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12 Nov, 2012

Brunei–Malaysia Islamic Tour Packages Launched In UK

Compiled by Imtiaz Muqbil & Sana Muqbil

A compilation of progressive, positive, inspiring and motivating events and developments in the world of Islam for the week ending 12 November 2012 (27 Dhul Ḥijjah 1433). Pls click on any of the headlines below to go to the story.



Golf tourism is a lucrative business attracting affluent tourists who generate significantly above-average per capita revenues for a destination. It is set to become one of the fastest growing segments of the tourism industry in Malaysia. Last year, it contributed a revenue of RM286 million (USD94 million) to the Malaysian economy, exceeding the initial forecast of RM249.5 million (USD82 million). This year’s target is to achieve RM290 million (USD95 million). Besides the CIMB Classic, which this year attracted top players such as Tiger Woods, Malaysia also hosts the Maybank Malaysia Open (10 – 15 Jan 2012), Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia (11 – 14 Oct 2012), and Iskandar Johor Open (13 – 16 Dec 2012). These tournaments have attracted top world-class professional golf players from the Asian Tour, European Tour, LPGA Tour and US PGA TOUR. Most importantly, they have helped to generate tremendous publicity for the country’s golf industry. The country also hosted the inaugural IAGTO Asia Golf Tourism Convention at The Palace of the Golden Horses, Kuala Lumpur from 22-25 April 2012. The event was attended by 426 delegates from 46 countries. In addition, Tourism Malaysia has also been organising the World Amateur Inter-Team Golf Championship (WAITGC) annually since 1994, which brings together international amateur golfers and media.

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/ or

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

twitter: http://twitter.com/tourismmalaysia

Blog: http://blog.tourism.gov.my


Brunei–Malaysia Islamic Tour Packages Launched In UK

LONDON: To further promote Islamic Tourism, especially in the South East Asia region, Brunei Tourism Development Department and Islamic Tourism Centre of Malaysia jointly launched the Brunei – Malaysia Islamic Tour Packages at the Islamic Cultural Centre, London Central Mosque. Present at the launching ceremony were the Acting Director of Brunei Tourism Development Department, Puan Mariani Haji Sabtu, Director General of Tourism Malaysia, Dato’ Mirza Mohamad Taiyab, and the Director General of Islamic Tourism Centre, Malaysia, Hj. Abdul Rahman Hj. Shaari. Ambassadors and High Commissioners of the OIC member states, media representatives and tour agencies were also present.

Islamic tourism has the potential to be Brunei’s and Malaysia’s unique and special form of tourism. The potential of Islamic tourism to grow in Brunei is possible as it enhances the values that make up the nation’s philosophy of a Malay Islamic Monarchy. Both nations are accommodating countries, rich in its cultural diversity of all races while still ensuring the sanctity of its religion and rich culture.

This tourism potential saw the formulation of a joint Islamic tourism packages between Brunei and Malaysia which was initially discussed between the Dato Seri Haji Yahya bin Dato Paduka Haji Bakar, Minister of Industry and Primary Resources Brunei and the Dato’ Sri Dr. Ng Yen Yen, Minister of Tourism, Malaysia. In creating these unique Islamic tourism packages, travel agencies in Malaysia have collaborated with Darussalam Holdings Sdn Bhd, the appointed local tour operator by Brunei Tourism Development Department to create Islamic tour packages of various places of interest in Brunei and Malaysia.

One of the places of interest in the Brunei Islamic package includes a visit to the Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Islamic Exhibition Gallery in Brunei Darussalam. The launch of this package was in conjunction with the launching of the Islamic Tourism Exhibition 2011 at the Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Islamic Exhibition Gallery in Brunei Darussalam.

The event which was officiated by the Sultan of Brunei Darussalam early last year features exclusive access to his private collection of Islamic Artifacts on display at the Brunei Museum and at the Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Islamic Exhibition Gallery. A special piece, the Sacred Trust collection includes the replica sword, serban, walking stick and many more of Prophet Muhammad PBUH. Visitors to this gallery will also have a rare chance to marvel at 300 rare made musharf or books, holy Al-Quran, illuminated and miniature Al-Qurans, calligraphy in various styles, weaponry, scientific instruments and everyday objects from the Muslim world throughout history.

Malaysia on the other hand, offers various attractions to the heritage and culture of its Islamic historical background and legacy, such as the Inscribed Stone in Terengganu, the many majestic mosques for example the Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Mosque or famously known as ‘the Blue Mosque’ in Selangor, as well as Putrajaya, the Federal Administrative Centre which features Islamic motifs in its architectural design, just to name a few. The Malaysian packages feature interesting Islamic sites and tourists destinations available in each of the states.

This joint promotion effort signifies the close connection of both nations and it is a perfect medium to introduce the Islamic legacies from both countries to the world. The packages enable visitors to experience the way of life of the local Muslim communities and it is hoped that through such efforts, it could promote better understanding among people of the world.

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A unique homestay place deep in Borneo’s Kinabatangan jungle

By Fizah Yusof, Insight Sabah, 09-11-2012

The Heart of Borneo is a massive biodiversity-rich rainforest treasure house that straddles three contiguous countries, namely, Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia on the island of Borneo. The 220,000 km² rainforest is the subject of a conservation agreement initiated by the World Wide Fund for Nature.

A recent International Conference brought representatives and experts to Kota Kinabalu to discuss the progress and future development of the HoB conservation effort.

The conference was not all about not cutting down trees and allowing space for wildlife to roam, however. Human habitation in and around the Heart of Borneo was also considered at the conference where “Shaping and Nurturing Sabah’s Forest Together” set the theme for some purpose-oriented human activities in the conservation areas.

Tourism is of course an industry that can open up the protected rainforest to economic activities that do not harm nature. In the “Breakout Sessions” on Community Development (part of the agenda of the conference), Prof. Dr. Fadzilah Majid Cooke, University Malaysia Sabah’s Lecturer told delegates that one of the examples of equal sharing of benefits from high value conservation is found in Mukim Batu Puteh in Kinabatangan.

Cooperative Tourism Mukim Batu Puteh, Kinabatangan (KOPEL) Berhad has a homestay business centred on various eco-tourism activities in the Lower Kinabatangan region of Sabah.

Set up 15 years ago the cooperative earned RM1.4 million last year from the Miso Walai Homestay, which has a four-hectare niche in the Pin Supu Forest Reserve to support the tourism activities there.

Considered one of the best homestay establishments in Malaysia, Miso Walai (meaning ‘stay together in one house’ in Orang Sungai language) offers visitors an organised community-based cultural tourism experience drawn from stories and folklores of generations of Orang Sungai communities on the Kinabatangan River.

One interesting aspect of Miso Walai is that it has more than 35 households made up of about 400 people speaking some 20 indigenous dialects of the local of “Orang Sungai” communities living and working at the homestay complex.

The complex itself is made up of large traditional rustic homes with some modern conveniences. Traditional local food is served; household activities such as cooking, village sports and farm activities are part of the experience, as are wildlife encounters in the surrounding forests.

Saidal Udin, a KOPEL representative at the conference told Insight Sabah that Miso Walai specialises in cultural programs for students, families, groups, and people who are interested in what the homestay is doing.

He said at the beginning they faced difficulty in bringing people together to be involved in the program. “It is not easy to convince people to take part when the project was still new; especially to understand the benefits that they can get through the program,” he said.

To date the cooperative has 260 members from four villages in Batu Puteh, Kinabatangan: Kampung Batu Puteh, Kampung Mengaris, Kampung Perpaduan and Kampung Singgah Mata.

Saidal said the income from the business is used for the community development programmes as well as to pay the cooperative members involved in these programmes.

Apart from that, KOPEL has been appointed by the State Forestry Department as the contractor in the on-going restoration and silviculture treatment of the Pin Supu Forest Reserve. Silverculture involves getting rid of dead trees, branches and vegetations that impede forest regeneration.

The contract with the Forest Department is the main source of income for the local community but, increasingly, they can count on tourism to bring in added revenue.“Miso Walai provides a village setting not only for visitors to experience amazing wildlife forestry and biodiversity in the area but it also provides an avenue for sustainable livelihood for local communities,” Saidal said.

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UK to lift travel advisory on Indian-controlled Kashmir

SRINAGAR, Nov. 7 (Xinhua) — The United Kingdom has agreed to withdraw its adverse travel advisory on Indian-controlled Kashmir, which prohibited its nationals from visiting the region, a government spokesman said Wednesday. The spokesman said the UK government took the step on the persuasion of Indian-controlled Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah.

“Government of United Kingdom is shortly announcing lifting of the advisory against UK citizens travelling to Jammu and Srinagar, and travel between these two cities on Jammu-Srinagar highway,” the spokesman said. “This has been indicated by British High Commissioner to India, Sir James Bevan in a letter addressed to Chief Minister Omar Abdullah.”

The UK will be the third major country to revoke travel advisory on Indian-controlled Kashmir after Germany and Japan. Officials said the lifting of advisories by the foreign countries is expected to restore the visit of high end foreign tourists and would flourish the business and trade of the restive region.

Travel advisories to the region were issued by foreign countries following the abduction of five foreigners on July 4, 1995 from Aru in Pahalgam (a tourist destination), around 100-Km south of Srinagar city.

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Russian astronauts see Makkah, Madinah from outer space

Riyadh, 25 Dhul Hijja 1433/ 10 November 2012 (IINA) – The three Russian astronauts who came to visit the Prince Salman Science Oasis (PSSO) told Saudi students that while taking a picture of some beautiful cities from outer space, the brightest and beautiful cities they saw were Makkah and Madinah, specifically the spots in the centers of the two holy cities.

These astronauts came as part of the Association of Space Explorers (ASE) program during their 25th Assembly in Riyadh this week.

“When you are in outer space, we take photos during the day for good visibility and shot, but at night it is difficult to take pictures because you have to use a special technique. In spite of this, I managed to take many pictures of various cities at night. I was amazed to find that the cities of Makkah and Madinah outshone other cities around the world,” observed astronaut Anatoly Ivanishin during an interaction with the students. The astronauts were hosted at the Prince Salman Science Oasis (PSSO) by the PSSO’s Supervisor General Khalid Abdul Gader Taher who briefed his guests on the activities of the oasis.

Ivanishin said that other cities do not look bright at night but the view of Makkah and Madinah from outer space was a breathtaking and unprecedented spectacle, according to a report in Arab News. The four Russian astronauts who visited the oasis are Andrey Borisenko, Alexander Samokutyaev, Anton Shkaplerov and their interpreter Boris Meshcherykov. PSSO is a nonprofit organization charged with developing an interactive science center. Through the science center and associated activities, PSSO aims to improve public awareness of science and to promote scientific knowledge and its practical applications in terms of promoting peace and how this knowledge can benefit mankind as a whole. Oasis seeks to inspire people with the purpose of advancing scientific knowledge and technology in ways that respect cultural diversity and freedom. PSSO is affiliated to Riyadh Philanthropic Society for Science, a nonprofit organization headed by Crown Prince Salman. An executive council for PSSO was established to supervise and guide the development of this project and provide the necessary support at both private and government levels.

