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24 Dec, 2012

Middle East ‘No Longer Needs Western Expat Talent’

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 24 December 2012 (10 Safar 1434). Pls click on any of the headlines to go to the story.

Watch Islamic Travel Newswire Executive Editor Imtiaz Muqbil’s landmark TEDx lecture on “Peace through Tourism” on YouTube — the first travel industry journalist in Bangkok invited to speak at this prestigious forum. CLICK HERE.

“Home-Grown Terrorism: One Swamp The U.S. Cannot Drain” and other columns gagged by the “Newspaper You Can Trust”

For 15 years (January 1997-July 2012), Imtiaz Muqbil penned a hard-hitting fortnightly column called “Soul-Searching” in a Bangkok-based English-language newspaper. In July 2012, two editors of the so-called “newspaper you can trust” censored and muzzled it, with no explanation. In defiance against that unprecedented action, and at the behest of many upset readers, a selection of the nearly 400 columns are reproduced here, with more to be added regularly. Read the censored column, and several others, by clicking here



Penang International Halal Expo & Conference 2013 from 18-20 January 2013

Halal Penang an agency of the Penang State responsible for the promotion and development of the halal industry within the State will be organizing the 4th Penang International Halal Expo & Conference 2013 from 18-20 January 2013. On 19 January 2013 the Penang International Halal Conference, themed “Halal Tourism and Hospitality – Travel the World Muslim Style”, will be held at the Eastin Hotel, Penang. Expected to attract some 200 local and foreign businessmen, hoteliers, travel agents, academics, hospitals and others, the conference will provide a comprehensive platform for the convergence of academic perspectives and business aspects of tourism for Muslim travellers. Travelling has always been an important element of Muslim lifestyle, with the first Muslims being the most advanced traders in Arabia. Furthermore, Muslims are encouraged to travel to acquire knowledge. As Muslim consumers worldwide assert their unique needs, demand for Islamic finance and Halal food is growing the travel and hospitality services market. Its growth rate is expected to outpace that of other travel segments. The halal-friendly segment of travellers is already spending close to USD 100 billion a year, a figure which is expected to grow to USD 200 billion by 2020. It is designed to educate participants on the economic perspectives of Islamic tourism and to create interest amongst travel agencies to develop Muslim travel packages.

Click here for more info: www.halalpenang.com

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

3rd Conference on Islamic Health Tourism Held in Mashhad

18/12/2012 – The Secretary General of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, Professor Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, today 18 December 2012, said that health tourism should not be something that only the wealthy can afford, but rather universal and affordable by all categories of our populations. He added that health gains can be maximized when health tourism is pitched not only at the high-end of the tourist market, but is mainstreamed across that market. This came as part of Ihsanoglu’s message to the 3rd Conference on Health Tourism in the Islamic Countries held in Mashhad, Islamic Republic of Iran, on 18 – 19 December 2012.

The Secretary General also said that he was particularly encouraged by the emerging trend at the Conference, whereby local and regional partnerships were developing with the participation of the public and private sectors becoming well pronounced.

Here is the full text of his speech:

“Let me, at the very outset; congratulate the Iran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture (ICCIMA) as well as the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran for their consistent efforts in promoting this dynamic and still emerging sector of health tourism among the OIC Member States. I am aware of the great success achieved during the two previous Conferences on the same subject and going by the high turn-out of participants and the impressive items of its agenda, it is apparent that this Conference will register even greater success.

I am particularly encouraged by the emerging trend at this Conference, whereby local and regional partnerships are developing, while the participation of the public and private sectors are becoming well pronounced. This multistakeholders’ partnership is strongly supported by the OIC.

Promoting health is at the heart of OIC policy. We have carried out, under the Science and Technology Department, a number of programmes and activities aimed at empowering Member States to provide quality health services to their citizens. We are however, aware that our Member States are at different levels of development and while some are able to cater for the health needs of their nationals, it is quite a different case with many others. This is where this noble idea of promoting health tourism within our own Member States becomes relevant for many of the citizens of our Member States who usually find themselves with no choice but to seek medical services outside their places of regular domicile and, more often than not, they opt for the Western countries or countries such as India, South Africa, Thailand and China.

What I am advocating here is the fact that increasing health tourism among OIC Member States has the singular advantage of increasing intra-OIC trade and interaction. Intra-OIC trade has increased in recent times from 14.5% in 2004 to 17.8% in 2011, even as the OIC has set for itself, under the Ten Year Programme of Action adopted in Makkah Al-Mukarammah in 2005, a target of attaining 20% of intra-OIC trade by the year 2015. I must commend the flexibility inherent in the health tourism arrangements in Iran, which is aimed at encouraging easy access to quality services by our citizens. It is also encouraging to note that issues such as a common Medical Accreditation System and medical insurances collaborations among the OIC Member States are top on the agenda of this Conference.

Having underscored the strong point for the convening of this Conference, it is important to realize that the concept of “health” involves more than just mere treatment of diseases. It implies general well-being of people. This is to say that Health tourism is about fostering well-being. It brings together the idea of promoting tourist services and facilities, with promoting health and well-being. This in turn will spur the Member States to develop the necessary infrastructure and provide the requisite resources. The availability of a health and wellness infrastructure will ultimately be an important criterion for choosing a holiday destination. This fits well in the over all economic agenda of the OIC of fostering economic and social development of its Member States.

Needless to say, health tourism should not be something that only the wealthy can afford. It should be universal and affordable by all categories of our populations. We can maximize health gains when health tourism is pitched not only at the high-end of the tourist market, but is mainstreamed across that market.

Significantly, the promotion of health tourism cut across three major planks of the OIC economic cooperation agenda. Apart from the increase in intra-OIC trade as explained above, the issue of human capital development is at the core of OIC programme as encapsulated in both the Special Programme for the Development of Africa and the OIC Plan of Action for Cooperation with Central Asia. Certainly the attainments of the Millennium Development Goals, which run through these twin projects of OIC, coincide with the objectives of this Conference.

The third area of focus of OIC is the promotion of Private Sector-led economic growth. In this regard, let me take the opportunity of this Conference to invite the Private Sector to actively get involved in our efforts at developing the tourism sector. The establishment of an OIC-COMCEC Private Sector Tourism Forum which held its maiden meeting in Izmir, Republic of Turkey on 7-8 December 2012 is one of the mechanisms we have devised to create a platform where the Public Private Sector partnerships in the field of tourism could be forged.

In conclusion, it is my hope that the recommendations made by this Conference will go a long way in promoting the laudable objectives, which the organizers seek to realize, particularly in underscoring the raison d’etre of our joint action within the OIC and for the sustained transformation of our respective economies.

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Middle East ‘no longer needs Western expat talent’

Dubai, 20 December, Africa Manager – The Middle East is no longer dependent on executive expertise from Western expatriates, said an expert, adding that those already in the region are too expensive.

