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20 Aug, 2012

A Glimpse Of Muslim Life In Japan

Compiled by Imtiaz & Sana Muqbil

A compilation of stories of interesting events and developments in the Islamic world for the week ending 20 August 2012 (02 Shawwala 1433). Pls click on any of the headlines to go to the story.



About 5,000 bikers and non-bikers are expected to converge at Eagle Ranch Resort on 8 September 2012 for the annual Port Dickson International Bike Fest 2012 which will showcase the very best Big Bikes of every make and certainly some of the latest bikes accessories. Bikers from Europe, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei and Malaysia will converge for a sensational weekend in the popular beach town resort of Port Dickson. This is the 10th year that the Bike Fest has been organized at Eagle Ranch Resort, strongly supported by Tourism Malaysia, Ministry of Tourism and Lembaga Pelancongan Negeri Sembilan. A great day-out to enjoy fabulous food, exciting activities or just browse the range of merchandise and bikes, enjoy carnival games and a great range of live music. Exhibitors will be showcasing an abundance variety of bike gears and accessories and bikers will have a gala time viewing or purchasing the superb range of products. This event is also aimed to promote Port Dickson as a tourist and adventure destination and to be chartered as an event in the State tourism calendar for 2013 and 2014 placing Port Dickson and Negeri Sembilan as the preferred tourist spot for local and international tourists. For further enquiries please contact Eagle Ranch Resort Port Dickson at 06 – 661 0495 or email Santhy@eagleranch.com.my.

For more information about what makes Malaysia one of the most popular destinations in the Islamic world, as well as on planning your next holiday or MICE event in Malaysia, please click: http://www.tourism.gov.my/.

facebook: http://www.facebook.com/friendofmalaysia

twitter: http://twitter.com/tourismmalaysia


A Glimpse Of Muslim Life In Japan

By HM Yusof

Borneo Bulletin Online, 13 Aug 2012 – The close connection with the Muslim Indonesian students while studying in JAIST (Japan Advance Institute of Science and Technology), Kota Nomi at Ishikawa Prefecture, 12 years ago played a vital part in his conversion to Islam. Before that, Tahir Ioe, 49, already met his spouse, Rukaiya, 48, who embraced Islam five years earlier than him.

The opportunity given to the writer and Haji Tejuddin, winner of the photography section organised by BJFA (Brunei Japan Friendship Asscoiation) recently, provided us with a chance to witness the daily life of Muslim residents in Tokyo, Japan. Our visit here was at the courtesy of the Embassy of Brunei Darussalam in Tokyo and the Embassy of Japan in Bandar Seri Begawan.

Tahir, an IT Coordinator Project Management Professional at one of the largest companies in Tokyo, is performing fasting in the holy month of Ramadhan with all his heart.

Rukaiya, Tahir’s spouse, who is currently in the midst her summer holidays, is a first-year student of Chinese Medicine, Acupuncture Section. Before that, she worked at Damascus, Syria as an English teacher for five years.

Every day after work at 5pm, together with his children, Tahara, 10, and Amin, eight, as well as Rukaiya, Tahir usually breaks fast with other congregants at Otsuka Mosque nearby their house at Ikebukuro Ward.

Members of the mosque takmir received help in terms of donations from the congregants and support from the Japan Muslim Association. The manager of the mosque is Haroon Qureshi, who is also the Secretary-General of Japan Islamic Trust.

Breaking the fast at the mosque was an enjoyable experience. It was further enlivened with the Maghrib, Isyak and Tarawikh prayers. In the afternoons during the month of Ramadhan, al-Quran classes are also held for children and adults from the mosque.

Although the mosque was small and secluded among the high-rise buildings, the religious devotion continues to motivate Muslim residents to visit the mosque.

In addition to Iftar at Otsuka Mosque, Tahir and Rukaiya also invited us to their house. Their hospitality had made us appreciate the opportunity to experience Iftar with them and their children. Traditional and daily food was served such as traditional kuehs, fruits and fresh salad.

We had a great time and the experiences would be unforgettable for the rest of our lives.

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Malaysia To Be First Asian Host Of Toastmasters Int’l Convention 2014

Kuala Lumpur – After an extensive selection process, Toastmasters International has decided to hold its World Convention 2014 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia which marks the first time that such event will be held outside North America.

With more than 30 percent of its global members now residing outside North America, and with the strongest membership growth in Southeast Asia, the selection of Kuala Lumpur as the host truly reflects the global nature of the organisation as well as its evolving membership.

The convention, supported by the Malaysia Convention and Exhibition Bureau (MyCEB), is scheduled to be held from 20th – 23rd August 2014 at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre (the Centre). It is expected to bring together 2,000 delegates and RM32.5 million in economic impact to the country.

Toastmasters International Executive Director, Daniel Rex, said, “Kuala Lumpur is high on the list of international travel destinations. Known for its dazzling high-rises and rich cultural sense, the city is a prime international convention site for many reasons. It is centrally located to a broad membership population which would potentially boost convention attendance higher than it’s ever been. We’re excited to host our convention in this wonderful city”.

Malaysia is increasingly being selected as the choice destination for international meetings which is firmly supported by its positioning as the gateway for global associations to connect with the world’s largest region. Global association meetings held in Malaysia has been known to score record-breaking attendance such as the 18th World Congress of Information Technology 2008 (3,300 delegates), 18th World Congress of Accountants 2010 (5,050 delegates) and 70th Institute of Internal Auditors International Conference 2011 (3,300 delegates – largest attendance for conference outside America).

Representing the many cultures of Asia in a safe and politically stable environment, Malaysia is seen as a role model amongst emerging economies. Another strong point of Malaysia is its excellent value for money proposition. Facilities like accommodation, transportation and food are affordable and competitively priced.