This council is headed by Prince Sultan bin Salman, president of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) and founding member of the Association of Space Explorers (ASE), the host of the 25 the association assembly. In his welcoming note, the mayor of Madinah said : “You are not Russians, you are earthlings, I am not a Saudi man, I am an earthling and we are brothers in the service of humanity. You people are so blessed because out of seven billion people on Earth you were able to go to space and understand the universe around you.”

“This is the difference, you see the big picture. I am not blessed as you but I am trying to see the picture, you see the big picture through your hearts and through your eyes. I only see the picture from my heart. You are blessed that’s why when you say that you have that bright picture of Madinah you are showing me something very precious. You are going through the philosophy of life to make a difference in your research in medicine, helping communication, transportation and environment and so on ” he added.

On the sidelines of the meeting, Taher told Arab News that the Russian astronaut’s observation was inspiring from a spiritual point of view. He said the noteworthy point was how, amid thousands of cities on the Earth, the brightest lights he saw from space were the ones coming from Makkah and Madinah.

“To me spiritually we understand that and we realize it. And I really wish and ask the Almighty Allah to help us that the light he saw up there will also be light for the rest of the world,” said the official, who was a former mayor of Madinah.

Taher also paid tribute to Prince Salman for his support for PSSO and his dedication to the cause of strengthening the Kingdom’s security and development. “Prince Sultan bin Salman himself has set a good example for the Saudi youth through his dedication, creativity and commitment. These people are coming to our country for the second time. The first time was when the association was launched. Prince Sultan as founding member maintains good relations with these renowned scientists and astronauts for the benefit of the younger generation in the Kingdom.”

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Timbuktu Manuscripts A Source Of Pride For South Africa

JOHANNESBURG, nov 5 (NNN-SANEWS) — The Timbuktu manuscripts — some 700,000 medieval African documents ranging from scholarly works to short letters preserved by private households in Timbuktu, Mali — must be preserved because they reflect the contribution of the African mind to the human story, says South African Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe.

Speaking at the launch of a book about the construction of the Ahmed Institute of Higher Learning and Islamic Research in Mali on Friday, Motlanthe paid tribute to former South African President Thabo Mbeki for showing remarkable foresight in understanding the intrinsic value of the manuscripts. “It takes an extraordinary mind to identify such treasures,” he added.

The building of the Ahmed Institute was constructed to house the historic manuscripts of African scholars dating back some 800 years. The most prominent of these writers was Ahmed Baba, a prolific writer who lived from 1556 to 1627.

Entitled “Building an African Partnership”, the book tells the story of the co-operation of South Africa and Mali in constructing the building — from 2001 when then President Thabo Mbeki first mooted the idea, to 2009 when the new impressive structure was officially opened with much fanfare.

Motlanthe said the exceptional co-operation between South Africa and Mali reflected close ties forged over the years. He, however, expressed concern over the threats posed to the building by armed rebels. “I hope that no human will be so base as to threaten these treasures.”

Essop Pahad, chairperson of the Timbuktu Trust, said now that the book had been published, the trust would fold and the project would be handed over to the Department of Arts and Culture.

Deputy Minister of Arts and Culture Joe Phaahla pledged South Africa’s continued support in preserving the manuscripts. He expressed hope that the conflict in Mali would be resolved and the manuscripts saved.

“One can only hope that through the intervention of the African Union (AU), the political situation in Mali will be normalised as soon as possible, and work that is still pending regarding this project will be resumed without any further hurdles, for the betterment of the lives of all in Mali, South Africa, the African continent and indeed the rest of humankind the world over,” he said.

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Bahrain seeks Malaysian investors

Saudi Gazette – 11 November, 2012 – Bahrain, which is in the process of diversifying its economy, is calling on the Malaysian business community to invest in its infrastructure developments, Islamic finance and manufacturing activities.

Bahrain Economic Development Board chief executive Sheikh Mohammed Essa Al-Khalifa said the kingdom was seeing a strong expansionary government budget, made possible by prudent economic management, boost from the $ 10 billion Gulf Development Fund and high oil prices.

“This expansionary budget is likely to have a strong stimulus effect, with particular investment being made in social housing and infrastructure spending,” Bernama news agency quoted him as saying.

Moreover, he said Bahrain can become an ideal gateway to the wider Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which currently is estimated to have a combined gross domestic product of $ 1 trillion.

“There are a number of opportunities in Bahrain and, through Bahrain, to the wider GCC, particularly in construction, agriculture, food production, information communication technology, education, science and technology and tourism.

He said Bahrain also offered some of the region’s lowest operating costs, its best skilled workforce and excellent transport links to all members of the GCC.

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Oman Air Celebrates National Day With Huge Discounts To 39 Destinations

Oman Air is to celebrate Oman National Day on 18th November with a special promotion that offers 18% off return flights from Oman to 39 international destinations around its global network

The 18% discount will apply to all fares on both Business and Economy Class return flights. Tickets will be on sale between 10th and 18th November and all travel must be completed by midnight on 10th December 2012. Normal terms and conditions apply.

Announcing the special offer, Wayne Pearce, Chief Executive Office, Oman Air, said: “As the national carrier of the Sultanate of Oman, we are delighted to be joining the country’s citizens in celebrating National Day by offering an outstanding 18% discount on international flights to 39 exciting destinations”.

“Our special offer is a further demonstration of Oman Air’s commitment to our nation and its citizens, and to Oman’s international residents, and we are proud to be sharing in the Oman National Day celebrations and to be giving even more people the chance to find out for themselves why Oman Air has attracted such major international acclaim.”

Oman Air recently won “World’s Best Business Airline Class Seat” for the second year running at the World Airline Awards, which are run by independent airline quality experts Skytrax and are based on a global survey of more than 18 million air travellers. The carrier also received high rankings in eight other categories of the awards. Further international accolades have been received at an average rate of one per month ever since the launch of Oman Air’s first Airbus A330 in 2009. Six further A330s have since been put into service, joining the carrier’s fleet of Boeing 737 medium haul aircraft and new Embraer E175 regional jets.

Abdulrazaq J. Al Raisi, Chief Commercial Officer, added: “Our offer applies to both Business Class and Economy Class bookings, providing a golden opportunity to experience Oman Air’s award-winning Airbus 330 Business Class seats, or to enjoy our spacious and comfortable Economy Class cabins. Whichever you choose, we are sure that you will be impressed”.

“Oman Air’s National Day special offer is sure to be immensely popular and, so that customers can be sure of making the most of it. The promotion will also be available online at www.omanair.com. We look forward to celebrating Oman National Day with you in style.”

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Dubai to explore business opportunities in Azerbaijan

Gulf Today – 08 November, 2012 – The Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) organised a pre-mission briefing session for over 20 business leaders from various economic sectors participating in the Dubai Chamber Trade Mission to Azerbaijan starting on Nov.13 and concluding on Nov.16 in Baku.

The pre-mission briefing session was attended by Abdul Rahman Saif Al Ghurair, Chairman, Hamad Buamim, Director General, Dubai Chamber, and Elkhan Gahramanov, Azerbaijan Ambassador to the UAE. In his welcome address, Buamim informed that Dubai Chamber identified Azerbaijan as an important market for its members as part of its new strategy to explore promising markets of the world while enhancing the competitiveness of Dubai businesses abroad.

Buamim stated that the purpose of the pre-mission briefing session was to give the participants an overview of the trade mission, outline its aims and objectives, identify priorities and to highlight the areas of opportunities for joint co-operation with Azerbaijan companies during the trade mission.

The Director General of Dubai Chamber added that the visit is also scheduled to have meetings with top Government officials and representatives of the Azerbaijan Export and Investment Promotion Foundation (AzPromo), Azerbaijan-UAE Business Forum and major Azerbaijani companies, and called upon the delegates to further their business interests during the visit as well as promote Dubai as a popular FDI destination.

Buamim highlighted major areas of investment in Azerbaijan for Dubai businesses which he said included agriculture and food processing, transport and logistics, financial services, communication, construction and infrastructure and tourism and hospitality.

He also said that Dubai’s non-oil trade with Azerbaijan over the past year amounted to Dhs1.62 billion in comparison to Dhs844 million in 2010, while there are 218 Azerbaijani companies operating in Dubai as the country ranked 70th on the list of Dubai’s top trading partners.

On his part, Elkhan Gahramanov, Azerbaijan Ambassador to the UAE, stated that the total trade between the UAE and Azerbaijan during the first nine months of this year exceeded $ 300 million registering a growth of 24 per cent in comparison to the same period last year.

He said the main goods and services exchanged between the two countries included raw materials, information technology and agricultural products, and items for light industry.

Gahramanov further stressed on the successful investment cooperation between the two countries as he informed that from the year 2002 to 2012, UAE companies have invested over $ 200 million in Azerbaijan while his country’s affiliate company of SOCAR has invested in oil storage and textile projects in Fujairah amounting to $ 60 million.

The Dubai Chamber Trade Mission to Azerbaijan is led by Abdul Rahman Saif Al Ghurair, Chairman, Dubai Chamber, and has Mohammed Ahmed bin Abdul Aziz Al Shehhi, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Economy, Hamad Buamim, Director General, Dubai Chamber, and over 20 Dubai-based businessmen in the delegation.

The highlights of the visit include the UAE-Azerbaijan Business Forum on Nov.14, which will have speeches by Niyazi Safarov, Azerbaijan Deputy Minister of Economic Development, Mohammed Ahmed bin Abdul Aziz Al Shehhi, Undersecretary of the UAE Ministry of Economy, Elkhan Gahramanov, Azerbaijan Ambassador to the UAE, and Abdul Rahman Saif Al Ghurair, Chairman, Dubai Chamber.

The trade mission has presentations by Hamad Buamim, Director General, Dubai Chamber, on UAE-Azerbaijan: Synergies & Economic Partnerships, and Azerbaijan Country Overview by Rufat Mammadov, Acting President, AzPromo. Also there are one-to-one business meetings scheduled between Dubai Chamber delegation and Azerbaijani businessmen.

This fourth trade mission of the year to Azerbaijan follows the earlier trade missions taken out by the Chamber including the first one to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the second to the diamond hub of Surat in India and the last trade mission to Addis Ababa in Ethiopia.

Established in 1965, the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry is a non-profit public entity, whose mission is to represent, support and protect the interests of the business community in Dubai by creating a favourable business environment, supporting the development of business, and by promoting Dubai as an international business hub.

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Arab women CEOs on par with their global counterparts

Saudi Gazette – 09 November, 2012 – New research by CTPartners Executive Search Inc. said women CEOs at the world’s largest corporations may not have made great progress in terms of numbers but have at least made up for it in terms of running larger and more powerful companies.

