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19 Nov, 2012

Free Download: Fifth OIC Annual Report on Islamophobia

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 19 November 2012 (05 Muharram 1434). Pls click on any of the headlines 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


Aamir Khan On Life After The Haj: “Much Happier and At Peace”

New Delhi – One of India’s most well-known actors, Aamir Khan, went on his first Haj with his mother this year. He discussed his life-changing experience in a wide-ranging interview with Afsana Ahmed of the Hindustan Times newspaper:

You’ve just returned from the Haj. What was it like?

It was a moving and spiritually overawing experience. A very emotional and introspective moment for me. At the same time, I felt very close to God. The character and beauty of the place has a surreal feeling. Especially when you go to the maidaan (ground) of Arafat — that’s the most important moment of the trip. Because it’s here that you spend the whole day recalling your mistakes, your offences and the people affected by them, and then ask God for forgiveness. A sense of catharsis overtook me.

You mean you felt lighter?

I suppose I did. Actually, ‘lighter’ is not the right word. The correct phrase would be would be ‘at peace’. Yes, I am much happier and at peace then I used to be. I pray that all Muslims who intend to go for the Haj should make their trip there unfailingly.

You can be called a Haji now.

Yes I am a Haji, but what’s important is what I feel within, not how I am addressed. I have become more spiritual than I ever was.

How did the trip happen?

Ammi (Aamir’s mother Zeenat Hussain) had been wanting to go there for a while. But somehow our plans weren’t falling in place because I wasn’t able to give the time. In Islam, a woman has to be accompanied by either her brother, husband or son if she wishes to go to Mecca. Ammi doesn’t have her husband now; she doesn’t have a brother either, so Faizal (Aamir’s brother) or I could have taken her for the trip. So I told her to block the dates and then I locked my time. I told Aditya Chopra about it much before I started shooting for Dhoom:3.

Has the trip done anything specific for you? Have you turned wiser today?

I wouldn’t call it wiser, but I certainly want to lead a noble or good life where hopefully I won’t commit mistakes like I have done in the past. I will try to live as honestly as I have lived in the past, without having to compromise with anything and without hurting anyone. I want to live a life of caring and sharing and full of happiness. This is the life I always wanted and my search for a good life will continue.

The full interview can be read by clicking here.

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Comedian-Writer Aman Ali Reflects on His Haj

By Aman Ali

November 5, 2012 – Comedian/writer and co-founder of the “30 Mosques in 30 Days” project Aman Ali just completed his Hajj pilgrimage with his mother. He posted the following poignant thoughts as a Facebook status update, which we are sharing here with his permission. This is what the Hajj is all about.

I’m back from Hajj. To say it was a moving experience is probably the biggest understatement I have made in my entire life. I didn’t know what peace was until I got to spend so many early mornings on the calming rooftop of the Prophet’s mosque in Medina flicking away on my prayer beads, watching the sun rise and its beams crawl across the sky. I didn’t know what kindness was until one day my stomach was growling after prayer and a poor Sri Lankan man with four teeth in his mouth flashed a smile and reached into his tattered shirt pocket to earnestly offer me a handful of dates.

I didn’t know what hope was until I met a Bengali woman struggling with fertility for years tell me she saved every dollar she could find to make the trip to Hajj in order to pray to Allah for assistance. I didn’t know what chivalry was until I watched a woman inches away from a trash bin hurl a half-full can of soda at a street worker to throw away for her, only to have that same street worker seconds later offer to carry some heavy bags she was dragging.

I didn’t know what humor was until I met a Kurdish man whose ailing health was caused by being chemically gassed by Saddam Hussein’s henchmen tell me he likes to exaggerate his chronic cough in front of his wife in order to get out of house chores.

This wasn’t one of those kumbaya “look at all these colors of the rainbow coming together” moments because that would only be scratching the surface of how precious this experience was. It was the fact that all these people turned to God and raised their hands in the air in du’a as tears flowed down their faces. The same God was there listening to each and every one of them. And these few people were only a tiny fraction of the literally millions of people on Hajj this year turning to God for assistance too. And these millions of people are only the tiny fraction of over a billion people who do the same thing every day around the world. And this billion + people have been doing the same thing every day for almost 1,500 years when Islam first originated.

Never have I felt so connected to mankind and history. To think I may have made footprints on the same parcels of land from people like Malcom X and Muhammad Ali made when they did their Hajj pilgrimage. To my own relatives, who many decades ago died on Hajj because the grueling toll of spending weeks at sea trying sail from from India to Saudi Arabia with poorly preserved and rationed food. To Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his handful of companions who started this beautiful tradition now carried out by millions every year. Never have I felt so fortunate and blessed. When I realized how insignificant of a dot I am on the timeline of history, it began to melt away the delusions of self-importance I’ve pumped myself up with over the years and fade into nothingness.

I am nothing but a measly Cheerio in the cereal box of Life.

Read the original here.

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Free Download: Fifth OIC Annual Report on Islamophobia

Jeddah, (OIC Media Release) – 15/11/2012 – The OIC Observatory on Islamophobia released its Fifth Annual Report covering the period from May 2011 to September 2012, at the commencement of the 39th Session of the Council of Foreign Ministers in Djibouti today.

In his foreword to the Report, the Secretary General, Prof. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, reiterated that Islamophobia formed a contemporary manifestation of racism and discrimination. The Secretary General further underscored that if the current trends are ignored, the long term implications of intolerance and discrimination against the Muslim world be far more intense than those witnessed recently and were highlighted in the Report.

The Report includes five chapters that have catalogued and analyzed Islamophobic incidents in different categories providing with an update on the state of play. It clearly comes out that revered Islamic symbols and personalities continued to be violated and incidents including the burning of copies of the Holy Qur’an in Florida and elsewhere, the release of ‘Innocence of Muslims’ video on YouTube, and caricatures insulting Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) by a French magazine, continued to hurt the sentiments of Muslims around the world, during the period under review. The Report indicates that in the wake of such events of incitement and advocacy of hatred against Islam, intolerance and discrimination have surpassed the severity and gravity documented in the Observatory’s previous reports.

The concluding part of the Report underscored that a lot more needs to be done to effectively combat the anti-Islam phenomenon and correct the misperceptions against it and its followers, and that all stakeholders need to be politically and socially involved with an honest sincerity of purpose towards result-oriented reconciliation among different faiths and civilizations. The Report, now into its fifth year, has been widely acknowledged as a correct and precise update on trends pertaining to intolerance and discrimination against Muslims that continue to pose a clear and present danger to peaceful coexistence.

The Report is available for download by clicking here.

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Muslim countries’ GDP reaches $5.7 trillion

Djibouti, Muharram 01 1434/ 15 November 2012 (IINA) – Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Professor Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu expressed happiness over the overall economic growth of the Muslim countries.

Addressing the OIC foreign ministers’ meeting here on Thursday, Ihsanoglu said that the Gross Domestic Product of 57 Muslim countries reached $5.7 trillion, which makes up 8.3 percent of the global GDP. He said that OIC’s activities on the economic domain featured positive results since last year. OIC’s economic growth has improved on both the global and intra-OIC levels.

With a combined GDP of $ 5.7 trillion representing 8.3% of the global economic output, the OIC remains a very strong international economic actor. In the same vein, and thanks to the various efforts aimed at sensitizing our Member States about issues relating to the implementation of our common trade agreements, intra-OIC trade has also increased in monetary value from $205.07 billion in 2004 to $687 billion in 2011. In terms of percentage, intra-OIC trade moved from 14.44% in 2004 to 17.71% in 2011.

I should also seize this opportunity to express our appreciation to our ministers for responding favorably to my series of appeals for the signing and ratification of the various OIC instruments, including the very crucial ones on the Trade Preferential System (TPS). I have the pleasure to thank our Member States for having responded to our calls by securing 101 signatures and 65 ratifications of economic agreements since 2005, which is indicative of the responsiveness of our Member States to the need for the rigorous implementation of the TYPOA.

Similarly, there has been a remarkable progress in the execution of our various programs in the domain of poverty eradication, financial sector cooperation, agricultural development and tourism. The Special Program for the Development of Africa, which was put in place in 2008, has made all the targeted disbursements to the tune of US$ 4.5 billion in favor of a total number of 428 development projects.

While the Islamic Solidarity Fund for Development has increased its interventions in such sectors as micro-finance, vocational training and social services to the tune of USS 1.06 billion, the Islamic Solidarity Fund financed 2253 projects amounting to $195 million. This is notwithstanding the robust interventions of the various IDB Group entities and national development institutions.

While we commend our various economic institutions for their dedicated support for the various programs as set out in the relevant OIC resolutions, I wish to inform that our target in the coming year would feature the convening of investment forums to activate our dedicated development programs, such as the OIC Action Plan on Cotton and Agro-Food Industry’ , the Regional Project on ‘Sustainable Development of Tourism in a Cross-Border Network of Parks and Reserves in West Africa’, and the Plan of Action for Cooperation with Central Asia, as well as the Stakeholders’ Conference on Post-conflict Reconstruction. Somalia.

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Election 2012 – American Muslims Gain Political Empowerment

By Zeba Iqbal

November 14, 2012 – There were so many wins on election night. President Barack Obama was re-elected; Nate Silver’s statistical model and basic arithmetic trumped punditry; and women and communities of color swung the election. And, American Muslims — not particularly courted by any political party — came together to get the vote out, make their voices heard and help sway local elections of anti-Muslim candidates as well as the presidential election.

The nation’s first African-American President won a second term after the most expensive Presidential race in history. In Hawaii, the first Hindu was elected to the House of Representatives, and the first Buddhist to Senate. And in Illinois, the first Thai-American, also a decorated Iraq War veteran was elected to the House of Representatives. The number of women in the Senate hit a tipping point increasing from 17 to a record-setting 20 seats. The House of Representatives is not far behind, with 81 women (19 percent out of 435). It doesn’t stop there. In New Hampshire, women swept all the major races, and the state now has a female governor and the first all-female congressional delegation.

On the voter side, we knew minority voters were critical, but exit polls reveal just how significant they were this election season. Minorities swung this election decisively for President Obama, much to the Republicans’ chagrin and surprise. For example,,in the battleground state of Florida, which was officially called four days after the election, President Obama won by less than a percentage point — 50-49.1 percent, or 74,000 votes.

The Influence of American Muslim Votes

We don’t have sophisticated polls and models in place to track our American Muslim voter numbers, but our votes did make a difference. We were part of the winning minority vote, and in crucial races lower down the ticket, the impact of our votes was even more visible thanks to the amazing local ground efforts of American Muslims. Consider two examples.

In Florida, the ground game and tireless efforts of two American Muslim organizations, Emerge and United Voices for America, were pivotal in Patrick Murphy’s narrow defeat of Islamophobe Allen West for his congressional seat. Allen West has yet to concede, but Patrick Murphy was declared winner of the House of Representatives seat by the state on Saturday and won by just over 2,440 votes. And in Virginia, GOTV efforts by American Muslims encouraged voter turnout, electing Democrat Tim Kaine to the U.S. Senate.

