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24 Sep, 2012

Muslim Woman, 29, Named Culture Minister Of Norway

Compiled by Imtiaz Muqbil & Sana Muqbil

A compilation of stories of progressive, positive, inspiring and motivating events and developments in the world of Islam for the week ending 24 September 2012 (08 Dhul Qa’dah 1433). Pls click on any of the headlines below to go to the story.



The Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix, Sepang International Circuit (SIC) has set an unprecedented target of 70,000 spectators on race day for the 22nd edition of the Malaysian Motorcycle GP from October 19 to 21. This is the 22nd edition of the Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix and Round 16 of the 2012 FIM MotoGP World Championship. Marking another first, Asia Motorsport Development and Sepang International Circuit have joined forces to host a Motorsport Business Forum on 18 October 2012. The purpose of the conference is to bring together the motorcycle business community with the two-wheel racing fraternity for delegates and attendees to hear from motorcycle businesses and motorcycle racing communities on the status of their current programs and to learn from industry experts about the overall status of the motorcycle industry. SIC, in yet another unprecedented move, will host three world-class concerts at its premises including one that would be a week before the commencement of the Malaysian GP race weekend. Giving another impetus to the package of activities, fans will get to enjoy the biggest ever and most happening off-track experience with the participation of some 60 trade and vending operators including all of the world’s major bike manufacturers displaying their popular and latest models. Ticketholders will also get an opportunity to meet all the MotoGP riders in person during the traditional autograph session on October 20. For more details about the various events, pls click here: http://www.malaysiangp.com.my/welcome

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


Muslim Woman, 29, Named Culture Minister Of Norway

Ahram Online, 23 Sep 2012 — On Sunday, with no precedent in Norwegian history, Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg appointed Hadia Tajik, a 29-year-old Muslim woman, as minister of culture, making Tajik the youngest minister in the Norwegian Cabinet and the first ever Muslim in the Norwegian government.

Tajik, of Pakistani origin, announced that her programme will focus on cultural diversity as part of the Norwegian people’s daily lives and how this reflects on Norweigan society as a whole. The programme will delve into the protection of minority rights, whether cultural or racial, including the right of Muslims to wear the veil in public places, among other issues.

The new focus, however, will not be unopposed. Most right wing groups are against these policy changes, considering the increase in diversity in society a challenge to European culture.

Last year Anders Breivik randomly shot 69 people at a summer camp organised by the Workers’ Youth League (AUF) of the Labour Party after blowing up a Norweigan state building. During his trial, Breivik reasoned that multi-cultural policies are harming Norway, adding that he considers Islam his enemy.

Born in Strand, Norway, on 18 July 1983, Tajik studied human rights at the University of Kingston in the UK and holds a Bachelor’s degree in journalism and Master’s in law, the latter awarded by the University of Oslo this year.

An activist from a young age, Tajik led the Young Workers Movement between 1999 and 2002. She also worked as a political advisor to Norway’s minister of justice, 2008-2009. During this time Norweigan women members of the police were afforded the right to wear the veil at work. The decision was, however, rescinded due to harsh criticism from conservative parties.

In 2009, Tajik was elected to parliament as a member of the Labour Party in the Oslo constitutency. She was placed on a list of six seats generally considered safe for the party.

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Saudi women can visit GCC states without passports

Arab News – 19 September, 2012 – Saudi women can now travel to Gulf countries without a passport. This privilege was restricted to Saudi men until recently.

Lt. Col. Badr Al-Malik, spokesperson for the passport department said, “A woman can now carry her ID card instead of the yellow card permit used previously. The finger print identity system makes it easier for a woman to enter any Gulf country.”

The passport department introduced the Abshir service to improve customer online services last year. Al-Malik said Saudi women who have the yellow card permit could use them until they expire. People are advised to register for online services at the e-passport site www.epassport.gov.sa/

He said the online passport service simplifies foreign travel for anyone registered with the Abshir service and eliminates the need to visit a passport office.

In other news, the Administration for Women Staff Supervision at the passport department said it plans to create a work environment where women can work separate from men.

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Woman beats the odds to make Saudi Arabia’s first film

AFP, 3 Sep 2012 – The female director of Saudi Arabia’s first feature film, showing at the Venice film festival, has explained how she beat the odds to produce the heartwarming tale of a girl’s quest to own a bicycle.

In Haifaa Al Mansour’s landmark film “Wadjda,” 10-year-old Waad Mohammed plays a girl who is also testing the boundaries of a woman’s place in a highly conservative society where her love for Western music and fashions land her in trouble.

Mohammed’s impish personality and resilience in the face of adversity add to the poignancy of the story and left some of the film’s first viewers in tears. “She had this vulnerability and she embodied what a Saudi teenager is,” Al Mansour said, speaking in the lush courtyard of the Excelsior hotel.

“I wanted to show the tension between modernity and tradition,” she said. Al Mansour said she was forced to direct what is her first feature film from a van with a walkie-talkie in some of the more conservative neighbourhoods where she could not be seen in public together with male crew and cast members.

In some areas, screaming local residents would block shooting altogether. She said finding financing also posed a problem in a country where cinemas are officially banned and any film is considered a commercial risk.

“Wadjda” will only be available in the kingdom on DVD or on television. “There is no film in Saudi Arabia. Showing films in public is illegal so we don’t have this culture of filmmaking. I was never able to go on a film set and get training and see how things are. It was very difficult,” she said.

Al Mansour grew up in a small Saudi town as one of 12 siblings and she said her parents were always very supportive of her career even though they came under pressure from relatives who said filmmaking was “not honourable.” She said, “They are very traditional Saudis but they gave me all the space to be creative and that does not happen to a lot of girls.”

Born in 1974, Saudi Arabia’s first female filmmaker studied literature at the American University in Cairo and film at the University of Sydney. She has previously directed three shorts and the award-winning documentary “Women Without Shadows” which explores the hidden lives of Gulf women.

“Wadjda” was co-produced by Germany’s Razor Film and several Saudi companies including Rotana Studios which is linked to the Saudi royal family.

The rights have already been sold in France, Germany and Switzerland. For all the implicit criticism of the state of women’s rights in Saudi in the film, Al Mansour said things are gradually changing and having a Saudi prince on board showed that officialdom was supportive of this shift.

“The fact that we shot a film in Saudi Arabia with permission and everything says a lot about the country. It says the country is embracing art,” she said. “I think the authorities really want to see more films,” she added.

“It is changing at a very slow pace. It’s still a very conservative, tribal society, very religious. I think women need to stick together in places like this and fight together and empower each other.”

Skipping along the halls of the Excelsior with headphones firmly on, a smiling curly-haired Mohammed said she was just having the time of her life. “I’m very excited! This is my first time outside of Saudi Arabia and my first time in a film and I’m the lead actress,” she gushed.

Mohammed, who was selected through scouts as an open casting call for women would not be possible in Saudi, said her nature fit the character. “The naughtiness is me. It’s the real me. I do things I’m not supposed to!”

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Collection of the Foundation for Islamic Art Goes on Tour for the First Time

(Islam Online) 08 September 2012 – The Foundation for Islamic Art, which boasts one of the world’s most important collections of Islamic Art at its 5-acre Shangra La estate in Honolulu Hawaii, is exhibiting works outside the estate for the first time.

A selection of the artifacts assembled by the Foundation’s creator, Doris Duke, is on tour for the first time, starting at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York. “Doris Duke’s Shangri La: Architecture, Landscape and Islamic Art” opened Friday to celebrate the year of her 100th birthday and runs through 6 January 2012.

The exhibition will then travel to the Norton Museum in West Palm Beach, Florida; the Nasher Museum at Duke University in Durham, N.C.; the University of Michigan Museum of Art; the Los Angeles Municipal Gallery; the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno; and the Academy of Art in Honolulu.

Doris Duke created the Foundation for islamic Art because she wanted “Americans to understand the art and architecture of that part of the world more fully and deeply than they did,” said exhibition co-curator Tom Mellins.

The exhibit is intended to give a wider audience a look at the interplay among Shangri La’s modernist 1930s architecture, its oceanside Hawaiian locale and the tobacco heiress’ Islamic art collection, said Deborah Pope, director of the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, which acquired the title to Shangri La after Duke’s death.