Only 12 women CEOs, or 2.4 percent, feature on the Fortune Global 500 companies in 2012, albeit in some of the most powerful organizations. A quick comparison between global and regional surveys shows that, in the region, 14 Arab women take the helm of their burgeoning companies as CEOs against the 12 global CEOS.

This trend, witnessed by CTPartners in the Arab World, shows Arab women, especially from the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, are powerful corporate leaders and board members. With an exemplary educational background and a strong sense of economic growth, Arab women have the right ingredients to become successful CEOs, the research said.

In the recent survey by Arabian Business magazine of the top 100 most powerful Arab women, 14 percent of the women have secured their places to be successful in running regional conglomerates in their capacity as chief executive officers or CEOs. Lubna Al-Olayan, CEO of Olayan Financing Company of Saudi Arabia, Dr. Amina Al Rustamani, CEO, TECOM Business Parks in UAE, Sheikha Al Bahar, CEO of National Bank of Kuwait, Salma Hareb CEO of Jafza and EZW in the UAE and Randa Ayoubi, CEO of Rubicon Group Holding in Jordan, made it to the top 50, making them prime examples of Arab women having the talent and ability to lead multi-faceted regional organizations with global reach.

Three Arab women were ranked among the 100 most powerful women in the world by US-based Forbes magazine. They are Shaikha Al-Bahar, CEO of the National Bank of Kuwait, ranked 85; UAE Minister of Trade Sheikha Lubna Al-Qasimi, ranked 92, and Sheikha Mayassa Al-Thani, who heads the Qatari government agency in charge of museums and ranked 100. Interestingly, 25 percent of the influential women featured in the Forbes survey were CEOs.Few but more powerful women CEOs.

Today, only 2.4 percent of world’s leading companies are run by female CEOs, according to CTPartners. From six women CEOs running Fortune Global 500 companies in 2005 (1.2 percent) their number rose to 12 in 2012, or an addition of six women leaders over the past seven years. Although this represents 100 percent increase, the executive research firm says that this works out to be an average increase of one woman CEO a year.

The good news is that, while companies run by women ranked over 300 in the 2005 list, women today run some of the world’s largest and most influential corporations. Meg Whitman, for example, runs one of the 10 largest businesses in the world — Hewlett-Packard. Virginia Rometty of IBM runs a corporation that is ranked 19th in the world. Other women CEOs run companies ranked 28th, 41st, 46th and so on. Only one woman runs a company ranked over 300 in this year’s list. She is Cynthia Carroll from one of the world’s largest diversified mining and natural resource groups — Anglo American.

The 12 women CEOs are in charge of 2.4 percent of the total revenues of the Global 500 companies in Asia, Europe and the US. Altogether, they control over $ 680 billion in revenues today, compared to just $ 102 billion by their counterparts in 2005. However, the 2012 amount is only 20 percent of the economy that Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany, oversees. With the exception of Alison Cooper from Imperial Tobacco Group, who is in her forties, all women CEOs in the research are over 50 years old. None are over sixty.

From three female CEOs in 2005 to nine listed among Global 500 female CEOs today, US companies have made the most progress in placing women in the top seat, tripling the number over the past seven years. Women CEOs from the US also run larger companies than their Asian and European counterparts, with revenues totaling $ 580 billion altogether. European companies in the Global 500 list this year hold the largest revenues ($ 10,138 trillion) as a group.

But from only one woman CEO in 2005, there are only two women CEOs leading corporate heavyweights in Europe, ranked 145 and 360 globally.

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ICD to open two new Islamic banks in Africa

Arab News – 10 November, 2012 – The Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD), a private sector arm of the Islamic Development Bank Group, is opening two new Islamic banks in Mali and Benin in 2013, to provide Islamic financial services in the areas currently greatly underserved, Khaled Al-Aboodi, chief executive officer and general manager of ICD, announced this week.

Al-Aboodi, who was speaking at the Islamic Banking Summit, also stated that it is planning to issue a $ 200 million sukuk for the government of Senegal to provide liquid Islamic products for Islamic banks. “We see sukuk as the “jewel in the crown” of Islamic finance and we are currently working on the structuring issues for several African countries. This is a development we see as providing a tremendous boost for African Islamic infrastructure finance,” he said.

More than 50 percent of the population in Africa is Muslim. “The issue for Islamic banking in Africa is not on the demand side which is potentially massive, but rather it is a supply side issue,” explained Al-Aboodi. “The uniqueness of Islamic banking principles makes this a perfect alternative to the traditional and conventional banking system that leaves a larger part of Africans unsatisfied. Islamic interest free modes of financing should be seen as a parallel mode of finance which can coexist with interest-based conventional financing to ensure the African population has a competitive market place with Islamic financing finding its place.”

ICD has long had an ambitious series of projects, applying Islamic finance principles, to African infrastructure needs. “Africa critically needs more infrastructure investment, roads, housing, schools and hospitals for achieving its development goals, and a variety of initiatives have been put in place,” said Al-Aboodi.”

Some 10 African countries received financing approvals from the ICD between 2010-2012, with the largest beneficiaries being Mauritania, Sudan, Gabon, Gambia and Mali.

“African nations face huge challenges,” said Al-Aboodi. “The large vacuum in financial sector services in Africa have not been filled by the conventional banking in recent years and that is why Islamic finance can create a competitive edge for all financial institutions to explore these untapped markets.

“To that end the ICD stands ready to cooperate and extend its available expertise and resources to all potential partners and viable projects to pay its tribute to the development of this great region,” he added.

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Air Arabia passenger traffic grows by 22%

Saudi Gazette – 10 November, 2012 – AIR Arabia, the first and largest low-cost carrier (LCC) in the Middle East and North Africa, recorded 458,316 passengers in October 2012, an increase of over 22 percent compared to the corresponding month in 2011.

It also reported that the average seat load factor – passengers as a percentage of total seats available – for the month stood at 80 percent, registering an increase of three percent over the figure for October 2011.

“Combined with Eid break, which is a busy period for air travel across the region, October has seen Air Arabia adding set of new routes,” said Adel Ali, Group Chief Executive Officer, Air Arabia. “As we continue expanding into new markets, more customers continue to take full advantage of Air Arabia’s affordable fares, demonstrating Air Arabia’s proven business model and product offering.”

Air Arabia recently added six new destinations to its ever growing network – Erbil in Iraq, Uffa and Rostov in Russia, Odessa in Ukraine, Pristina in Kosovo and Astana in Kazakhstan. The carrier also expanded operations from its Moroccan hub and launched new flights between Morocco and London, bringing Air Arabia’s global network to reach 81 destinations.

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‘Amazing’ Gulf airlines

Khaleej Times – 10 November, 2012 – Gulf airlines, growing at an “amazing” pace, have been driving the Middle East’s traffic growth to double digits, according to the International Air Transport Association, or Iata. The Middle East and North Africa region is a growing force in aviation; over the last decade, the Middle East’s share of global international traffic has risen from about five per cent to about 11.5 per cent, Iata director-general and chief executive officer Tony Tyler said.

“The rise of the Gulf carriers is an amazing story. They are leading Middle East traffic growth that is still in the double digits. And even if we look at the less-headline-grabbing carriers in North Africa, we are seeing a healthy demand performance,” said Tyler, while addressing the Arab Air Carriers Organisation, or Aaco, Annual General Meeting in Algiers.

The Iata chief blasted the European Union for pursuing the “unilateral and extra-territorial inclusion” of international aviation in its Emissions Trading Scheme. “It is a roadblock instead of a stepping stone. States outside of Europe see this as a challenge to their sovereignty. This is dividing the world and recklessly risking a trade war,” Tyler said.

Outlining areas in which opportunities exist to further develop aviation in the Mena to benefit the region’s economies, Tyler said aviation should be a catalyst for growth.

“The Gulf area has prospered from big thinking on aviation. In the UAE, for example, a study by Oxford Economics recently concluded that aviation supports some 15 per cent of the gross domestic product, or GDP, and 14 per cent of total employment. Building on world-class infrastructure and business-friendly policies, the Gulf carriers are now extending their reach through alliances, equity stakes and innovative partnerships,” he said.

Tyler called for similar big thinking across North Africa to help spur economic development and GDP growth. “For example, why not move forward with developing a major North African hub?”

He observed that safety is a top priority and global standards such as the Iata Operational Safety Audit, or Iosa, are critical to achieving industry-levels of safety across Mena. “In the first ten months of 2012 there has not been a single Western-built jet hull loss in the Mena region. This is a great achievement,” said Tyler.

“However, if we look at all accidents the picture is different. The accident rate for non-Iosa carriers is trending at about three-and-a-half times worse than those on the registry. This is clear evidence that Iosa improves safety,” said Tyler.

He maintained that rowing traffic in the region must be matched with sufficient airspace capacity. “Mena must avoid the inefficiencies that we see in Europe. There is no room for complacency. In the Gulf, ATM delays are already nearing crisis levels,” he pointed out. Evolving East-West traffic patterns are creating new challenges across the region, including North Africa, he said. Successfully handling this will require cooperation among states, he added.

Tyler pointed out that sustainability is a key priority for the global aviation industry. Aviation contributes about two per cent to global carbon emissions. He reiterated the industry’s commitments to manage and reduce its carbon emissions.

“No other industry has made tougher commitments to emissions reductions than aviation. We are making good progress toward our targets to improve fuel efficiency by 1.5 per cent annually to 2020, cap net emissions from 2020 with carbon-neutral growth, and cut net emissions in half by 2050 compared to 2005,” he said.

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Bahrain tourism boost as cruise ship docks

Gulf Daily News – 10 November, 2012 – BAHRAIN is expecting more than 70,000 tourists as five major cruise ships will dock here this season. The first group of more than 2,500 visitors arrived in the country yesterday as the first liner of the cruise season, Mein Schiff 2, docked at Khalifa Bin Salman Port.

They were welcomed by tourism and Culture Ministry officials, the Interior Ministry music band, traditional Bahraini performers and other government officials. They were taken to some of the country’s top tourist destinations during their visit, including Bahrain Fort, Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain National Museum and Beit Al Quran.

Operated by TUI Cruises, the ship is planning to dock in Bahrain 19 more times throughout the season, which runs until March. “This season, which started yesterday, will continue until March 10,” said a Culture Ministry spokesman. “We are expecting more than 70,000 people to come to Bahrain during these visits. TUI Cruises came to Bahrain for the first time and all were excited about the visit.

“We are going to have Aida Blu coming to Bahrain on November 21. This is a good sign and we hope to continue this for the rest of the season. We have five tourism companies working this year as compared to three last year, which is definitely a boost to the economy.