Metin Mitchell, managing director of Metin Mitchell & Co, an own executive search and management advisory firm in the region, went on to say that Western expatriates in the region are now in direct competition with talent from “distressed markets” such as Greece, Italy, Spain and Ireland who will come and work for less.

Mitchell was speaking at the recent Middle East Management Forum organised by London Business School in Dubai. Recruitment trends in the region were discussed by the panel of experts who shared their views on the latest workforce developments being seen in the region. The session was conducted as part of London Business School’s thought leadership forums which provide key insights into the Middle East marketplace.

Some of the outcomes from the panel discussions included:

• The Middle East is still an attractive place for international talent, but there is growing competition from emerging markets, including China, India, Brazil, countries in Eastern Europe and Latin America.

• The main markets for recruitment growth in the region are Saudi Arabia and Qatar (particularly in infrastructure for both countries), with Lebanon also providing a growing level of opportunity.

• Nationalisation is becoming more of a focus in the GCC countries, with a significant movement in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia seeing nationals looking to negotiate 40-50% on their present packages.

• Companies are now looking for Arabic speakers first, as they provide much greater integration and a broader network, according to the panelists.

• Multinational corporations are not recruiting at the levels they were before the global economic downturn. They have large entrenched workforces around the world where they move people from A to B.

• Despite the considerable economic and political uncertainty in many parts of the world, the executive search industry has held up surprisingly well. At the end of this year, it is expected the industry will be at its third highest level ever for worldwide revenues, according to the panelists.

A key discussion area of the panel session focused on the fast changing needs of the workforce in the region and the developments being seen in recruiting expatriate talent. Said Mitchell, “With the exception of certain key talented CEOs, I am of the firm belief that across all sectors now the age of the Western expatriate in the Middle East is over.

“Western expatriates are no longer required. They don’t provide any particular value that can’t be found in other nationalities either locally or from other parts of the world.”

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UNESCO celebrates first Arabic Language Day

Geneva, 06 Safar 1434/ 20 December 2012 (IINA) – The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) celebrated Tuesday the first ever World Arabic Language Day in recognition of its role disseminating information across cultures and civilizations.

“On 18 December 1973, the United Nations General Assembly included Arabic among its official and working languages. Nearly 40 years later, we are celebrating the power of the Arabic language to bring us together around shared values, to give strength to our ideas and depth to our ambitions, for peace and sustainable development,” said Irina Bokova, Director General of UNESCO in a statement published on their website. According to UNESCO, the Arabic language is used by more than 422 million speakers in the Arab world and is used by more than 1.5 billion Muslims from all over the world today. The decision to celebrate Dec. 18 of every year as the Arabic Language Day follows the “need to implement more wide-ranging cooperation between peoples through multilingualism, cultural rapprochement and dialogue among civilizations.”

In the United Arab Emirates Dubai Culture is set to launch ‘Holal’ (Adornment), which will showcase the essence of the Arabic language by promoting its rich legacy in a contemporary approach through a series of training and support for publishers based in the country, according to Khaleej Times. In Armenia, students, professors and journalists celebrated the Arabic Language day in an event that featured Arabic dances, music, theatrical performance, with those present tasting traditional Arabic cuisine, reported PanArmenian.net. The initiative to celebrate a dedicated day for the Arabic language was proposed by Morocco and Saudi Arabia on Oct. 3 in Paris during the 190th UNESCO Executive Board session.

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ISESCO calls on Member States to double efforts to promote Arabic language

Rabat, 18 Dec. 2012 (WAM) — The Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) called on the Member States to promote the Arabic language, underlying the importance of integrating it into public life by promoting its use on a far greater scale, and stressing the need to preserve its integrity and raise it to its deserved status at all levels of education, as well as in administration and other walks of life.

ISESCO in a communique released on the occasion of the World Arabic Language Day (celebrated on December 18th of every year) highlighted the role of Arabic in the enhancement of cultural life and advancement of human civilization.

The communique explained, “The Arabic language, with its inner workings, is appropriate for all in all circumstances and all areas of life: namely, sciences, technology, administration, commerce, industry, community activism, culture and creativity.” ISESCO further stressed the necessity to give prior attention to the Arabic language in teaching and training curricula in all subject areas and at all levels of study, in its being the receptacle of the Muslim identity and the basic element in preserving the Arab Islamic culture.

Greater efforts are therefore needed to advance the Arabic language to best suit development requirements in Muslim communities within sustainable, comprehensive development perspectives, the communiqu? went on.

ISESCO also pointed out, “Arabic Language Day is celebrated on 18 December, the date on which Arabic became an official language of the UN system.” The decision to celebrate an international day for the Arabic language, ISESCO explained, is a clear indication that Arabic is recognized by the international community as an essential to linguistic rapprochement, cultural dialogue and the alliance of peoples and nations from all civilizations.

Special emphasis was placed by ISESCO on modernizing educational system with respect to cultural and linguistic diversity, as well as on strengthening attachment to Arabic as the medium through which the Arabs have greatly contributed to the advancement of human civilization throughout history. Hence the potential influence Arabic could have in economic, scientific, technological and other areas of human achievement, ISESCO further underlined.

ISESCO also stressed that Muslims have the collective duty to raise the standard of Arabic, not alone as the language of the Holy Quran, prophetic tradition and worship in Islam, but also as the conduit for the advancement of the Muslim world civilization.

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ISESCO Director General presented with Excellence and Civilization Award

Rabat 18/12/2012 – The Study Day on Arabic Language Issues started this morning at the Headquarters of the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO), in Rabat.

In the opening session, Dr Abdulaziz Othman Altwaijri, ISESCO Director General, gave an address, in which he emphasized that the decision of UNESCO’s Executive Board to make the 18th of December a World Arabic Language Day underlines the international appreciation of Arabic and of its status.

He also highlighted that ISESCO’s celebration of this day is an occasion to study the Arabic language issues, explore ways to promote it and make it able to surmount the problems it is currently facing, keep abreast of the developments and adjust with the arising mutations. In the same vein, he pointed out that “this day interests us in the first place, because Arabic is our language and is the language of the holy Quran and of Islam that unites us. It is the language of culture, and of the prosperous Arab-Islamic intellectual and literary heritage. It is the language of the civilizational identity of both Muslim and Christian Arabs, and is the language of all Muslims, who use Arabic to read their Quran and understand its meanings”.

Likewise, he underscored that Academies of Arabic language cannot promote the Arabic language alone; for such a task is a common responsibility of many parties, including the ministries of education, the ministries of higher education, the ministries of culture, the ministries of endowments and Islamic affairs, the ministries of media and communication, as well as of parliaments and legislative bodies.

Mr Mohamed Amine Sbihi, Minister of Culture of Morocco, and Mr Farouq Choucha, Secretary General of the Academy of Arabic Language in Cairo, the Secretary General of the Union of Arabic Language Scientific Academies, both delivered an address on that occasion.