Duke created the foundation in her will to promote the study and understanding of Islamic culture; Shangri La serves as a center for Islamic arts and cultures and is open for public tours.

“The ability to be absolutely modern and to seamlessly incorporate Islamic tradition is what makes Shangri La so alive an environment and so relevant today,” she said.

Shangri La is a 14,000-square-foot house on a sprawling complex that includes a guesthouse, 75-foot-long saltwater pool, terraces, lawns, gardens and water features. The exhibit features large-scale digital screens of newly commissioned photographs by Tim Street-Porter of its exterior and interior. Many of the objects in the show are seen in the photos as they appear in the elaborately appointed Islamic-inspired rooms and courtyards, giving a wonderful sense of what it must have been like to live among such opulence.

Duke first fell in love with Islamic art and architecture on her honeymoon in 1935. The willowy and beautiful 22-year-old bride and her groom, James Cromwell, traveled throughout the Middle East and South Asia, finishing up in Hawaii where, captivated by its beauty, they decided to build Shangri La.

Duke was raised in a Fifth Avenue mansion in Manhattan and was the only daughter of tobacco magnate John Buchanan Duke. She was only 12 when she inherited $100 million upon his death, and was quickly dubbed “the richest girl in the world.” She shunned publicity all her life, and Shangri La was built in Hawaii in large part so she could avoid the glare of the media. Duke had one daughter who died shortly after birth and adopted an adult woman in the 1980s from whom she became estranged a few years later.

Exhibition co-curator Tom Mellins described Shangri La as an “inventive synthesis” of the traditional and modern. As Duke collected historic works, she commissioned new ones too, from artists in India, Morocco, Iran and Syria, Pope said.

“This juxtaposition of old and new to create an environment, an architectural context in which to display historical works, is what makes Shangri La so unique,” she said.

There are about 70 objects in the show. The earliest piece is an exquisite first-millennium gold jug. Other highlights include ceramics and glassware from the 10th to the 20th century, mother-of- pearl 18th-century furniture from Turkey and Syria, a silver pitcher from Kashmir, a Spanish earthenware charger and a pair of 19th-century wood and copper courtyard doors with Arabic calligraphy.

Archival photographs, schematic drawings and an architectural model of the complex also are included. The exhibition features new works by six contemporary artists of Islamic backgrounds who were all artists in residence at Shangri La.

“What makes it interesting for our museum is not only the history of the house … but also the interaction between the artists there and the work they’re doing in response to the house,” said museum Director Holly Hotchner. The residency program began in 2004 with one artist and has grown to include two to three a year.

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Egypt to produce documentary film on Prophet Mohammed

Ahram Online, 20 Sep 2012 – In response to the recent crises sparked in the region by the now-notorious anti-Islam short film, Information Minister Salah Abdel-Maksoud and film director Shoukry Abu Amira, vice president of the Egyptian Radio and Television Union (ERTU), have agreed to produce a major documentary film on the life of Prophet Mohamed.

The film – to be entitled ‘Mohamed: Messenger of God, Gift of Mercy’ – will be directed by Egypt’s Samiha El-Ghonemy, one of the Arab world’s most prominent documentary filmmakers. El-Ghonemy has directed religious-themed films in the past, including ‘The Holy Family’s Journey in Egypt.’

A handful of scholars from Egypt’s Al-Azhar are already reportedly working on a screenplay for the film, which will be jointly produced by the Egyptian Cinema Syndicate and the ERTU. Members of the syndicate are also reportedly mulling production of a feature film portraying the life of the Prophet.

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Louvre opens new wing to restore ‘full glory to Islam’

AFP, 18 Sep 2012 – Paris’s famed Louvre museum this week opens a new wing of Islamic art in a bid to improve knowledge of a religion often viewed with suspicion in the West. Costing nearly 100 million euros ($131 million), it is funded by the French government and supported by handsome endowments from Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Kuwait, Oman and Azerbaijan.

About 3,000 precious works from the seventh to the 19th centuries are spread across 3,000 square metres (33,000 square feet) over two levels. The exhibits will be rotated. The project was a brainchild of French former president Jacques Chirac and dates back to 2001. It groups 18,000 treasures from an area spanning from Europe to India and includes the oldest love missive in the Islamic world.

France is home to at least four million Muslims and leaders of the community say incidents of Islamophobia are on the rise against a background of confrontation with the authorities and rising suspicion of Muslims.

Many Muslims in France have been angered by legislation banning women from wearing full veils and this year’s elections were marked by debate over the use of halal methods of animal slaughter.

The tensions were highlighted by the one of the main movers behind the project, Sophie Makariou, the head of the department of Islamic arts at the Louvre, who said the aim is to show a “Islam with a capital I.”

“That means the civilisation as a whole, not with a small ‘i’ designating just the religious sphere,” she said. “We must give back the word Islam its full glory… and not leave it to the jihadists to tarnish it,” she said.

“Islamic art is not confined to the art of the Muslim community. It is the art of all those who comprised the Islamic world and in it there were Christians and Jews,” she said, referring to mixed populations in several Islamic empires. Set in a courtyard commissioned in the 18th century, it is housed under a giant undulating gold-coloured aluminium canopy pierced with tiny holes to let daylight filter through and change the mood and the ambience with the sun’s rays.

“You can call it a flying carpet, a huge tent, a luminous veil or simply golden clouds,” said the canopy’s designer, Italian architect Mario Bellini. The canopy consists of 2,350 netted triangles fitted together. “The challenge was not to overwhelm the Western language of the courtyard with the collection,” he said. “It had to be discreet and in tune with one of the world’s best-known monuments,” he said.

The artefacts from the Louvre’s own collection and other private ones include Moghul-era carpets from India, miniature paintings from Iran showing depictions from the Thousand and One Nights and an astounding silver and gold inlaid basin from Egypt or Syria and dating between 1330 and 1340.

The basin was was used for the baptism of France’s King Louis XIII and bears the inscription “Work of Master Muhammed ibn al-Zayn.”

Makariou pointed to a delicate alabaster-like vase from Syria with Islamic calligraphy as one of the highlights. “It is from Susa and goes back to the ninth century. It is a love letter penned on a vase as was the custom then. It is the oldest known love letter from the Islamic world,” she said.

“We have several other shards penned by the same hand,” she said. “We are eagerly awaiting to piece them together.”

The collection brings together pieces from Spain, Egypt’s Mameluke “slave” dynasty, the Moghul empire in India, Persia and Central Asia. It also recreates the grandeur of Baghdad, the founding of which in 762 was a major event in urban planning history, with a reproduction of two huge mosaics adorning the Grand Mosque there.

There is also a teak door from a palace in Samarra on the banks of the Tigris with an Art-Nouveau-style fan-shaped motif ending in a lobed leaf. A myriad of calligraphic styles are also on display with stunning turquoise and white tiles from Central Asia, bejewelled ornaments and ivory objets d’art and enamelled glass objects — an art form conceived and perfected by Muslims.

The wing is the latest modernisation project after the glass pyramid in the Louvre’s main courtyard by Chinese-US architect I.M. Pei which was commissioned in 1984 and completed four years later.

Saudi Prince Waleed bin Talal’s Alwaleed Foundation, which gave $20 million for the project, said it hoped the “space shall bring much-needed understanding and tolerance by offering visitors… a glimpse of Islamic civilisation and culture.”

The Saudi prince said at the time of the donation that “relations between Europe and the Islamic world are going through a turbulent period.” He said he hoped the new wing “will assist in the understanding of the true meaning of Islam, a religion of humanity, forgiveness and acceptance of other cultures.”

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Islamic perspective of medicine

Borneo Bulletin Online – Universiti Brunei Darussalam’s Eminent Speaker Series continued yesterday with a lecture , “Medicine in Al-Qur’an and As-Sunnah,” conducted by Dr Zakir Naik.

A medical doctor by professional training and president of the Islamic research foundation in Mumbai, he talked on the Islamic perspective of medicine using the verses of the Quran and Hadith of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).