Dr. John Lau Pang Heng, a member of the Kuching Connections Toastmasters Club, Kuching Mandarin Toastmasters Clu and Oracle Advanced Toastmasters Club in Penang said, “For many of us, members of Toastmasters in Asia, this announcement is indeed a welcoming one. Malaysia is a multiracial country where English, Bahasa Malaysia and various other languages are widely spoken. In a way, the decision to bring the conference to Malaysia is a wise one considering that Toastmasters champions spoken words. I look forward to welcoming the delegates to Kuala Lumpur for the 2014 conference and we promise you that we will do everything that we can to ensure its success”.

MyCEB will provide Toastmasters with assistance under its industry partners’ subvention programme. Launched in November 2010, the programme refers to financial and non-financial incentives to support bids for targeted international business events that offers high economic value to the country. Since its launching, MyCEB have approved subvention support for more than RM20.5 million to international association meetings.

Dr. John Lau shall be installed as International President of Toastmasters International on 18 August 2012 at the Orlando International convention in USA. He is the first Malaysian to hold the highest elected post in Toastmasters International. Dr John Lau is also one of MyCEB’s appointed ‘Kesatria’ under the ‘Kesatria 1Malaysia’ programme. It is a programme introduced by MyCEB whereby leaders of key industry sectors voluntarily assist in identifying and encouraging other potential local hosts to bid for and stage international conventions.

Toastmasters International World Convention 2012 will be held in Orlando Florida while the 2013 convention will take place in Cincinnati, Southwest Ohio. Since it was founded back in 1924, Toastmasters has groomed more than four million people in oral communication which include politicians, administrators, educators, lawyers, engineers and other professionals.

For more information on Toastmasters International, kindly visit http://www.toastmasters.org/

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“Feasting After Fasting” Tours Promote Islam in Australia

Islam Online 14/08/2012 – Seizing on the holy fasting month of Ramadan, an Australian charity is championing food tours as a way to promote a better understanding of Islam and Islamic culture, Australia’s Daily Telegraph reported.

“Food is a very important part of Ramadan,” Cathy Quinn, manager of The Benevolent Society’s Taste Food Tours, said.

“Every night is a big celebration with festive traditional dishes that are popularly eaten and prepared during the month of Ramadan, such as lentil soups, lentil and meat curry, special rice and meat dishes and desserts.”

The charity has launched food tours during the holy fasting month of Ramadan as a way to create a better understanding of Islam. The tours, titled “feasting after fasting”, aim to lure people on the dinner table to talk about Islam and different cultures.

“We really believe food is the great connector and Ramadan is the perfect opportunity to demystify Islam a little bit for the people of Sydney by giving them a chance to experience some of the food and traditions accompanied by a local guide,” said Quinn.

Established in 1813, The Benevolent Society is Australia’s first charity, which aims to help people overcome barriers preventing them from participating fully in society. It delivers 145 services from dozens locations across Australia.

The Ramadan food tours are the latest in efforts to break barriers between people of different backgrounds in Australia. “What’s unique about Ramadan is that, because people fast during the day, when night falls, whole families and communities come together to eat and celebrate,” Quinn said.

“All the restaurants are open late and often until just before the break of dawn to cater to the early morning meal after which no food or water is taken throughout the day,” she said. “There is a real festival spirit in the air.”

Muslims, who have been in Australia for more than 200 years, make up 1.7 percent of its 20-million population. In post 9/11-era, Australian Muslims have been haunted with suspicion and have had their patriotism questioned.

A 2007 poll taken by the Issues Deliberation Australia (IDA) think-tank found that Australians basically see Islam as a threat to the Australian way of life. A recent governmental report revealed that Muslims are facing deep-seated Islamophobia and race-based treatment like never before.

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“Happy Eid” Presents Islam to America

Islam Online 16/08/2012 – Decorating their cars with Eid greetings, young American Muslims are launching a new initiative to teach the US public about the Muslim festival and show that Islam is part of the fabric of the United States.

“On Eid, the Muslim community gathers to reaffirm their monotheistic belief through a special prayer,” said Hasan Gilani, the founder of Rad Talks website, told The Houston Chronicle. “But the feasting and fasting are important parts of our celebration.”

Seeking to educate the US public about the festival, two Muslim groups have launched an initiative to encourage Muslims to draw Eid greetings on the windows of their cars.

“Individuals from Rad Talks and Crescent Youth are encouraging the Muslim community to use glass chalk to paint “Happy Eid” on their car windows during Eid,” said Gilani. “The hope is that people will become aware of the celebration and their curiosity will lead them to visit a website we created about the Eid celebration that we will also have written on our cars.”

Eid Al-Fitr is one the two main Islamic religious festivals along with Eid Al-Adha. During Eid days, families and friends exchange visits to express well wishes and children, wearing new clothes bought especially for Eid, enjoy going out in parks and open fields.

“Eid shows that Muslims are not aliens,” said Gilani. “It can be a great unifying force that brings various faiths together under the banner of camaraderie and cooperation.”

Organizers hope that the initiative will encourage many Americans to know more about Muslims and their faith and show the American public that Islam is part of the national fabric.

“Projects like “Eid Mobile,’ using humor and popular media, help convey the truth about Muslims as positive, contributing members of American society,” Gilani said.

“Eid-Al-Fitr is the most approachable Muslim holiday,” Hasan Asma told The Houston Chronicle. She believes that Muslim holidays — Eid Al-Fitr and Eid Al-Adha — are like other national festivals as Thanksgiving and Christmas.

“Many Muslim Americans would consider the adoption of Eid as a national holiday as an efficient way of gaining “symbolic recognition’ of Islam in American society,” he said. The idea of the initiative came to Muslim activists over media ignorance of festivals of US Muslims, estimated at between six to seven million.

“There are millions of American Muslims, but we were overlooked,” Gilani said.

“Now that’s starting to change.”

Former US president Bill Clinton was the first America leader to host an Eid reception at the White House in 1996. Since then, the Muslim festival has lured national attention.

Now, businesses such as IKEA and Best Buy are mentioning Eid in their commercials. Officials and religious leaders are also issuing statements to greet Muslims on the advent of Eid. “We want to help this trend by sharing Eid with Houston to show everyone that there are lots of Muslims here and the vast majority of us are not dangerous,” Gilani said.