Mr Abbas Al Jirari, advisor to King Mohammed VI, Dr Mohamed el-Kettani, Chargé de mission in the Royal Court, Prof. Abdellatif Berbich, Permanent Secretary of the Academy of the Kingdom of Morocco, Dr Boubacar Doukouré, Chairman of ISESCO’ Executive Council, and Dr Abdelfatah Lahjomri, Director of Arabization Coordination Office in Rabat, all attended the opening session, together with a host of intellectual and cultural figures and media professionals.

The Study Day’s agenda features scientific presentations on various issues related to the present and future of Arabic, given by Dr Abdelhadi Tazi, Dr Abdelkader Fassi Fihri, Mr Farouq Choucha, Dr Mohammed Al-Ourarhi, and Dr Moussa Chami. As part of the Study Day, an exhibition of ISESCO’s publications and of the works of the Moroccan calligrapher, Mohamed Karmad, will be held.

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Bangladesh Banks asked to streamline refinancing women entrepreneurs

DHAKA, Dec 20 (BSS) – Bangladesh Bank (BB) has directed all scheduled banks to streamline their refinancing scheme for women entrepreneurs up to the branch level in line with the central bank’s earlier directive. The central bank earlier directed all banks to offer women entrepreneurs at least 10 percent of their refinancing fund, formed with financial assistance from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

“We received complaints from the field-level that many banks’ branches showed lack of interest in providing credit support to the women entrepreneurs under the refinancing scheme,” BB’s General Manager of SME and Special Programme Department Sukomol Singh Chowdhury told BSS.

He said the central bank on Wednesday sent letters to the managing directors of banks and other financial institutions suggesting measures to activate their refinancing scheme at the branch level.

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Being Too Dependent On Others Makes Muslims Weak – Tun Dr Mahathir

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 21 (Bernama) — Not able to defend themselves and being too dependent on others are among the reasons why Muslims are getting weaker nowadays, said former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. He said they also neglected education especially in mathematics, science, architecture and technology which were required by Islam.

“This kind of learning is not secular. So, we are far behind. We are dependent on knowledge, skills from them (other religions), even to defend of our ummah (the faithful,” he said at the International Islamic University Malaysia’s Alumni Association Awards Night here.

Among the 14 award recipients were Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Senator Datuk Dr Mashitah Ibrahim, Health Deputy Minister Datuk Rosnah Shirlin, Women, Family and Community Development Deputy Minister Datuk Noriah Kasnon and Deputy Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar.

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MyCC Launches Study On Fair Competition In Malaysian Economy

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 20 (Bernama) — The Malaysia Competition Commission (MyCC) launched a RM500,000 Research Grant Programme (RGP) Thursday to determine the extent to which enterprises in a particular sector engage in fair and open competition.

MyCC Chief Executive Officer Shila Dorai Raj said the comission expected the RGP-funded research studies to provide a clearer picture of the competitiveness of enterprises in the Malaysian economy.

She said the ultimate aim of the RGP is to ensure that any action taken by the MyCC is grounded on solid and sound evidence. “The findings of these studies will be of immense benefit to the MyCC in shaping competition polices, laws, strategies and advocacy activities for the present and the future,” she said in a statement Thursday.

The RGP is open for applications from Jan 2 to April 30, 2013, where the Call for Applications 2013 is being disseminated through the MyCC website and flyers will be mailed to universities, research institutes, think tanks, and civil society organisations.

Shila said examples of research studies that can be undertaken with respect to the priority sectors include existence of anti-competitive practices such as cartelisation, collusion to fix prices, bid rigging practices, quota on outputs, and controls on market access.

The other examples are resale price maintenance, exclusive dealing, tie-in deals, abuse of dominant market position through predatory pricing, refusal to supply, imposing unfair conditions on suppliers or retailers, in specific local markets or geographical regions in Malaysia.

“In implementing the RGP, the MyCC has announced that it will be relying on competition policy and law experts and practitioners from the academia, industry and civil society organisation to assist it to evaluate and select the successful grant applicants,” she said, adding that the MyCC will be sending invitations to these experts to serve on its RGP Panel of Experts.

She said each research grant will not exceed RM25,000 and it is open to all Malaysians including freelance researchers. However the MyCC may, on a case-to-case basis depending on the proposed research, grant more than the stipulated amount.

However, Shila said RGP will fund market surveys, case studies and research on the anti-competitive and pro-competitive economic climate, laws and practices in Malaysia relating to food production, transport, healthcare institutions, professional services, housing developers and financial institutions.

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Malaysia, India Up Bilateral Trade Target To US$20 Billion By 2015

NEW DELHI, Dec 20 (Bernama) — Malaysia and India have revised upwards the bilateral trade target to US$20 billion by 2015 from US$15 billion previously, with the robust movement of goods between the two nations, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said today.

Last year, total trade increased 32.7 per cent over 2010 to reach US$12.54 billion. Malaysia’s exports rose 34.6 per cent from US$6.5 billion in 2010 to US$9.2 billion last year. “This year, we see bilateral trade volume has increased by 5.6 per cent. Albeit slightly less, this is an achievement that can be regarded as good given the still weak world economy and shrouded with uncertainties,” Najib, who is also Finance Minister, told Malaysian journalists after holding a bilateral meeting with India’s Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh. Najib was in New Delhi to attend the two-day Asean-India Commemorative Summit.

Between January and October this year, Malaysia’s exports to India totalled US$7.7 billion, while imports amounted to US$3.3 billion. “Given the very positive bilateral trade, the two ministers responsible for international trade; on our side Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed and his Indian counterpart have initially set the bilateral trade target at US$15 billion by 2015.

“But after taking into account the very encouraging trade volume, the two prime ministers have set a new target at US$20 billion to be attained by 2015,” he said after the 30-minute meeting with Manmohan Singh.

Also present at the bilateral meeting were Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman, International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed, Malaysia’s Special Envoy to India and South Asia for Infrastructure, Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu and Malaysia’s High Commissioner to India Datuk Tan Seng Sung.

India is one of Malaysia’s important trading partners. Since 1998, India has been Malaysia’s largest export destination in South Asia region.

Malaysia’s major exports to India last year were electrical and electronics products, chemicals and chemical products, manufactures of metal and palm oil while Malaysia’s main imports from India were also chemicals and chemical products, manufactures of meal and meat.

The implementation of the Malaysia-India Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement on July 1, 2011 had further boosted bilateral trade between the two nations.

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Malaysia Airlines and Amadeus sign long-term global content agreement

20 December 2012: Amadeus, a provider of advanced technology solutions for the global travel and tourism industry, has signed a new content agreement with Malaysia Airlines, the national flag carrier of Malaysia, which allows all worldwide Amadeus travel agents access to the carrier’s fares, inventory and schedules.

The new contract also contemplates the deployment of Amadeus’ sophisticated Distribution functionality to facilitate Malaysia Airlines’ yield management processes throughout the Amadeus network. It additionally ensures that content from Malaysia Airlines is available in the Amadeus system.

This arrangement takes effect for a period of five years. Duncan Bureau, Senior Vice President, Global Sales, Malaysia Airlines said, “This agreement will make our seat inventory available to an extensive network of travel consultants worldwide.”