Dr Zakir Naik, has risen to prominence since becoming a distinguished orator 20 years ago, foregoing his medical practice and concentrating on efforts to spread Islam. His work has been recognised in many countries and he regularly enters inter-faith dialogues with prominent religious leaders and personalities such as Hindu Guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and Dr William Campbell of the USA.

The late Ahmed Deedat also once presented him a plaque and famously identified him as “Deedat plus” in acknowledgment of his good work. The lecture was open to the general public and educational institutions.

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Uzbek domestic tourism on the rise

Centralasiaonline.com 2012-09-14 TASHKENT – Domestic tourism is growing in Uzbekistan, say tour operators and experts. Uzbektourism, a government agency, reported that in the first half of 2012, the number of domestic tourists was 20.7% higher compared to the same period last year.

The number of tourism-related agencies also has grown. There are currently 851 organisations with a tourism license in Uzbekistan, with more than 40 of them established in the past year. “The license is very difficult to obtain, and it is even more difficult to keep up with the competition and stay afloat,” said Farhad Rasulev, director of Dolores Travel in Tashkent. However, according to him, it is worth the risk, because interest is growing and this year has seen the number of customers at his firm jump 25% from last year.

Rustam Husanov runs his own small travel company, which, in addition to the standard services, offers Tashkent city tours. “Generally the city tours are offered on weekends, have a special theme, and are quite affordable,” he said.

His marketing method has also allowed him cheap advertisement. “I advertise the tours on the company’s website and on a social network page, and generally the people themselves invite their friends and family so they can spend quality time together,” Husanov said. Already, his business has built a solid following.

“I almost never miss a tour organized by Husanov, and there are many others like me. We even organized a Facebook group of X-places enthusiasts, and as a result people are becoming more interested in the history of our home town and region,” said a Tashkent resident who gave her name only as Svetlana.

Historian Boris Golender is often invited to be the guide for these tours. “One of our tours was named after the Dina Rubina bestseller ‘On the Sunny Side of the Street,’ and the tour took in the places described in the book,” Golender said. “Of course, learning about the history of Tashkent from this book would be like learning about the history of France from the books written by Dumas, but it is important to generate interest in the history of the region.”

One may wonder, why travel around your own city when you already pay to see it every day from the window of a bus or car. But as it turns out, taking a tour can lead to the discovery of amazing secrets that even a long time city resident might not have suspected.

“I loved history at school, but thanks to these tours I have become interested in historical literature, and in addition, it turns out that the ordinary places that are familiar to me from childhood are in fact historical monuments,” said Tashkent university student Alladin Zayntdinov, who added that the tours are appealing because of their low prices.

Overall, though, tourism prices are high for Uzbeks, freelance journalist Ali Zhumayev said. “The hotel prices really bite – $50 per day plus food and transportation, and this with a salary of $250 (per month),” he said.

Rasulev attributed the high prices in part to taxes on tourism companies. However, according to him, the government has adopted a program of targeted measures to develop the tourism industry and increase the export potential of tourism services in 2011-2012, which involves improving the quality of infrastructure – repairing and building roads, renovating and constructing hotels, etc.

Uzbektourism chairman Anwar Temirhodzhaev said no one is yet formally considering adopting changes to tax legislation, but this problem is being talked about on the sidelines, so its time will eventually come.

The industry has undergone changes that are contributing to its growth, though, he said. Some tours, for example, cater to special groups, such as university students and seniors. Besides this, billboards and banners are being used to promote domestic tourism.

“All this will play an invaluable role in fostering a sense of patriotism and pride among young people in their country,” Temirhodzhaev said. As the tourism industry grows, it will also create jobs, he added.

Some said some changes need to be made before the industry really takes off, though. “In Uzbekistan, the future is in the hands of small tourism companies and mini-hotels, which successfully blend a European standard of service, oriental flavour and low prices. But we need support from the state,” Rasulev said.

Travel companies also noted that problems with obtaining Uzbek visas, for example, dampen the number of tourists from abroad.

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Netherlands Keens To Make Investment In Bangladeshi Capital

DHAKA, Bangladesh Sept 17 (NNN-BSS) — The Netherlands is keen to make investment in the potential sectors here as well as continue its support for developing the country’s flood control and irrigation management.

“We are keen to import more Bangladeshi products as well as make huge invest here,” said newly appointed the Netherlands Ambassador to Bangladesh Drs. Gerben Sjoerd De Jong while presenting his credentials to President Zillur Rahman at Bangabhaban here.

Welcoming the envoy at Bangabhaban, President Rahman expressed his satisfaction over the excellent existing bilateral relations between Dhaka and Amsterdam and said Bangladesh always attaches great importance to its relationship with the Netherlands.

The President urged the Dutch entrepreneurs to import more world standard Bangladeshi products like RMG, ceramic, jute and jute goods, leather and leather goods and pharmaceuticals considering their very competitive prices.

The trade balance between Bangladesh and the Netherlands is presently in favour of the country as Bangladesh has exported goods worth 1,285 million US dollar to the Netherlands while imported products worth 217 million US dollar during the last fiscal year.

The new envoy said his government is keen to provide all kind of support to Bangladesh for its ongoing development. He assured the President that he would try his level best to increase the cooperation between the Netherlands and Bangladesh into a new height during his assignment here.

Secretaries concerned of the President’s Office and high officials of Foreign Ministry were present. Earlier, on his arrival at Bangabhaban, the new ambassador was given a guard of honor by a contingent of the President’s Guard Regiment.

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Islamic Financial Assets To Reach Usd 1.6 Trillion Late 2012 – Report

KUWAIT, Sept 17 (NNN-KUNA) — The Islamic finance industry has great potential for global expansion after achieving the most rapid growth among global financial services sectors, a specialized economic report showed Sunday.

“The total value of Islamic financial assets is expected to reach USD 1.6 trillion this year, and the financial sector is expected to continue its robust growth in 2013,” reads a report released by Kuwait Finance House Research (KFHR) Sunday.

“(This expansion) is underpinned by: an increase in the demand for Shariah-compliant assets and an active role played by some jurisdictions around the world to promote the development of Islamic financial markets in their respective countries.” The KFHR also noted that the flexibility of Islamic banks during global financial crisis has supported its global growth.

“Islamic banks demonstrated great resilience during the global financial crisis, despite the turmoil which unfolded across the world’s financial markets. While the equity, mortgage and insurance markets suffered huge financial losses post-US property market bubble burst, the balance sheets of Islamic banks emerged relatively unscathed as compared to their conventional counterparts.” The report attributed the resilience of the Islamic banks to usually safe financial products and the consumers’ loyalty.

“Credit portfolios were essentially domestic rather than foreign, with limited pressure on asset quality; high consumer loyalty and deposit stability limited the possibility of massive bank runs and high capitalization and ample liquidity provided relatively higher levels of confidence to counterparts,” the reads the report.

The report underlined that the sukuk market has evolved as a major contributing factor driving the internationalization of Islamic finance.

“For the past 30 years, Islamic finance has been largely domestic driven, though in recent years it has gradually become the fastest growing segment of the international financial system. The sukuk market in particular has evolved as a major contributing factor driving the internationalization of Islamic finance, becoming an important avenue for international fund raising and investment activities, generating significant cross-border flows.” It added that the internationalization of Islamic finance has been facilitated by further developments of the international Islamic financial infrastructure, prompting Islamic financial institutions to venture beyond their domestic borders.

“Today, there are more than 600 Islamic financial institutions operating in more than 75 countries, offering a wide range of products and services. With the internationalization of the industry, Islamic finance is expected to contribute to the more efficient mobilization and allocation of funds across regions. This trend will strengthen the international financial and economic linkages between jurisdictions, bringing mutual benefits to all stakeholders.” Data showed that the Islamic finance Industry has grown at a strong rate of 15.0 percent-20.0 percent annually over the past decade, from approximately USD150.0 billion in the mid-1990s to an estimated USD1.1 trillion in 2011.

The report went on to say that “Based on a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 21.1 percent between 2007 and 2011, the Islamic banking assets are expected to grow to USD1.3 trillion in 2012, accounting for more than 80.0 percent of global Islamic finance assets market share.