Numerous formal and informal groups of American Muslims actively got out the vote online and on the ground in various parts of the country. And as Election Day grew near, these groups gained momentum and visibility. Some focused on registering voters and voter education while others were involved in voter persuasion. Others took part in phone banking, canvassing, door knocking, fundraising, publishing voter guides and organizing events like town halls, debate parties and election viewing parties in Washington, DC, Chicago, New York City and Philadelphia.


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ISESCO’s New Hijri Message: Islamic Solidarity Needed to End Disputes

Rabat 14/11/2012 – In a message to the Islamic world on the occasion of the new Hijri Year, the Director General of the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO), Dr Abdulaziz Othman Altwaijri, called for bolstering solidarity and cooperation among all Muslims, rejecting disputes and ending strife that weakens the Islamic Ummah and undermines its harmony and cohesion.

He also underlined the importance of joining the efforts of the Member States to put an end to the disputes that destroys the Islamic unity, and overcome the crises that impede the Islamic solidarity which he described as the firm basis for bilateral and multilateral relations among the countries of the Islamic world. In the same vein, he highlighted the need for grasping the meanings and symbols of the Prophet’s migration and for drawing lessons from this historical event that separated two eras, and constituted a quantum leap in the history of humanity and a source of inspiration, from which Muslims could draw power, immunity, pride and dignity.

Likewise, he emphasized that the Islamic Ummah is a civilizational entity, which has contributed to enriching the human civilizational, and which has to reassume its distinguished civilizational role in supporting the efforts of the international community to bring about peace and security.

Equally, Dr Altwaijri called upon the Islamic countries to support the Palestinian people in the battle it’s fighting to win back its legitimate national rights and be acknowledged as a member of the United Nations. He also underscored the importance of liberating al-Quds from the Israeli occupation authorities and making it the capital of the independent Palestinian state.

In the same connection, he called for supporting the Syrian people to get out of the tragic situation it lives in, calling a halt to the crimes perpetuated against it, and enabling it from establishing a just state that preserves its unity and security.

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ISESCO Chief: Joint Islamic Action Essential for Educational, Scientific, Technological and Cultural Development

Djibouti 16/11/2012 – Dr Abdulaziz Othman Altwaijri, the Director General of the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO), said that founding ISESCO in 1982, a decade after the establishment of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), was a quantum leap in the joint Islamic action in the effort to promote cooperation and coordination among the Muslim world States in areas closely related to sustainable, comprehensive development: namely, education, science, culture and communication. He also underlined that ISESCO, over thirty years of earnest work, has given substance to the Muslim collective will to build firm bases toward educational, scientific and cultural resurgence.

He also highlighted in his address, which was read out by Dr Mukhtar Ahmed, ISESCO Deputy Director General at the 39th OIC Council of Foreign Ministers, which opened yesterday in Djibouti, that the accomplishments ISESCO has achieved prove that joint Islamic action in education, science, technology and culture is an essential to overall progress and development.

In this connection, he emphasized that ISESCO owes the successful implementation of its nine (9) three-year action plans, founding action plan and a preliminary two-year action plan, to the Member States’ growing trust. “Such a success would not have been possible without careful management, convincing performance and exposure to the world through a large network of cooperation and partnership with more than a hundred and ninety (190) international and regional organizations of common interest, through active engagement in the global effort to foster the values of mutual understanding, coexistence, dialogue, rapprochement of cultures and alliance of civilizations, promote the culture of peace and justice, and present the Islamic vision to the whole world, and through its effective participation in international conferences and symposia dealing with issues of crucial importance to human culture and civilization”, he added.

In the same vein, he highlighted that ISESCO has developed 15 strategies in the vital fields in which it operates, such as the (Cultural Strategy for the Muslim World), the (Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation), the (Strategy for the Development of Biotechnology in the Muslim World), the (Strategy for Water Resources Management in the Muslim World), the (Strategy for Bringing Muslim Madhahib Closer Together), and the (Strategy for the Development of University Education in the Muslim World).

He underscored that these strategies, which were approved by the sector-wise Islamic conferences organized by ISESCO, in association with the OIC General Secretariat, and by the Islamic Summit Conference, constitute the comprehensive framework for the Strategy for Knowledge from the Muslim Perspective; which will certainly open wider prospects for ISESCO to continue achieving its stated objectives on which the Muslim community has agreed, toward more prosperous and secure future for the Muslim world.

Likewise, he pointed out that ISESCO’s 11th General Conference, which will be held next month, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, will be another milestone in the record of achievement by this Organization, as a successful, specialized body of joint Islamic action.

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China’s Terracotta Army comes to Istanbul, Topkapı

The Terracotta Army, a collection of terracotta sculptures depicting the armies of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China, is coming to Istanbul’s Topkapı Palace on Nov. 20. Five terracotta soldiers will be on display at Topkapı Palace as a part of an exclusive joint exhibition approved by the Chinese government, as the terracotta soldiers are rarely sent overseas for display.

In addition to the soldiers, artwork from the Shanghai Museum and Beijing’s “Forbidden City” will be shown. A terracotta horse, which has never left China, will also be at the exhibition. The exhibition team, which took special measures to protect the precious pieces, said a highly-priced insurance agreement was paid to bring the terracotta soldiers to Turkey. While it generally takes two or three years to prepare an exhibition of this caliber, the team said Turkish and Chinese representatives were able to prepare the display within one year.

The exhibition will bring Turkey and China closer together through cultural exchange, as Topkapı Palace is a very important museum for Turkey and welcomes some 10,000 visitors each day, the China Art Exhibitions Association vice-manager An Yao said. The museum will host the terracotta exhibition for three months as well as a display on the Dunhuang Caves.

The Terracotta Army, also known as the “Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses,” is a form of funerary art that was buried with Qin Shi Huang in 210–209 BC for the purpose of protecting the emperor in his afterlife. The figures, dating from the third century BC, were discovered in 1974 by local farmers in the Lintong District of Xi’an in Shaanxi province.

The figures vary in height according to their roles, with the tallest being the generals, and include warriors, chariots and horses. In the three pits containing the Terracotta Army there are an estimated 8,000 soldiers and 130 chariots with 520 horses and 150 cavalry horses, the majority of which are still buried near the Qin Shi Huang’s mausoleum. Other non-military terracotta figures were also found including officials, acrobats, strongmen and musicians.

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Harvard University celebrates ‘Arab Weekend’

Harvard, 27 Dhul Hijja 1433/ 12 November 2012 (IINA) – In an aim to address issues surrounding the Arab Spring and the Arab world, the Harvard Arab Alumni Association (HAAA) and other Arab and MENA student bodies, held an Arab Weekend conference entitled “The Arab Up-rising: Sustaining the Spring- Avoiding the fall” which started on Thursday.

The 4-day event, concluded yesterday, was composed of a series of conferences tackling issues viewed as obstacles Arab countries have yet to overcome to build efficient administrations that can offer successful democratic transitions in the region, eradicating deterioration to dictatorship. In its sixth year, the Arab Weekend is considered the largest pan-Arab gathering in North America and is expected to bring in an audience of 1,000 participants.

The event attracted professionals, economists, entrepreneurs, government officials, and students from well-known schools all over the United States. “The Arab Weekend is one of HAAA’s most significant efforts to strengthen the ‘Arab voice’ at Harvard and the United States by bringing the very best of the Arab world to Harvard to showcase the excellence and diversity of the Arab world, and open channels of dialogue among global leaders to address critical issues that profoundly impact a region about which we care very deeply,” said HAAA President Amer Lahham in a statement.

Those prominent Arab figures who attended the meeting included Jordan’s former Prime Minister Samir Rifai, Egypt’s former Prime Minister Essam Sharaf, and Fouad Al-Saniora, Lebanon’s former prime minister. Conference co-chairs Noura Selim and Mohammed Sherine Hamdy, in their opening remarks said that “Arabs are looking ahead towards the future, wondering whether they will be able to sustain what they have achieved after more than a century of struggle.” Dubai’s Healthcare City Executive Director Ayesha Abdullah was present as a key note speaker along with Amr Hamzawy, a former member of the Egyptian parliament and Said Darwazah, Jordans’ former minister of health.

According to Selim and Hamdy, the conference was commended by the White House in 2011 for being “The Premier Arab World Conference.” Panel discussions varied from Syria’s ongoing conflict, to healthcare services in the region, to expanding access in energy concerns in the region, to online boom in the region and many others.

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Tunisia: Law on alternative tourism ready by end-November

Tunisia, (http://www.africanmanager.com) – The draft law organizing alternative tourism in Tunisia and relating in particular to rural lodges and guest houses will be ready by the end of November 2012, announced Minister of Tourism, Elyes Fakhfakh. This law will be a new incentive for the diversification of tourism and exploitation of new opportunities to develop the sector, he noted.

Speaking at a news conference held Monday in Hammamet, on the sidelines of the 3rd Tunisian-German tourism meeting, he also said Open Skies talks with the European Union (EU) will begin shortly, adding that the agreement will be signed before summer 2013.

With regard to the issue concerning the Salafist Jihadists and the violence that occurred recently in the country and its impact on tourism, Fakhfakh said the government applies the law to all without exception within the respect of human rights and freedom of expression. None of the tourists who visited Tunisia this year were targeted by these acts, he indicated. Over five million tourists have visited Tunisia since the beginning of this year.

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Tunisia: 3.3% growth, an undeniable reality!

Tunisia, (www.africanmanager.com) – “Official figures for the first half of 2012 show a full recovery of the national economy, said Acting Finance Minister Slim Besbes in a statement to Africanmanager. “Without question or hesitation, the current growth rate is at 3.3%, and it is a reality that cannot be denied.” This recovery, he said, has involved areas that have been already frozen since 2011, year of the Revolution, such as tourism, mining and phosphates.

The recovery has also affected other sectors such as industry and foreign direct investment (FDI) that have evolved with a growth that has exceeded the rate recorded in 2010. Indeed, a growth rate of 3.3% seems to be close to the objectives of the Government which seeks to achieve a growth rate of 4.5% in 2013 and therefore limit the budget deficit to 5 9% against 6.6% in 2012.

About investment, Slim Besbes told Africanmanager that Tunisia has recorded performances in several sectors except those related to export which have experienced some problems and some setbacks. These difficulties have already been observed since 2011, and were due to the ongoing crisis in the Euro zone, the first partner of Tunisia, which has directly impacted exports. The latter have not increased the way imports have done, he said.

That is why the Minister has recommended Tunisian companies to diversify their markets and seek opportunities in terms of competitiveness. The Acting Minister of Finance also called on the local entrepreneurs to present their goods as substitute to Chinese products. According to him, Tunisia has comparative advantages over China, thanks to its proximity to Europe, its logistics and especially the responsiveness of its market, given the opportunity for Tunisia to meet demand in a smaller time compared to several other countries. This adjust, according to him, to the situation of financial crises where customers usually prefer a fast and well defined payment deadline which may be possible only for local markets, according to the minister.