Malaysia Airlines flies around 37,000 passengers daily to some 80 destinations worldwide. The airline holds a lengthy record of service and best practices excellence, having received more than 100 awards in the last 10 years. By 1 February 2013, it will be a member of oneworld alliance and will start offering oneworld’s full range of services and benefits. Its Frequent Flyer members of Enrich will be able to earn miles also by traveling on oneworld carriers and enjoy greater redemption options on both Malaysia Airlines as well as on oneworld member carriers.

To find out more about Malaysia Airlines please visit www.malaysiaairlines.com

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First Casablanca tramway line opened

12 December 2012, Casablanca, Maghreb Arab Presse – King Mohammed VI inaugurated, Wednesday, the first Casablanca tramway line, a structuring project that attests to the Sovereign’s commitment to allow for the economic capital of the Kingdom to rank among the world’s major cities.

A major component of the Casablanca urban development programme, the first tramway line under a French-Moroccan partnership agreement, will contribute to solving the transport problem in the city, by ensuring complementarity between bus and taxi networks, preserving the environment by reducing pollution and noise, and supporting economic development by creating direct and indirect jobs.

The 31-kilometre line links the main neighbourhoods of the city, and includes 48 stop stations. This mode of green transport, which required investments of 5.9 billion dirhams, is but the first phase of a comprehensive clean transport network and of a major project to improve mobility in Casablanca.

King Mohammed VI, accompanied by French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault and the head of Moroccan Government, Abdelilah Benkirane, joined the inaugural trip between the United Nations square and the Mohammed V square. The inauguration ceremony was attended by Moroccan and French ministers, representatives of companies involved in the implementation of the Casablanca tramway and by several national and foreign guests.

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Iran seeks to become self-sufficient in production of wheat, sugar

Tehran, Dec 20, IRNA – Iran is able to become self-sufficient in production of some strategic agricultural items including wheat and sugar, Chairman and Managing Director of State Trading Corporation Abbas Qubadi said here on Thursday. Qubadi who doubles as deputy minister of industries, mines and commerce made the remarks in a ground breaking ceremony for Mahabad sugar factory.

“Iran imports half of its 2 million tons of needed sugar from abroad but through a national program, Tehran can become self-sufficient and meet all its sugar needs.” He underlined that storage program of strategic goods like sugar and wheat is in progress.

Roughly one-third of Iran’s total surface area is suitable for farmlands, but because of poor soil and lack of adequate water distribution in many areas, most of it is not under cultivation. The western and northwestern parts of the country have the most fertile soils. Iran’s motion towards self-sufficiency has been one of the Islamic Revolution’s goals.

In line with the nation’s self-sufficiency program, Iran’s wheat production has been steadily increasing over the past few years. US sanctions have encouraged the nation to move towards self-sufficiency and greater overall independence. Despite the massive sanctions imposed by enemies, the Islamic Republic of Iran has undoubtedly been able to make remarkable progresses in different fields by relying on its domestic knowledge and human resources.

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Iran will change sanctions to opportunities

Tehran, Dec 20, IRNA – Nation is committed to change enemy’s pressures and limitations to opportunities, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said here on Thursday. He made the remarks in a meeting with provincial governors general.

“The Government is committed to continue serving the nation till the last moment; since Islamic Republic of Iran is one of the most inspiring regimes in the world, stronger presence of the Iranian people in the upcoming 2013 presidential elections can change the national and international equations in favor of Tehran and result in greater isolation of its enemies.”

Ahmadinejad noted that despite the enemy’s pressures and sanctions which aim to affect the Iranian economy, the government will turn these challenges into opportunities like when the 8-year of Iraq imposed war against Iran became a positive factor in rebuilding the country and attaining self-reliance.

Iran’s Interior Minister Mostafa Mohammad-Najjar had also a lecture to the meeting and warned about enemy’s plots to disappoint people, adding that “The Iranian nation will withstand the enemy’s pressures.”

Despite the massive sanctions, the Islamic Republic of Iran has undoubtedly been able to make remarkable progresses in different fields by relying on its domestic knowledge and human resources.

Washington and its western allies accuse Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons under the cover of a civilian nuclear program, while they have never presented any corroborative evidence to substantiate their allegations. Iran denies the charges and insists that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.

Tehran stresses that the country has always pursued a civilian path to provide power to the growing number of Iranian population, whose fossil fuel would eventually run dry. Despite the rules enshrined in the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) entitling every member state, including Iran, to the right of uranium enrichment, Tehran is now under four rounds of UN Security Council sanctions for turning down West’s calls to give up its right of uranium enrichment.

Tehran has dismissed the West’s demand as politically tainted and illogical, stressing that sanctions and pressures merely consolidate Iranians’ national resolve to continue the path.

Political observers believe that the United States has remained at loggerheads with Iran mainly over the independent and home-grown nature of Tehran’s nuclear technology, which gives the Islamic Republic the potential to turn into a world power and a role model for the other third-world countries. Washington has laid much pressure on Iran to make it give up the most sensitive and advanced part of the technology, which is uranium enrichment, a process used for producing nuclear fuel for power plants.

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Oman Air sees 30% revenue growth in 2012

State-owned Oman Air, the sultanate’s national carrier, expects its revenue to grow 30 percent in 2012 because of expanded operations, its CEO said on Monday. “I am pleased to say we are expecting a 30 percent revenue rise this year due to increased flights to Europe, the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) and other destinations because of higher demand,” chief executive officer Wayne Pearce told Reuters.

The company said in its 2011 financial report that it generated revenue of OMR311.3m (US$809m) last year.

“Part of our growth strategy is to extend our destinations to 50 from the current 42. We will be announcing a few new routes next week,” Pearce said. Oman Air’s latest destination is Tehran, to which it started to fly in September.

Pearce said the carrier added two aircraft this year to increase its fleet to a total of 28, and that the company plans to buy more in the near future. “We are evaluating plans to buy more A300s and Boeing 737 aircraft to cater for the increased demand,” Pearce added .

Oman Air currently operates 15 Boeing 737s, seven A300s, four Embraer planes and two ATRs. “With Muscat and Salalah airports being extended, and other airports being built, we need to grow to keep with the future demand,” Pearce said.

Oman plans to spend a total of US$14bn on airport projects, including the construction of new airports in Sohar, Duqm, Ras Al Hadd and Adam.

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First World Sustainable Energy Forum opens in Tunis

Tunis, African Manager, 20 Dec 2012 – The first edition of the World Sustainable Energy Forum “Enersol 2012” was opened on Wednesday at the Kram Exhibition Centre (Northern suburbs of Tunis).

The event is a private initiative supported by the public sector (ANME, APII, STEG, FIPA, and OACA) in collaboration with local institutions and partnership structures such as the Tunisian-American Chamber of Commerce (ATACC), the German Cooperation Agency (GIZ) and the Tunisian-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry (AHK).