It also stressed that the Islamic banking industry is not only confined to Muslim majority countries, but also into new territories within Central Asia and Europe.

“At the end-2011, there are 363 full-fledged Islamic financial institutions and a further 108 conventional financial institutions operating an Islamic window. Although the Islamic banking industry currently constitutes only 1.6 percent of the total assets of the top 50 largest banks in the world (totaling USD66.2 trillion at the end-2011), it remains one of the fastest growing segments in the global financial services sector.”

The Islamic banking industry is expected to witness further developments in the future, particularly in terms of the development of new products and services as well as the opening up of new markets or jurisdictions, in light of the industry’s resilience during the global financial crisis.

“In 2011, the Islamic banking industry witnessed robust growth. Whilst approximately 80.0 percent of Islamic banking assets are in the Middle East, Asia represents a significant market with Malaysia having the largest market share of 9.6 percent. In terms of growth rate, Indonesia witnessed the strongest growth of 48.6 percent y-o-y, followed by Pakistan (34.4 percent y-o-y),” the report added.

The KFHR also forecasted a remarkable growth in the Islamic banking industry in the Gulf Cooperation Council member states in the coming years.

“The GCC is home to some of the world’s largest Islamic banks such as Al-Rajhi Bank in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait Finance House in Kuwait. The increase of Islamic banking activities in the GCC attributed to a number of factors which include an increasing domestic demand for Islamic financial products and, above all, the considerable growth of savings in the Gulf linked to oil price trends.

“It is expected that the Islamic banking industry in the GCC will continue to grow underpinned by their strong economic fundamentals, economic stimulant via government sponsored infrastructure projects, consolidation of Islamic banks in certain jurisdictions (Bahrain), growing numbers of Islamic banks (Saudi Arabia and Oman) and changes in regulation (Qatar) which will benefit the industry as a whole.”

The Islamic banking industry is also expected to witness encouraging developments as emerging economies such as Turkey, Indonesia, India and China promote the alternative form of financial intermediation, underpinned by the increasing demand for alternative banking products and services.

“Despite the positive developments, moving forward the deteriorating global economic environment, a shortage of education and product awareness in some jurisdictions as well as legal and tax issues are some of the challenges that will be faced by the Islamic banking industry,” warned the report.

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Irda Offers Indonesian Investors Platform For Expansion In Iskandar M’sia

JAKARTA, Sept 13 (NNN-Bernama) — Looking from an Asean perspective, with a view to helping each other’s economy to grow, Iskandar Regional Development Authority (IRDA) is offering Indonesian business community a platform for expansion by investing in Iskandar Malaysia.

With a very clear message “The Time Is Now”, IRDA is convinced that the participation of Indonesian investors would benefit both the Malaysian and Indonesian economy, as well as Asean as an emerging powerful economic cluster.

IRDA Chief Executive Officer Ismail Ibrahim said Asean countries have their own niche and strength and each country must leverage on that strength.

In the case of Indonesian business community, which enjoys a strong domestic market, to a certain extent may not need Malaysia, but if they wished to reach out to other parts of the world, Iskandar Malaysia can provide that platform.

“Why? Because Iskandar Malaysia is in a better geographical position and provides better connectivity to a global audience. We have the capability of connectivity, technology and infrastructure,” he told Bernama in an exclusive interview here.

Situated in the southern part of the state of Johor, neighbouring Singapore, Iskandar Malaysia, with an area of 2,217 sq kilometres, is three times the size of Singapore and is the single largest development ever to be undertaken in the region.

Ismail and his team of senior managers are here to participate in the 3rd Muslim World Business and Investment Zone (BIZ) Conference and Exhibition from Sept 13-16, at the Jakarta Convention Centre (JCC) in Senayan.

IRDA believed their participation in the conference and exhibition this time around would provide the best opportunity to promote Iskandar Malaysia and make their presence felt because the event gathers industrial chiefs not only from Indonesia but from all over the world.

Indonesian business community could take advantage or leverage in the area of food and agro processing in Iskandar Malaysia because the country is quite advanced in these sectors, he said.

“What is required of them is, as they grow to embrace technology and the type of production to engage the world market better, they can actually make their presence felt through Iskandar Malaysia.

“You can actually bring in the raw materials for manufacturing and Iskandar Malaysia can also provide the platform since we have that access. They can actually export their manufactured products worldwide as the infrastructure and connectivity is already available in Iskandar Malaysia.

“Another area is the tourism sector, which could mean looking at this region as one destination – the region of Southern Peninsula, Singapore and certain parts of Indonesian islands – so that we can leverage on each others’ products,” he said.

For example in Singapore, they are into entertainment and business-oriented kind of tourism while in Iskandar Malaysia, it is into family-type of tourism like the LEGOLAND and theme park.

“Perhaps Indonesia can also work something out so that we will create a destination like in Europe, whether you are going to London or Paris or Belgium, we always look at Europe as one destination where there are so many choices provided by that collection of countries,” he said.

Ismail said IRDA wants the Indonesian business community to be involved in economic development by investing in Iskandar Malaysia in areas that they are best known, like food, agro processing, healthcare and education.

“We acknowledge the fact that in Indonesia, there are a number of higher learning institutions that may want to consider coming to Iskandar Malaysia,” he said.

Ismail said the agency was bringing into Iskandar Malaysia, business activities that would be able to capture the international market or the international audience and welcome investors, either on their own or as a joint venture initiative.

“Iskandar Malaysia is flavoured to the extent that we try to lift or dismantle some of the restrictions that will allow for a freer economic growth or the flow of economic activities.

“As long as it is one of the nine economic sectors that we are promoting, we allow sourcing of foreign funds, we allow sourcing of foreign knowledge workers, we even allow equity to be opened…there is no restriction,” he said.

The nine key economic clusters are financial advisory and consulting; creative industries; logistics; leisure and tourism; education; healthcare; electrical and electronics; petrochemical and oleo-chemical; and food and agro processing.

One of the big players from Indonesia already in Iskandar Malaysia currently is Sinar Mas, which owns a resort hotel and golf course.

On investment commitments in Iskandar Malaysia, Ismail said up till the second quarter of this year, it has totalled RM95.45 billion (US$30.24 billion), of which 38 per cent are actually foreign direct investment (FDI).

Of the total FDI, 40 per cent are from Europe, another 40 per cent from the Far East including Korea and Japan and another 14 per cent from the Middle East, however, in terms of representation by country, Singapore is the highest with slightly above RM5 billion of investment.

Currently most of the investments from Singapore comprised mainly SMEs (small and medium enterprises), but in the near future, within six months or a year, Ismail was optimistic that the big players would be coming in because the indications are already there

“For example, Temasek and Khazanah are forming a joint venture in this iconic Wellness township. They are two big players, so that is a strong signal that will excite other big players,” he said.

Perhaps, when the Singapore business community starts to come into Iskandar Malaysia in a big way, it would also excite the Indonesian business community to come in and invest in a big way. Besides Jakarta, IRDA also plans to promote Iskandar Malaysia to Indonesian business community in the cities of Medan and Surabaya, later.

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ADB, Kazakhstan Define New Development Partnership

ASTANA, Sept 20 (NNN-ADB) — Kazakhstan and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) have prepared a new Country Partnership Strategy for 2012-2016 designed to make the economy more competitive and diverse in order to sustain growth and create jobs.

“Kazakhstan today is at a crossroads as it moves beyond upper middle-income status. The new strategy will help to further accelerate Kazakhstan’s economic and social progress and add value to the country’s development priorities,” said Guanghui Li, Country Director of ADB’s Kazakhstan Resident Mission.

The strategy defines a new development partnership with ADB. This partnership is both relevant and responsive to Kazakhstan’s goal of transitioning to a high income country.

The partnership underscores the need for sustaining infrastructure investments to boost productivity of the economy and promote diversification. It recognizes that the private sector has to over time become the main engine of growth.

Measures to support the business environment for private sector development are, therefore, part of this partnership, which also identifies key operational areas for working directly with the private sector to support its role.