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Eid Bazaars Draw Pakistani Smile

Islam Online 16/08/2012 KARACHI – Amanullah, 43, was running out of money to buy new clothes and shoes for his five children on Eid Al-Fitr. But thanks to a special Eid bazaar”, he now can draw a smile on the faces of his kids.

“Prices of essential commodities have been increased like anything,” Amanullah, a junior security officer at a Karachi-based private company, told OnIslam.net. “It was hard for me to buy new clothes and shoes for my children from a normal market.”

Prices of conventional Eid items like clothes, shoes and bangles have soared, making it difficult for both the lower-class and middle-class people afford buying for the festival. The price hike has propelled many government and non-governmental organizations to set up special Eid bachat (discount) bazaar Eid items are being sold at affordable prices.

“You can buy things there (Eid bazaar) at 40 to 60 percent cheaper than normal markets and bazaars,” said Amanullah who bought Eid stuff from a bazaar set by the district government in collaboration with local philanthropists in Landhi, a lower-income bracket suburban town of southern port city of Karachi.

A pair of ordinary shoes that is being sold from Rs 500 (6 dollars) to Rs 700 (8 dollars) in normal bazaars is available from Rs 200 (2.20 dollars) to Rs 300 (3.5 dollars). “It is hard for a person like me to buy this costly stuff,” said Amanullah, who earns RS 20,000 (320 dollars) per month. “It has only become possible because of these Eid bazaars.”

Gufran Baloch, who came from Malir, an adjacent area, is also able to bring a smile to his family, thanks to the Eid bazaars. “I believe that only upper middle-class people can shop from Zainab Market, Hyderi or Light House now,” Gufran, who works as a store salesman, told OnIslam.net, citing the traditional city markets, which had been famous for cheap shopping till few years ago.

“Prices of ordinary items are touching the skies there. I cannot afford spending thousands of rupees on Eid shopping.” Gufran managed to buy clothes, shoes and bangles for his two sons, a daughter, and a wife against Rs 2000 (22 dollars).

According to the district government, the soaring prices are being met with the help of local philanthropists, who buy Eid stuff directly from companies and factories and sell it on no profit-no loss basis.

Similar Eid bazaars have been set in all 18 towns of the city by local administrations in addition to scores of other bazaars arranged by non-governmental organizations.

Almost 34 percent of total 180 million Pakistani population lives below poverty line, according to the World Bank and other international financial institutions. The government, however, puts the rate at 18 percent.

Pakistan, a close ally of the United States in its so-called “war on terror”, has conceded a heavy loss of over 70 billion dollars during the past 11 years.

Islamic charities are also establishing Eid bazaars to draw a smile on the faces of poor Pakistanis during the festival.

“Not only in Karachi, but in almost all the cities and towns (across the country),” Naimatullah Khan, a former mayor of Karachi and head of Al-Khidmat Foundation, told OnIslam.net. “These discount bazaars have been arranged by local Al-Khidmat administrations.”

“We have also introduced special Eid gift scheme for those who cannot afford buying Eid related stuff,” said Khan, who earned reputation for his financial discipline as mayor of Karachi from 2001 to 2005. This Eid gift bundle includes clothes, shoes, bangles, henna, flour, oil, tea, vermicelli and other edible commodities.

“But this Eid, gift scheme is not for all. This is meant for extremely poor people only because we do not want those who can afford to even a minor extent, to develop begging habit.”

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Cannons Lighten Indian Ramadan

Islam Online 15/08/2012 NEW DELHI – A 200-year-old tradition of firing cannons to get Muslims prepared to iftar and suhoor (pre-dawn meal) during the holy fasting month of Ramadan is still prevalent in the Indian city of Raisen.

“This is something unique which has been going on in our city for the last many years,” Shehr Qazi, head of Zahiruddin city, told OnIslam.net. “The boom from the cannon is a signal for the people of more than 35 nearby villages for suhoor and iftar,” he said.

During the holy month, Raisen Muslims start fasting after hearing the boom of the cannon, which helps residents know that the suhoor time has ended. In the evening, Muslims break their fast after hearing the second boom of the day from the cannon.

When the canon is fired, it is a signal for thousands of people from nearly 40 villages in the Raisen district of Madhya Pradesh to end their suhoor before dawn or to have iftar in the evening. “We are trying our best to preserve our tradition,” said Qazi.

The tradition of firing cannon during Ramadan started by erstwhile rulers – the begums of Bhopal – in the early 18th century. Historically, military canons were originally used and the main priest or the Shehr Qazi used to decide everything about the operation and timing.

While the tradition faded away in Bhopal city, the Raisen residents have carried it forward. From the year 1956 after the transfer of power to the provincial government, it is now the responsibility of the district administration.

City officials make special arrangements for cannon-firing during Ramadan, with Muslim residents helping in raising funds for the operation. Kishwar Khan, a Muslim resident of Raisen city, has been operating the cannon for the last ten years.

“This is something I have been doing every year,” Khan told OnIslam.net. “Earlier, my father used to do the same work. After he expired, Muslim Tehwar (festival) Committee assigned the work to me. They pay Rs 6000(US$120) for the whole month,” he said.

There are some 140 million Muslims in Hindu-majority India, the world’s third-largest Muslim population after those of Indonesia and Pakistan.

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MAS Expects 15% Passenger Load Growth From India This Year

NEW DELHI, Aug 13 (NNN-Bernama) -– Malaysia Airlines (MAS) is expecting a 15 per cent growth in passenger load from India this year as compared to 2011, its Senior Vice-President (Global Sales and Distribution), Duncan Bureau, said.

“Despite the economic slowdown worldwide, India is a growth-centric market for MAS. Hence, MAS is increasing the number of current flight frequencies from Mumbai, Chennai and Bengaluru to Kuala Lumpur by another 10 day-time flights to ease the seat crunch for Indian passengers, he said in a statement to announce increased flight frequencies.

The increase, effective Sept 1, will provide better travel options for travellers who can enjoy improved connectivity to destinations in MAS’ flight network. MAS is well connected with five India’s metro cities — New Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai, Mumbai and Hyderabad — from Kuala Lumpur.