“We are showcasing Bahrain to the world and showing our heritage and culture to Europeans, who are very excited to know about the kingdom, its people and history,” the spokesman said. The visit by Mein Schiff 2 will be followed by Zegrahm’s Clipper Odyssey on Sunday and one of the world’s largest cruise ships, the Aida Blu V, on November 21.

Mathias Tourism Company managing director Richard Mathias said the tourists enjoyed the day-long sight-seeing activities. “I am glad they came to Bahrain,” he said. “There were 26 buses and tour guides who spoke German and English and we took them to various tourist attractions.”

The Mein Schiff 2 is making 20 calls to Bahrain and the Aida Blu 13. Other ships include MS Astor, Fred Olsen Cruises and the Clipper Odyssey, which will make one call each.

There were fears Bahrain’s cruise industry could be crippled by increasing costs of insuring vessels that dock here due to unrest, after it emerged each cruise operator could have to pay an additional $ 300,000 over the course of a season. However, a raft of incentives were introduced to offset the higher insurance premiums facing operators.

This included halving port fees, discounts from tourism companies worth tens of thousands of dinars and a reduction in passenger charges at port operator APM Terminals. Bahrain’s cruise industry, which once boasted 50 visits by major cruise liners, has been hit hard by political turmoil since February last year.

Only 29 of the scheduled 50 port calls by various liners were made to Bahrain in the 2010-2011 season, which was abruptly suspended because of protests – resulting in a loss of nearly 50,000 tourists. Every vessel that berths in Bahrain is estimated to be worth around $ 300,000 to the economy.

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King Khalid University launches IT training to boost job prospects

Saudi Gazette – 07 November, 2012 – King Khalid University (KKU) has joined the globally acclaimed University Alliance Program (UAP), as it seeks to ramp up its output of graduates capable of succeeding in Saudi Arabia’s thriving technology sector.

The initiative is set to provide KKU with the tools and resources needed to teach students how IT technology can empower individuals, enable integrated business processes and inspire strategic thinking — vital skills that will figure prominently in the realization of Saudi Arabia’s world-class development blueprints.

UAP has to date signed up 28 institutions across Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and the company aims to double that figure within the next four years.

Supporting existing business, engineering and IT programs, the UAP provides hands-on experience of key SAP technologies, including enterprise resource planning (ERP), and puts theory into practice through demonstrations, case studies and research.

“Saudi Arabia’s rapid development has fuelled a demand for a higher education system that is dynamic and where innovation, entrepreneurship and vision are nurtured,” said Dr. Abdullah Al-Mohaya, CIO, KKU. “SAP’s UAP fits perfectly with our educational philosophy.”

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Kuwait keen on developing trade ties with Iraq

Kuwait Times – 06 November, 2012 – Director General of the Kuwait Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) Rabah Al-Rabah said on Monday that the state was keen on developing trade relations with Iraq and stressed the need to improve land border exits to ease logistic travel.

Sea ports also play an integral part in increasing trade in the region, he said during a meeting with a group of visiting Iraqi journalists, highlighting the northeastern Mubarak Al-Kabir port as an example, which he said would aid increasing this between the two neighbouring countries.

Appropriate information on investment opportunities across Iraq’s provinces should be provided to Kuwaiti investors, he said. He also commended economic, trade and investment relations between both countries. Kuwait’s Chamber of Commerce of Industry will in turn be providing Iraqi companies with all the necessary information regarding trade and investment laws in Kuwait, said its Deputy Director General Hamad Al-Omar.

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Malaysia Hopes To Stay As World’s Top Halal Ingredient Producer

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia Nov 7 (NNN-Bernama) — Malaysia hopes to maintain its status as the world’s largest halal ingredient producer, says Deputy International Trade and Industry Minister, Mukhriz Tun Dr Mahathir. He said Malaysia started its halal industry more than 30 years ago and has developed a halal ecosystem that encompasses halal knowledge, production capabilities and support services.

“We are currently the top world producer of halal ingredients and we hope to encourage more local and foreign companies to invest in the sector, which offers huge potential,” he told reporters after closing a briefing session on the Malaysia Halal system to foreign embassy officials here today. He said halal ingredients offer a lot of potential because the demand for them is still very high especially in countries like Indonesia, Thailand, China and even Japan.

Halal Industry Development Corporation Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer Jamil Bidin said Malaysia exported about RM12 billion worth of halal ingredients last year out of a total of RM35 billion halal products exported. “Halal ingredients are the major halal export products for the country and we expect the figure to increase based on the global demand,” he said.

He said HDC is optimistic of achieving this year’s target of RM37 billion in total halal product exports. “We recorded RM16.6 billion in total halal product exports for the first six month of this year, and halal ingredients remain the most sought after products,” he said.

He said despite the global economic uncertainty, the halal industry is still growing steadily. “We have managed to achieve total investment worth RM1.2 billion in the halal industry this year which has surpassed our RM1 billion target,” he said.

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Indonesian Govt To Promote Baduy Land As Culture Tourism Centre

JAKARTA, Nov 2 (NNN-ANTARA) — The local government is developing Indonesia’s Baduy Land into a culture tourism site. Baduy is populated by about 5,000 to 6,000 isolated Baduy tribesmen, some 40 km southeast of Serang, provincial capital of Banten. Even though it is closed to the outside world and modern life, the number of visitors, particularly researchers and university students, has increased in recent years.

Up through September 2012, for example, about 5,380 visitors, including foreigners, have come to the Baduy Land, an area which is still covered with virgin forests in a 5,100 hectare land area. “A total of 158 foreign tourists have visited the Baduy villages and we will continue to build it and develop a cultural tourism site without disturbing the local people`s customs and tradition,” Syaifullah Saleh, the head of the Culture and Tourism Service of the Regional Government of Lebak District, said.

Actually, the land of the Baduy tribe in Lebak District is a separate world which blends fertile earth, virgin forests, clear water, clean air and an unpolluted environment. The Baduy Land is free from pollution and separated from the bustle of big cities such as Bandung and Jakarta, even though Banten, where Lebak District is located, shares borders with these modern cities.

Syaifullah said that at present, the local government of Lebak District seeks to develop the Baduy Land as a reliable cultural tourism destination. Most of the recent visitors were secondary and university students who came to study nature conservation and cultural systems of the local people.

He said that the uniqueness of the local people`s lives is in their maintaining tradition and customs, while rejecting modern life. They live in a forest area covering about 5,100 hectares and have built no roads, have no electricity, do not have radio or television and reject the use of motorized vehicles.

Even, in the Baduy Dalam (the interior of Baduy Land) residents, usually clad in white clothing, when traveling to other regions have to go on foot and are not allowed to use public transportation. Therefore, Syaifullah said, many anthropologists come to the Baduy Land to conduct research, since members of the Baduy tribes maintain a very modest life, though they never experience food shortages.

The Baduy build wooden houses, walled with plaited bamboos. Their forests produce all the materials they need to construct their homes. There is no need to buy cement, tiles, bricks and other modern housing materials. They live a simple life based upon a primitive agricultural system and firmly maintain the values of their traditions.

“We are of the view that these values have high selling points for promoting them as tourism objects,” Syaifullah said. He added that most of this year`s 158 foreign tourists came from European countries, such as the Netherlands, Britain and Switzerland. “We need to promote this so that the local people’s economy could be boosted,” he added.

Local tourists visiting Baduy Land for cultural tours of the region came from Jakarta, Bogor, Tangerang, Bandung, Yogyakarta and other areas, he said. Sapin, the secretary of Kanekes village, Leuwidamar subdistrict, said that visitors to the Baduy Land mostly were university students, researchers or those coming from government and private institutions, while the number of family members who visited the region was still small.

He said that the land trip from Serang, Bantens provincial capital, to Ciboleger, known as the gate to theholy landof Baduy, could be covered in one hour. The distance is about 22 km from Serang, Bantens provincial capital. “At present, the condition of roads from Serang to Ciboleger is relatively good,” he said. “We are convinced that cultural and customs visits to the Baduy Land will increase in the future,” Sapin added.

In the meantime, Social Affairs Minister Salim Segaf Al Jufri, who visited the isolated tribe recently, said lessons must be learned from the isolated Baduy tribes, particularly in their success in preserving the environment. The minister said that the Baduy people abide by their tribal wisdom, which serves as the basis for conserving nature. They also have a commitment to maintaining their customs, which are integrated into nature, so that natural disasters could be prevented.

“We have to learn a lesson from the Baduy tribes living in the valleys of Mount Kendeng. We have never heard that the Baduy people are suffering from famine. They really protect the environment as a source of their life,” the minister said when he came to the region to provide social assistance.

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Iran To Host Nam Ministerial Meeting On Tourism In 2013

TEHRAN, Nov 5 (NNN-Bernama) — Tehran will host a Non-Aligned Movement (NAM)ministerial meeting on tourism in 2013, said the vice president of Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organisation Manouchehr Jahanian, Iranian News Agency IRNA reported. He said the decision was made based on a proposal by the secretary-general of the World Tourism Organisation, Taleb Rifai during the 94th session of the executive council of the United Nations’ World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) held from Oct 24 to 25 in Campeche city in Mexico. Jahanian said the proposal was accepted by all participating ministers at the meeting. No specific date for the ministerial meeting has been given.

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Malaysia Woos Medical Tourists With Quality Care, Reasonable Rates

PETALING JAYA, Malaysia Nov 6 (NNN-Bernama) — Malaysia’s healthcare has attracted more foreign patients, including from developed countries such as the United States and Japan, due to the high-quality care and reasonable rates on offer. Health Minister Liow Tiong Lai said the number of foreign patients to the country showed a 48 per cent increase in 2011, to 583,000 arrivals from 393,000 in 2010.

“Malaysia is fast being recognised for the quality of its orthopaedic treatment, with the top most sought-after procedure being knee replacement, followed by cardiac care and cancer treatment,” he said when opening the International Healthcare Travel Expo 2012, here, today. A total knee replacement performed in Malaysia would cost about US$8,000, a heart bypass at US$10,000 and a health screening package at US$200, he said, adding that the domestic healthcare sector revenue was expected to reach about RM548 million this year.

Liow said the Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council (MHTC) care line had been established to answer queries from all over the world on healthcare facilities available in Malaysia. The minister said the MHTC had opened representative offices in Dhaka, Bangladesh and in Jakarta, Indonesia, while the one in Hong Kong would be operational next year.

“We’re also in the process of establishing a medical gallery and a medical concierge-and-lounge at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport next year, and such facility might also be extended to other airports, such as at Kota Kinabalu and Kuching,” he said. Liow later told a press conference that his ministry was looking at the Korea, Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar and China markets due to encouraging health tourist arrivals from these countries.

He said besides modern medicine, the MHTC would also promote traditional treatments like acupuncture and ayurveda.

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Malaysian Sets Tourism Targets for 2020

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 9 (NNN-Bernama) –- The government is committed to further develop the tourism industry together with the private sector, Deputy Minister of Transport Abdul Rahim Bakri said. He said Malaysia has a strong global tourism position today and was the ninth most visited country in the world, receiving an average RM1 billion tourist receipts a week from foreign visitors.