The three-day meeting on sustainable energy and green technologies, whose works were opened by Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali, aims to be a forum for exchange of knowledge on novelties, policies and recent projects in the fields of sustainable energy and green technologies.

In addition to the exhibition and the gallery of innovation, “Enersol” will be marked by three major forums dedicated to “General Policy and Business,” “Science and Technology” and “Civil Society and Green Jobs.” The forum is attended by representatives of international companies operative in the areas of energy and experts from several countries: Germany, Austria, China, France, Greece, Italy, Republic of Korea, Slovenia, UAE and USA.

In a statement to the media, Mr. Jebali confirmed the willingness of Tunisia to further explore the path of renewable energy. “These are future energies and inexhaustible resources,” he said, noting that much remains to be done to achieve the objectives in this area. He stressed, in this context, the need to revise the legislative framework, to promote research and to adapt education systems to the country’s energy needs.

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Musical Contest for children held in Astana

(19.12.2012) – A traditional international contest of young singers entitled “Astana-Merei” was opened in Astana. This year it features such nominations as “fortepiano”, “violin”, “violoncello” and “composition”. The main aim of this contest, in which pupils between 7 and 18 years old participate, is to find talented children in the field of musical art. Eminent experts of classical music from Kazakhstan and Italy judge the performers. For the first time the winners and prize winners will get the preferential right to enter the Musical Universities of Kazakhstan.

Said Aiman Mussakhodzhayeva, Chancellor, Kazakh National University of Arts: – The winners of “Astana-Merei” contest are the members of such International Contests for children as the contest named after Pyotr Tchaikovsky, Yampolsky, and some of them participated in the “New names” contest in Novosibirsk. Anywhere our children go, they achieve medal places.

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Tea production gets economic attention in Kazakhstan

(19.12.2012) Kazakhstan is going to double its tea export in 2013. However, the country initially intends to deliver tea to the Kazakh-Russian border regions. Overall, eleven companies in Kazakhstan are now engaged in tea production. Every year, they purchase 2000-2500 tonnes of tea raw materials. Specialists note that the domestic production capacity of the country may increase to 6000 tonnes.

At present, India, Sri-Lanka, Indonesia, China, Kenya, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe are referred to as the world’s top tea exporting countries. A specific character of this product explains the peculiarities of trade in the global market. Trading is organised through auctions. Usually large tea auctions are held in India and Sri Lanka. Tea is a product, which is very exacting about both conditions and time of storage and transportation.

Said Onlas Zhursynbekov, Director, Arman Techno LLP:- Kazakhstan produces and packages almost 2000 tonnes of tea per year. We receive the tea raw materials from India, Kenya, China, Sri-Lanka and other tea producing countries. As of today, we produce 300 tonnes of tea per month and within the next 2-3 months, we are planning to increase this figure to 600 tonnes. We are planning to export tea to the new markets in Russia. Kazakhstan receives good tea raw materials. Kazakhstan’s residents prefer drinking tea with milk. People in Kazakhstan are used to drinking such kind of tea and have become true tea connoisseurs, which is why Russia eagerly consumes our tea.

“There are some publications saying that bad harvest in some tea producing countries resulted in a decrease in the supply of tea products to the global market and an increase in the price of this product respectively. Over the past two months, demand for the tea raw material exceeded 10%. For example, tea from Kenya increased in prices by 20% and Ceylon tea, by 10%. A low level of farming standards in Kenya and Sri Lanka aggravated by the drought caused the loss of harvest.”

Mr Zhursynbekov added, “The price for tea varies because of the drought in Africa. Sometime the price for tea increases by 30-40% or vice versa, decreases by 20-25%. We are planning the pricing policy for a year.”

The Total.kz website reports that almost 18% of Kazakhstan residents prefer drinking hot tea in hot weather. A recent research carried out by the Institute of Political Decisions shows that 11.6% of respondents prefer canned ice tea. Meanwhile, young people prefer fizzy drinks and people at the age of 60 mostly drink tea.

According to Mr Zhursynbekov, “The most popular tea package we sell is 250 grammes, since it is very convenient to use and it costs between 350-420 tenge. Overall, the share of tea in the consumer basket of Kazakhstan’s residents is bigger than that in such large countries as Russia or Ukraine. Normally, an average family in Kazakhstan spends more money on tea than Russian or Ukrainian families. And the present-day Kazakhstan tea market is quite diverse, while local brands, which are actually imported, hold leading positions.”

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Afghan Saffron Wins Top Prize at French Exhibition

December 17, 2012 – Herat (BNA) The saffron produced in Herat has obtained first position in an exhibition held in France recently. In the exhibition where saffron from 16 countries were put on display, the Afghan saffron with its high quality was welcomed by thousands of farmers, visitors and companies, an officials with saffron process body in Herat said yesterday.

Saffron which produced in Afghanistan, according to the officials, is the best one, keeping in mind its perfume, color and taste. Meantime, experts opined that saffron would gradually replace drug cultivation and its production in the country.

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Historic Calligraphy Delivered To Afghan Information And Culture Ministry

December 19, 2012, Kabul (BNA) The representative of the national security department delivered an historic relic to Temur Shah Ishaqzai deputy minister for information and culture in youth affairs.

While receiving, the historical relic Ishaqzai thanked the employees of the national security department who have exerted efforts for seizing this relic having 300 years background.

Sakhi Muneer head of the National Achieve said that this relic is a hand-written book indicating its connection with the Christianity era which was used during their religious ceremonies. The historic book has leather cover and shows its affiliation with the Egypt. The historic book has been delivered by Daoud Hesas representative of the National Security Department and it was submitted to the National Museum for preservation.

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Turkey: New projects realized to make ‘Rumkale’ a tourist showpiece

GAZIANTEP – Anatolia News Agency, December/20/2012 – The southeastern provinces of Gaziantep and Şanlıurfa hope to open the ancient Rumkale, one of their most prominent historical gems, to greater tourism through work to preserve an area that is largely flooded by dam construction

The southeastern province of Gaziantep’s Rumkale, which has been home to many civilizations throughout history and was an important center in early Christianity, could soon open to greater tourism thanks to new restoration.

“We are bringing together ‘history’ and ‘water,’” Gaziantep Culture and Tourism Director Mehmet Aykanat recently told Anatolia news agency. “When the works are done, Rumkale will continue drawing tourists as a faith center. It will be the heart of Gaziantep in terms of tourism.”

The site, which is largely inaccessible due to rising waters caused by the damming of the Euphrates further south at Birecik, was reportedly home to one of the apostles of Jesus Christ, St. John, and it is believed that he reproduced a copy of the Bible in a rock-carved room on the site. “This is why it is believed to be holy by Christians,” Aykanat said.

Rumkale (Roman Castle) and its vicinity, which straddles the boundary between Gaziantep and Şanlıurfa, is home to structures from the Urartu, Babylon, Sumerian, Seljuk and Ottoman eras, drawing attention from tourists, Aykanat said.