On the draft State budget for 2013, Slim Besbes stated that the volume of the budget will reach 26.600 billion dinars against 25.401 billion dinars in 2012. The main resources of this draft budget will be divided between fiscal resources (16.650 billion dinars), non-tax revenues (3.200 billion dinars) and Islamic Sukuk (1 billion dinars). The government also plans to issue 1 billion dinars of Islamic bonds during the next year and this is the first time the country uses this growing sector to fund public borrowings. An amount of one billion dinars will be available from Islamic bonds in the 2013 budget.

Estimates of the 2013 state budget are based on the mobilization of own resources, improved fiscal performance, management of loan resources and adoption of a public debt management policy. The budget requires mobilizing funds necessary for the implementation of structural reforms and strengthening, among other things, the competitiveness of the national economy.

The budget aims last but not least to improve the business climate, introduce tax incentives for public investment, support the national employment effort and provide guidance for people with low income.

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Istanbul Book Fair looks to turn a new page in literature

ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News – The International Istanbul Book Fair will be held this year amid an atmosphere of rising political tension, leading to many crucial subjects such as hunger strikes, imprisoned journalists and tried authors to be discussed in a variety of panels and meetings during the event.

The theme of the 31st International Istanbul Book Fair, organized by the TÜYAP Fair and Exhibition Organization, will be “My Childhood Is My Homeland – Children’s and Youth Literature.” The fair will host a series of distinguished writers and illustrators within this theme at the TÜYAP Fair and Convention Center in Büyükçekmece between Nov. 17 and 25.

Gülten Dayıoğlu, a Turkish children and youth literature author, was chosen as the fair’s Honorary Writer, while the Country of Honor will be Netherlands. The fair will host more than 600 domestic and foreign publishers, non-governmental organizations, and copyright agencies.

Organizers said they’ve reached the point they had strived for when first launching the fair years ago. “We reached the point we desired, but Turkey has not reached a desired position yet. There was an overt pressure during the period after the Sept 12, 1980 military coup, since a fascist military dictatorship was in power. Though the current government is civilian, the same atmosphere of fear still prevails,” TÜYAP Culture Fairs General Coordinator Deniz Kavukçuoğlu said.

“Authors, journalists, students, and scientists are being tried. Even investigations are being launched against caricatures. They talk about judicial independence, but actually there is no such thing. When a musician criticized Islam a law case was opened against him, but such an action is not carried out for Christianity or Judaism. The cult piece of Guillaume Apollinaire (Les Onze Mille Verges), which is a milestone in the world literature, was found ‘erotic’ and a law case was filed (for prohibition of the book). The world follows all these incidents. Turkey’s progress in human rights and other cultural issues is a matter of interest,” Kavukçuoğlu said.

TÜYAP is closely following book fairs held in Europe, according to Kavukçuoğlu. “In European book fairs, the themes are generally issues such as women rights, nature, and environmental concerns. They left behind the issues we are currently discussing in Turkey. They do not need to talk about the subjects like human rights anymore, since these rights are already guaranteed,” he said.

In this year’s fair, a workshop titled ‘digital publishing’ will be opened for the first time in the fair’s history. Kavukçuoğlu said they wanted to follow the latest developments, adding that they were proud of being the biggest fair in Europe. “The European fairs that we admired in the past now stay behind our book fair. They are organized in smaller areas and their numbers of visitors are less (than ours). Recently, we went to the Barcelona Book Fair and it could be only compared to the Diyarbakır Book Fair in terms of its scale.”

Kavukçuoğlu also mentioned the demand for Turkish literature abroad. “In the past you would never see a Turkish author on bookshelves (abroad), but now there are works by Orhan Pamuk, Elif Şafak and Yaşar Kemal.”

For Kavukçuoğlu, even though this picture is pleasing, it is necessary to beware of the fact that some Turkish authors trigger an Orientalist perspective on Turkey with their work. Kavukçuoğlu said there was a great increase in number and variety of the books published in Turkey when compared to the past, and Turkey comes in the second place after France in this respect, he said.

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Iranian products welcomed at India Int’l Trade Fair

TEHRAN, Nov. 17 (MNA) – Visitors to the 32nd India International Trade Fair (IITF-2012) have welcomed Iranian goods due to their high quality and reasonable prices, IRIB reported. Kinds of Iranian goods and products, including dried nuts, saffron, dates, and jewelry, are offered at Iran’s pavilion in the 14-day exhibition, which opened on Wednesday. Over 6,000 exhibitors from India and foreign countries, such as Iran, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Belarus, China, Cuba, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, South Africa and Thailand have taken part in the expo running in Pragati Maidan, New Delhi until November 27, 2012.

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Reconstruction Work of Jabul Saraj Castle Begins

November 17, 2012, Kabul (BNA) – The reconstruction work of Jabul Saraj castle began the other day.

In a ceremony attended among others by Dr. Sayed Makhdoom Raheen the minister for information and culture, Parwan governor Abdul Basir Salangi and some lawmakers, Dr. Raheen in his speech said that the people of Parwan throughout history presented religious, Jihad and resistance figures and today these people voluntarily began rebuilding the Jabul Saraj Castle.

He also said that next year in this castle an international seminar on the great personality of Imam Azam will be held. Highlighting the history of the castle, Governor Basir Salangi stated that Jabal Siraj castle was built during Amir Habibullah Khan, saying inside the compound of this castle, the museum of Jihad and resistance will be constructed.

In another development, an international agricultural exhibition was opened in Badam Bagh in Kabul. Mohammad Karim Khalili second vice-president after opening of this exhibition visited the products of exhibition outlets and encouraged the participants to do more investment in agriculture spheres.

Khalili also praised the efforts of the ministry of agriculture and irrigation for holding the exhibition and called it a positive step towards economic prosperity in the country. Khalili considered the exhibition one of the best and greatest trade exhibition of Afghanistan and added that Afghanistan still is in a position to be dependent on its traditional agriculture practices.

So the displaying of the industrial goods and advanced products of foreign countries and better usage of the modern industrial methods of foreign countries can take us to the stage to better market our products. He added that we need to further develop our agriculture products and make utmost use of the advanced technologies in this respect.

He assured the farmers of the government support for expansion of agriculture in the country which will prove effective in reduction of poverty and employment in all spheres. Mohammad Asif Rahimi minister of agriculture and irrigation said that progress in agriculture is much more than what is said.

He explained the achievements of the ministry in agriculture including expansion of arable land, production of grains, developing of orchards, saffron cultivation, improved seeds, loan systems to power and transport means as challenges in this sector.

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Call for network of Muslim media professionals in UK

London 13/11/2012 – The participants in the seminar on Means to Activate the Role of Muslim Competencies in Addressing Stereotypes about Islam in the British Media called for harnessing the efforts of made by British academic institutions to study the representation of Islam and Muslims in British media into addressing the many stereotypes about Islam and countering all related smear campaigns in a more rational way.

They commended ISESCO’s Programme for training Muslim media professionals in the West, as well as its Course to Train Journalists and Broadcasters on Addressing Stereotypes about Islam and Muslims in Western Media, and invited the Organization to hold training sessions for Muslim journalists in Britain, in collaboration with the Islamic Cultural Centre in London, and in coordination with the association Engage, in a bid to enhance their legal information pertaining to the media and human rights, so that they can defend their Muslim identity and culture within the framework of the recognized international conventions and instruments.

They also called on ISESCO to consider ways of cooperation with institutions interested in Islamophobia in Britain so as to address the phenomenon from a legal and human rights perspective, and tackle stereotypes about Islam in the British media, in line with the universally recognized values of human rights.

Emphasis was also laid on the importance of setting up associations, federations and institutions capable of coordinating the efforts and actions led by Muslim media in Britain so as to effectively use public relations and the positive involvement of media professionals in international events to this end, and deal efficiently with events and behaviors offensive to the reputation of Islam and Muslims in Britain.

The participants also called for establishing a network of Muslim media professionals in Britain, whose nucleus would be made of the participants in the seminar as founding members, and sponsored by ISESCO which will support the organization of its first meeting to be held in 2013 at the Islamic Cultural Center in London.

They also underlined the need for developing an action plan defining the academic, professional, legal and human rights aspects of the Network’s action, together with a guide for Muslim media professionals in Britain in order to facilitate cooperation and coordination among them within the framework of a professional network to address stereotypes about Islam and Muslims in the international media, establishing a data bank for documenting the various TV and digital media programmes addressing issues of Islam and Muslims in Britain, and taking advantage of the experience of Engage in this regard.

In the same vein, the participants invited ISESCO to hold regular forums bringing together Muslim media professionals in Britain and their British counterparts to conciliate their views and enhance mutual understanding through an approach respectful for journalistic ethics and cultural diversity, in such a way as to contain the phenomenon of Islamophobia, and foster the role of media in enhancing coexistence between peoples and countering such a shameful phenomenon.

They urged official authorities and Muslim businesspeople in Britain to invest in media and purchase newspapers and TV channels in order to increase access to and influence the Western public opinion. Communication officials at the embassies of Muslim countries in the UK were urged to increase their outreach and develop their performance in terms of public relations with the British media.

The seminar was held from 12 to 13 November 2012 in coordination with the Islamic Cultural Centre in London.

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Kazakhstan to set up KazAID agency to help Muslim countries

ASTANA. November 15. KAZINFORM – “Kazakhstan works at the establishment of the KazAID agency to help Muslim countries”, Kazakh Foreign Minister Yerlan Idrissov said taking the floor at the 39th meeting of the OIC Foreign Ministers in Djibouti. “Kazakhstan ranks third among the countries with the most dynamic economies in the 21st century. The country’s middle class is growing and becomes more prosperous. As of today Kazakhstan has attracted more than USD 160 bln of foreign investments. For a short period of time the country’s GDP per capita grew from USD 700 to USD 12,000, and by our assumption it is expected to reach USD 24,000 by 2017,” he added. “Kazakhstan works at the KazAID agency to render large technical support to the countries of Central Asia and other OIC member states.”

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Indonesian activists survive Israeli attack on Gaza strip

Cairo, Egypt November 16 2012 (ANTARA News) – Around 28 Indonesian activists who took part in the construction of the Indonesian Hospital at the Gaza Strip, Palestine, have survived Israeli`s onslaught. “We cannot go anywhere. Instead, we have to stay at home and be safe,” Abdillah Onim, team leader of the Indonesian activists, said on Thursday.

He explained that some of the Indonesian activists from Mer-C Indonesia are staying at the Indonesian Hospital. “Israeli`s bomb attack occurred along the Gaza Strip, so it is impossible for us to move from here,” he said. According to him, the construction of the Indonesian Hospital has been temporarily put on hold due to the threatening situation. “The construction would have continued if the bomb attack could have been stopped,” he said.

Onim said that construction had begun on the second level and most of the construction had been completed. “We request the community to pray for us because attacks may still happen,” he added. On Wednesday evening (November 14), a bomb hit a target near the Indonesian Hospital which was only 100 meters away, killing two people and injuring several others, he explained.

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Morocco Inaugurates “Green City” to Promote Youth Development

12 November 2012, Benguerir, The royal solicitude for training, the development of youth competences and the promotion of sport was mirrored anew through projects launched and inaugurated, on Monday, by King Mohammed VI in the Mohammed VI Green City.