“We’ve set a 2020 target of 36:168. In the year 2020, Malaysia is expected to receive 36 million tourists and RM168 billion tourist receipts. This would mean the industry will grow by three times and tourism will contribute RM3 billion per week to the country in 2020,” he said when opening the 56th Assembly of Presidents of the Association of Asia-Pacific Airlines (AAPA).

Abdul Rahim expressed confidence in achieving the target as Malaysia was located in the Asia-Pacific region, the home to over four billion people, which works out to about 62 per cent of the world’s population as aviation was widely recognised as a key contributor to economic and social developments.

“This is also the region that encompasses the Asean, which will liberalise the skies by 2015, and open a new era in the intra-Asean air services,” he said. Coincidentally, he said, AAPA has also forecasted that although the world air traffic was expected to grow at an average 4.8 per cent yearly, Asia-Pacific traffic would experience an average 5.7 per cent annual growth and by 2030 would continue to lead by registering 33 per cent of the world’s airlines revenue passenger kilometres.

“I believe this forecast will be key to the profitability of airlines that operate extensively in this vast region of potentials that the AAPA represents, barring margin squeeze by high oil prices, the main operating expense item for both the full service and low-cost operators,” he added.

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Palestinian Authority To Open Trade Centres In Jordan, Algeria, Malaysia

RAMALLAH, Nov 5 (NNN-MA’AN) — The Palestinian Authority Economy Minister Jawad al-Naji has said that he is moving forward with his plan to establish three commercial centres for Palestinian products abroad. Al-Naji say implementation has begun for the centres in Jordan, Algeria and Malaysia. The facilities will promote Palestinian industries in an effort to boost trade relations.

The plan was floated at an Organisation for Islamic Cooperation-sponsored conference in Turkey last month, and attracted funding from the Islamic Bank for Development. Al-Naji said the ministry is also planning for official visits to boost trade with Italy, Morocco, Malaysia, Romania, Russia, Kazakhstan, and Serbia.

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Guyana, China Sign US$130m Loan Agreement For Airport Expansion

GEORGETOWN, Nov 4 (NNN-GINA) — The governments of Guyana and China signed a framework agreement for a concessional loan of US$130 million (RMB 825 million) from the Chinese Exim Bank to fund construction of the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) expansion project.

Minister of Finance Dr Ashni Singh signed on behalf of the Guyana government, and outgoing Chinese Ambassador Yu Wenzhe on behalf of the Chinese government in the presence of President Donald Ramotar, Public Works Minister Robeson Benn and airport officials at the Office of the President on Wednesday.

The government of Guyana approved a design and construction contract with China Harbour Engineering Company for the project expected to include an extension of the airport runway to a total of 10,800 feet to accommodate large transatlantic aircraft such as the Boeing 747, along with construction of a new terminal building, acquisition of eight boarding bridges, and installation of other state of the art equipment such as elevators, escalators, and x-ray scanners using three-dimensional technology along with flight information and security monitoring systems.

Once completed, the project would ensure that the CJIA is able to meet the needs of projected traffic for several years into the future, along with becoming a hub for regional and continental traffic. It will allow the country to boast a state of the art airport “comparable to any other part of the world,” according to Singh, and equipped to accommodate any category of aircraft.

Job creation will also be created as several auxiliary services are anticipated and the country’s tourism potential is likely to be bolstered with the influx of visitor arrivals. Construction is likely to start within the first quarter of next year, according to Benn.

A relocation exercise of about 300 houses with an estimated 815 residents that are considered within the “impact area” is set to be undertaken shortly. They will be moved to a designated area. Ramotar linked the airport expansion project to a new wave of infrastructure developments taking shape in Guyana.

He alluded to the Amaila Falls Hydropower Project (AFHP) which will be one of several renewable energy sources facilitating 90 percent of the country’s power generation and significantly reduce the cost of electricity to the consumer. He also used the occasion to commend the Chinese government for the historic friendly bilateral relationship with Guyana, conveying his sentiments to the Chinese ambassador whose two-year tenure in Guyana is winding down.

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Singapore To Raise Public Awareness On Acceptability Of Brunei Currency

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, Nov 2 (NNN-BRUDIRECT) — Brunei and Singapore signed the Currency interchangeablity Agreement (CIA) in June, 1967 and 45 years hence, there are still some teething issues when it comes to the Brunei dollar being freely accepted beyond the Changi Airport in Singapore. The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) continues to stress that the currencies are at par and promises to keep educating the public in Singapore and both nations have taken steps to make the people in both countries aware of the arrangement.

In 2007, Brunei and Singapore launched commemorative currencies to mark the 40th anniversary of the CIA and this week during the visit of the Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Hsien Loong at the invitation of the Sultan Brunei Darussalam, commemorative stamps were launched with an official launching to take place later this month to mark the 45th anniversary of the CIA.

On the Brunei side, Singapore notes are widely accepted. An expat quipped: “I’m happy when I change the Brunei dollar during shopping I get the change in Singapore currency.” In Singapore, however, a traveller aired his grievance in the newspaper claiming that he found it hard to use or exchange the remaining Brunei currency after he arrived in Singapore following a business trip to the Sultanate.

He said that he had visited eight businesses – including a public transport operator that refused to accept the two Brunei dollars for fare. “To avoid the inconvenience, I tried to convert my Brunei dollars to Singapore dollars at the airport’s moneychanger but they said an exchange was not possible because of the parity between the two currencies,” he continued.

A statement issued by MAS addressed the patron’s grievance and described the incident as being “unfortunate” especially considering that the two currencies are “customary tender” whereby they are accepted and circulated in each others’ country in spite of not being issued by the respective country’s government.

“All banks in Singapore are obliged to exchange Brunei currency notes and coins at par and without charge. Therefore, businesses and members of the public should not be concerned about accepting payments in Brunei currency”, and Brunei currency is also accepted as payment for fares on trains, buses and taxis.

“In the past, when we received feedback from the public about businesses that had issues accepting Brunei currency, we contacted these businesses. They all agreed to accept Brunei currency.”

As part of their efforts, MAS explained that they will “continue to work with the Singapore Retailers Association, the National Environment Agency and other relevant business associations to educate businesses such as retailers and hawkers about the CIA and to include educational programmes for their frontline staff”.

“We will put up educational posters at high traffic areas to raise public awareness of the acceptability of the Brunei currency,” it said and added that it will also increase the frequency of its mystery shopping to monitor the acceptance of Brunei currency among retailers.

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Japanese investors interested to invest in Riau

November 11 2012 Pekanbaru, Riau (ANTARA News) – Japanese investors have expressed interest in investing in some business sectors in Pekanbaru, Riau province, a trade official said. In a meeting between Pekanbaru Mayor Firdaus MT and Japanese Embassy counselor, the investors noted the rapid development of the Pekanbaru and cited interest in potential business opportunities for investment, such as communications, clean water, transportation and marine tourism.

Previously, Firdaus MT has given the positive response to the investment plans. “The Japanese investors have seen a lot of opportunities for having cooperation with the Pekanbaru municipal administration. I hope the cooperation will soon be established,” he said.

He stated that the investors will be provided with adequate infrastructures to support their investment. Moreover, the Japanese Embassy counselor has planned to observe the potential sectors in Pekabaru to be developed in a larger scope of cooperation.

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Higher economic growth projected in S. Sumatra

November 11 2012 Palembang (ANTARA News) – Bank Indonesia (BI/the central bank) has predicted that South Sumatra will experience a higher economic growth in the fourth quarter of 2012 due to increasing government spending, exports and commodity prices. “The government spending usually increases in the fourth quarter which would generate slight increase in economic growth. Moreover, the prices of palm oil and rubber have bounced back,” BI researcher Gamal Muhammad said here on Sunday.

He stated that government expenditure stood at 54.8 percent. In addition, indirect spending reached 60.7 percent and the direct one stood at 45 percent. However, the economic growth rate decreased by 5.9 percent in the third quarter of 2012 compared to 6.2 percent in the second quarter of 2012).

“The budget absorption is higher the 43.5 percent at the beginning of the fourth quarter of 2011,” he explained. Muhammad added that the economic growth is in line with the Revised 2012 State Budget which was set with a deficit of Rp357 billion, which is in contrast of the previous planned surplus of Rp197 billions.

Cumulatively, he further said, the economic growth in South Sumatra was predicted to be higher even though it will possibly decrease to a range of 5.9-6.4 percent year on year compared to the 6.5 percent in 2011. “In spite of the decrease, it will still stand within a 6.0 percent range amid global economic uncertainties as well as the fall in rubber price,” he said.

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Egypt and Turkey tourism to see common promotions: Minister

Dalia Farouk, Friday 9 Nov 2012 – “The relationship [between Egyptian and Turkish tourism] is one of integration and not of competition,” Hisham Zaazou said during his meeting with his Turkish counterpart in London earlier this week. While Turkey and Egypt are both Mediterranean touristic hubs; the former is one of the largest travel destinations in the world.

Egypt, on the other hand, is much smaller in size, receiving 14 million tourists in 2010 compared to a whopping 27 million in the same year, according to United Nations World Tourism Organisation. Tourism in Egypt was severely hit following the social and political turbulences that occurred in the aftermath of the popular uprising that forced Hosni Mubarak out of office early 2011. It started to show a slow but steady recovery in 2012, according to the latest figures.

Zaazou revealed the Egypt Air is currently cooperating with the Turkish Airlines to extend trips to areas previously not covered by the Egyptian airlines such as Brazil and South Korea. Last October, direct flights between Istanbul in Turkey and Hurghada and Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt’s most sought-after beach towns, were initiated.

The minister’s statements come as part of Egypt’s effort to gather international support for the struggling tourism industry. In September, Zaazou said that Egypt aimed to increase the number of visitors from a projected 12 million in 2012 to around 15 million in 2013 – which would equal the number of visitors in 2010.

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Tunisia aims to issue $634 mln in Islamic bonds in 2013

Reuters, Thursday 8 Nov 2012 – Tunisia’s moderate Islamist-led government aims to issue 1 billion dinars ($634 million) worth of Islamic bonds next year, the first time the country has used the developing sector to fund public borrowing. “One billion dinars will be available from the Islamic bonds in the 2013 budget‮‮‮‮ ‬‬‬‬for the first time,” Finance Minister Slim Besbes told state radio. Central bank governor Chadli Ayari told Reuters last month that Tunisia planned to issue Islamic bonds early next year.

Tunisia and other governments across North Africa are promoting Islamic finance in the wake of last year’s Arab Spring uprisings, seeing strong growth potential in the sector which was shunned by previous regimes for idea logical reasons. Tunisia’s government is led by the moderate Islamist Ennahda movement which won elections last year that followed the ousting of former President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali.