Knowledge exchange is central to the new partnership between ADB and Kazakhstan. Knowledge products and services will support institutional improvements and reforms. Knowledge support will also deepen policy dialogue between the two partners on development issues.

Strengthening the financial sector to support growth and diversification is an important part of the new partnership. Expanding access to finance for small and medium-sized industries will support entrepreneurs and create new jobs and economic opportunities.

Developing non-bank financial markets will generate long-term domestic finance for infrastructure development. Support for local currency finance will deepen the bond markets and diversify the financial system.

In addition, the partnership will help Kazakhstan take advantage of its strategic Eurasian location through regional cooperation in transport, energy and trade facilitation.

ADB’s support will focus on upgrading the road network along the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) transport corridors and strengthening regional trade and transport links.

The strategy will be implemented with an indicative investment program of about $1.6 billion for 2012-2016. Knowledge sharing, selective public sector lending, public-private partnerships and non-sovereign operations will be the main forms of support.

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Pakistan Travel Agents On Familiarisation Trip To Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia Sept 18 (NNN-Bernama) — A group of travel agents from Pakistan is on a week-long trip to Malaysia until Sept 23, to learn more about what the country can offer Pakistan’s tourists. Comprising 11 tour agents, as well as two Thai Airways representatives from Karachi and Lahore, the group will visit tourist attractions and destinations in the country, Tourism Malaysia said in a statement here today.

The places include Malaysia’s administrative capital Putrajaya; National Palace and Merdeka Square in Kuala Lumpur; Portuguese Square and A’ Famosa in Melaka; and Penang Hill, Kek Lok Si temple and Gurney Drive in Penang.

They are also scheduled to meet local inbound tour operators, hoteliers and other service providers at two travel marts taking place in Kuala Lumpur today, and Penang on Friday.

Their trip to Malaysia is at the invitation of Tourism Malaysia and Thai Airways. “This familiarisation visit and travel mart sessions will enhance Tourism Malaysia’s promotional efforts to woo the Pakistan market, as well as strengthen relations with Thai Airways,” said the statement.

It said Pakistan was an important market to Malaysia, with a total of 73,000 Pakistani tourist arrivals recorded last year. Up till June, this year, the number of tourist arrivals reached 41,595, as compared to 32,188 registered in the same period last year, representing a 29.2 per cent increase.

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Malaysia Targets 36 Mln Tourists This Year

BUTTERWORTH, Malaysia Sept 18 (NNN-Bernama) — Malaysia is confident to achieve the target of 36 million tourist arrivals by end of this year, Tourism Minister Dr Ng Yen Yen said. She said based on the ministry’s latest statistics, the number of tourist arrivals in Malaysia had reached 24.7 million as at yesterday.

“The statistics also show that the country’s income has increased by RM1.1 billion per week as they (tourists) are spending about RM164 million daily in Malaysia.” She said this at a special ceremony to present an allocation of RM110,000 to 16 associations and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Bagan parliamentary constituency here today.

Dr Ng, who is also Penang MC chairman, said the amount presented today was just a part of the total allocation of RM500,000 for the development of associations and NGOs approved by Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin during his recent visit to Bagan. “The rest of the allocation will be distributed in the near future,” she said.

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Iran’s second brand car welcomed in Middle-East, North Africa

Tehran Times – 15 September, 2012 – Runna, the second brand sedan of Iran’s largest carmaker Iran-Khodro Company (IKCO), was widely welcomed by drivers in the Middle East and North Africa.

A market research by IKCO export and international affairs said that the quality, safety and reasonable price of Runna has drawn the attention of people in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria and Libya.

Elegant design, wide variety of accessories and fuel efficiency have drawn the attention of the people in these countries. IKCO has started initial measures to export this sedan to the Middle Eastern countries.

Based on the export oriented approach of IKCO management, the company aims to develop its presence in global target markets.

According to IKCO’s Chief Executive Officer Najmeddin, the company has exported cars to 30 countries, mainly to Central Asia, the Middle East, Europe, South America, and Africa. The company has recently received orders for its newly self-developed car, Runna, from different countries.

The CEO stated that the company supplies spare parts and provides after-sales service to its customers through 139 dealers in 27 countries.

Iraq is one of IKCO’s main target markets in the Middle East. IKCO is currently running a production plant in this country. Production capacity of IKCO plant in Iraq is 30 thousand cars a year.

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Qatar Airways sets stage for Gassim flights

Khaleej Times – 15 September, 2012 – Qatar Airways has announced the launch date for scheduled flights to Gassim — its newest gateway in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Effective January 7, 2013, Gassim will become Qatar Airways’ fifth destination in the country, where it already serves Riyadh, Jeddah, Dammam and holy city of Madinah.

The Doha-based airline will operate four-flights-a-week to the central Saudi city of Gassim, offering travellers a greater choice of travel options to more than 100 destinations around the world served by the airline via its Doha hub. The Gassim route will be operated with an Airbus A320 in a two-class configuration of 12 seats in first class and 132 in economy.

Situated 400 kilometres northwest of Riyadh, Gassim is Saudi Arabia’s seventh most populated province with a rich agricultural industry. Qatar Airways chief executive officer Akbar Al Baker said he was delighted the airline was boosting services to Saudi Arabia, a market where the carrier had more than doubled frequency over the past year.

“Today Qatar Airways operates 60 flights a week across four destinations in Saudi Arabia, which will rise to 64 with the addition of Gassim as our newest route, representing the importance and commitment Qatar Airways has in the Saudi market,” he said.

“From Gassim, passengers will be able to travel seamlessly through our Doha hub to popular cities such as London, Paris, Bangkok, Singapore, New York and Washington – some great examples of offering passengers across Saudi Arabia with increased travel options and greater flexibility.

“Saudi Arabia’s aviation industry has experienced unprecedented growth over the past few years, reporting the strongest increase in passenger traffic in more than a decade in 2011, with more than 54 million passengers travelling from the country last year.

“With increased government investment in the private sector and major infrastructure developments underway, we are very excited about our expansion plans in the Kingdom,” added Al Baker.

Qatar Airways has seen rapid growth in just 15 years of operations, currently operating a modern fleet of 111 aircraft to 118 key business and leisure destinations across Europe, Middle East, Africa, Asia Pacific, North America and South America.

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).

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SCTDA to mark presence in Moscow

Khaleej Times – 17 September, 2012 – The Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority, or SCTDA, continues boosting its presence in the Russian markets by participation in the high profile Leisure Moscow taking place in the Russian capital, Moscow, from September 19-22 for the 12th consecutive year.

This comes right after the Roadshow the SCTDA has conducted in the Russian cities of Kazan and Yekaterinburg between September 3-10. Sharjah delegation, headed by Mohamed Ali Al Noman Chairman of the SCTDA, includes a number of senior government officials and representatives from public and private sector. The Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority, Sharjah Airport Authority, Air Arabia, Ramada Sharjah, Sharjah International Hotels, Al Khalidiah Tourism, Golden Tulip Sharjah, Time Ruby Hotel Apartment, fair Mount Tourism.

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Turkey’s exports to Iran surging

Tehran Times – 17 September, 2012 – In the past few months, there has been a surge in Turkey’s exports to Iran. Throughout 2012, Turkish-Iranian trade has experienced record monthly increases. Most is due to gold exports to Iran.

Inan Demir, Turkish Finansbank chief economist said the amounts are unprecedented. “In 2010 and 2011 combined Turkey’s total gold and jewelry exports amounted to $ 4.3 billion,” said Demir. “Now, in the first six months of 2012, gold exports to Iran, we are talking about a gold export figure in excess of $ 6 billion. So, compared to past trends, we are definitely talking something extraordinary here.”

Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz denied recent reports that Ankara was paying for its Iranian energy imports in gold. Those imports spiked in August after hitting a multi-year low in July, as Turkey sought to comply with U.S. sanctions.

The EU has introduced a ban on exports of gold to Iran, but Turkey is not an EU member and says it is not bound by the measures. Last month, U.S. Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David Cohen visited Istanbul for talks on the enforcement of Iranian sanctions.

The surge in gold exports also has been matched by a similarly impressive growth in Iranian businesses opening in Turkey.