The king launched the building works of a center for OCP industrial competences and a high school of excellence, and inaugurated a center for youth capacities development “Rhamna Skills” and a regional center for athletes training in the Mohammed VI Green City.

Totaling around 615 million dirhams, these projects will promote the employment of young people and the emergence of an intellectual and scientific elite, and will enhance industrial and economic fabrics, in addition to developing sports capacities of children and youth in the region.

The center for youth capacities development is the first operational facility carried out as part of the “OCP Skills” program planned for the Sherifian Phosphate office’s activity area. Worth 14 million dirhams, the center will increase the youths’ chances to get a job through coaching and guidance.

The high school of excellence is a non-profit, private education institution that meets the standards of sustainable development. It accepts middle school graduates and offers them scientific training and support to prepare for high school exams. It also offers post-high school courses to access leading scientific and technical schools, notably the future “Université Mohammed VI Polytechnique”.

Worth 360 million dirhams, the high school will host a residence to accommodate up to 3,000 students. As for the center for OCP industrial competences, it will be tasked with ensuring technical training for OCP collaborators and preparing for the integration of new recruits. The future center will meets international standards in industrial training and will have high-tech means. It will also contribute to the region’s socio-economic development through training in industrial security, mechanical engineering and electricity.

The regional center for athletes training comprises a training center, six-lane tracks with synthetic coating, an indoor grassy ring, areas for jumping events and terraces.

On this occasion, the King handed the local sports associations six minibuses purchased as part of the anti-poverty initiative (INDH).

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ADB Provides US$300m loan for Indonesia

November 16 2012, Jakarta (ANTARA News) – Asia Development Bank (ADB) has provided US$300 million in new loan for Indonesia to finance infrastructure development to support economic development. “Poor connectivity, inadequate infrastructure and high logistic costs have prevented Indonesia from achieving a faster economic growth and create equitable development,” Edimon Ginting, the ADB deputy director for Indonesia, said here on Friday.

Edimon said around 70 percent of the rice price differences in the country was caused by transport cost, which is high with poor condition of roads, overcrowded ports an inefficient inter-island transport system. He said connectivity and infrastructure still need to be improved although the Indonesia government has launched a series of policy reforms.

The ADB program would support the government`s efforts to accelerate development of logistic system and infrastructure to provide connections between the rural areas and growth centers in urban areas, he said. The reform program also is expected to contribute substantially to economic development and create conducive business climate and to promote participation of the private sector in opening new jobs, he said.

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Bangladesh PM Inaugurates Two bridges on Sangu River in Bandarban

RUMA, BANDARBAN, Nov 17, 2012 (BSS)-Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina today inaugurated two bridges over the Sangu River ushering in new hopes for development of tourism and socio-economic life of the people in this hilly district. One of the long cherished bridges has been constructed on Chimbuk-Ruma road and the other on Chimbuk-Thanchi road under the supervision of Army Engineering Corps at a cost of Taka 26 crore.

The Prime Minister, in her first visit after the Awami League-led Mohajote government took office in 2009, arrived Bandarban by an air force helicopter this morning. The Prime Minister first inaugurated the 217.15-metre Ruma Bridge and later flew to Thanchi to open the 216.44-metre Thanchi Bridge.

Addressing a meeting on the occasion at Sadarghat here, the Prime Minister said peace is now prevailing in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) as her government signed the peace treaty in 1997. She urged the people not to be misguided by any quarter to do anything which might be detrimental to peace in the CHT.

She said, CHT Regional Council, district administration and Bangladesh Army are working together for development of the CHT. The prime minister said since signing of the CHT accord, the Awami League government is making relentless efforts for upliftment of the socio-economic condition of the CHT people.

“The two bridges would be a great boost to this end through connecting remote areas of CHT and spurring economic activities in the areas,” she said. The bridges would help carrying the agricultural products to marketing centers as well as reaching education, health and other services to hilly people, she said adding it will also help development of small and medium industries in the CHT.

Communications Minister Obaidul Qader, PM’s Advisor Gowher Rizvi and Major General (retd) Tareque Siddiqui, State Minister for CHT Affairs Dipankar Talukder, chairman of CHT Development Board Bir Bahadur, president of Chittagong north district unit of Awami League Engineer Mosharraf Hossain, MP, Army Chief General Iqbal Karim Bhuiyan, PM’s Principal Secretary Sheikh M Wahid Uz Zaman and Press Secretary Abul Kalam Azad accompanied the Prime Minister.

Sheikh Hasina thanked the Bangladesh Army for their efforts for construction of the bridges and people of the CHT as well for their support in this regard. She said the Awami League government has chalked out development programmes for the CHT according to local perspectives. “We want to build Bandarban as a hub of the country’s tourism,” she said.

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GCC assets may double in 5 years

Emirates 24/7 – 11 November, 2012 – Strong oil prices could nearly double the foreign assets of Gulf hydrocarbon producers over the next five years following a sharp rise in the assets in the past decade. Forecasts by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) showed many members of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) could revert to financial deficits after a couple of years but it said that the assets would still rise during that period.

In a study on the 31-year-old Gulf alliance, the Washington-based IMF said the GCC’s total foreign assets could exceed $3 trillion by 2017 compared with a projected $ 1.9 trillion at the end of 2012. In the downside scenario, the assets could swell to around $ 2.2 trillion at the end of that year, it said. The IMF gave no figures on the GCC’s current assets but estimated by the Institute for International Finance (IIF) showed they stood at $1.6 trillion at the end of 2011.

“The impact on public external assets is primarily driven by the accumulation of current account balances over the medium term. Since the majority of the GCC countries either remain in surplus or only record a deficit beyond 2015 (Oman being the exception), the GCC’s total public external assets increase even in the downside scenario,” IMF said.

“The accumulation of assets would, however, slow down significantly and fall in some countries. Under the baseline scenario, the GCC’s total public external assets are projected to reach over $ three trillion by 2017 while in the downside scenario they reach $ 2.2 trillion (up from a projected 1.9 trillion at end-2012).”

A breakdown by the Washington-based IIF showed Saudi Arabia had the largest foreign assets in the GCC at the end of 2011, standing at around $ 614 billion. They are controlled by the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA), central bank. The UAE had the second largest assets of $ 503 billion, most of which are controlled by the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, one of the world’s largest sovereign wealth funds.

Kuwait’s foreign assets were estimated at around $ 306 billion while they stood at nearly $ 59 billion in Qatar, $ 18 billion in Bahrain and $ 16 billion in Oman. The IIF expected the GCC’s combined assets to rise to $ 1.9 trillion at the end of 2012 and nearly $ 2.13 trillion at the end of 2012.

Its figures showed the six members basked in their highest current account surplus of around $ 327 billion in 2011 after oil prices soared to a record average of $ 107 a barrel. The IIF, which groups major Western banks, projected the surplus to break another record of $ 358 billion in 2012 before it receded to nearly $ 262 billion in 2013.

According to the IMF, in the downside scenario, four GCC countries are projected to experience current account deficits by 2017 (Bahrain, Oman Qatar, and Saudi Arabia) with Oman recording the largest projected deficit at over 17 percent of GDP.

Comparing the baseline projection for 2017 with the downside scenario for the same year, the UAE and Bahrain are the least affected, with declines of 8 and 7 percent of GDP, respectively, reflecting the more diversified nature of these economies, it said. Turning to fiscal balances, it said the GCC states would under the downside scenario go into deficit by 2014, and all their economies would run fiscal deficits by 2017.

Bahrain and Oman stand out with deficits of 16 percent of GDP each, but Saudi Arabia is also projected to reach a double digit deficit, it added. GCC countries, sitting atop 40 per cent of the world’s proven oil deposits, have enjoyed massive financial surpluses over the past few years because of a large increase in crude prices.

The recent period was in sharp contrast with that during 1990s, when they reeled under heavy deficits because of low oil prices and output. During 2008-2012, Saudi Arabia alone is projected to earn a whopping $ 1.18 trillion from oil exports, more than double its total income in 10 years during the 1990s.

The UAE’s 2008-2012 revenues are expected to reach around $ 369 billion while those of Kuwait and Qatar could peak at $ 357 billion and $ 113 billion, according to the London-based Centre for Global Energy Studies, which is owned by former Saudi oil minister Ahmed Zaki Al Yamani.

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Sharjah gears up for Halal Congress ME

Khaleej Times – 11 November, 2012 – Leading Halal experts, scientists and promoters have confirmed their participation as speakers and panelists for the Halal Congress Middle East to be held in Sharjah on December 11 and 12, along with the first International Halal Food Middle East trade exhibition.

Speakers who have confirmed their presence include Dr Muhammad Munir Chaudry from the US, Saber Khan from the UK, Dr Hani Mansour Al Mazeedi from Kuwait, Haluk Dag from Turkey, Dr M.H. Shojaee from Iran, Mariam Abdul Latif from Malaysia, Dr Abdulla Salim Abu-Ruwaida from the UAE, Dr Ali Fanous from Germany, Anna Maria Aisha from Italy, Mohammad Jinna from India, Farhan Tufail from Switzerland and Molana Navlakhi from South Africa, among others.

The two-day event will be held at Expo Centre Sharjah in association with the Halal Development Council of Pakistan. “The response to the inaugural Halal Congress Middle East has been overwhelming. Going by the initial list of the speakers and panelists, the very first edition of the congress is going to be a landmark event for the global Halal industry. With several more weeks to go, we expect to rope in some more eminent people to the event,” said Saif Mohammed Al Midfa, director-general of Expo Centre Sharjah.

“The speakers are well-known names in their respective field of trade or service and will present their topics with utmost clarity and ease. They include professionals, experts and businessmen who have made a name for themselves in the Halal industry. Their in-depth knowledge and understanding of the industry will enrich the congress and enlighten the participants,” Al Midfa added.

On day one of the congress, the speakers will take up topics such as “Overview and opportunities available in American and European Halal markets”, “Common mistakes committed by international Halal certification bodies”, “Developing a global Halal assurance system”, “Ensuring integrity in the supply chain”, “Protocols for traceability in Halal meat” and “Food contaminates”.

On day two, participants can expect issues like “Challenges facing the Halal pharma industry”, “Emerging Halal markets”, “Halal business opportunities around the world”, “Islamic finance” and “Halal control in in-flight catering” to be discussed threadbare. Halal Congress Middle East is a concurrent event with the first International Halal Food Middle East from December 10-12, organised by Expo Centre Sharjah in association with the Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

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Pakistan, Iran moving towards barter trade

Tehran Times – 11 November, 2012 – Pakistan and Iran are moving towards barter trade as Iranian inspectors have collected samples of Pakistani wheat for quality check, a step that may lead the two countries to an arrangement under which Pakistan will export one million tons of wheat. According to sources, an Iranian team recently visited Pakistan and took samples of wheat to soothe away fears about quality. In exchange for wheat, Tehran will export fertiliser and iron ore to Pakistan.