“Some structures have been unearthed during the surface excavations at Rumkale,” the cultural official said. “Project works for the Barsavma Monastery (which was completed in the 13th century) have been completed and delivered to the Cultural Artifacts and Museums General Directorate. The projects about the restoration and building survey works in the cistern and the St. Nerses Church and the lightning around the castle, as well as its observation with security cameras, have been approved.”

Aykanat also said a walking lane had been created by the castle and that the project had been partially approved by the Gaziantep Cultural and Natural Heritage Preservation Board.

The governor’s offices of Gaziantep and Şanlıurfa have also signed an agreement to prevent the construction of any buildings in the Lower Euphrates Basin so as to preserve the area.

“The boat tours that begin from the Birecik Dam will also include Rumkale and Nemrut when the works are finished. In this way, tourists will be able to take boat tours and then reach Mount Nemrut by land,” Aykanat said, referring to a site in Adıyaman that features massive stone heads thousands of years old.

The overall cost for the restoration work will be 2.5 million Turkish Liras, he said.

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Turkish Airlines launches new route to Isfahan

ISTANBUL – Anatolia News Agency, December/20/2012 – Turkish Airlines (THY) has begun flights to and from the Iranian city of Isfahan, the second largest metropolitan area in the country. The destination is THY’s fifth destination in Iran after Tehran, Tabriz, Mashhad and Shiraz, THY said in a written statement yesterday. The airline will fly Istanbul to Isfahan on Wednesdays and Sundays; flights in the opposite direction will operate Mondays and Thursdays. A round-trip ticket to Isfahan will cost 99 euros, including all taxes.

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Ancient world’s ‘greatest church’ to open as archeopark in Turkey

ERDEK – Anatolia News Agency, December/14/2012 – Zeytinliada will be the first archeopark island museum in Turkey, according to mayor Nurettin Öztürk. With the project, Erdek will be open to more tourists. The Mother Mary church, located in the modern of village of Zeytinliada near Erdek and known in ancient sources as “the greatest church in the world,” has been undergoing excavation since 2006 and will soon open to tourists as a new archeopark.

Zeytinliada will be the first archeopark island museum in Turkey, Erdek Mayor Hüseyin Aysan said. “The area, which covers 200 square meters, will be transformed into a museum. The environs of the museum will also be transformed. We are working on this.” The island was a pilgrimage in times past, said Nurettin Öztürk, an assistant professor at Erzurum’s Atatürk University and the head of the excavation at the site, adding that it could become so again for Orthodox Christians.

“We have come across many tombs in the area. In ancient sources, this church is called the greatest church in the world. The floor and the ceiling are gilded,” he said.

The project began with the support of the Culture Ministry, Directorate of Archaeology and Museums and Erdek Municipality in 2006, said Öztürk. According to the mayor and the municipality in the northwestern province of Balıkesir, the project will open the door to foreign tourists in Erdek.

“During the excavation of the site called the East Church, it took three years to unearth the church itself,” Öztürk was quoted as saying in an earlier Anatolia news agency report. The team has been digging at the site of an adjacent monastery for the past three years.

“The church was located in the monastery complex and also served as a baptistery church. Both belong to the early Byzantine era. The story of the construction of the church is very similar to that of the Hagia Sophia, dating back to 532-537 A.D.,” Öztürk said.

“At that time, the local citizens rose up in protest against the high taxes imposed by the empire. The revolt had to be quashed, and at the direction of the emperor, the citizens were gathered in the hippodrome and 30,000 people were slaughtered and burned. The rebellion was suppressed, and it is known as the ‘Nika Rebellion.’ The empire wanted to create the world’s largest dome in memory of its victory over the rebellion, and that is how the Hagia Sophia came to be built,” he said.

“Our work has progressed,” he said. “Restrooms, walkways and observation zones are under construction. A restoration project will be brought into action. This is an important place for religious tourism.”

He also said it would be the first archeopark island museum. “We hope to achieve success with the help of sponsors. This will be a significant step for tourism.”

The Mother Mary church has a 1,500-year history, Öztürk said. “We have also found Roman coins dating back to the second and third centuries A.D. There are numerous coins at the site that came from various parts of the world.”

The plan of the church’s construction is typical of Orthodox church architecture. “The pool of the baptistery is different from others: It is two meters long, made of marble and carved with a unique design. These features make it unique. In those times, (people) were also baptized,” Öztürk said.

Visitors began to visit the site even before it was advertised, Öztürk said.

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Iranian cyclist on world tour meets Madrid city officials

Madrid, Dec 19, IRNA — Iranian cyclist Yavar Samadi who is on a world tour to carry message of environment protection met with Madrid municipality officials. He met with Director General of Spain Urban Traffic Organization Francisco Javier Roybo and Director General of Spanish Capital Madrid Urban Environment Protection Martha Alunso Ancheolo.

Arrived in Madrid on Saturday December 15, Samadi conveyed message of peace, friendship and environment protection of Tehran’s Municipality and Iranian government and nation to Spain’s government and nation.

He expressed Tehran Municipality’s readiness to cooperate with Madrid Municipality on environment protection.

Samadi, 46, started his tour from Tehran early September and will pedal 16,000 km in four months to convey message of environment protection to 20 Asian and European capitals. The cyclist has already passed 13 countries through the Republic of Azerbaijan, Georgia, Russia, Estonia and headed to Sweden from Finland, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland and France and arrived in Madrid.

From Madrid, he will go to India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and eventually end his trip in Japan.

He biked at the average rate of 160 to 180 km per day. Cycling alone for 45 days. He camped in his tent for rest at nights.

Samadi was born in Ardebil. He is a fifth dan karate instructor in addition to being a cyclist. He registered his one-stage record in 2009 by cycling 6,000 km and passing through 18 Iranian provinces.

During 37 days, he conveyed his slogan of “safe city with participation of citizens” to Iranian provinces residents.

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Exploring the Butterfly Garden in Brunei

Bandar Seri Begawan, (Borneo Bulletin) – Taman Kulimambang (the Butterfly Garden) at Tasek Merimbun, Tutong is one of the newest tourist attractions in Brunei and is popular among school students. As the name implies, the park is home to various different species of butterflies.

According to the park’s guard, the number of visitors to the park is encouraging, sometimes reaching up to a hundred per day. The Butterfly Garden is open from 9.30am until 3.30pm, daily except Fridays. Entrance to the park is free. Visitors are only required to register their name on a logbook at the park’s guard hut.

School holidays are a suitable time to bring children to the park to witness the beauty of the colourful butterflies as well as learn a little about Science. Resting areas are provided and infrastructures such as fish pond, bridge and flower garden for the butterflies can also be found, serving as landscape decorations for the park as well.

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JPKE releases Brunei Darussalam Statistical Yearbook 2011

Bandar Seri Begawan, Borneo Bulletin – The Department of Economic Planning and Development (JPKE) has released the Brunei Darussalam Statistical Yearbook 2011.

It presents the latest official statistics of Brunei Darussalam’s general demographic, social and economic characteristics such as area; population and vital statistics; labour force; national account statistics; prices, external trade; investment; banking and finance; mining; education; health; transport and communications; electricity; water and gas; agriculture; forestry and fisheries and miscellaneous.