“Tunisia’s budget will be 26.6 billion dinars in 2013 compared to 25.4 billion dinars last year,” Besbes said. “Sixteen billion dinars in the 2013 state budget will come from tax revenue,” he said.

Tunisia’s budget deficit should narrow to 6 per cent of GDP next year from 6.6 per cent of GDP expected in 2012, central bank governor said last month, indicating that economic recovery in the country where the Arab Spring revolts began may take longer than anticipated.

The Tunisian economy is gradually recovering from last year’s political turmoil but faces problems as a result of the crisis in the euro zone, the main market for its exports and the source of most of its tourists. Morocco, also led by a moderate Islamist party, is in a race with Tunisia to become a regional hub for Islamic finance.

In Tunisia, there are currently only two Islamic banks because of Ben Ali regime was cool towards the industry. Their assets total 1.4 billion dinars, or just 2.5 per cent of the combined assets of all Tunisian banks, according to the central bank.

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Unto the Breach: A Shakespearean classic with a Palestinian twist in London

Ahram Online, Saturday 10 Nov 2012 – On a London stage, Shakespeare’s literary classic Henry V is set in modern-day Palestine and portrays the contemporary aspirations of Arabs to shape a brighter future. The UK’s most prominent Palestinian dance theatre troupe, Al-Zaytouna, adapts the Shakespearean classic with a contemporary twist for two performances on 9 and 10 November at the Pentland Theatre.

Award-winning playwright, director and author Ahmed Masoud worked with Hadjer Nacer to dramatise a modern Henry V with elements of Arab culture, such as a Palestinian folk dance, contemporary dance, poetry and digital media. The dramatist attempts to draw comparisons between the Shakespeare’s politicised play and the dynamics of today’s tumultuous Arab region. Rebellion is combined with dance in this ambitious rendition of Henry V.

The Al-Zaytouna troupe, which fuses traditional Palestinian dabke dance with Western theatre, poetry, literature and music, was established in 2005 with a crystal clear goal: to promote Palestinian culture and challenge misperceptions in the West. Supported by a BBC Performing Arts Grant, Unto the Breach was “Inspired by the Arab Spring and the aspirations of people across the Arab world to change their circumstances and shape their future,” reads Al-Zaytouna’s press release.

“The show highlights the efforts of Palestinians to do the same, while exploring universal themes of hope, courage, loyalty and determination against the odds.”

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Berlin’s 4th Arab Film Festival to feature host of movies from region

Ahram Online, Tuesday 6 Nov 2012 – The fourth annual Arab Film Festival in Berlin, to be held in several locations in the German capital between 5 and 11 November, will introduce more than 40 feature films, short films and documentaries from all over the Arab region. The festival’s programme is divided into three parts, the first being the main programme. This section of the festival will showcase recent films from the Arab world, providing audiences with a glimpse into the complex socio-political issues affecting the Arab world today.

The Focus Programme of the festival will be more thematic, placing recent revolutionary events – and their protagonists – into a historical context, with films focussing largely on the ongoing ‘Arab Spring.’ The opening film will be ‘Fidai,’ directed by Damien Ounouri, a joint 2012 production between Algeria, France, Qatar, Kuwait, China and Germany.

This year’s guest of honour at ALFILM will be Farida Benlyazid, a Moroccan director to whom the Retrospective Programme of this year’s festival will be dedicated. A special highlight this year will be the festival’s Experimental Programme: a compilation of experimental video-art films by young filmmakers from Arab countries.

Among the Egyptian films selected for screening are Yousry Nassrallah’s Cannes Film selection, ‘After the Battle,’ Karim El-Shennawy’s documentary film ‘Salafi,’ Nameer Abdelmaseeh’s ‘The Virgin, the Copts and Me,’ late director Youssef Chahine’s ‘The Return of the Prodigal Son,’ Ahmed Abdelaziz’s ’41 Days’ and Sherif El-Bendary’s documentary film ‘On the Way Downtown.’

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Baghdad’s first theatre festival to feature Egyptian revolutionary play

Ahram Online, Thursday 1 Nov 2012 – The Iraqi capital will host its first Arab drama festival, “Baghdad Festival for Young Arab Theatre”, this November centred on the theme “theatre is the alternative life.” Organised by the Iraqi Ministry of Culture, the event, which is running from 6-12 November, will feature Laylat Al-Qatala (Night of the Assassins), an Egyptian adaptation of Cuban playwright Jose Triana’s political classic of the same name. The festival’s programme is also set to include shows by theatre troupes hailing from Morocco, Algeria, Sudan, Syria, Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Tunisia.

Night of the Assassins, staged by promising theatre director Tamer Karam, focuses on revolution and rebellion while tackling the questions of political freedoms and choice. A play within a play, the story revolves around three siblings, portrayed by Al-Tali’a troupe actors Mohamed Younes, Jessy Adel, and Riham Samy, who decide to rebel against their parents and murder them in their imagination.

Poignant at times and comic at others, the drama examines the contemporary phenomenon of resistance: youth revolt against the authority of their parents, which becomes a metaphor for resistance against the power of society and government. Essentially, the play calls for change. It was initially performed by the Al-Tali’a theatre group in the spring following last year’s January 25 Revolution. Translated from Cuban, the play will be performed in standard Arabic dialect so that it will be understood by an Iraqi audience.

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Oman, Brunei to expand cultural ties

Borneo Bulletin Online – Brunei’s Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports, Dato Seri Hj Hazair bin Hj Abdullah, who is in Oman, met the Omani Minister of Heritage and Culture, Sayyid Haitham bin Tareq al Said for talks recently, Omani news service ONA reported.

Haitham welcomed the Brunei minister and his accompanying delegation and stressed on the historic relations that bind the Sultanate of Oman and Brunei Darussalam. He valued the efforts being exerted towards renewing the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Heritage and Culture Ministry and the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports of Brunei Darussalam, which included various aspects of cultural cooperation.

He stressed the importance of the visit of Dato Hj Hazair, as the visit comes within the framework of the existing cooperation relations between the two countries and it will open expanded horizons for good cultural relations between the two countries.

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Implementing Islamic studies with ‘mainstream learning’

Borneo Bulletin Online – Education and learning are two well-worn themes of discussion and research. The question of what constitutes education and learning have already been asked repeatedly. The ‘how, when, why and where’ have been numerously asked many times over the centuries.

Therefore, it is important for us to understand that the reason why these questions have been asked over and over again, and have also been answered equally, is because the answers are situated in the evolution of human society. Thus we may hear the same questions being posed over and over again, yet, we may find that the answers to those same questions often reveal a different solution.

This point was made by the former Minister of Education, Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Hj Awg Abdul Aziz bin Hj Awg Umar in a keynote presentation entitled, “Education, Learning and Nurturing: A Muslim Experience”, at the Sultan Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Centre of Islamic Studies (SOASCIS) Second International Conference yesterday.

In the keynote speech, Hj Abdul Aziz elaborated that, as time goes by, the lessons offered by history gains greater significance as it provides much insight into the future. Just as human social advancement is defined by its past, education – that vibrant passage of human learning – defines the face of human civilisation progress. Viewed from the historical context, it is therefore not so much the issue of what we know but rather what we failed to know.

In this context, he added, Brunei being an ancient kingdom with a single line of monarchical rule for over 600 years, has its own civilisational identity once which could not have been achieved without a developed knowledge system – the testimony of contemporary history perceives the first formal education system that was established in Brunei by the British in 1912.

He then explained, despite over 600 years of history, the establishment of Brunei’s first formal school or the first Western-based education system coincided with the birth of modern Brunei back then. Later, by 1954, education was conceived under the first five-year development plan. From then on, Brunei began to intensify its educational system at a rapid pace along with British lines. And 30 years later after independence in 1984, Brunei then introduced the ‘dwi-bahasa’ or bilingual education policy which was designed to ensure that young Bruneians were proficient in both English and Malay languages.

“The introduction of bilingual education policy marked a process of consolidation as well as divergence. Consolidation in the sense that the emphasis on the Malay Language was recognition of the potential diminishment of Malays as a principal component of Brunei’s identity as Malay Islamic Monarchy; and divergence means an equal recognition of the English Language in the transmission of temporal knowledge and technology.

“It is important to understand that the preservation of a nation’s identity is crucial for creating the necessary foundations for peace and stability. In the world that we live in today, where peace and harmony are rare commodities, Brunei is a haven amidst the violent seas of injustice and carnage.

“The peace and prosperity that we enjoy today in Brunei were earned on the back of much hard work and deliberate policy implementation. Therefore, no one should confuse our attempt to preserve and consolidate our national identity with bigotry and racism.

“Brunei’s socio-political development could not and cannot be abandoned to the coincidences of impulse and circumstances, nor, for this matter, should Brunei’s future be allowed to descend to the whims of political correctness.

“As a small country, the consequences of poor planning and indecisive decision-making can be critical. Our socio-political course needs and must be defined in the context of our national identity and we cannot pretend to be other than who we are. Therefore, differences in our colour and creed shall not be reasons for dispute, but rather to make it as sources of our strength.

“While we emphasise our cultural heritage, we also need to comply with the Quranic teachings. In 2002, our national education policy was further reformed as an attempt to consolidate the third pillar of our national identity, Islam.

“The new reforms sought to unify the op-posing forces of secular and religious education, so as to erase the artificial conflict between everyday life and religion. The main objective of the new policy was to facilitate the study of the temporal within the context of our beliefs and values, and demonstrates the compatibility of Islam with everyday life.”

On this point, he emphasised that the level of compatibility that was to eventually be achieved was not confined merely to the natural sciences but also and perhaps more importantly to the Bruneian multi-racial and multi-religious socio-political reality according to Brunei context.

It was essential that such context be located within an Islamic framework; without which the ‘Malay’ and ‘Monarchy’ components of MIB would be devoid of its central tenet.

“In order to help us to achieve our objectives, once again we need to utilise the principal means in the dissemination of knowledge, especially language,” he added. “The Arabic Language was introduced into schools in the hope that Bruneians would be able to use their skills through their command of languages. At the same time, they are also grounded in their Malay cultural heritage, underpinned by a firm grasp of their mother tongue and yet they are equally informed in the matters of the divine by virtue of their mastery of the Arabic Language.”

At the opening of the SOASCIS Second International Conference, he also pointed out the importance of Fardhu Ain and Fardhu Kifayah knowledge. Thus he added, for Muslims the concept of mandatory education is in fact an old one. And it is an indication of Islam’s recognition of the critical role played by knowledge, and hence education, in the development of education, in the development of human society, he said during his keynote address.

The former minister further noted on the method of transmitting knowledge, in regards to the system of Hadith transmission, as an important factor in Islamic education. He believed that the mass information that has been transmitted and signalled from the Internet has now become one of the major concerns and challenges for many Muslim scholars prior to the source of information or knowledge. He also stressed that Islamic education that was implemented in 1970s was further strengthened after its independence in 1984 as part of the ‘mainstream learning’ as supported by the national philosophy of Malay Islamic Monarchy (MIB).