“Yes, Iranian quality inspectors came to Pakistan and got samples of wheat to pave the way for export,” Ahmed Bakhsh Lehri, Secretary Food Security and Research, told The Express Tribune. After examination of wheat, Pakistan will start exporting the commodity to Iran, he said. In July this year, Pakistan agreed to supply wheat at $ 300 per ton, the price prevailing at that time. In exchange, Pakistan will import fertiliser, but the two sides have yet to finalize a price.

Pakistan has a surplus wheat stock of 1.5 million tons and even after export of one million tons, 500,000 tons will be left in reserves. The headway in the barter trade plan is made after Pakistan and Iran broke a deadlock over wheat quality on the intervention of President Asif Ali Zardari in July.

Earlier in February, then water and power minister Syed Naveed Qamar and visiting Iranian Deputy Commerce Minister Abbas Ghohadi agreed that Tehran would import one million tons of wheat as well as 200,000 tons of rice. In return, Pakistan would purchase iron ore from Iran for state-owned Pakistan Steel Mills, a financially-troubled industrial giant because of acute shortage of raw material and other problems. Pakistan also agreed to import fertilizer to meet domestic demand and arrest rising prices.

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Companies from 8 countries to attend Iran Telecom Fair

Tehran Times – 11 November, 2012 – Twenty-two companies from eight countries will participate in the 13th edition of the Iran Telecom Fair, which will open on Wednesday at the Tehran Permanent International Fairgrounds. Around 185 Iranian companies will also take part in the exhibition, which will run for four days, ILNA reported. Representatives from Germany, Britain, Italy, China, Switzerland, Canada, South Korea, and Poland have attended the expo.

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Bahrain To Host World Islamic Banking Conference Dec 9

Saudi Gazette – 12 November, 2012 – The global Islamic finance industry has witnessed phenomenal growth over the past decade, with the estimated asset size now exceeding $ 1 trillion. Against this backdrop, the three-day 19th Annual World Islamic Banking Conference (WIBC 2012) will take off in Dec. 9, 2012 in Bahrain, where some 1,200 industry leaders from over 50 countries will gather to chart new growth map.

Announcing the focus of this year’s gathering, David McLean, Chief Executive of the World Islamic Banking Conference, said “the last several years has seen the international dimension of Islamic finance gaining tremendous significance as the industry continues to demonstrate its competitiveness and build scale in an increasingly globalized playing field.

The Islamic banking sector is undoubtedly well placed to play a vital role in facilitating cross-border financial flows particularly between the emerging economies which, in turn, stands to further increase the international participation in Islamic financial markets. As Islamic finance continues to become an increasingly important component of the global financial system, it is also essential that the industry adapts to the new dynamics of global finance in order to achieve sustainable growth.”

He also said “held under the theme ‘Islamic Finance: Adapting to the New Dynamics of Global Finance’, WIBC 2012 will be a key enabling platform for industry players to innovate the next generation of Islamic finance solutions that will meet the increasingly complex needs of corporate borrowers, consumers, issuers and investors; and create the conditions that will build a more globally harmonized footprint for their institution – that, if achieved, will propel the Islamic finance industry to the next level of success.”

The event will commence with a series of pragmatically focused pre-conference summits led by experienced and respected international industry standard-setting bodies and experts.

WIBC 2012 will also feature a special guest address by Jaloul Ayed, Former Minister of Finance of The Republic of Tunisia, who will discuss the potential for Islamic finance in Maghreb countries as exciting new opportunities emerge in a transformational landscape.

A key highlight of WIBC 2012 will be the exclusive Industry Leaders’ Power Debate led by internationally respected CEOs and decision-makers from the key players in the industry. Commenting on their participation at the event, Mohamed Jamil Berro, Group Chief Executive Officer of Al Hilal Bank said that “due to its substantial growth and reliability, Islamic finance has now become a global phenomenon with a number of non-Muslim countries also showing keen interest in this dynamic industry.

While the conventional banking and finance industry recuperates from the effects of the global financial crisis, there is now an excellent opportunity for Islamic finance to prove its competitiveness and enhance its profile in the global financial landscape.”

“This calls for a stronger industry architecture that would allow for the most efficient functioning of the industry not only within national economies but also across borders. The World Islamic Banking Conference (WIBC) with its very high-profile international participation, sets the perfect stage for such discussions. We are delighted to be supporting this unique global gathering,” he added.

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Halal industry estimated at $ 2.1tr per annum

Gulf Today – 13 November, 2012 – The UAE is one of the biggest markets for Halal products in the Middle East as the informal talks are under process with government and private bodies, organisations through Dubai Chambers of Commerce and Industry. The total export from Malaysia was recorded around $ 4.8 billion as well as import was around $ 2.4 billion in 2011.

This was stated by YB Datuk Hajah Rohani Binti Haji Abdul Karim, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Domestic Trade, Co-operative and Consumerism (MDTCC), Malaysia at the 5th edition of 3-day Halal Expo 2012 which started in Dubai on Monday. The expo, a dedicated business-to-business industry platform in the UAE, opened its doors as 60 companies including global suppliers of Sharia-compliant Islamic products and services gathered to tap the immense opportunities of the globally booming $ 2.1 trillion Halal market. She said that the global Halal industry estimated at $ 2.1 trillion per annum is booming as demand for Halal goods and services surges on back of a growing Muslim population.

“The global Halal food industry clocking $ 667 billion, accounts for 20 per cent of the entire global food industry and continues to grow at 16 per cent per annum. Increasing purchasing power along with a young 60 per cent population under 30 years in Muslim majority countries ensures a sustained and steadily increasing demand,” she added.

The 3-day Halal Expo 2012 expected to attract more than 4000 trade visitors from 58 countries, is a major participation from Malaysia lead by YB Datuk Hajah Rohani Binti Haji Abdul Karim, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Domestic Trade, Co-operative and Consumerism (MDTCC), Malaysia, who also chaired the Dubai-Malaysia Business Forum organised on the sidelines of the exhibition.

She pointed that the officials from her ministry are also present at the expo to promote franchise of Halal products in Malaysia as well as in UAE. “Out of 14 states in Malaysia, five ‘Halal Parks’ have been set up with industries dealing to Halal food products and services as the number is increasing with every year. We are also here to provide maximum supports to the potential investors who ready to take this opportunity of franchise business in Malaysia,” she added.

She pointed that currently 196 foreign companies including two from UAE have franchise in Malaysia and they are taking part in the Halal Expo to seek more from the UAE as well as from the GCC countries. To a question regarding the Halal certification, she said that through the extensive efforts by the government and its various agencies all 14 states have been using the certification by single authority, Jabatan Kemajuan Islam Malaysia (JAKIM) or Department of Islamic Development Malaysia.

“We are seeking OIC support for a unified Halal certification authority to be used throughout the Muslim world as with every passing day, the market for Halal products like edible item, daily use hygiene products, cosmetics and services increasing as we are receiving inquiries from Japan, Taiwan and China regarding these products,” she said.

The Deputy Minister also added that, “Malaysia has emerged as the South Asian hub of the Halal industry as Halal exports rose by 50 per cent clocking $ 12billion last year. The GCC countries hold high potential for Malaysian exporters and manufacturers.”

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Iran-Iraqi Kurdistan Economic Cooperation Commission Convenes

ERBIL, Nov 15, (NNN-IRNA) – Iran’s economic delegation, led by Vice-President for International Affairs Ali Saeedlu, and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Prime Minister Nechirvan Idris Barzani in a two-hour closed door session underlined further expansion of bilateral economic relations and in the technical and engineering domains in particular.

The meeting focused road and border cargo transport, formation of joint committee to solve road transport problems, non-stop transport of cargo from Iran to Iraqi Kurdistan province and financing establishment of common border industrial townships.

Among other issues discussed in the meeting were licensing activity of common aviation companies, stopping export of seasonal agricultural products, establishing tourism and air line companies, expansion of sports and cultural cooperation, setting up common offices on the border points, standardizing road transport, and further activation of the border markets.

A number of Iranian economic activists and deputy ministers as well as governors general of provinces of Kermanshah and Kurdestan province of Iran were present in the meeting.

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Egyptian Economy Offers Promising Opportunities For Kuwaiti Investors

KUWAIT, Nov 14 (KUNA) — Egyptian Ambassador to Kuwait Abdulkarim Suleiman said Wednesday the economic infrastructure of his country offers more ample opportunities for Kuwaiti investors now than ever. “The Egyptian government has put an end to the monopoly policy which used to scare off investors before the revolution of January 25, 2011,” Suleiman told reporters after opening the ninth Egyptian real property fair here this evening.

“The heavy turnout by the Kuwaiti firms and public at the fair this year signals a flourishing event and sends an upbeat message to the organizers,” he said. The real property market is usually full of promise; the Egyptian market started to revive in the recent months after the instability in the wake of the revolution, he said, noting that many Arab and foreign investors are investing heavily in Egypt.

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Kuwait Supports Palestinian Reforms With US$50 Million Grant

WASHINGTON, Nov 15 (NNN-KUNA) — Kuwait and the World Bank signed here on Wednesday a USD 50 million grant agreement to support the ongoing Palestinian Reform and Development Program (PRDP). The agreement was signed by Kuwait’s Ambassador to the US, Sheikh Salem Abdullah Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, and World Bank Vice President for the Middle East and North Africa region, Inger Andersen. World Bank Executive Director and Dean of the Executive Board Merza Hasan witnessed the signing.

This amount is in addition to the USD 180 million that Kuwait provided to the PRDP World Bank-administered multi-donor trust fund since 2008. In remarks to KUNA, Sheikh Salem reiterated Kuwait’s steadfast and continued support for the Palestinian cause, affirming that Kuwait’s support for the Palestinian people will remain steadfast as it is a main issue for the Kuwaiti leadership and people.

The Ambassador said, “the State of Kuwait considers the budget support to the PA crucial, as ways of ensuring the social and economic well-being of the Palestinian citizens.” He reiterated that Kuwait “is , and will always , remain to be steadfast in its support to the Palestinian people.”

The contribution will help support urgent budgetary needs the Palestinian Authority (PA) is facing, providing inter alia support for education, health care and other vital social services for the Palestinian people and for the economic reforms currently underway. For her part, Andersen said the PRDP Trust Fund “is central in supporting Palestinian reforms and development plans and we are grateful to the State of Kuwait for its contribution.”

“The World Bank’s involvement in supporting and monitoring the reform efforts will strengthen the PA’s capacity to sustain a number of significant reforms introduced to date, and to bolster further progress,” she added.

On the other hand, Merza Hasan stressed that “the State of Kuwait;s contribution is highly significant and timely given the fiscal challenges the PA is facing. It will ensure continuity of its institution-building and better public service delivery reforms.”

The World Bank PRDP Trust Fund was established in April 2008 when an agreement was signed between the World Bank and the Palestinian Authority during the 2008 World Bank-IMF Spring Meetings. It is a central component of a World Bank effort to support the ongoing Palestinian Reform and Development Plan.