The 35th yearbook edition also contains the latest data on the total population of the Sultanate from the population and housing census 2011. The mid-year population released earlier for the years 2002 and 2012 have now been revised based on the final population and housing census 2011 data.

For further info: www.depd.gov.bn.

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Emirates and Qantas welcome Draft ACCC Determination on Partnership

WAM Dubai, Dec 20th, 2012 (WAM) — Emirates and Qantas have welcomed the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) draft determination that proposes to grant authorisation for their partnership for five years. The partnership will provide customers with a seamless international and Australian network, exclusive frequent flyer benefits and world class travel experiences.

The ACCC has issued a draft determination with a final decision due in March 2013. The implementation of the partnership remains subject to the ACCC’s final determination and regulatory approval in other jurisdictions.

ACCC approval is required for Emirates and Qantas to coordinate on pricing, sales and capacity Qantas Group Chief Executive Officer, Alan Joyce, said the ACCC’s draft determination was an important step towards delivering a better travel experience for millions of customers.

“We will now focus on responding to the issue raised by the ACCC in relation to the trans-Tasman as we move to securing final approval of this landmark partnership,” he added. President of Emirates Tim Clark said that the positive response from its customers had been matched with enthusiasm from the local tourism sector.

“The partnership with Qantas means we can add regional destinations like the Gold Coast and Hobart to the growing list of places we offer Emirates customers worldwide,” he added. Since announcing the proposed partnership in September, Emirates and Qantas have started initial preparations that do not require regulatory approval, including connecting IT systems, designing frequent flyer benefits and establishing an operational base for Qantas in Dubai.

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ISESCO calls for promoting humane citizenship and activating the role of youth

Rabat 19/12/2012 – The International Conference of Civil Society Associations on Civic Values and Alliance of Civilizations: What Responsibility the Youth Should Assume to Promote Civic Values, Development and Dialogue?” commenced today, at the Headquarters of the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO). In attendance were Mr Abdelilah Benkirane, Head of the Moroccan Government, Mr Abbas Al Jirari, advisor to King Mohammed VI, Sharifa Lalla Oum Kaltoum Alaoui, President-Delegate of National Union of Moroccan Women (UNFM), Dr Abdulaziz Othman Altwaijri, ISESCO Director General, and Dr Boubacar Doukouré, Chairman of ISESCO’s Executive Council. The Conference was also attended by a number of ambassadors accredited in Rabat, as well as a host of international and Moroccan political, intellectual, academic and media personalities, and several rectors of Moroccan universities and representatives of civil society associations taking part in the Conference.

In his opening address, Dr Altwaijri said: “Citizenship denotes the interaction between the citizens and their country, which produces the sense of belonging and preserves the rights. The more civic values that promote national awareness are fostered in a society, the more development opportunities arise in developing communities, which need more efforts to be exerted to achieve progress in all fields.”

He also underlined that today, the world needs to promote the humane citizenship on the basis of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and on international conventions and agreements, to foster intercultural dialogue and alliance of civilizations, boost the efforts to achieve world peace, while respecting the international laws and cultural specificities of peoples.

In the same vein, he commended the theme of the second session of the Conference, given the role the youth may play, in the different countries of the world, in promoting civic values, development and dialogue.

Likewise, he highlighted that the contribution of the youth in promoting civic values, development and dialogue depends on the education that shapes the personality and builds the creative, critical minds and the moral conscience that seek to build and devotedly serve their country and adopt the culture of citizenship.

Similarly, he underlined that the responsibility of the youth to promote civic values makes them a project for the future, which needs to be invested in, through updating the educational system, renovating the patterns of thought and sense of responsibility, and disseminating the culture of contribution and competitiveness, bounded with the ethical, committed responsibility and justice, with regard to deploying efforts for the public interest, social integration and contribution to promoting development as part of citizenship.

During the same session, Mr Abdelilah Benkirane, Head of the Moroccan government, wherein he called for allowing the youth to develop their skills, express their ideas, create and innovate in all fields, so as to be able to contribute to fostering civic values in their societies and promoting development in their countries.

Mr Driss El-Amrani, the President of the Conference, welcomed the participants, highlighted the objectives of the Conference, underlined the importance of its subjects, and lauded the achievements of the Conference’s organizing parties, including ISESCO, which hosted and provided support to it.

At the close of the opening session, the UNFM, presided over by Princess Lalla Meryem, was paid tribute to, and the Shield of the Conference was handed to Sharifa Lalla Oum Kaltoum Alaoui, the UNFM President-Delegate, by ISESCO Director General, Dr Altwaijri.

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Egypt approves law on approving Islamic bonds

20 December 2012 (AlAhram Online) – The Cabinet at a meeting on Wednesday 19/12/2012 under Prime Minister Hisham Qandil approved in principle a draft law on using Islamic bonds. The new financial instrument (Islamic Sokouk) will be referred to the Legislative Authority so that the draft will pass into law. The new mechanism is a tool for financing and investment.

The logic behind introducing “sokouk” in the Islamic world is that any form of interest (riba) derived from investments is prohibited.

Islamic finance works from the premise that both the individual customer and bank should be at equal risk upon investment; any possible profits or losses should be equally divided between them.

The proposed bill regulates provisions and measures of issuing such kind of bonds (finance, rental and investment bonds) and organizes the authority to be in charge of issuing and managing these bonds, and registering them in the stock exchange. The bill suggests the establishment of a fund called Investment Risks Fund which is financed by the owners of these bonds.

A statement said the Cabinet also agreed to exempt entrepreneurs and the insured citizens from the additional sums which are not paid from subscriptions during the period from 1-2-2012 until 30-11-2012. The statement said this exemption emanates from the government keenness to ease the burden of entrepreneurs and the insured who were unable to pay their subscriptions to the National Organization for Social Insurance in the light of the recent circumstances which faced them and from the government desire to support them so that they may recover their economic and productive capacities.

As for the economic situation, the Cabinet said Egypt is currently passing through economic and political situation adding current spending rates are higher than the volume of increase in resources which have eroded as a result of the drop in investments and the impact of demonstrations and protests on the progress of work and production.

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Massive plan for wheat cultivation in Bangladesh

GAIBANDHA, Dec 20, 2012 (BSS)- Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE) has taken up an extensive plan to cultivate wheat in the seven upazilas of the district during the current Rabi season. Official sources said a total of 2,067 hectares of land would be brought under this cultivation this year with the production target of 5,788 tonnes of wheat.

Of the total, 260 hectares of land would be brought under the cultivation in Sadar upazila, 380 in Sadullapur upazila, 80 in Polashbari upazila, 230 in Gobindaganj upazila, 530 in Sundarganj upazila, 350 in Saghata upazila and 237 in Fhulchhari upazila in the district. The officials of DAE particularly sub-assistant agriculture officers in field level are motivating the farmers to cultivate wheat on their land in large scale to meet its demand for ensuring food security and to make the growers economically benefited as well.