It currently operates 40 weekly flights to India from Kuala Lumpur, with 12 weekly flights from New Delhi to Kuala Lumpur and seven weekly flights each to Mumbai, Hyderabad, Chennai and Bengaluru from Kuala Lumpur.

In an effort to make MAS more attractive to the Indian market, the Malaysia flag bearer has regularly introduced various tour and travel packages and value-for-money schemes for travellers.

The latest is the “Showcase Malaysia Dream Deal 2012” which offers travellers a two-night complimentary stay in Malaysia on purchase of any international air ticket to Malaysia or beyond from MAS.

Passengers travelling on MAS on a Business Class ticket will get a complimentary stay in a five-star hotel in Malaysia, while passengers on Economy Class can avail a complimentary stay in a four-star hotel in Malaysia.

Bureau said MAS has also enhanced its in-flight menu of Indian cuisines for its passengers travelling from India and other parts of the world.

He said these choices of in-flight vegetarian and non-vegetarian meals are available for passengers flying both in business and economy classes. He also said MAS was on track to join the oneworld alliance membership around the turn of the year.

When MAS becomes part of oneworld, its customers will gain access to the alliance’s truly global network. Its membership will expand oneworld’s global coverage to around 820 destinations in 150 countries served by a combined fleet of more than 2,600 aircraft operating some 10,000 flights a day and carrying 358 million passengers a year.

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Five Million Tourists Visited Egypt In H1 2012, Up 23%

Ahram Online, 12 Aug 2012 – The number of tourists visiting Egypt in the first half of 2012 grew by 23 per cent to reach 5.08 million, data from the Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics showed on Sunday.

Tourism is showing a slow recovery from the deteriorated levels it reached following the 25 January uprising in 2011 that ousted long-time president Hosni Mubarak. In the second quarter of 2012 alone, 2.7 million tourists visited the country; a 17 per cent hike over Quarter 1, despite it being a low season.

The number of tourists currently visiting Egypt is dwarfed, compared to the industry’s peak in the second quarter of 2010 at 3.5 million. Egypt saw around 10.2 million tourists in 2011, down 32% over 2010. Tourism revenue plunged 30 per cent to $9 billion, against $12.5 billion in 2010.

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Emirates Airline To Resume Flights To Libya

Reuters, 14 Aug 2012 – Dubai’s flagship airline Emirates, the largest carrier based in the Middle East, will resume flights to Libya in October after suspending them for almost 18 months following the outbreak of civil unrest there.

Emirates will operate four flights a week from Dubai to Tripoli starting on 29 October, using an Airbus A330-200, the airline said on Monday. International airlines have been resuming services to Libya gradually since late 2011, following the ouster of Muammar Gaddafi in August that year. Security worries have not entirely disappeared; Tripoli’s international airport was closed by angry militiamen for a day in June this year.

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Qatar Airways To Start Flying To Serbia, Poland By End Of 2012

DOHA, Aug 16 (NNN-QNA) — Qatar Airways announced further expansion to its European network with the launch of scheduled flights to Serbia and Poland by the end of the year taking the airline’s coverage across the Continent to 32 destinations.

Services to the previously announced destination of Belgrade, capital of Serbia, have been confirmed for a Nov 20 start with a thrice-weekly schedule via Ankara.

Two weeks later, beginning Dec 5, the airline will add the Polish capital Warsaw to its rapidly-growing European network operating flights four-times-a-week.

News of the expansion follows this week’s announcement by Qatar Airways that it will begin daily flights to Chicago – the carrier’s fourth USA gateway – from April 10 next year.

Both the Belgrade and Warsaw routes will be operated from Qatar Airways’ Doha hub with an Airbus A320 configured in two classes – 12 seats in Business and 132 in Economy. Each seat features an interactive audio and video entertainment system offering hundreds of movies, TV programmes and music channels.

Following route launches to European capital cities in Azerbaijan, Georgia and Croatia this year, together with seven destinations on the Continent during 2011, Qatar Airways has given much attention to an expansion drive across Europe with a particular focus on eastern Europe.

Warsaw is one of Europe’s oldest cities – Poland’s largest city and economic, political and cultural centre. Rich in culture, home to historic palaces and modern architecture, many companies have turned their attention to setting up base in Warsaw due to the huge investment benefits offered by the Polish government.

Warsaw was also one of the cities that hosted the UEFA Euro 2012 football championships held in Poland and Ukraine this summer.

Belgrade, among the largest cities in south eastern Europe, has a long tradition of culture, sport, history and architecture making it a desirable city to visit on the Continent. Belgrade has little exposure to long-haul markets due to lack of air capacity.

Qatar Airways Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker said the addition of Poland and Serbia demonstrated the airline’s commitment to launch destinations that are largely underserved.

“Today we are flying to many parts of the world with a global network spanning 118 destinations with almost 25% of our route structure in Europe alone,” he said.

“Over the past two to three years we have identified great opportunities to probe markets across Europe that are largely underserved by full service international airlines. We are delighted to have subsequently started services to some of these destinations and are extremely pleased by their performance so far,” he added.

The portfolio of attractive destinations served by Qatar Airways for Serbians and Poles include Singapore, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Goa, Dubai, Melbourne, Johannesburg and Cape Town. Similarly, travellers from across Qatar Airways’ network will have two additional European capitals to explore, previously accessible only via major gateways on the Continent.

Since the beginning of 2012, Qatar Airways has launched flights to Baku (Azerbaijan); Tbilisi (Georgia); Kigali (Rwanda); Zagreb (Croatia), Erbil (Iraq), Baghdad (Iraq), Perth (Australia) and Kilimanjaro (Tanzania).

Over the next few months, Qatar Airways will launch services to a diverse portfolio of new routes, including Yangon, Myanmar (Oct 3); Maputo, Mozambique (Oct 31); and Chicago, USA (10 April 2013).

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Gulf Air Will Restart Iran, Iraq Flights

Gulf Daily News – 16 August, 2012 – Gulf Air will resume flights to Iran and Iraq next month following approval from the government, it has been announced.

