean resources in exchange, that is another matter – it isn’t quite right,” Gusarov said. “You have to approach the question carefully. So far, there is no official economic justification. I have not seen a single figure backed up by economic arguments. How much will it cost the state? What will be the transit fee for freight? We’ll have to pay back China for the construction costs. But not by giving up subterranean resources.”

Some complain the Chinese are offering far less than the resources are worth. The value of the Zhetim-Too and Sandyk fields, for example, is estimated at US $5.5 billion (258.5 billion KGS). China is seeking to mine 20 such deposits. However, Kyrgyzstan will not be swapping natural resources for the railway, Abdyldayev said.

Opponents are also concerned that the Chinese insist on using their track gauge (1,435mm wide, compared to the broader 1,521mm track in post-Soviet countries). This provision means the Kyrgyz side will not be able to take part in the full exploitation of the railway.

Kyrgyz authorities insist that so far this is only a condition China is seeking and say discussions haven’t ended. Another Kyrgyz objection is that only the China Road and Bridge Corporation is building the railway, without help from Kyrgyz companies. If Chinese workers are brought in for the project, it won’t create any Kyrgyz jobs, said Kubat Rakhimov, a transportation watcher. Kyrgyz workers will help construct the railway, Abdyldayev contended.

Nevertheless, the railway will be of great significance, not only for Kyrgyzstan but also for all of Central Asia, predicted political scientist Vladimir Paramov, head of the New Eurasia research project. “Some experts look on the new railway project as an alternative to the Trans-Siberian Railway,” he said. “This is not exactly the case. Russia could have participated in this project, which would have aided Russo-Chinese relations and would have prevented a (Chinese) monopoly. But this is not understood either in Russia or in Kyrgyzstan.”

Kazakhs, Turks To Expand Trade

Centralasiaonline.com 2012-05-24 ASTANA – Kazakhstan and Turkey have reached various commercial agreements, Novosti-Kazakhstan reported May 23, quoting Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev. The agreements came during a Kazakhstani-Turkish business forum as part of the May 22-24 V Astana Economic Forum.

The countries plan to increase annual trade soon to US $10 billion (1.48 trillion KZT) and to create a joint industrial zone, Erdogan said, according to Novosti-Kazakhstan. In 2011 trade was US $3 billion (445.1 billion KZT), he added. Nazarbayev and Erdogan signed a joint declaration on creating a Kazakhstani-Turkish council for high-level strategic co-operation. Turkish and Kazakhstani officials signed 13 contracts worth more than US $1 billion (148.4 billion KZT) during Erdogan’s visit, Nazarbayev said May 23, according to Novosti-Kazakhstan.

Istanbul’s Historic Hotel Prepares To Reopen Doors In July

ISTANBUL – Radikal – Istanbul’s famous Tarabya Hotel is gearing up to open its doors to customers in July. The historic hotel, which was bought by Bayraktar Holding for $145.3 million in 2006 and renovated with a $350 million investment, is being reborn. The hotel is being advertised in the Gulf countries first with the slogan “the legend returns.” The hotel will begin to train its new staff in June and is expected to open in July. One of the new staff members the hotel is looking for is an Indian chef.

The hotel’s original owners were the Armenian Tokatlıyan family, who migrated to Istanbul in 1883. The hotel soon became an Istanbul landmark and was an important meeting point for people who wanted to have a meal, meet for coffee or hold weddings and parties. In short, the hotel was a status symbol. The Tarabya Hotel is located right on the Bosphorus in Istanbul’s Tarabya neighborhood on the European side of the city.

ISESCO Co-Organizes Islamic Culture Week In Rome

ROME, 2 Rajab/23 May (IINA)-The Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO), jointly with the Municipality of Rome, is organizing the Islamic Culture Week, under the supervision of Mr. Gianni Alemanno, Mayor of Rome, on 21-28 May 2012.

ISESCO spearheaded the idea of staging a cultural week in Rome through the proposal presented by Dr Mohammed Yahya Pallavicini, Vice-President of the Italian Islamic Religious Community (CO.RE.IS), President of ISESCO-affiliated Supreme Council for Education, Science and Culture for Muslims outside the Islamic World, to the Mayor of Rome who welcomed the idea.

During this week of Islamic culture, an exhibition on pilgrimage and its routes will be hosted by the Great Mosque in Rome in cooperation with the embassy of Saudi Arabia. A tent will be set up at the heart of the Italian capital-city under the supervision of the embassy of Morocco in Rome wherein various cultural forms of Islamic civilization and arts will be displayed. Readings of Jalal al-Din Rumi’s poems will be given as part of promotion of dialogue of cultures and religions.

The programme of the cultural week also features a meeting on Ibn Rushd (Averroes) philosophy to highlight the contribution of Muslim scholars to the advancement of universal thought. At the close of this cultural week, a meeting will be held on the means to enhance cooperation among Mediterranean countries, at the headquarters of the Italian Chamber of Deputies. For the record, the first session of the Islamic Culture Week was held last year in commemoration of the 900th anniversary of the death of Imam Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (1111-2011).

Handbook On Islamic View Of Nature To Be Launched Soon

KUALA TERENGGANU (Malaysia), 29 Jumada Al-Thani/21 May (IINA)-WWF Malaysia and the Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia (Ikim) are working together to produce a handbook on conserving the environment with an Islamic perspective.

The book, the first of its kind in Malaysia, will be launched in July, said Ikim director-general Datuk Nik Mustapha Hassan.