In addition to Kuwait, the governments of Australia, France, Norway, and the UK regularly contribute to this Fund. With the new contribution from Kuwait, the trust fund will reach nearly USD 900 million, of which approximately USD 850 million have already been disbursed.

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Lebanon Chamber Of Commerce Stresses Expansion Of Ties With Iran

QAZVIN, Nov 17, (NNN-IRNA) – Secretary General of Federation of the Chambers of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture of Lebanon, Tofiq Bedussy has called for the expansion of economic relations with Iran. He made the remarks in a meeting with members of Qazvin Chamber of Commerce.

‘There are good common grounds for cooperation between Tehran and Beirut; Iranian merchants can use Lebanon as a transit channel to transfer their goods to other Arab countries; some countries are against the development of ties between Iran and Lebanon but the two countries’ merchants should use the opportunity in the interest of the two countries.’

He said Iran had a good industrial potential in providing Lebanon with its requirements and Lebanon is ready for exporting bananas, apples, olives oil and other agricultural products to Iran. Iran and Lebanon enjoy cordial relations and have further expanded these ties in recent years.

The two sides have exchanged several delegations of high-ranking officials in the last three years. Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad paid a landmark visit to Beirut in October 2010. The two countries signed a cluster of economic agreements during President Ahmadinejad’s visit.

Iran’s ambassador to Lebanon, Ghazanfar Roknabadi, said the visit was ‘aimed at fostering unity among the Lebanese and calling all Lebanese to stand beside each other for resistance and that is why the Zionist regime is furious and has threatened Lebanon.

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Kashmir Valley Sees Unprecedented Tourists Rush In Off-Season

SRINAGAR, India Nov 11 (NNN-PTI) — Tourists seem undeterred by the prevalent chill in Kashmir, as they are thronging the Valley in large numbers during the off-season. An unprecedented rush in tourist arrivals was witnessed in the Valley in September and October, which are usually considered off-season for tourism in Kashmir, Deputy Director of Tourism (Publicity) Azmat Ali told PTI.

“As many as 64,000 tourists visited Kashmir in the month of September and 69,000 in October,” Ali said. And it is not just domestic tourists, but foreigners as well who are visiting the Valley though in lesser, but significant numbers. Ali put the number of foreign tourists visiting the Valley in September at 2,950 and in October at 2,864.

“The number of foreign tourists is less, but we expect the number to pick up in the coming months as, during winter season, more and more foreigners visit the Valley for adventure tourism,” he said. On an average, he said, 2,100 tourists were visiting Kashmir daily.

He said this year, around 11,65,000 tourists visited the Valley, 31,461 of them being foreigners. Popular destinations like Pahalgam, Gulmarg and Sonamarg are attracting tourists in large numbers even during the lean season, which has surprised many. “It is unusual to see such a huge rush of tourists in this season,” Mohammad Abdullah, a houseboat owner said, adding “it is very good for the business community and the state’s economy.”

The tourists, besides being enchanted by the beauty of Kashmir, are also overwhelmed by people’s hospitality. “Kashmir is the best place to spend your hard earned holidays. Not only is the place beautiful, but people here are very nice and helpful,” Yogeshwar Mehra, a tourist from Haryana told PTI.

“We (family) have enjoyed our stay here and can’t get enough of this place,” Mehra’s wife Jyoti said. Asked if militancy-related violence like the shooting in a hotel here last month had any effect on their plans, Mehra said stray incidents like that can occur anywhere.

“The point is that incidents like that can happen anywhere. But what is important is that we have to defeat those forces who want to disturb peace,” he said. “Our friends and relatives had apprehensions about this visit, but we made them understand that it was worth taking the risk,” Jyoti said.

She had a word for those who wish to visit but were a touch apprehensive: “There is no fear here. If you want to visit Kashmir, please do not think again, just pack your bags and come and I assure you that you will never regret.”

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Tasek Merimbun’s enchanted butterfly garden in Brunei

Borneo Bulletin Online – Butterflies have long fascinated us with their beauty, frailty and mysteries surrounding their lives. Unfortunately, they are extremely sensitive to the environment and have a short life span. Catching sight of these living works of art is indeed a wonderful experience that should be cherished.

Some 160 teachers and students from Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Damit Girls Arabic Religious Secondary School (SUAMPRIPAD) recently took a familiarisation trip to Tasek Merimbun Heritage Park including a visit to its newest attraction, Butterfly Garden or Taman Kulimambang.

Located close to Tasek Merimbun Gallery Hall, it serves as a centre for education, recreation and scientific research while promoting nature awareness, environmental sustainability as well as the conservation of butterflies in our region.

Opened in July this year, the garden is home to about 30 species of butterflies ranging from common ones such as the Crow and Paper Kite, to rare ones like the Great Mormon, a large butterfly that belongs to the swallowtail family and the Dead-leaf Butterfly, so named because it resembles a leaf with dark veins, until it opens its wings, revealing patterns of deep lavender and orange.

Designed as a peaceful sanctuary with a bridge, ponds and benches, it lets people view the life cycle of butterflies from their eggs to the moment they unfold their wings. Also in the beautiful landscaped garden are pitcher plants, ixora, lantana and fruit trees.

The first butterfly the students saw as they entered the garden enclosure was an adult Common Crow (Euploea core), a glossy black butterfly with white spots on the fore wings and a band of elongated spots on the hind wings. It flitted through the foliage, totally oblivious of their presence and would come to rest on a flower blossom, almost as if asking to have its photo taken.

Along the way, there are signs providing interesting facts about butterflies and moths- both come from the same group of insects, which is the biological order of Lepidoptera. Butterflies generally fly during the day and possess vivid coloured wings held erect when at rest. Moths on the other hand are nocturnal, with duller colours and fold their wings flat when at rest.

You can learn about the life cycle and mating habits of the butterflies at the nursery and breeding area. Butterflies undergo complete metamorphosis in which they go through four different life stages; from an egg smaller than a grain of rice, to larva or caterpillar, to pupa and finally to a beautiful flying adult.

For the students, the real interest here lies in viewing butterflies flying in their natural habitat, not watching them in glass bottles, jars or in collection boxes. The park taught them a great deal about the endlessly fascinating world of butterflies.

The next time you go outdoors, examine the undersides of leaves. With luck you may find an egg or larva. Carefully pluck the leaf with the egg on it and keep it in a closed container. Clean out the container and feed the caterpillar fresh leaves every day. When the caterpillar matures, it will become a motionless pupa on the side of the container. Now, all you have to do is wait.

The rewarding experience of seeing your own butterfly emerge from its shell and spread out its gorgeous wings cannot be described with words. After witnessing the struggles a caterpillar must overcome before finally developing into an awe-inspiring creature, people will only feel deep respect for these wonderful creatures.

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Penang’s Peranakan Mansion – Legacy of almost extinct Peranakan Culture

Mohammad Abdullah

Borneo Bulletin Online – When one mentions ‘Peranakan,’ one always thinks of nobility. Those of Malay origin use the word Peranakan to refer to as a family of influence of Chinese origin. In Penang, the Peranakan is a unique community that has, over the centuries, blended Chinese and Malay customs, language, fashion and cuisine.

In Penang, where the influence of the Peranakan was strong, much of what they left behind are preserved. The Blue Mansion is so strictly guarded that visitors and tourists who visit the house may not take pictures during the one-hour guided tour. The Green Mansion, friendlier to visitors and tourists, has been used as the backdrop and set of many modern Chinese movies and soap operas.

The Green Mansion’s concept is to let as much people know about the old Peranakan culture and how their lifestyle was during the days of old. It belongs to Chung Keng Quee (Kapitan) from China, who made his fortunes in Penang. Although an immigrant, he was greatly influence by the Straits Chinese (called the “Peranakan”) culture. He commissioned his stately mansion to be built incorporating the strong Peranakan architectural design.

The millionaire philanthropist was highly respected by the Chinese and European communities in the early colonial settlement. He was a leader of the Hai San Clan, and a member of the Commission for the Pacification of Larut. He sat as one of the six members of the Advisory Perak State Council appointed by the British. All this gave him a strong influence over administrative matters of Chinese community after the founding of Penang.

The mansion was lavishly furbished with elegant ceramic floor tiles from England, beautiful iron casted art work from Scotland for the balconies and railings and elegant carved-wood panels and screen for the doors and walls from China. The building was refurnished and turned into a “Baba Nyonya” Museum to showcase the lifestyle and culture of the eclectic Chinese Straits Settlement in Penang. Gentlemen were known as “Baba” and the ladies as “Nyonya”.

At the main entrance of the mansion are a pair of elaborated and intricately carved Chinese wooden panel painted in gold. The open carving all over the panel is meant to create a delicate oblique view of the interior of the mansion from the exterior.

There are two side entrances with ornamental wrought iron gate hinged on to a concrete pillar. A metal crown sits on top of each side of the pillar which signifies the glory of the British Empire era in Penang. The right hand side entrance opens up to a court yard. From here gold painted floral designed cast iron railing with designs from the Victorian extravagance era on the veranda. The other side entrance lead into the ancestral temple with its roof decorated with ornate ceramic colourful sculptures.

The inside of the building is filled with artefacts and thousands of antiques and collectables. The wing closer to the main road was meant for gatherings. The smaller chamber was the place for the ladies to enjoy their card game and chewing of betel nuts. The main entrance leads to the waiting lounge and the central air well. A majestic wooden Chinese archaising carved filigree screen called “pingfeng” separates these two chambers. It is believed that the screen will break the flow of the “evil spirit” and prevent it from flowing into the house from the main entrance and at the same time conceal the seductive charm of beautiful women of the house from the male visitors.

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Manado to host Asia Media Summit 2013

November 15 2012 Manado, N Sulawesi (ANTARA News) – The North Sulawesi provincial capital of Manado will host the 10th Asia Media Summit (ASM) on May 29-30 next year, a Communications and Information Ministry official said.

The summit will be organized by the Asia Pacific Institute for Broadcasting Development (APIBD) which serves as collaboration of member states, partners and international organizations, the ministry`s director general of information and public communication, Freddy H. Tulung said here on Wednesday. APIBD has 46 member states and around 100 broadcasters, he said.

Freddy said the summit will discuss a wide range of issues related to broadcast, content, ethics, technology and other strategic issues at local level. The topics of the summit will be divided into media and diversity, role of media in building national self-reliance, literacy media and media ethics, he said.

“The founding fathers adopted diversity as unifying force of the nation. The rising number of conflicts (in recent months) is the result of poor social cohesion. Is it still relevant?” he asked. About the development of national self-reliance, Freddy questioned the role of media. “In the context of North Sulawesi, does tolerance merely become the domain of families and schools?” he said.

He said as media is no longer censored and shut down, publication companies must conduct self-censorship.

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West Sulawesi to establish rattan industry in 2013

Thu, November 15 2012 Mamuju, W Sulawesi (ANTARA News) – The government of West Sumatra will set up a rattan industrial area in the Mamuju District of West Sulawesi in January 2013. Samiran, the head of Industry and Trade Cooperative Office of West Sulawesi, said that the design of the rattan industry and the environmental impact analysis (AMDAL) have been completed. In addition, the estimated budget for construction has been set aside.