Flights to Baghdad, Erbil, Najaf and Basra in Iraq and Tehran, Mashhad, Shiraz and Isfahan in Iran will take place between September 20 and October 28 subject to final approvals by civil aviation authorities in both countries.

“We are glad to be resuming our operations to Iran and Iraq,” said chief executive Samer Majali. “I am sure this will be welcoming news for thousands of Iranians and Iraqis living and working in Bahrain and the GCC countries as well as the business community for whom the direct flights will be a great advantage.

“We were the first and only full-service GCC carrier to operate into Baghdad back in 1976. Again, we were the first carrier to restart our operations in 2009, which received overwhelming support from travellers with most of our flights flying to full capacity. However, we had to suspend the flights in 2011 due to unavoidable circumstances but were confident that we will resume our operations soon.”

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Pakistan Wants To Boost Trade With Iran To $10b

Tehran Times – 12 August, 2012 – Pakistan’s Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf said that Islamabad will go ahead with its multibillion-dollar projects with Iran, calling for immediate steps to lift the ceiling of bilateral trade to $ 10 billion.

According to a private Radio channel, in a meeting with Iranian Ambassador to Islamabad Alireza Haqiqian, the Pakistani prime minister said the two neighboring countries should ensure the expeditious implementation of bilateral projects including the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project as well as electricity projects.

Tehran and Islamabad have repeatedly stressed the importance of constructing the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline despite pressure from the United States. The multi-billion-dollar gas pipeline is aimed at exporting a daily amount of 21.5 million cubic meters of the Iranian natural gas to Pakistan.

Iran has already constructed more than 900 kilometers of the pipeline on its soil. The Pakistani prime minister further said that his country’s relations with Iran were deeply rooted in historical, cultural and religious levels.

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Hamburg Recognizes Islamic Holidays

Islam Online 15/08/2012 CAIRO – In the first such agreement in Germany, authorities in the northern city of Hamburg have reached a deal with Muslim groups to recognize Islamic holidays and religion lessons at schools.

“Something that should be taken for granted has gained a lot of attention,” Hamburg mayor Olaf Scholz said, The Local reported Wednesday, August 15.

A deal was signed Tuesday between Hamburg authorities and Muslim groups to regulate religious freedoms of the sizable minority.

Under the agreement, Islamic holidays — Eid Al-Fitr,Eid Al-Adha, and the Day of Ashura — will be officially recognized in the northern city. Muslims will be allowed to take these days off and children will be allowed to stay out of school.

Similar agreements exist with Christian and Jewish communities in the German city. The 11-page deal also gives Hamburg Muslims more say in how religious lessons in schools are formed.

In exchange, Muslim groups have agreed to recognize the “basic values of constitutional order,” to reject “violence and discrimination based on origin, sexual orientation, and faith” and “religious and political viewpoints,” and to recognize “equality between genders.”

Scholz said the deal is the first between a German state and its Muslim community, a signal that we’re ready and willing to cooperate.”

The deal, which has been in negotiations since 2007, was signed by the council of Islamic communities (Schura), the Turkish-Islamic Union (Ditib), the association of Islamic cultural centers (VIKZ) and the city’s Alevi community.

The agreement is “an important step towards the institutional recognition of Islam in Germany, said Schura official Daniel Abdin. The deal still has to be approved by the city parliament.

Hamburg is home to 150,000 Muslims. Germany has between 3.8 and 4.3 million Muslims, making up some 5 percent of the total 82 million population, according to government-commissioned studies.

Germany is Europe’s second-biggest Muslim population after France, and Islam comes third in Germany after Protestant and Catholic Christianity. Germans have grown hostile to the Muslim presence recently, with a heated debate on the Muslim immigration into the country.

Germany’s daily Der Spiegel had warned that the European country is becoming intolerant towards its Muslim minority. “We hope that this contract will be seen as a spark for other German states,” said Aziz Aslandemir of the Alevi community organization.

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World Bank Approves $200 Mln Loan For Egypt’s SMEs

Ahram Online, 14 Aug 2012 – The World Bank has approved a $200 million loan to fund Egypt’s small and medium entrepreneurs (SMEs) through the Social Development Fund, Minister of Finance Momtaz El-Saeed announced.

El-Saeed and World Bank Vice President for the Middle East and North Africa Inger Andersen worked out the deal, which is the first World Bank loan under the recently-elected President Mohamed Morsi. The Muslim Brotherhood candidate won in June, a year and a half after Egypt’s revolution began and ousted then-president Hosni Mubarak.

In May, Islamist members from the now-dissolved parliament caused a stir by declaring that a $200 million World Bank development loan is against Islamic law. Several Islamist parliamentarians blasted the international loan arranged in June 2011 for sanitation projects, arguing the interest rates are too high and qualify as ursury – a concept forbidden in the Quran.

World Bank VP Anderson further offered help in repatriating Egypt’s stolen funds by sending a team of experts to give legal and technical advice. The International Monetary Fund is also expected to give Egypt a $3.2 million loan.

El-Saeed and Anderson discussed the progress in resuming the talks on that loan ahead of the IMF delegation visit that is expected shortly to Egypt.

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Turkish Village Of Gratitude Prepares For Art Fest

KONYA – Anatolia News Agency – The “Village of Gratitude,” established for artists in the Hüyük district of Konya Province, is preparing for its international art days. This year, the festival’s mostly artistic activities will take on an international dimension, and will take place Aug. 24-28.

An opening ceremony for the Village of Gratitude will take place after Ramadan, and on Aug. 26, a World Artists’ Meeting will be held. Workshops will be held under the leadership of Professor Orhan Cebrailoğlu of Selçuk University and 30 participating artists from various countries. A portrait workshop is planned with the support of 100 foreign artists.

Every day of the festival between 4 and 5 p.m., artists Rüzgar Fidan and Batbuyana Tchernega will make portraits in the festival area. Many films will also be shown, and 40 activities will celebrate the 40th anniversary of Çavuş Municipality. The festival will also feature symposiums, panels and concerts.