“This book is produced as a reference for Muslims, particularly leaders who are imam, religious speakers and teachers who can help in the effort to conserve the environment.

“Citing Quranic verses, hadiths and parables of prophets as well as presenting comprehensive facts, the handbook can benefit all levels of society in contributing to the protection of the environment and wildlife in Malaysia,” he said recently.

Nik Mustapha said the publication was in line with Ikim’s function, which is to carry out research on the role of Islam and Muslims in facing challenges due to the ever-changing global situation.

“Through this handbook, we would like to emphasise that problems and issues related to the environment and widlife have relevance to Islamic teachings,” he said.

He said Ikim authors visited two WWF Malaysia project sites – the Belum-Temengor Forest Complex in Gerik, Perak, and Setiu, Terengganu – while working on this book.

“Both locations are habitats for various endangered species including the two national icons, the Malayan tiger and turtle, which will be given particular focus in this handbook,” he said.

Meanwhile, WWF Malaysia chief executive officer, Datuk Dr Dionysius Sharma said the project was a continuation of ongoing activities carried out based on the Islamic approach in wildlife species conservation.

He explained that among the efforts made by WWF Malaysia with the local communities and Ikim included the preparation of a Friday sermon text titled “Environmental conservation is our collective responsibility” for 428 mosques throughout Terengganu in 2008.

“Nature conservation is an important aspect that is recognised by many religions around the world,” he said, adding that the world’s five main religions had declared their responsibilities to care for the environment through the Assisi Declaration in 1986.

These religions are Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism and Islam. Three others, Baha’ism, Jainism and Sikhism, issued a similar declaration later.

Book To Promote Islamic Concepts Of Economy

ISLAMABAD, 29 Jumada Al-Thani/21 May (IINA)-A comprehensive book `Labour Management Relations in Islam’ by Shahzado Langah with a detailed study on labour laws in Pakistan continues to provide guidance to governance functionaries, employers and employees. The writer highlighted the rights of the workers in light of Holy Quran and Hadith for labour leaders and for researchers at labour-related institutions of federal and provincial governments. The book published by Higher Education Commission (HEC) is combination of workmen whether skilled or unskilled, manual or clerical who play vital role in the field and interest of the country.

The book discusses main issues relating to labour such as working conditions, work environment, workplace, terms of employment, health and safety of the working class as covered under various labour welfare laws of the country while it is also a useful guide for investors and entrepreneurs. Talking to Associated Press of Pakistan, Langah said that his book will maintain, regulate and strengthen relations between employer and employee besides improving the terms of employment conditions and providing better facilities to the workers, settling their difference. The ‘Labour Management Relations in Islam’ is very useful for the employees who are working in the factory, industry, state owned establishments and private sector.

Labour leaders, researchers and advocates who are practicing in labour laws can get the benefit from the study of this book in principle of natural justice, he said. According to the International Labour Organization tripartite participation of the government, employers’ and employees are equally benefitted from the study for understanding their problems and easy solution in Islamic way of the life.

The book is useful for postgraduate diploma course in labour administration and industrial welfare, banking and labour which are one of the subjects of LLB, LLM students being taught in law colleges throughout the country. Detailed discussion and cataloguing of labour laws applicable in Pakistan shall be handy for legal practitioners and those interested in carrying out research in the field of labour laws.

It covers a wide range of subjects including human rights, fundamental rights, relationship of man with God and mutual relationship of individuals and groups in community of Islam. Besides, scholarly and research approach, chapters from 1 to 5, cover the subject comprehensively. Specific reference to Pakistan Labour laws and decisions of Supreme Court of Pakistan and Federal `Sharia Court highlight the importance attached by the author to the practical aspects of his research which usually is missing from other books and publications.

The selection of decisions of Federal Sharia Court particularly shows that the author has established practical linkage between Islamic laws and their enforcement on the subject, the expert added. The study will prove as a valuable addition at libraries, law colleges, universities, private training institution as well as NGOs as a reference book.

Islamic Art Exhibit At Central Park Library Through May

SANTA CLARA (California, USA), 27 Jumada Al-Thani/19 May (IINA)- “We saw a need to have a show of Islamic Art as it has evolved in different forms, not just the traditional, classic art,” says Nabeela Raza Sajjad, founder of the nonprofit Islamic Art Exhibit (IAE), now in its third year in the Bay Area.

“The Miracles of Qur’an,” the sacred book of Islam, is the theme and inspiration for a collection of about fifty pieces by artists in the Muslim community. The exhibit is on display at the Santa Clara Central Park Library, 2635 Homestead Road, through the end of May.

Islamic art is an ancient and overlooked artistic tradition according to the IAE, and the exhibit offers a window into its evolution from traditional to modern, now using media such as photography, digitally enhanced collages, and acrylics. Santa Claran Said Rahimi and his daughter Sophy contemplated the artwork on display in the lobby, admiring the repeating patterns and Arabic calligraphy in some of the pieces.

“It’s beautiful art and culture and religion all together,” says Rahimi. “It is peaceful and clears the mind….It has universal appeal.”

“It shows the beauty of the writing,” adds Sophy.

“It’s really a blend of modern and classic,” says library technology aide Evan S., admiring “No Thing Lasts Forever,” a digital piece by Dave Platford and Dawud Rassam.

“We have a huge Muslim population, and one of the main mosques is in Santa Clara,” says Sajjad. “The Islamic Art Exhibit gives Muslim artists a platform to share their talents with the community.”