West Sulawesi has been proclaimed as a rattan industry area by the Forestry Minister, Zulkifli Hasan, the Trade Minister, Gita Wiryawan and the Industry Minister, MS. Hidayat, during a visit to the province last February. The rattan industry will be spread across four hectares of land, said Samiran.

The government, through the Forestry Ministry, has established West Sulawesi`s wet forest, which covers 12,000 hectares, as a key resource for the rattan industry. Moreover, the Governor of West Sulawesi, Anwar Adnan Saleh, said that rattan is a long-term industry that needs to be developed in the province, to improve the local economy.

“West Sulawesi is an ideal location for the rattan industry, since the region is one of the largest rattan producers in Indonesia. The region produces approximately 50,000 tonnes of rattan every year,” Governor Saleh said. The Industry Ministry has conducted research on domestic and international markets and has generated a list of 13 countries in Europe and Asia which are keen on purchasing rattan from West Sulawesi.

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Southeast Sulawesi promotes soybean cultivation

November 16 2012 Kendari, Southeast Sulawesi (ANTARA News) – The Southeast Sulawesi Agriculture Department is encouraging farmers to cultivate soybeans in an effort to support Indonesias food security, according to the departments spokesman, Amir Ridwan. “The local government is promoting soybean cultivation in the province in order to meet the demand of the local market and to support the nation`s food security,” he said here.

“Through increased soybean cultivation, we are optimistic about meeting the local demand as well as boosting the country’s food security,” Ridwan noted. He stated that the total area of land under soybean cultivation has increased to 3,112 hectares, with productivity at 900 kg per hectare.

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Indonesia gets US$300m ADB loan

November 16 2012 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – Asia Development Bank (ADB) has provided US$300 million in new loan for Indonesia to finance infrastructure development to support economic development. “Poor connectivity, inadequate infrastructure and high logistic costs have prevented Indonesia from achieving a faster economic growth and create equitable development,” Edimon Ginting, the ADB deputy director for Indonesia, said here on Friday.

Edimon said around 70 percent of the rice price differences in the country was caused by transport cost, which is high with poor condition of roads, overcrowded ports an inefficient inter-island transport system. He said connectivity and infrastructure still need to be improved although the Indonesia government has launched a series of policy reforms.

The ADB program would support the government`s efforts to accelerate development of logistic system and infrastructure to provide connections between the rural areas and growth centers in urban areas, he said. The reform program also is expected to contribute substantially to economic development and create conducive business climate and to promote participation of the private sector in opening new jobs, he said.

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PM seeks expanded market of Bangladeshi products in Belarus

DHAKA, Nov 12, 2012 (BSS) – Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina today sought expanded market of Bangladeshi products in Belarus as her counterpart in the European nation Mikhail Myasnikovich met their first such summit. “Our Prime Minister urged Belarus to import in increased volume readymade garments, jute products, frozen food, ceramics and other such exportable during her talks the Belarus premier,” a senior foreign ministry official familiar with the talks told BSS.

The Belarus side, he said, noted the call and assured her of extending hands also to ensure expanded entry of Bangladeshi products to Customs Union between Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Russia founded in 2010 as the three countries opted for economic integration removing all customs borders.

Sheikh Hasina, he said, noted with satisfaction that despite the past two decades of diplomatic ties with the former Soviet Union state, Dhaka-Minsk relations grew rapidly in the past 10 months with several engagements and exchanges.

The official said the Belarus premier told Sheikh Hasina that his country was interested in long-term cooperation with Bangladesh as it already proposed installation of plant of its world reputed Minsk Tractor Factory in Bangladesh and finalized several other investment projects at private sector level.

A prime minister’s office spokesman earlier said the two premiers earlier met ahead of the formal talks at the Prime Minister’s Office. The two premiers, he said, expected the two countries to be able to give a tangible shape the proposals for enhanced cooperation for mutual benefit ahead of the first meeting of Bangladesh-Belarus Joint Commission, set for next year in Minsk.

The meeting came a day after Myasnikovich arrived Dhaka on a three-day tour which already yielded a dozen of bilateral pacts, including seven agreements and five MoUs in areas ranging between investment promotion to military technical cooperation as well as collaborations in the fields of agriculture, education, science and technology and think tanks.

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Dhaka-Ankara to raise trade volume to US$ 3 billion

DHAKA, Nov 12, 2012 (BSS) – Bangladesh and Turkey today showed interest to increase trade volume to US$ 3 billion in next three years to reap highest bilateral benefit through stepping forward economic cooperation. Both the countries expressed their interest at a press briefing after a two-day “Bangladesh-Turkey Joint Economic Commission” meeting held at the NEC-II conference room in city’s Sher-e-Bangla Nagar.

Turkey also expressed its interest to provide long-term support in petroleum products and LNG export to Bangladesh in the public sector. The issue of direct flight from Chittagong to Istanbul was also discussed. The Turkish side showed interest in the field of agriculture, industries, health, energy, education and training as well as expressed that they would like to involve more in training and capacity building related activities.

Finance Minister AMA Muhith led the Bangladesh side while Turkish Minister for Labour and Social Security Faruk Celik led the Turkish side in the 4th JEC meeting. The representatives of the two countries inked a protocol of the Fourth Session of Joint Commission for Trade, Economic, Technical Cooperation between the Peoples Republic of Bangladesh and the Republic of Turkey’ highlighting 17 areas of cooperation.

About boosting the trade volume, Turkish Minister Faruk Celik said both the countries need to overcome bureaucratic problems with their friendly relations apart from promoting diversification of goods. He opined that the real potentials of both the countries lies in young population as majority of the population of these two countries are young. “We can transfer it in to skilled labour force,” he said.

On the issue of manpower export, Faruk Celik said they are well ahead of that process as his country’s contractors would come to Bangladesh to assess the situation. Addressing the press briefing, Finance minister Muhith said potentials of boosting the trade volume between the two countries is good as the trade volume was less than 300 million in 2008, but shoot up to US$ 1 billion in 2010.

“Attempts will be there to shoot for very large targets,” he added. Muhith said that the Bangladesh’s economy is growing fast as the exports rose $ 25 billion against the imports of US$ 31 billion in 2011. But, he cited that Bangladesh’s exports accounted for just US$ 15 billion while imports US$ 18 billion just three years back. “So, we’ve every reason to hope and it would be better,” he said.

Replying to a query about the waiver of 17.5 percent duty on Bangladeshi apparel export to Turkey, Muhith said this was discussed certainly in the JEC adding that Turkey imposed such duty not only on Bangladeshi goods, but in all of their imports. “We discussed it, came up in connection with the FTA (Free Trade Agreement)..a matter of negotiation,” he added.

In this regard, the Turkish Minister said that if official request for FTA is sent from Bangladesh, Turkey would send a delegation to Bangladesh. Faruk Celik said that the political relationship between the two countries is going fruitful and his government attaches great importance to the decisions taken at the recent JEC as it embarked a protocol highlighting 17 topics.

During the two- day JEC meeting, various issues of mutual interests were discussed including trade promotion activities, investment, Turkish ODA support to Bangladesh under TIKA grant facility, set up TIKA local office in Dhaka, cooperation in agriculture, industries, food security, health, manpower, export, energy, civil aviation, importation of petroleum products, free trade agreement and capacity building.

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8 million tourists have visited Egypt: Minister

Dalia Farouk, Tuesday 13 Nov 2012 – Around 8.1 million tourists visited Egypt over the past ten months, injecting some $10 billion into the economy, announced Minister of Tourism Hisham Zazou on Monday during the annual conference of the Scandinavian embassies in Cairo. Zazou added that around 96 million overnight stays by tourists in Egyptian hotels were recorded in the same period.

Malin Karre, the Swedish ambassador in Cairo, said that Scandinavian tourists consider Egypt to be one of the best beach tourism destinations worldwide. The Egyptian minister confirmed that beach tourism in the country has bottomed out, while cultural tourism in Luxor and Aswan is suffering due to the negative impacts of political events.

He hopes that the number of tourists will reach 11 million by the end of 2012. Zazou referred to the tourism as a vital pillar of the national economy, representing 11.3 per cent of Egypt’s gross domestic product and 17 per cent of its foreign currency reserves, in addition to 12.6 per cent of the total manpower of the state, with four million people directly employed in the industry.

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Bahrain opens Arabian Nights-themed national theatre

Reuters, 14 Nov 2012 – Bahrain’s King Hamad opened one of the largest theatres in the Middle East this week as part of a drive to smooth over months of unrest that have rocked the Gulf Arab state. But the creation of an elegant cubic glass structure with a golden-coloured roof by the seaside may do little to quell lingering unrest between the minority Sunni ruling elite and majority Shi’ite population of a small oil-producing Gulf kingdom that is also home to the U.S. Fifth Fleet.

The new 1,001-seat Bahrain National Amphitheatre was built at a cost $50 million with an Arabian Nights theme and will stage a busy season of performances that include Russia’s Bolshoi Theatre and Spanish tenor Placido Domingo. “This theatre adds a great deal, through cultural activities that bring people close and embodies the dreams of every citizen,” Bahraini Culture Minister, Sheikha Mai bint Mohammed al-Khalifa, told Reuters.

Bahrain’s government put down an uprising by Shi’ite Muslims demanding a bigger say in government just a few months ago. But violence has already picked up again and discontent lingers despite reform, including more powers for an elected parliament.

The government said last week that five home-made bombs killed two people in Manama and accused the Lebanese Hezbollah group of being behind the attacks. Hezbollah, a Shi’ite group allied with Iran, has previously denied interfering in Bahrain. Bahrain also revoked the nationality of 31 leading dissidents, parliamentarians, clerics and human rights lawyers last week in a step that was condemned by rights organisations.

In April, the kingdom hosted guests from around the world at the Bahrain Grand Prix, signalling efforts to emerge from protests that had forced it to cancel the event last year. “Bahrain is no exception to what is happening in the world,” Sheikha Mai said. “We are living a reality that consecrates the culture of hope and which presents all that is beautiful to residents and all those who love Bahrain,” she added.

Decked with all the amenities of a modern cultural centre needed to attract world events, including a 100-seat rehearsal hall, the 11,669 square metre national theatre is the latest artistic foray in the conservative Gulf region. Last year, Oman opened the first opera house in the Gulf region in a move that also signalled a drive to push ahead with cultural activities despite protests over lack of employment and perceived corruption that briefly rocked the country.

The Gulf’s tourism and trading hub, Dubai has also unveiled plans to build its own opera house. Bahrain, an archipelago of 33 islands located between Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter, and gas-rich Qatar, is also home to the ancient Dilmun civilisation, containing one of the most ancient burial sites in the Arabian Peninsula.

Before the United Arab Emirates began attracting foreign investors in the 1990s, Bahrain served as a regional tourism, information and banking hub. Much of the international media covering the Gulf region are based in Bahrain, where some 600,000 people live. Bahraini officials say they want to regain the edge that once made the country attractive to foreign investors.

Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal is reported to be planning to launch his satellite news channel, Alarab, from Bahrain. Bahrain’s Minister of State for Information, Samira Rajab, said Bahrain was determined to find a way out of the crisis that will pave a way for it to showcase its cultural advantages.

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Egypt’s studio photography explored in exhibit through historic archive

Ahram Online, 12 Nov 2012 – The On Photography exhibition, opening on 14 November in Studio Viennoise, will be looking at contemporary approaches to photographic studio practice through an exhibition of selected historical examples. The exhibition pays tribute to well known, along with forgotten photographers. They show video testimonials describing some of the practices of the “last studios” as well as current practices.

Visitors can participate in image production through the Living Studio; a working photography studio where each photographer and artist will recreate their own practice, producing artwork that will later be showcased at the end of the exhibition. Various talks, film screenings, master classes and photo sessions with selected photographers will take place throughout the exhibition until 16 December. During the closing reception Finissage production of the Living Studio will be displayed.

The exhibition is curated by Heba Farid and Paul Geday and is part of the Photographic Memory of Egypt project by Cultnat.

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Arab cinema from 1960s to the present at New York’s MOMA

Ahram Online, 12 Nov 2012 – Currently on show at the Museum of Modern Art in New York is a film programme entitled Mapping Subjectivity: Experimentation in Arab Cinema from the 1960s to Now, Part III. It is the third and final edition of Mapping Subjectivity, a project that explores Arab film’s tackling of gender roles and shifting perspectives towards sexuality in the Middle East.

Mapping Subjectivity’s third instalment continues to look into largely overlooked works from the region, revealing how the poetics of change, brought about by political turmoil in the Middle East, are dramatised across generations and countries. Further, the series presents how Arab filmmakers have dealt with the socio-political transformations in the region through diverse and creative artistic practices.

Short films, features, documentaries and fiction from Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Syria and Tunisia are screened for a cosmopolitan audience in New York, asserting the region’s artistic range and diversity in visual language. Among the films currently screened at MOMA are a documentary by Tunisia’s Ahmed Bennys entitled Mohammadia (1974), La Nouba (1977) by Algerian writer and filmmaker Assia Djebar, and My Wife and the Dog by Egypt’s Said Marzouk (1971).

Also in the programme are two more contemporary productions that were inspired by the breakout of protests in the Arab world and the region’s desire for change. From Tunisia comes Babylon (2012) by Ala Eddine Slim, Ismael, and Yousef Chebbi, while Lamine Ammar-Khodja’s Ask Your Shadow (2012) hails from Algeria/France.

This line-up of Arab films was chosen for their experimentation with visual language and structure and the presentation of compelling drama that tackles contemporary changes in the region.

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Central Asian Composers learn from the masters

Centralasiaonline.com 2012-11-15 TASHKENT –The 8th annual Omnibus Laboratorium project in Tashkent is offering Central Asian composers a unique opportunity to broaden their outlook, mix with world-class pedagogues and musicians and hear their own compositions played by a professional ensemble, organisers said.

A group of enthusiastic composers and the modern-music Omnibus Ensemble started the Omnibus Laboratorium in 2005, initially offering master classes over a 10-day period. Now, Omnibus is recognised as a leader in music education and information in the region. The programme has gained popularity across Central Asia, and as a result this year’s offerings have expanded significantly, with a number of courses of various lengths beginning in late October and running through December.

“When Omnibus Ensemble art director Artyom Kim and I were students of the composition department at the State Conservatory of Uzbekistan, we budding composers had very limited opportunities for development,” Omnibus Laboratorium producer Dzhakhongir Shukurov told Central Asia Online. “Modern academic music performers here were few, and didn’t have enough chances for person-to-person dialogue with musicians.”

“Nor were we likely to hear our own music played by an orchestra or an ensemble,” he recalled. “Today, Omnibus Laboratory students do have this opportunity,” he said, “and this keeps the creative process going.”

Bringing musicians, composers and masters together helps to create new masterpieces, Shukurov told Central Asia Online. “Composer Nodirbek Makharov wrote a double-bass solo in close contact with double-bass player Muzaffar Rasulkhodzhayev of the Omnibus Ensemble,” Shukurov said. “The result was an interesting piece that brought the composer first prize at the Maestro international musical competition in Ukraine.”

“We realised that to boost modern music development and bridge the critical gaps in composers’ education, we needed to bring people together,” Shukurov said. “That’s what we’ve done year after year.”

Since no alternative to this project exists elsewhere in the region, students come to the Tashkent laboratory from all across Central Asia, as well as from Azerbaijan, Armenia and Turkey. “Admission to our laboratory here is absolutely free,” Shukurov said. “Not only composers but also pedagogues and musicians are welcome to attend lectures.” Nine Uzbek composers took part in this year’s programme, each contributing a personal composition.

This year’s Laboratorium programme included the first-ever series of lectures on Uzbek traditional music.

“One of the Omnibus Ensemble’s projects is Makomat, which analyses and develops a traditional Uzbek music genre, makom,” Shukurov said. Makom is a segment of Turkic classical music that relies on following one of several specific melody types. “Makomat has a variety of interesting ideas and goals – one of them to invent a new system of notation for writing down Uzbek traditional music together with ‘ornaments’ used by musicians to enrich their performance.”

“Another goal is to restore the traditional Uzbek musical keys,” he added. “These were lost during Soviet times, and many musicians in Uzbekistan today don’t understand traditional music properly.”

“Those lectures came as a kind of shock to me,” Khandamyan said. “I’d read different musical treatises from the distant past but had never asked myself why the music I hear today is totally different. It’s great we are returning to the ‘original’ understanding of folk music now.”

The Omnibus Laboratorium organisers are determined to move further and continue developing their project in the future, Shukurov said. From November 29 through December 7, for example, Omnibus will conduct a programme in Bishkek to help Kyrgyz composers explore their folk music and other topics much in the way it has in Uzbekistan.

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Turkey in top league of tourism business

ISTANBUL – Anatolia News Agency – Turkey has become one of the top 10 countries for tourism, said Turkish Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges (TOBB) President Rifat Hisarcıklıoğlu at the United Nations Tourism Summit at Istanbul’s Haliç Congress Center yesterday. The event was jointly organized by the Culture and Tourism Ministry, the Turkish Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges (TOBB).

The sector’s annual 10 percent growth in Turkey surpasses the world average at 3 percent, Hisarcıklıoğlu said. The global tourism growth will present $300 billion of revenue opportunity in the next seven years, he said. Nearly 1,200 participants, more than 300 of which were foreign, from 55 countries making up 91 percent of the global tourism sector attended the event.

Turkey has been involved in the tourism sector for about 25 years, Tourism and Culture Minister Ertuğrul Günay, said at the event. “Tourism will be one of the founding sectors of the 21st century,” he said. The global number of tourists hit 1 billion, Appointed Executive Director of the UN-HABITAT Joan Clos said, adding that the tourism sector was a part of the economy of today and tomorrow.

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IDB gives $100 million loan to Uzbekistan

Jeddah, 28 Dhul Hijja 1433/ 13 November 2012 (IINA) – Uzbekistan has raised a $100 million loan from the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) for the modernization of two hydroelectric power plants -Farkhad HPP and HPP-14 of the Lower Bozsui Cascade -in the Tashkent region.

Representatives from IDB and the Uzbek government signed a loan agreement on Tuesday in Tashkent during a meeting of the Arab Coordination Group, Interfax reported quoting an Uzbek government source. The modernization of the HPPs foresees a replacement of generators and turbines, as well as electrical equipment, relays and communications systems.

The project’s implementation will help boost the generating capacity of the two HPPs by 30 MWt in total. The project is valued at $165.7 million and will be implemented in 2012-2015. In addition to the aforementioned loan, the project will be financed with funds from state company Uzbekenergo.

Uzbekistan’s installed electricity capacity comes to 12.4 GWt, including Uzbekenergo with 12 GWt. Up to 90% of electricity in the country is produced at 10 combined heat and power plants. The country’s 29 HPPs are largely connected through a cascade system and powered by water flow. The Arab Coordination Group was founded in 1975 in order to oversee the effectiveness of operations of financial organizations such as Islamic Development Bank, Saudi Fund for Development, the OPEC International Development Fund, the Kuwaiti Fund for Arab Development, and the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development.

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Flydubai to launch flights to Maldives from January 2013

Visitmaldives.com – Flydubai, Dubai’s innovative low-cost airline, has announced flights to Malé, the capital of the Republic of Maldives (the Maldives). Commencing on 19 January 2013, flights will operate five times a week between Dubai’s Terminal 2 and the Maldives’ Ibrahim Nasir International Airport on the island of Malé.

Bringing Flydubai’s presence in the Indian Subcontinent to nine points across six countries, the new route will allow travellers from across the region to enjoy affordable fares to one of the world’s most renowned leisure destinations. “We are very excited about adding Malé to our destination network,” said Flydubai’s CEO, Ghaith Al Ghaith.

“As the first low-cost carrier from the UAE to fly to the Maldives, we are making this island paradise even more accessible to travellers across our network. Flydubai offers a low-cost model with innovation and excellent service. This proposition has proved very popular with our passengers and will undoubtedly be a draw for those looking to experience one of the world’s top holiday spots at an affordable price.”

Voted the number one island destination in the Indian Ocean by Condé Nast Traveller readers, the Maldives has advanced its tourism credentials by promoting its rich culture, vast array of luxury resort experiences, exotic culinary experiences and adventure sports ranging from paragliding to diving. The country has also remained committed to protecting its diverse ecology and champions environmentally-friendly activities. The result has been a consistent growth in visitor numbers over the years, with the Maldives welcoming almost a million tourists in 2011 – a leap of 17.6% over 2010.

The country has proved particularly popular amongst travellers from Russia, CIS and GCC, with figures revealing a 15.7% increase in tourist arrivals in the first quarter of this year compared to January to March 2011.

The report also highlighted a 77.8% increase in passengers from the Middle East over the same period with the growth linked to the opening of a number of Middle East-based hotel chains, such as Jumeirah Group’s Vittaveli Maldives which opened in December 2011. Flydubai flies to 16 points in the CIS and CEE, and more than 20 points in the Middle East.

“We anticipate a strong demand for flights from the GCC, in particular Kuwait, as well as markets such as Russia, CIS and Central & Eastern Europe. Thanks to our strong presence in both these regions, passengers will be able to fly to the Maldives via our Dubai hub,” said Ghaith Al Ghaith.

“This will be our first launch in 2013 and we look forward to welcoming passengers from across our network to this wonderful country.”

The Maldives is widely regarded as one of the world’s top holiday spots. It comprises of 1,190 coral islands, formed around 26 natural ring-like atolls and spread over 90,000 square kilometres. With a maximum natural ground level of only 2.4 metres, it is also the lowest country in the world, making it a water-lover’s paradise.

The Maldives will be the latest addition to Flydubai’s growing network of more than 50 destinations in 32 countries, spanning the GCC, Middle East, North Africa, Indian Subcontinent, Asia and Central & Eastern Europe. The representative for FlyDubai as the GSA distributor in the Maldives is Inner Maldives Holidays.

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