The Village of Gratitude gives artists the opportunity to reside in adobe houses like those of the local people in the heart of Anatolia. Artists in the village spend specific times of the year in their private homes far from the hustle and bustle of city life. The village consists of adobe houses built for the artists by Çavuş Municipality in the style of local Seljuk architecture. The construction of 22 of the village’s adobe houses has been completed, and 15 others are still under construction.

Village residents come from Turkey and elsewhere, and include musicians, directors, artists, designers, archaeologists, journalists, sculptors, and cinema and television actors.

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Indo-Arab Forum To Promote Cultural Ties

Thiruvananthapuram, Aug 9 (NNN-Bernama) — A forum has been formed in south Indian state Kerala to strengthen centuries-old cultural relations between India and the Arab world, Press Trust of India reported.

The Indo-Arab Cultural Academy (IACA), created based on an initiative of political leaders, writers and entrepreneurs, seeks to boost and diversify cultural and social ties between India and the Gulf in line with changing times.

It would help promote translations of Arabic literary works into Malayalam and vice versa, apart from organising cultural exchanges, workshops and launching various publications.

M K Raghavan, congress leader and Lok Sabha (Lower House of Indian Parliament) member from Kozhikode, was named chairman of the forum and writer B M Suhra as his deputy, and renowned Malayalam writer Akbar Kakkattil will take on the role of co-ordinator.

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Iran’s Fars Province, Hong Kong To Expand Commercial Ties

SHIRAZ, Iran, Aug 14 (NNN-Bernama) — Regional Director of the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC), Stephen Wong, says despite sanctions, Hong Kong will develop trade with the Islamic Republic of Iran, Iran’s IRNA reported.

Wong made the remarks on the sidelines of his visit to different sectors of Shiraz Great Industrial City, including the electric, electronic and food sector. He said high industrial potential of Iran’s southern Fars Province can serve as a huge capacity for upgrading mutual cooperation.

Meanwhile, Director of the Market Development and International Affairs Department of Fars Province Industrial Cities’ Company, Mahmoud Ghayoumi, hoped for conclusion of deals for mutual trade and economic cooperation.

Ghayoumi noted that organising seminar in Shiraz for expansion of Fars-Hong Kong trade, raising trade volume between Fars and Hong Kong, dispatch of trade delegations from Fars to Hong Kong and stronger economic ties between Iran-Hong Kong will be slated in an agreement due to be signed by both parties.

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Indonesia’s Plantation Commodity Exports Reach US$16.98 Bln In H1 2012

JAKARTA, Aug 10 (NNN-Bernama) – Indonesia’s plantation commodity exports in the first half of the year reached US$16.98 billion, accounting for 50 percent of US$32.16 billion from plantation commodity exports throughout last year.

The foreign exchange earnings in the first semester of 2012 came from the export of 12.28 million tonnes of plantation commodities, the ministry’s director general of plantation Gamal Nasir said Thursday.

Crude palm oil (CPO) was listed as the biggest foreign exchange earner, contributing US$9.95 billion to the overall plantation commodity exports, ANTARA news agency reported. Rubber came in second with US$5.16 billion and cocoa third with US$655 million. CPO contributed US$17.26 billion, rubber US$11.13 billion and cocoa US$1.17 million to the total plantation commodity exports last year.

“Besides CPO, rubber and cocoa, the other plantation commodities that contributed foreign exchange earnings to the national economy were coconut, coffee, cashew nut, clove, tea, tobacco, pepper and so on,” Gamal said.

The country’s oil palm plantations in the first half of 2012 covered an area of 9.27 million hectares, exceeding the target of 8.55 million hectares. Rubber and cocoa plantations covered an area of 4.46 million and 1.71 million hectares respectively.

CPO production in the first half of 2012 reached 23.63 million tonnes, while CPO production target for 2012 is 25.71 million tonnes. Rubber production reached 3.27 million tonnes in the first semester of 2012, outstripping the target of 2.74 million tonnes for this year.

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Saudi Aviation Strongest Growth In Passenger Traffic In Decade

Saudi Gazette – 16 August, 2012 – After several years of sagging performance, Saudi Arabia’s aviation market reported its strongest growth in passenger traffic in more than a decade in 2011, even against the background of the Middle East’s regional social unrest, the CAPA Centre for Aviation said.

Despite the Arab Spring uprisings, Saudi Arabian passenger traffic boomed in 2011, up 13.6 percent year-on-year in 2011, to just over 54 million passengers, as the national economy expanded 6.8 percent (real GDP estimate) on expanding oil output and renewed government and private sector investment. Large infrastructure investments are fuelling high movements of migrant workers from around the Gulf as well as India, Southeast Asia and China.

The increase in passenger traffic continues a trend of improving growth in the Saudi market seen over the past few years. Since the beginning of the liberalization of the Saudi market in 2007, passenger traffic has grown at an average of 7.7 percent per annum, almost double the average growth of the previous five years.

The development is a promising one for the Saudi Arabian aviation market. The Saudi General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) is due to award new airline operating licenses later this year to open up the local aviation market.

Moreover, CAPA said the impending liberalization in both the Saudi domestic and international passenger markets is set to give the Saudi aviation industry the greatest competitive shake-up.

International traffic dominated the growth in the Saudi market in 2011, with passenger numbers up 18.2 percent year-on-year to 29.3 million. Saudi Arabia is the economic powerhouse of the Middle East and has a fast growing population, which makes the Kingdom an increasingly important market for local airlines, as well as for carriers from further afield.

Regional carriers such as Gulf Air, Qatar Airways, Bahrain Air and Etihad Airways all devoted more capacity and attention to the Saudi Arabian market in 2011. Air Arabia CEO Adel Ali said in Jun-2012 that the carrier recognises the potential in the Saudi Arabian market and local authorities have “gone a long way” in developing the country’s aviation market.

The Bahrain-based Gulf Air and Bahrain Air in particular have shifted increasing amounts of capacity into the market. In late 2011, Gulf Air CEO Samar Majali described Saudi Arabia as the carrier’s most important market. Bahrain Air selected Dammam as its second hub in late 2011 and launched services from the city to Beirut and Khartoum in Jun-2012.