Further on, he opined that Islam is not only important to be practised in our daily life but also it is a set of teachings that need to be valued in terms of moral and ethics by individuals.

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PM invites Turkish entrepreneurs to invest in energy, shipbuilding

DHAKA, Nov 10, 2012 (BSS) – Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina today invited Turkish entrepreneurs to invest in Bangladesh’s potential sectors like energy and shipbuilding. “There is a tremendous scope for establishing joint-ventures in energy, shipbuilding, heavy-machinery, construction, electronic appliances, textile and readymade garment, jute and petrochemical products in Bangladesh,” she said.

The Prime Minister made the remarks when visiting Turkish Minister for Labour and Social Security Faruk Celik made a courtesy call on her at Ganobhaban. After the meeting, PM’s Press Secretary Abul Kalam Azad briefed reporters. Sheikh Hasina said the two countries are working on increasing bilateral trade volume to three billion US dollars by 2015 from its present volume of about $1 billion. In this connection, she stressed the need for signing free trade agreement between the two countries.

Narrating the steps taken by her government to make Bangladesh an investor-friendly country, she mentioned Bangladesh’s strategic geographical location of providing access to a market of over two billion people in South Asia, Southeast Asia and Far East. The Prime Minister said Bangladesh attaches great importance to its bilateral relations and tradition and looks forward to further deepening the ties.

“Dhaka and Ankara enjoy warm relations based on shared religion and tradition,” she said hoping that the relations would continue to grow in the years ahead. Recalling her visit to Turkey in April this year, Sheikh Hasina said the visit ushered in a new era of Bangladesh-Turkey relations.

Wishing the success of the 4th Joint Economic Commission (JEC) meeting between Bangladesh and Turkey, she hoped it would pave the way for further consolidating the bilateral trade and investment between the two brotherly nations. In response, the Turkish minister said the visit of Sheikh Hasina has strengthened the economic relations between the two countries. He expressed his country’s interest to invest in Bangladesh in some potential sectors.

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Bangladesh team conquers island peak of Himalayas

DHAKA, Nov 9, 2012 (BSS) – The Bangladeshi national flag which was carried by a 4-Bangladeshis who conquered ‘Imja Tse’, one of the most popular trekking peaks of the Himalayas, was handed over to noted educationist Professor Zillur Rahman Siddique. Bangla Mountaineering and Trekking Club organised a programme to hand over the flag. The trekkers narrated their experiences about their ‘Imja Tse’ adventure at the programme held at the National Press Club today.

Imja Tse, better known as Island Peak, is a mountain in the Himalayas of eastern Nepal. The trekking team of Bangladesh left Dhaka for Nepal on October 6 to conquer ‘Imja Tse’ (20,210 ft). MA Muhit, first conqueror of the Mount Everest from Bangladesh, led the team. Other members of the team are Nur Mohammad, Kazi Bahlul Manzu, Saida Sultana and Dhrobojoty Ghosh Mukul.

In his speech Professor Zillur Rahman Siddique said this achievement of the youngsters of Bangladesh is a matter of pride and joy. It would encourage more youngsters to go for such adventure in future, he added.

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Construction of Massgram-Pabna rail-track to be started next month

DHAKA, Nov 6, 2012 (BSS) -The construction work of rail-track installation from Massgram of Ishwardi to Pabna would be started next month. To this effect, the government today signed an agreement with the implementing agency Max Automobile Products Limited (MAPL). The signatories were Railway chief engineer and Project director Kazi Md. Rafiqul Awal and Golam Mohammad Alamgir, managing director of MAPL.

Planning Minister Air vice Marshal (retd) A K Khandker, Railway Minister Mojibul Huq Bhuiyan, railway secretary Mahbub-ur Rahman, planning secretary (In- charge) Bhuiyan Shafiqul Islam, planning commission member Dr. Md. Fazlul Bari and Railway director general Abu Taher, among others, were present at the ceremony.

MAPL is entrusted to implement the 25km-long rail track installation project involving Taka 155.77 crore. The project would be implemented within 18 months. After implementation of the project, new rail route from Ishwardi-Massgram- Dhalarchar-Rajbari-Faridpur-Bhangha- Padmabridge-Dhaka would be established.

Besides, Pabna district headquarters would also be connected with the rail network. A K Khandker said the railway sector was remained deprived due to the ignorance of past governments. But, the present government has put concentration for the development of rail communication, he said.

Khandker said the new rail track would ease the communication between Pabna and Dhaka, which would change the socioeconomic condition of the region. Mojibul Huq directed the concern officials to implement the project in the stipulated time.

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Saudi Arabian rapper new genre ambassador

PARIS – Agence France-Presse – Making hip hop in Saudi Arabia is a bit of a tightrope act, says Qusai Kheder, self-styled ambassador for the genre who has built a niche following for his sex-and-violence free brand of rap music. “Saudi Arabia is a very conservative country, that is where we are from,” the 35-year-old told AFP before performing to a crowd of mostly Arab, largely female, young fans at the Arab World Institute in Paris this month.

“This is our culture, our heritage, and we have reasons to respect it,” said the Riyadh-born young man in leather jacket, grey snood and clipped goatee, whose stage name is simply “Qusai”. “But at the same time, we don’t have freedom of expression, freedom of speech, so we set up limitations in whatever we do, some people for the fear and some people for the respect.

In 1996 he left to study in the United States, making a name as a DJ and radio personality. Ten years on he returned to a changed Saudi Arabia, he says, where he now runs his own studio in Jeddah though with music still viewed as a sin by the country’s Islamic leaders, it is a “miracle” to be able to perform in public. And when it comes to content, Qusai must tread a fine line.

“In Arabic the majority if not all the songs are talking about love, habibi this, habibi that,” he said. Peace is the theme of his new album, titled “The Inevitable Change” is an explicit nod to the Arab Spring and its aftermath across the region.

Qusai shot to televised fame as co-host of the network’s “Arabs Got Talent,” the hugely successful Middle East spin-off of the global franchise. He was nominated for this week’s MTV Europe awards in the best Middle Eastern Act category.

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Turkish Cyprus wants to enter tourism fairs

STOCKHOLM – Anatolia News Agency – Turkish Cyprus hotels cannot advertise on international tourism marketing websites and in some trade fairs due to the pressure exerted by Greek Cyprus, head of the Association of Turkish Cypriot Hotels Ayşe Dönmezer has said.

Turkish Cypriot hoteliers want to join tourism fairs in Goteborg and Helsinki every year, but Greek Cypriots prevent it, she said during an event in Sweden to promote the tourism sector in the country. “The fair organizers do not permit us to participate in the events as a result of Greek Cypriot repressions,” she said.

The gathering took place in Stockholm and was attended by Swedish and Turkish Cypriot travel agencies, Turkish Ambassador to Sweden Zergün Korutürk, Turkish Cyprus representative in Stockholm Damla Güçlü. The number of Swedish tourists who arrived at Ercan Airport reached 1,266 and via Larnaca was 11,164 in the first nine months of 2012, Dönmezer said. Turkish Cyprus has organized a series of meetings in the Scandinavian countries including Denmark and Norway to present the tourism potential of the country, she said.

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Istanbul set to host city tourism summit

ISTANBUL – Anatolia News Agency – Istanbul will host the World Tourism Organization’s (UNWTO) Global Summit on City Tourism. The Turkish Culture and Tourism Ministry and Turkish Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges (TOBB) will host the meeting, which will take place at the Haliç Congress Center by the Golden Horn Nov. 15. Turkey aims to attract 50 million tourists and obtain an income of $50 billion as part of the country’s goals set for 2023, TOBB President Rifat Hisarcıklıoğlu told Anatolia news agency while commenting on the event. If Anatolia’s tourism potential is reached, Turkey will easily reach these goals, he said.

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Organic olive farming thriving business for Palestinian farmers

Ramallah, 26 Dhul Hijja 1433/ 11 November 2012 (IINA) – The Palestinian olive harvest, an ancient autumn ritual in the West Bank, is going upscale. In an emerging back-to-the-land movement, Palestinian farmers are turning the rocky hills of the West Bank into organic olive groves, selling their oil to high-end grocers in the U.S. and Europe.

The move is a reflection of the growing global demand for natural, sustainable and fairly traded products, albeit with a distinct Palestinian twist, according to a report by The Associated Press. The hardships faced by local farmers, ranging from a lack of rainfall to Israeli trade obstacles, mean that organic growing is one of the few ways Palestinians have to compete in outside markets. “The Palestinian future is in the land,” said farmer Khader Khader, 31, as he stood among his organic olives in the northern West Bank village of Nus Jubail.

Organic farming has grown into a thriving business, by Palestinian standards, since it first was introduced in the West Bank in 2004. Now, at least $5 million worth of organic olive oil is exported annually — about half of all Palestinian commercial oil exports, said Nasser Abu Farha of the Canaan Fair Trade Association, one of the companies that sells high-end organic olive oil to distributors abroad.

The West Bank-based company purchases the oil at above market prices and pays what’s called a “social premium” — extra money to farming cooperatives to improve their communities. About 930 farmers have fair-trade and organic certification, while another 140 are “converting” their land — a two- to three-year process during which they stop using chemical fertilizers and pest controls while monitors from Canaan and the Palestine Fair Trade Association provide training and check soil for chemical levels.

Their work is overseen by the Swiss-based Institute for Market Ecology, which is accredited to certify organic products for the U.S., EU, and Japan. Hundreds more farmers are simply certified as fair-trade, where they and their workers are paid decent wages for their work and produce.

The trade is tiny when compared to major olive growers like Spain, Italy and Greece. But it’s significant for Palestinians, for whom harvesting olives is a cultural tradition that gathers even the most urbanized families. An average of 17,000 tons of olive oil is produced in the West Bank every year by thousands of farmers, according to aid group Oxfam, which works on the olive industry. Most is for local or personal use, and only about 1,000 tons is exported a year, though that number is likely higher since many farmers sell oil informally through relatives abroad, Abu Farha said.

Organic farmers hope the high-end trade will keep them on their lands, despite difficult odds and high overhead costs. Palestinians seek the West Bank as the heartland of a future independent state. Most of the 2.5 million Palestinians in the West Bank live under a semi-autonomous government. But Israel, which captured the West Bank in the 1967 Mideast war, wields overall control.

Roughly 500,000 Jewish settlers live in the West Bank and neighboring east Jerusalem, taking away resources. The situation makes exporting difficult for Palestinian farmers. Outside markets for fresh produce aren’t profitable. Goods must cross through Israeli-controlled export crossings with security measures that cause delays, lowering quality through exposure to sunlight and constant reloading from one truck to another.