“The number of the Iranian businesses opened in Turkey in the last two years is outnumbering the number of businesses opened by European countries altogether,” said Kerem Balci of the Turkish newspaper Zaman. “

Turkey borders Iran and is one of the few countries Iranians do not need a visa to visit. That helps to make it attractive to Iranians to set up businesses and conduct trade. Observers point out the growing Iranian business presence and booming gold trade makes Turkey likely to face growing scrutiny from Brussels and Washington as they continue sanctions against Tehran.

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Dubai company to build Haj camp in Saudi Arabia

Emirates 24/7 – 16 September, 2012 – Dubai-based Al Baddad has signed a five-year agreement with the National Instruments Foundation of Saudi Arabia for building a 270,000 square metre camp for Haj pilgrims. The contract was signed by Zayed Al Baddad, CEO of Baddad Holding, and Hisham Rawa of National Instruments at Baddad International’s headquarters in Dubai.

Baddad said the camp will be built with environment-friendly materials which are 100 per cent recyclable. The camp’s design will avoid use of columns for areas up to 500 square metres, he added. The company will also be providing power generators, air conditioning and lighting during the Hajj season of the current year, he added.

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New structure for Ajman’s tourism body

Khaleej Times – 16 September, 2012 – Shaikh Ammar bin Humaid Al Nuaimi, Crown Prince of Ajman, in his capacity as the Chairman of the Executive Council of the Ajman Emirate, ratified the organisational structure of the Department of Tourism Development. He signed an Emiri decree consisting of 16 articles endorsing the new organisational structure of the Department of Tourism Development in the emirate. The new organisational structure, as stipulated in the Emiri Decree No.9/Year 2012, aims to activate the department’s role in harnessing all efforts and possibilities for the development of the tourism industry in the emirate.

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Saudi travel & tourism industry set to reach $ 14.9 trillion in 2012

Saudi Gazette – 18 September, 2012 – Saudi Arabia’s travel and tourism industry offers tremendous growth opportunities on the back of its exponential market potential.

Ahead of the inaugural “The Hotel Show Saudi Arabia” slated to be held in Jeddah on Nov.17-19, 2012, Tim Wilson, Event Manager, dmg :: events, co-organizer of the show, said “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has emerged as one of the most captivating markets for foreign direct investment in the food, hotel and hospitality industries.

With the Kingdom’s travel and tourism industry set to reach $ 14.9 trillion in 2012, the potential for growth is huge. We at dmg :: events have presented successful Hotel Shows over the years in Dubai. Now we aim to continue to expand by showcasing of the broadest range of products, services and technologies for the hospitality sector in Saudi Arabia. We are trying to get the maximum diversity, range and competitiveness of exhibitors to make it a record first year for The Hotel Show Saudi Arabia.”

Saudi Arabia is expected to welcome 15.8 million tourists by 2014, with some 381,000 new hotel rooms and a 63 percent increase in room stock against 2010 inventories forecast for completion by 2015. So, the event will go a long way in further emphasizing the unmatched potential in store in the Kingdom, added Elie Rizk, CEO of MICE Arabia Group.

Business Monitor International’s latest Saudi Arabia Tourism Report forecast that tourist arrivals are forecast to increase by 8 percent year-on-year (y-o-y) to 14.87mn in 2012. The number of tourist arrivals will grow by an average of 6 percent y-o-y through to the end of 2016.

Moreover, the report said the Kingdom’s hospitality sector looks set to grow in tandem with tourist arrivals. BMI forecast that there will be about 424,000 hotel rooms in Saudi Arabia by 2016, up from a projected 317,000 in 2012.

The event is set to be the ideal business platform amid large-scale infrastructure developments in Saudi Arabia, boom in religious tourism and flourishing business travelers & MICE sector, catapulting the Kingdom onto the international hospitality map.

The three-day show, to be held at the Jeddah Centre for Forums & Events, will bring together leading regional and international manufacturers and suppliers for the hospitality, catering, food & beverage as well as related industries, covering over 8,500 square meters of space, with 5,000-plus invited buyers, live gourmet food demonstrations, seminars and a dedicated hotel summit.

More than 100 companies from 24 countries representing various supply chains of the hospitality sector across the Middle East and beyond will be participating at the inaugural show. More than 10 country pavilions will be represented at the show, including Italy, Greece, France and Malaysia.

Five key segments are represented at the show’s debut, including interiors & design, operating equipment & supplies, technology, outdoor & resort experience, and food & beverage.

“Keeping pace with the demands of the country’s burgeoning hospitality market, The Hotel Show Saudi Arabia has focused its offering to provide an unmatched sourcing platform for buyers and sellers of hospitality supplies and services. The event is “must-attend” trade show for regional and global companies wanting to establish a presence or grow their existing businesses in this lucrative market. We have received tremendous response from participants and we are confident of its success,” Rizk noted.

Held under the patronage of Sultan Bin Salman Bin Abdul Aziz, Chairman of Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities, The Hotel Show Saudi Arabia is organized by MICE Arabia Group and co-organized by dmg :: events.

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Saudi Arabia farm sector holds huge potential for investors

Arab News – 19 September, 2012 – Demand for agricultural products is swelling across Saudi Arabia, driven by a population boom, rising incomes, affluent lifestyles and a strong economy – the largest in the Gulf region.

Recent studies reveal that the Kingdom currently has around 34,997 hectares of organically planted land with sales of organic products expected to achieve 10 percent annual growth, fueled by the increasing awareness among the local community about the advantages and diversity offered by organic farming.

The study predicts organically planted land to form 5 percent of the total planted area in the Kingdom. Furthermore, poultry consumption is expected to grow by 17.2 percent to reach 1.6 million tons in 2016, while milk production could increase by more than 17 percent to 2.1 million tons between 2015 and 2016.

The Saudi government has allocated SR 60 billion to boost the domestic agricultural sector this year and is actively looking at regional and global agricultural products and services and focusing on organic alternative farming to meet the growing nutritional needs of its citizens.

The upcoming Saudi Agriculture 2012 – the 31st International Agriculture, Water and Agro-Industry Show — will unveil some of the latest solutions addressing the rising demand for agricultural products in the Kingdom and throughout the region. Running from Sept. 24 to 27 at the Riyadh International Convention & Exhibition Centre, the trade fair will cover animal health and production, agricultural finance and banking, agricultural products and services, chemicals and fertilizers, cold storage and crop production, and dairy farming products and equipment, among many others.

Confirming their presence in the event are several key regional and international agriculture industry players and leaders who will share business, investment and policy views with high-ranking agriculture officials. The event is accredited by UFI, the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry.

“Saudi Arabia holds huge potential for investors and businesses who want to work in the region’s largest growing agricultural marketplace.

The 2012 national budget shows how the government has taken a serious stance toward addressing the food needs of its people so now is the perfect time to forge and strengthen ties among local agricultural and food players. Saudi Agriculture 2012 is an ideal platform for determining which solutions can drive the Saudi food agenda,” said Khalid Daou, project manager of Saudi Agriculture at Riyadh Exhibitions Company.

Saudi Agriculture 2012 will showcase the latest in animal health and production, agricultural finance and banking, agricultural products and services, chemicals and fertilizers, cold storage and crop production, dairy farming products and equipment, fisheries and fish farming, greenhouses, handling and transport systems, irrigation and landscaping equipment, machinery and spare parts, organic farming, packaging systems and products, pesticides, pumps and pipe systems, seeds and soil nutrition products, spraying machinery, water treatment, water management systems and warehousing.

Running concurrently with Saudi Agriculture 2012 is the Saudi Agro-Food 2012 — the 19th International Trade Show for Food Products, and the Saudi Food-Pack — The International Exhibition for Food Processing and Packaging, to feature the latest products, technologies and services in areas ranging from frozen and chilled foods, confectionery, chocolates, health and natural foods, to presentation, processing and packaging equipment.

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Saudi Arabia food market valued at $ 16 billion

Saudi Gazette – 19 September, 2012 – Saudi Arabia’s food market has been estimated to reach a value of $ 16 billion, with the Halal food market alone valued at around $ 6 billion.