The Kingdom has been busily upgrading and refurbishing its airports over the past few years, as part of a $50 billion infrastructure investment program in the aviation and transport sector. Passenger numbers at the Kingdom’s domestic airports jumped a record 21 percent in 2011, while flight numbers increased 13.1 percent. Traffic at the 21 domestic airports jumped 161 percent in 2011, mostly at Taif, Al-Gassim, Tabuk, Yanbu and Abha.

Foreign carriers handled approximately 62 percent of passenger traffic to/from Saudi Arabia in 2011, up from 58 percent in 2010 and 55 percent in 2009. Increasingly, Gulf regional carriers, both full service and LCCs, are offering a high frequency of connections into Saudi airports.

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RAK Airways To Launch Domestic Flights

Khaleej Times – 16 August, 2012 – RAK Airways will touch down in Abu Dhabi on October 3 to become the first national flag carrier to launch domestic flights, the airline announced on Wednesday. RAK Airways acting chief executive John Brayford said that the airline’s strategic plan to land in Abu Dhabi, its10th destination, would bring the capital closer to the residents of Ras Al Khaimah and Northern Emirates.

“With the launch of Abu Dhabi, we are offering residents of Ras Al Khaimah and Northern Emirates, an alternative and we are connecting Ras Al Khaimah to the capital,” Brayford said. With passenger traffic on the rise and new routes earmarked, RAK Airways, the flagship carrier of the emirate of Ras Al Khaimah, is strengthening its foothold in the regional aviation market.

“RAK Airways will embark into a major milestone with its touchdown in the capital, Abu Dhabi on October 3. With the first flight to Abu Dhabi, RAK Airways will be the first UAE flag carrier to operate domestic flights and the airline’s route network moves up to 10 destinations,” he said. Since its relaunch in October 2010, RAK Airways, one of the flagship carriers of the UAE has worked on building passenger numbers, filling 250,000 seats in 2011, while gradually expanding its destination network to Africa, Middle East and Asia.

The national carrier’s move to introduce more routes, boosted by the emirate’s efforts to market itself as a tourist and business destination, has also led to a significant rise in passenger numbers at RAK International Airport. Data issued by the airport’s operators show that its passenger traffic increased by 58.5 per cent in the first three months of 2012, well exceeding previous expectations.

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Air Arabia Named World’s 2nd Best Performing Airline

Saudi Gazette – 11 August, 2012 – Air Arabia, the Middle East and North Africa’s first and largest low-cost carrier, has been ranked as the world’s second beast performing airline in a study by Aviation Week, the leading global aviation magazine. The Top-Performing Airlines (TPA) Study ranks the top 10 performing airlines worldwide, based on five different performance categories, including financial and operational performance.

Air Arabia, the only Middle East airline to claim a spot in the Aviation Week TPA Study, demonstrated sustained profitability and solid growth margins in 2011, placing it at number two among all airlines worldwide. In each of the past years, the airline has advanced its ranking in the TPA rankings.

“To be ranked second among all airlines worldwide for the level of our performance, it’s a remarkable achievement and a source of great pride for everyone at Air Arabia,” said Adel Ali, Group Chief Executive Officer, Air Arabia. “As we continue to expand into new geographies and consolidate our leadership position in existing markets, Air Arabia is uniquely positioned to capitalize on the many exciting opportunities present in the aviation sector today.”

Air Arabia, which operates flights to 75 destinations from three regional hubs, delivered strong financial and operational performance in 2011. The low-cost pioneer launched six new destinations and took delivery of six new aircraft in 2011, while carrying a total of 4.7 million passengers, an increase of six percent compared to the previous year.

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UAE’S Port Rashid Resumes Passenger Ferry Services To Regional Destinations

DUBAI, Aug 14 (NNN-WAM) — Upgraded and refurbished Port Rashid, which connects Dubai with port cities across the Gulf region, has resumed passenger ferry services to regional destinations.

The ferry ‘Hormuz-12’ arrived this week carrying 190 passengers from the Port of Bandar Lengeh in Iran, and was accorded a warm welcome at the dedicated terminal by senior DP World officials led by Mohammed Al Muallem, Senior Vice President and Managing Director, DP World, UAE Region, Mohammed Ali Ahmed, Chief Operating Officer, DP World, UAE Region and Mohammed Al Mannaei, Director – Port Rashid.

The vessel later departed on its return voyage with 250 passengers on board. The newly refurbished Port Rashid passenger terminal is equipped with up-to-date facilities to efficiently manage passenger arrivals and departures, including new luggage belts and departure and arrival gates. The terminal also works closely with relevant authorities such as Dubai Police, General Directorate Dubai Residency and Foreign Affairs and Dubai Customs to smoothly handle the necessary inspections and other formalities.

Al Muallem said: “For 40 years, Port Rashid has played a central role in connecting Dubai to the region and the rest of the world. Since the transfer of all container vessel operations to Jebel Ali Port four years ago, we have focused on developing Port Rashid as a centre for passengers visiting Dubai. We have developed the largest cruise terminal in the region there, and now we are delighted to once more welcome regional ferry passengers to the Port Rashid passenger terminal in the very heart of Dubai.”

For his part, Al Mannaei said: “Over the past four months, we have worked hard in cooperation with government authorities to refurbish and upgrade the passenger terminal at Port Rashid.

“Today, we restore Port Rashid’s passenger route connections and bring further life to this maritime sector. The new facilities are designed to provide simplified services to passengers, making arrivals and departures quick and easy. We look forward to seeing more ferry services operating out of Port Rashid.” The resumption of the ferry services will complement DP World’s ongoing plans to expand Port Rashid’s capacity to cater for the growing demand of cruise tourism in the region.

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Saudi Arabia Gives $50 Million Aid To Myanmar Muslims

Reuters, Monday 13 Aug 2012 – Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah has ordered $50 million in aid be sent to the Rohingya community in Myanmar which a human rights group said has been targeted by the authorities since sectarian riots in June.