Farmers face other problems. More than 120 Jewish settlements dot the West Bank, often encroaching on Palestinian farmlands or preventing farmers from reaching their land. According to U.N. estimates, nearly 10 percent of Palestinian farmland falls on the “Israeli” side of the separation barrier Israel has built to prevent militants from entering from the West Bank to carry out attacks. Israel also controls more than 80 percent of the West Bank’s water in lopsided sharing agreements, said Palestinian water official Ribhi al-Sheik.

In other areas dilapidated water pipes have wasteful leaks. Most farmers depend on rain and unlicensed wells, depleting already-stressed aquifers. In some parts, Israeli military authorities also ban rain-collecting cisterns. Badly planned Palestinian towns have paved over fertile lands.

Israeli military spokesman Guy Inbar said the long export process was solely for security reasons and “not intended to harm” exports, noting that Palestinians export some 100,000 tons of fresh produce a year. He said Palestinians access more water than what is allowed for under sharing agreements and that farmers with permits are able to reach land on the other side of the separation barrier. The challenges sparked a new way of thinking: Palestinians had to make finished goods that could survive the rough growing conditions and lengthy journey to outside markets.

Fair-trade, organic products that can be rain-fed, particularly olives, were the perfect solution. “It’s the future of Palestinian exports. The future is in added value, through environmental and social accountability,” said Abu Farha of Canaan Fair Trade. “People want to know: Where is this oil coming from? Whose life is it changing?”

The changes are visible in Nus Jubail, a village crowded with olives and pines, its 400 residents in houses with blue doors and rooftops sheltered by grape arbors. A decade ago, most residents pressed their oil for personal use. Little was sold commercially and prices were low, said Khader, the farmer.

Around 2004, agricultural activists formed the Palestinian Fair Trade Association, seeking out farmers across the West Bank. They persuaded Khader to establish an organic cooperative of five farmers, allowing them to collectively press their olives and sell better-priced oil. During the three-year conversion process, Khader and his colleagues were taught to grow olives without chemicals, pruning and plowing instead of using herbicides and fermenting sheep droppings into fertilizer.

Once certified, Khader and his partners sold their oil above market prices, attracting other recruits. Now 18 of the village’s 30 farmers are organic. This year, organic oil is selling for about $5.40 a liter — a dollar higher than conventional oil, said Abu Farha of Canaan Fair Trade, which purchases much of the oil.

Other independent farmers are selling directly to consumers for $9 a liter, far above market price. Farmers are going organic on other products, such as maftoul, a chewy sun-dried staple resembling couscous, as well as dried almonds and a savory spice blend of thyme, hyssop and other herbs known as zaatar.

In Whole Foods supermarkets in New York and New Jersey, it’s sold under the “Alter Eco” brand, Abu Farha said. It’s in Sainsbury’s in Britain, and in boutique shops globally through Canaan and other distributers. Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap, a popular organic, fair traded vegan soap, sources 95 percent of its oil — some 165 tons — from Palestinian growers, the soap company said.

Even so, challenges abound. Palestinian oil production is irregular because they can’t irrigate their crops and export costs are still high. Abu Farha of Canaan said some farmers have cheated by mixing conventional oil into their products. Still, the move toward organic, sustainable farming is an important, elegant fight. “I don’t throw rocks,” said farmer Khader, referring to young men who frequently hurl stones during demonstrations. He pointed to his rock-built terraces. “I use them to build our future.”

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Palestinian artists launch festival to protest Israel’s barrier

Ramallah, 21 Dhul Hijja 1433/ 06 November 2012 (IINA) – Palestinian artists showcased their art work at West Bank’s Qalandia International Festival, framed as part of a creative reaction to the Israeli barrier that separates Palestinian villages from each other.

Israel has said the barrier, a mix of electronic fences and walls that encroaches on West Bank territory, is meant to keep suicide bombers out of its cities. Palestinians call the barrier — whose course encompasses Israeli settlements in the West Bank — a disguised move to annex or fragment territory Palestinians seek for a viable state. The International court of Justice declared the planned 600-km (370-mile) barrier, more than half of which is completed, illegal but Israel has ignored the non-binding ruling.

Qalandia International Festival Art Director, Jack Persekian, said it was an important way for Palestinians to channel their emotional reactions to the barrier. “The wall and the road that was constructed recently connect the Israeli settlements together and separate the Palestinian villages from each other. The reaction to this separation was a cultural festival. It is an important and a good reaction — it shows a positive, artistic and cultural spirit in a painful situation that should be stopped,” he said. The festival, which showcases Palestinian contemporary art projects, performances, films, and other cultural activities, kicked off on Thursday at Qalandia village northern of Jerusalem and ends on November 15.

According to the festival’s organizers, over 50 local and International artists came together for the launch of Qalandia International, ‘a milestone contemporary art event’. Palestinian artist Khaled Jarar screened his 2 minutes film at the festival. His film, too, addresses barrier issues and Palestinians’ reactions to it.

“I went to the wall and I cut out some pieces of it. I smashed them then I mixed them with cement and water and I made a ball which children play with. My message is that the wall is an ugly thing, so we should seek out ways in which to use it and the occupation for our benefit,” he told Reuters television. The festival was organized by seven Palestinian institutions – Riwaq, Al Ma’mal Foundation for Contemporary Art, A. M. Qattan Foundation, Palestinian Art Court – Al Hoash, International Art Academy – Palestine, Sakakini Cultural Centre and the House of Culture Arts – Nazareth.

Palestinian band ‘Dar Qandeel’ performed traditional and modern music at the festival’s opening ceremony and people from various Palestinian villages and cities as well as Internationals came to attend. Yara Bayoumi, a visitor at the festival, said the cooperation involved in hosting such a festival was wonderful. “The festival is very nice. It is the first of its kind in Palestine. It is the first time seven organizations have worked together to organize such a festival. I hope it will have a good effect, and put Palestine in the world’s contemporary art,” she said.

The festival is expected to tour Jerusalem and other West Bank cities.

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Over 200 companies to attend Iran Telecom Fair

TEHRAN, Nov. 11 (Xinhua) — More than 200 foreign and domestic companies will attend Iran’s Telecom Fair which will open here on Wednesday, Tehran Times daily reported on Sunday. A total of 22 companies from eight countries, including Germany, Britain, Italy, China, Switzerland, Canada, South Korea and Poland will participate in the 13th Iran Telecom Fair, said the report. Also, some 185 Iranian companies will take part in the exhibition which will run for four days. Iran Telecom Fair is the country’s main CIT event for professionals of telecom services and products, gathering engineers, planners, operators as well as wholesale and retail suppliers in the industry.

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Indian VP Hamid Ansari Launches Book “Journey of a Liberal Muslim Woman”

NEW DELHI, India, Vice President’s Secretariat, 09-November, 2012 – The Vice President of India Mr. M. Hamid Ansari has said that the sub-title “Liberal Muslim” used together, qualify each other. Besides being definitional or descriptive, they seem to attribute values and are tending to be used as a sort of social, official or quasi-official description with an implied if not explicit disparagement of the anti-thesis: liberal – illiberal; traditional – modern; conservative – radical; scientific – superstitious; Muslim – other than Muslim, and so on.

He was addressing after releasing a book entitled “Azadi’s Daughter -The Journey of a Liberal Muslim Woman” authored by senior journalist Ms. Seema Mustafa here today. The book is both a fascinating account of an intrepid liberal Muslim woman’s personal journey and a political commentary on a secular way of life.

Mr. Ansari said that the book portrays vividly the situational backdrop and the personal endeavour of the author. It shows that modernity is a process to be imbibed, not a product to be acquired. Rising levels of education and awareness, particularly amongst women, would further it in all sections of society.

Following is the text of Vice President’s speech :

“I congratulate Seema Mustafa sahiba for having penned an interesting and candid perspective on one aspect of our contemporary history. It is engaging and forthright. I found the book of great interest since, as a younger person, I had occasions to meet Begum Anis Kidwai, Dr. Jamal Kidwai and some other members of the family. Nor can I or many others of my generation forget Anis apa’s residence at 16 Windsor Place; it was a virtual Open House.

The narrative of the book covers a number of overlapping and intersecting themes – autobiography, gender, modernity, social values, and political judgements. Each is valid in its own right; together they tend to induce what logicians call ‘category mistake’.

A case in point is in the sub-title “Liberal Muslim”. The terms, used together, qualify each other. Besides being definitional or descriptive, they seem to attribute values and are tending to be used as a sort of social, official or quasi-official description with an implied if not explicit disparagement of the anti-thesis: liberal – illiberal; traditional – modern; conservative – radical; scientific – superstitious; Muslim – other than Muslim, and so on.

Interspersed through the book are the author’s professional and personal experiences of the Indian polity’s communal landscape, the anguish and suffering brought about by it, the disappointment of the Muslims with government’s belated correctives, and their awakened eagerness to seek modern education and private sector employment along with the demand for justice, equity, and a share in decision-making.

Azadi’s Daughter portrays vividly the situational backdrop and the personal endeavour of the author. It shows that modernity is a process to be imbibed, not a product to be acquired. Rising levels of education and awareness, particularly amongst women, would further it in all sections of society.”

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New Book Published: Islam: Religion, Practice, Culture & World Order

Paperback, ISBN: 978–1–56564–587–5, Hardback, ISBN: 978–1–56564–588-2, 102pp, October 2012

Professor Isma’il Raji al Faruqi, (died 1986), Palestinian-American philosopher, visionary, and an authority in comparative religion, was one of the foremost Muslim scholars of the 20th century. A former professor of Islamic at Temple University, Philadelphia, USA, he left behind an unpublished manuscript of introduction to Islam among his unpublished works.

Asst. Prof. Dr. Imtiyaz Yusuf, Philosophy and Religion, Assumption University, Bangkok, Thailand, discovered this manuscript in Ismail al Faruqi papers at the International Inst of Islamic Thought, Virginia during his academic status as Visiting Prof and Malaysia Chair Prof of Islam in Southeast Asia at Georgetown Univ, Washington DC in 2010. Prof Yusuf updated and edited the manuscript for publication.

In this study Prof Al Faruqi presents the meaning and message of Islam to the wider world community. Key elements of the faith are summarized and explained in an overall theme of seven parts consisting of 21 chapters. Yet the chapters represent far more than a simple description of Muslim peoples and orthodox practice. Al Faruqi was a great thinker, formidable in logic, and relished intellectual engagement on every level, particularly when it came to Islam and other Faiths. And it is this unique reasoning process that is reflected in this work, al Faruqi’s signature contribution, which not only expounds on Islam as spiritual faith and action, but also on Islam the great experience.

Prof Yusuf can be reached at Tel: +66-2-300-4543 ext. 1325, Fax: +66-2-719-1521 (Attn: Dr. Yusuf – Philosophy/Religion) Email: imtiyazy@gmail.com, imtiyazy@yahoo.com



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