Driven by the huge growth potential of the Saudi food market, the Kingdom continues to attract leading food manufacturers worldwide as evident in the upcoming Saudi Agriculture 2012, which reported a substantial 22 percent increase in the number of international exhibitors from different countries.

“The Kingdom’s $ 16 billion food market continues to attract the attention of leading local and international food manufacturers as we are poised to stage the biggest edition of Saudi Agriculture yet. We have prepared more than 15,000 square meters of exhibition space for over 300 exhibitors from all over the world. For the past 31 years Saudi Agriculture has achieved unparalleled success as the premier networking platform for all key industry players. The huge increase in participation this year serves to reaffirm the event’s status as a major driving force in the sustained growth of KSA’s food industry,” said Khalid Daou, Project Manager of Saudi Agriculture in Riyadh Exhibitions Company.

Saudi Agriculture 2012, the 31st International Agriculture, Water and Agro-Industry Show, set on Sept. 24-27, 2012 at the Riyadh International Convention and Exhibition Center, will showcase the latest and best solutions and techniques to help the Saudi government achieve food security and self-sufficiency. Organized under the patronage of the Ministry of Agriculture, Saudi Agriculture has confirmed the participation of more than 400 exhibitors from 23 countries including Denmark, Kuwait, Belgium, Canada, China, Cyprus, Egypt, France, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Saudi Arabia, Korea, Netherlands, Poland, Qatar, Russia, Spain, Tunisia, Turkey, UAE, and UK.

Prominent local and regional food companies are likewise attending the event, led by Fakieh Poultry Farms and ARASCO, which will be the diamond sponsors of Saudi Agriculture 2012. The event will also be held concurrently with Saudi Agro-Food 2012, the 19th International Trade Show for Food Products; and Saudi Food-Pack 2012, the 2nd International Exhibition for Food Processing and Packaging.

Saudi Agriculture 2012 will cover all aspects of agriculture and food industries from cultivation, to management, production, packaging and distribution. Now on its 31st year as one of the fastest growing industry events in the region, Saudi Agriculture will be held concurrently with Saudi Agro-Food and Saudi Food-Pack to feature the latest products, technologies and services in areas ranging from frozen and chilled foods, confectionery, chocolates, health and natural foods, to presentation, processing and packaging equipment.

Accredited by UFI, the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry, the show has a wide range of scope that include animal health and production, agricultural financing, agricultural products and services, chemicals and fertilizers, cold storage, dairy farming products and equipment, fish farming, greenhouses, handling and transport systems, irrigation and landscaping equipment, organic farming, packaging systems and products, pesticides, pumps and pipe systems, seeds and soil nutrition products, spraying machinery, water treatment, water management systems, and warehousing, etc.

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Turkish delight for Arab investors

By Tim Reid, regional head of commercial banking, HSBC Middle East and North Africa.

Gulf Times – 19 September, 2012 – Turkey has hung out it’s “For Sale” sign at just the right time to grab the attention of Arab investors who are in the market for new destinations to deploy their record energy revenues.

A new Turkish real-estate law came into effect in May making it easier for Arabs to buy property as it removed the rule of reciprocity under which only citizens of countries allowing Turks to acquire real-estate could enjoy the same privileges in their country. The new legislation also increased more than tenfold the size of land that foreigners could own.

This is the latest in a raft of reforms that has transformed the Turkish economy since 2002 and contributed to attracting more than $ 100bn in foreign direct investment over the period.

The country that straddles Europe and Asia has seen its economy triple in size in a decade to almost $ 800bn, propelling per capita income above $ 10,000 and bolstering a youthful middle class budget that has an appetite for leisure and luxury.

Significant improvements in such a short period have registered Turkey on the global scale as an exceptional emerging economy, the 16th largest economy in the world and bigger than any Arab state.

The Turkish government is bustling with confidence after years of successful reforms and may likely subscribe to the thesis that three is a lucky charm, for as of the end of June the country could boast the presence of some 30,333 foreign companies, almost 10% of which were from the Gulf states.

It is almost certain that as long as there is economic and political stability, a country like Turkey will always be an engine for growth, especially as it is the government’s stated ambition to once again triple the size of the economy by 2023. That will provide a lot of opportunity, and Mena-based companies should look to Turkey with its gains in income and stability as an attractive market of 75mn people.

The Arab leisure industry is one natural sector to lead this next wave of investors with Turkey, having recently displaced Britain as the 6th most popular tourist destination, according to the World Tourism Organisation – almost 30mn international arrivals in 2011 generated revenue of more than $ 23bn.

Hotel operators from the Gulf have moved to take advantage of this opportunity with the UAE’s Jumeirah Group and Rotana Hotels, and Saudi Arabia’s My Tuana, having announced investment plans earlier this year. Jumeirah was the first out of the block when it signed an agreement with the Turkey-based Demsa Group to take over the management of Istanbul’s historic Pera Palace Hotel, which was built in 1892 to accommodate passengers on the legendary Orient Express train from Europe.

Probably one of the big trends we will see over the next decade is a greater correlation between Mena and Turkey’s trade patterns, especially if Ankara succeeds in securing a free-trade agreement with the six-member Gulf Co-operation Council sooner rather than later. Turkey has set an ambitious goal of $ 100bn of annual trade with the GCC by 2023, which could appear more realistic if Turkey turned to the Arab states to source a much greater share of its $ 60bn annual energy imports.

The success that Ankara has had in implementing major structural reforms over the last 10 years represents a considerable achievement. As their Arab neighbours continue to open the doors to international trade, the opportunities for deeper economic alignment with Turkey will continue to multiply.

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Adac to host Abu Dhabi Air Expo in 2013

Khaleej Times – 19 September, 2012 – Abu Dhabi Airports Company, or Adac, will be hosting the show again for the second year in a row between the March 5-7, 2013, at Al Bateen Executive Airport, its business aviation airport in Abu Dhabi. This will follow the success of this year’s Abu Dhabi Air Expo in March 2012 which was held for first time in the Middle East. The event then drew more than 100 exhibitors and sponsors, displayed 70 aircraft from light jets to helicopters and attracted more than 10,000 international and local visitors.

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Indonesia to market seaweed to Japan

September 14 2012 Morotai, North Maluku (ANTARA News) – Indonesia`s Trade Ministry has announced that it is going to export seaweed, one of its mainstay commodities, to Japan.

“Japan is one of Indonesia`s trade partners, especially in wooden furniture and automotive spare parts. Therefore, the market access for seaweed export to Japan should continue to expand,” said Director of Export and Creative Economy Development Product, Gatot Prasetyo Adjie.

He added that Japan was a huge market for Indonesian products, especially seaweed which is known as nori in the country. The culture of eating seaweed is traditional in Japan, with the people consuming it as a main dish.

Due to the development, Indonesia will keep on improving the quality of its seaweed production, which is one of its biggest marine produce.

The Marine and Fishery Ministry has also targeted increasing production of seaweed in Indonesia to 5.1 million tonnes by the end of 2012.

One of the efforts involved to help meet the target is to develop polyculture cultivation of seaweed.

“The target of seaweed production in 2012 has been increased by 18.6 percent over the figure from the previous year,” Minister of Marine and Fishery Affairs Sharif Cicip Sutardjo said.

The development of polyculture cultivation will be used to increase the production of seaweed in six districts/cities in west Java, namely Cirebon City, Cirebon district, Indramayu, Subang, Karawang and Bekasi.

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Indonesia second fastest economy in the world

Sat, September 15 2012 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – Minister for National Development Planning and Head of the National Development Planning Board (Bappenas) Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana in a press statement here Saturday said Indonesia is the second fastest economy in the world.

Indonesia is second only to China in economic growth, Armida said, pointing out Chinese economy grew 8.7 percent and Indonesia`s economy expanded 6.4 percent in the second quarter of the year.

Indonesia deserves to be proud that it could continue to chalk up a fairly strong growth when the world is beset by great uncertainty, she said here on Saturday.

She warned , however, of big global challenges for which the government needs the support of provincial administrations to be consistent in carrying out development.