A report on the Saudi state news agency said the Muslim community had been “exposed to many violations of human rights including ethnic cleansing, murder, rape and forced displacement”.

“King Abdullah has ordered that assistance of the amount of $50 million be provided to the Rohingya Muslim citizens in Myanmar,” said the report which was carried by Saudi media on Sunday. It did not say who was to blame for the abuses.

However, Human Rights Watch said on August 1 that the Rohingyas had suffered mass arrests, killings and rapes at the hands of the Myanmar security forces. Myanmar, where at least 800,000 Rohingyas are not recognised as one of the country’s many ethnic and religious groups, has said it exercised “maximum restraint” in quelling the riots.

Last week the Saudi cabinet condemned the violence against Muslims in northwest Myanmar and at a meeting on July 31, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in the kingdom’s second city of Jeddah urged members to send Rohingya Muslims aid.

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Egypt’s Al-Mawred Al-Thaqafi Offers Grant For Arab Artistic Exchanges

Ahram Online, 16 Aug 2012 – Al-Mawred Al-Thaqafi (Cultural Resource) is now accepting applications for its ‘Mawaeed’ programme, which aims to promote cultural and artistic exchanges between independent theatres, exhibitions, institutions and other cultural organisations throughout the Arab world.

The grant will provide partial funding for travel expenses for artists, writers and directors that produce and submit their artwork or participate in cultural events and artistic activities throughout the Arab region.

The programme represents an important opportunity for Arab artists and for the circulation and dissemination of their creative work. It will also provide a forum for the exchange of knowledge and experience with fellow Arab artists.

Applications for the ‘Mawaeed’ programme will be accepted until the end of the year, and will be evaluated by experts from the regional arts community. The upcoming evaluation date is 20 September.

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Museum Bears Witness To Turkish Maritime History

MERSİN – Anatolia News Agency – A maritime museum in the southern province of Mersin is working to shed light on the maritime history of the late Ottoman Empire and the early Turkish Republic with hundreds of artifacts and books.

The Mersin Maritime Museum displays mockups of naval vessels including the Refah, the minesweeper Nusrat and the frigate Ertuğrul, as well as personal items that once belonged to a naval sergeant who was killed during Turkey’s intervention in Cyprus. It also includes the Piri Reis Library, which serves researchers with 1,000 books.

The museum opened in July 2011 with the support of the governor’s office and Yenişehir Municipality. Mersin has historically had a significant place in eastern Mediterranean trade, and the museum seeks to share that maritime and naval history with visitors, Mersin Maritime Museum Director Cmdr. Özgür Murat Olcay said.

The museum, which features over 600 artifacts, also reflects the social, historical and technical development of the Turkish Naval Forces and hopes to communicate that history to civilians, especially children, Olcay said. “The idea of opening a museum in Mersin to showcase the Naval Forces and their loyalty to the city came up in 2008. Construction began on Sept. 16, 2009, and the museum opened to visitors on July 14, 2011.”

The Mersin Maritime Museum is Turkey’s fourth such museum, after those in Istanbul, the northwestern province of Çanakkale and nearby İskenderun, Olcay said. The museum’s exhibition and meeting rooms are available for rent to the public for events, he added.

“Any institution or establishment as well as the public can donate to the museum. Items including old newspapers, books, documents, photos, maps, films, objects, medallions, guns, and clothes reflecting the historical, social and cultural history of Mersin are welcomed at the museum,” Olcay said.

The first donation to the museum was the personal belongings of a sailor who was killed during the Cyprus intervention in 1974. The sailor’s family donated his personal effects including his wallet, identity card, ring, wristwatch, 20- and five-Turkish Lira banknotes, a key ring and a lighter.

The museum’s main Barbaros Exhibition Hall displays historical objects and artifacts related to maritime history, while the interactive Nusret Hall presents displays about the naval victory at Preveze, the galleon Mahmudiye, the Crimean War, the minesweeper Nusrat, and the naval ships Yavuz and Alemdar.

The Şehit Lt. Caner Gönyeli Hall serves as an art gallery, and the Ertuğrul Hall as a display room for rotating exhibits. The museum also includes the Cezayirli Gazi Hasanpaşa Hall, where children will receive maritime education, and the Piri Reis Library, offering documents and books on the Turkish Naval Forces and maritime issues. There is also an open exhibition area in the museum’s east wing.

The museum is open every day except Monday and Tuesday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The entrance fee is 1.30 liras for students and four liras for other visitors.

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Saudi Arabia to spend billions on Mecca city

JEDDAH – Reuters – Saudi Arabia has approved a 62 billion riyal ($16.5 billion) plan to modernize the transport system in its holy city of Mecca, including building a bus network and metro system, state news agency SPA said on Tuesday. More than 6 million visitors from across the world visit Mecca every year for the Haj and Umra pilgrimages. The influx has strained the narrow roads and outdated transport system.

Four metro lines of a total length of 182 km (114 miles) will be built across the city, with 88 stations, SPA reported. Construction for the transport project will be carried out over about 10 years, the report said, without giving details of when it would start or how companies would bid for contracts.

Last year the city’s mayor told Reuters that within six years the government hoped to build new roads and foot bridges near the Grand Mosque. Other long-term projects around the mosque include building hotels, malls and cafes. Developments in the suburbs include housing estates and a park for residents who have been made to relocate from the city centre.

Saudi Arabia is also spending billions on upgrading the transport system in the capital Riyadh and on a high-speed rail line connecting Mecca with the holy city of Medina.

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Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to set up Swabi University

Centralasiaonline.com 2012-08-11 PESHAWAR – The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has decided to upgrade the campus of Abdul Wali Khan University Mardan in Ambar village of Swabi District and convert it into a university, Dawn reported August 11.

The Swabi University will be the 18th public sector university in the province, media reported. The government will allocate funds collected by Swabi District from electricity generation and the tobacco tax to establish the institution, media added.

Additionally, work to establish another public sector university in Karak District is also underway, to be funded by the district’s petroleum product taxes, media reported.

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