She predicted the countrys economy would grow 6.5 percent in 2014 with unemployment rate less than 6 percent and poverty 10 percent and inflation below 6 percent. Currently, the countrys unemployment rate is forecast to be around 5.8 percent – 6.1 percent in 2012. She said every growth of 1 percent in the economy will open 350,000 new jobs in the country.

Earlier the Central Statistic Agency (BPS) said the countrys GDP in the second quarter of this year was 6.4 percent on-year and 2.8 percent quarter to quarter. In the first half of the year, the countrys economy grew 6.3 percent on-year, the agency said.

It said the growth drivers included the household consumption, which grew 5 percent, the government consumption which expanded 6.5 percent and exports and imports which respectively grew 4.8 percent and 99.5 percent on-year.

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European development bank to invest in Arab world

Ahram Online, Tuesday 18 Sep 2012 – The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has launched its first investments in emerging Arab democracies, in a major step in response to the wave of political changes the region has undergone since 2011, a statement on Tuesday said.

EBRD’s Board of Directors, who represent the Bank’s shareholders, have approved three projects, located in Jordan, Tunisia and Morocco. Although initial investments are relatively small, EBRD hopes to start a process of investments that will be worth as much as €2.5 billion annually by 2015.

“The development of the private sector is at the heart of the EBRD’s response to the demand for economic improvements in the new region, promoting the development of small business, which can help to create jobs in an area where youth unemployment in particular is a major social problem,” the EBRD statement said.

Investment projects in Egypt are expected to be submitted to the board for approval shortly, according to the EBDR statement.

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EgyptAir resumes flights to Aleppo

Ahram Online, 19 Sep 2012 – National carrier EgyptAir resumed flights to the Syrian city of Aleppo on Wednesday after battles between regime and rebel forces near the airport caused a two-day suspension of services. EgyptAir has two daily return flights to Syria, one to the capital Damascus and the other to the country’s commercial hub Aleppo. Wednesday morning’s flight to Aleppo departed Cairo with only 20 passengers, but returned completely full, a Cairo airport source told German news agency DPA.

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France grants Egypt 300m euros to develop Cairo metro

Ahram Online, 19 Sep 2012 – France has granted Egypt 300 million euros ($392 million) to help build a new underground line, the Egyptian foreign minister told reporters on Tuesday.

Mohamed Kamel Amr’s announcement came after President Mohamed Morsi met in Cairo with French foreign minister Laurent Fabius. It was Morsi’s first top level meeting with officials from the Eurozone’s second largest economy.

France has already provided significant technical assistance and financial support in building Cairo’s underground — or Metro — which first opened in 1987. The capital currently has three underground lines.

Fabius, for his part, hailed the strong relationship between France and Egypt. Morsi and recently-elected French president Francois Hollande will meet for the first time at a United Nations gathering in New York City in October.

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Egypt-based Islamic finance firm eyes $100m investment

Reuters, 19 Sep 2012 – Cairo-based Ridge Islamic Capital said on Wednesday it has $100 million to raise its capital and invest in funds over the next two years to tap a growing market for Islamic finance. The firm was launched on Wednesday after Dubai-based regional investment company Ridge Solutions International Holdings, which is providing the $100 million, acquired Egyptian investment banking and asset management firm El Rashad.

El Rashad operated on conventional financial lines but Ridge said assets that it managed would now be converted to be sharia compliant, according to a timeline set by a sharia compliancy board, likely to be about two years. Future investments would all meet Islamic principles.

“With a population that exceeds 83 million and the government-set target to increase Islamic and Sharia compliant finance, Egypt represents an attractive proposition for us to present and differentiate our products from modern and traditional Islamic banking,” Miguel Henriques, chief executive of Ridge Solutions, said in a statement.

The parent company for the Ridge group of companies, Ridge Solutions Group, is based in Angola. The Egyptian firm now has paid-in capital of LE22.5 million ($3.69 million), and manages a fund and portfolio investments worth about LE20 million in total.

“We are going to increase it (the capital). We don’t know yet by how much because we are bringing in $100 million and we are going to put that $100 million either into capital or in funds that we are establishing here,” he said at the launch.

He added that this decision would depend on how best it could leverage its investment and attract other investors. One of the first initiatives by Ridge Islamic Capital is to set up a $150 million Islamic fund of funds, possibly for launch by the end of this year or the start of 2013, covering the Middle East and North Africa.

Henriques said Cairo would be the base to expand into the Middle East and North Africa. In Egypt, where an Islamist president now rules, he noted opportunities in real estate.

Officials from Egypt’s Islamist Freedom and Justice Party have said they aim to boost the market share of Islamic banks in Egypt to 35 per cent in five years from roughly 5 per cent now. They say they will do this by increasing the total size of the banking sector, not by penalising conventional banks.

The FJP is the political party of the Muslim Brotherhood, the group the propelled President Mohamed Mursi to power after the overthrow last year of Hosni Mubarak, whose govermment neglected or discouraged Islamic finance.

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Turkey to provide Egypt with $2 billion in finance

Reuters, 16 Sep 2012 – Turkey has agreed during a visit by Egyptian officials to Istanbul to provide Egypt with a $2 billion financing package, Egypt’s finance minister said on Saturday. Egypt’s new government has been seeking foreign help to plug twin deficits in its budget and balance of payments that have mushroomed since last year’s popular uprising.

Last month it formally asked the International Monetary Fund for a $4.8 billion loan. Momtaz El-Said said he could not yet say whether the Turkish financing would include any direct budget support. “We agreed on $2 billion in financing, but the details on how it will be structured have not yet been worked out yet,” he told Reuters by telephone.

Turkey’s embassy in Cairo said the $2 billion package aimed to strengthen Egypt’s foreign currency reserves and support investment in infrastructure. Half would be in the form of bilateral loans.

El-Said and presidential assistant Essam El-Hadad discussed the package with Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan in a meeting in Istanbul, the embassy said in an emailed statement. Qatar has promised Egypt $2 billion in loans to support the budget and on 6 September it pledged to invest $18 billion in Egyptian tourism and industrial projects over the next five years.

U.S. officials have said the Obama administration was close to a deal with Egypt’s new government for $1 billion in debt relief, and last week senior executives of around 50 U.S. corporations visited Egypt to discuss new investments. Egypt is also in talks for additional budget support worth about $1 billion from the World Bank and the African Development Bank.

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Algeria plans five skyscrapers worth $2bn: Report

Ahram Online, 16 Sep 2012 – Algeria’s government is planning to build five skyscapers at a total cost of $2 billion, according to a report from business intelligence site Zawya, citing a senior official.

The Algerian General Association for Entrepreneurs (AGAE) is reportedly preparing a feasibility study for presentation to the country’s new prime minister Abdelmalek Sellal in the first quarter of 2013.

“We have selected five locations for the project(s): Algiers, Oran, Annaba, Constantine and Ouargla. The structures will have between 30 and 100 floors, and up to 1,000 apartments and housing units in each,” the president of the AGAE, Mouloud Kheloufi, told Zawya. Zawya is owned by US publishing and financial information firm Dow Jones.

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Pakistan declares holiday in honor of the Prophet

Islamabad, 03 Dhul Qada 1433/ 19 September 2012 (IINA) – The Pakistan government is to declare Friday a national holiday in honor of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), officials said Wednesday, in response to a U.S.-made film deemed insulting to Islam.

The cabinet decided to make Friday an official “day of expression of love for the prophet” after discussing the “Innocence of Muslims” movie, which has triggered more than a week of violent protests across the Islamic world, a senior government official told AFP. The move came after religious parties called for a day of protest on Friday to denounce the film.

The head of a leading party, the Sunni Tehreek, on Monday urged people across the country to close their businesses and hold rallies against the film, which was made by extremist Christians in the United States. Sources said traders and transporters associations in the largest city and commercial hub Karachi had backed the call.

Around 500 protesting lawyers broke through a gate to Islamabad’s heavily-guarded diplomatic enclave on Wednesday, chanting anti-U.S. slogans and castigating the Pakistan government for its “criminal silence” over the film. More than 30 people have been killed around the world during more than a week of attacks and violent protests linked to the controversial film. Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan have all blocked access to YouTube, following the video-sharing website’s failure to take down the film.

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