Besides, the farmers are also being imparted training on wheat farming by the department to make the programme a grand success, said district training officer of DAE Shamsul Bari. Apart from this, the DAE had taken up a programme for preservation of wheat at farmers’ level through setting up demonstration plots at their land, he also said.

Deputy director of DAE Mir Abdur Razzak said an initiative had been taken to ensure seed, fertilizer, pesticides and other agri-inputs to the farmers to boost production of wheat in the district during the current season. Apart from these, different commercial banks including Rajshahi Krishi Unnayan Bank (RAKUB) are also distributing agri-loan to the growers on easy terms to farm the crop on the land without any economical troubles, he added.

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Kempinski Hotels signs deal for The Wave, Muscat

Muscat, December 19 (ONA) — The Wave Muscat, today signed the Sale And Development Agreement for Kempinski The Wave Muscat, Hotel and Hotel Apartments, the first of the hotel developments at The Wave Muscat. The Omani Hospitality Company will develop Kempinski The Wave Muscat – Muscat’s newest five-star hotel.

The agreement was signed by Michael Lenarduzzi, CEO of The Wave Muscat and Abeer Mohamed al-Abduwani, Board Member of the Omani Hospitality Company in the presence of Eng. Sultan bin Hamdoon al-Harthy, Chairman of Muscat Municipality and Chairman of The Wave Muscat, Board members and senior officials from both companies and managing & present of Kempinski Hotel for Middle East, Africa and Indian Ocean.

The Sales & Development agreement signed between the two companies is related to the Omani Hospitality Company acquiring a plot area in the Wave, which will be dedicated to developing the Kempinski Hotel and Apartments.

The Kempinski Hotel and Apartments at The Wave Muscat will be the first hotel of its kind. It will offer (309) hotel keys and (77) hotel apartments overlooking the beachfront. The hotel will also offer more than (10) food and beverage and (4) retail outlets. Also, the 5-start Kempinski will offer meeting facilities, swimming pools, spa options, beach club facilities, gymnasium, ballroom, kids club and even a 4-lane bowling facility.

Commenting on the signing of the agreement, Eng. Sultan bin Hamdoon al-Harthy said: “When operational, the hotel will be a remarkable landmark in the city and will significantly support the promotion of Muscat as a tourist destination and The Wave Muscat as a pioneering Integrated Tourism Complex in the country”.

Construction of the Kempinski at the Wave Muscat will begin in the first quarter of 2013 and is scheduled to be completed during the first half of 2015. The hotel will generate an estimated (650) jobs for Omanis both directly and indirectly.

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Kuwait: Al-Muleifi’s sculpture gallery opened

KUWAIT, Dec 20 (KUNA) — Sheikha Fareeha Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah Inaugurated Thursday the art exhibition of Dr. Youssef Al-Muleifi, known as Sculptures in the Air, in collaboration with the National Council for Culture, Arts and Letters (NCCAL). “The gallery aims at ‘liberating’ solid blocs from gravity by showcasing them floating in air,” Al-Muleifi told KUNA, adding that the process of dying bronze sculptures is done through temperature-controlled oxidization and chemical reactions.

He pointed out that dealing with such “difficult” process urged him to study geology and rock formation evolvement. The gallery is showcasing more than 21 bronze and polyester artworks.

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Two Indonesian film-makers head to Australia for higher studies

Jakarta December 15 2012 (ANTARA News) – Two young Indonesian film makers, Dwi Sujanti Nugraheni (36) from Yogyakarta and Chairun Nissa (28) from Jakarta, will go to Australia in March next year as the inaugural recipients of the John Darling Fellowship, according to the Australian Embassy here.

The fellowship was established in the memory of Australian documentary film maker John Darling to support the new generation of Indonesian documentary film makers.

Dwi Sujanti Nugraheni and Chairun Nissa will travel to Australia in March next year to undertake a two-week intensive post-graduate course called “Thinking with a Video Camera” at the Australian National University in Canberra. They will also receive training in film marketing and distribution, and film archive principles and practice.

John Darling’s wife, Sara Darling, established the fellowship with the support of a committee, the Herb Feith Foundation and the Australian Embassy Jakarta. “This is a rare opportunity to help these young film and documentary makers to enhance their skills. This course will expose them to new ideas and concepts in film making, but also provide valuable practical knowledge, experience and specialised skills,” Darling said. “John’s life was focused on learning and teaching, so fellowship supporting young Indonesian filmmakers is a wonderful way to honour his life’s work.”

Australian Ambassador to Indonesia Greg Moriarty said the John Darling Fellowship would help broaden connections between Australia and Indonesia’s film and documentary industries.

“I want to congratulate both winners. The fellowship is a great opportunity for these two young film makers to further refine their skills, but it is also a celebration of John Darling’s life as a talented Australian who dedicated much of his career to Indonesia,” Ambassador Moriarty said.

Dwi Sujanti Nugraheni is the director of Yogyakarta Documentary Film Festival and program manager of the Indonesia Documentary Community. She has directed two documentary films and has another two in production.

Chairun Nissa is a graduate from the Jakarta Arts Institute and has made a number of short films and documentaries, including one screened at several international festivals. Nissa is interested in mixing fiction and documentary genres, particularly in relation to cross-cultural understanding.

John Darling lived for many years in Bali. His films have been screened around the world in cinemas and on television. His nine documentary films about Indonesia include Lempad of Bali (1978), Bali Hash (1985) and the 1987 Bali Tryptych series (Between the Mountain and the Sea, The Path of the Soul and Demons and Deities), and Below the Wind (1994).

Darling’s last documentary, The Healing of Bali (2003), was made in the 12 months after the 2002 Bali Bombings and was co-produced with his wife Sara.

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N. Sumatra’s airport to be inaugurated next March

Deli Serdang, December 20 2012 (ANTARA News) – The Kuala Namu international airport in Deli Serdang district, North Sumatra province, is scheduled to be inaugurated in March 2013, according to airport project manager Joko Waskito. Speaking at the Sumatra Governors Coordination Meeting in Medan on Thursday, he expressed hope that the airport would be operational in time.

According to Joko, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is scheduled to inaugurate the Kuala Namu airport in March next year. “The airport is 90 percent ready and the construction work is expected to be completed before March 2013,” he noted.

The annual passenger capacity of the new airport is 8.1 million. Spread over an area of 1,365-hectares, the Kuala Namu airport will replace the Polonia International Airport in Medan, which has been operating over capacity.

Situated in the heart of Medan, Polonia airport accommodated 6.2 million passengers last year, more than 563 percent of its rated capacity of 1.1 million people a year. The Kuala Namu airport will feature a 3,750-metre runway and 33 aprons. It will be equipped to accommodate wide-body aircraft such as the Airbus A380.

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Beijing hosts “Kazakhstan: on the crossroads of Europe and Asia” photo expo

BEIJING. December 21. KAZINFORM – A photo exhibition “Kazakhstan: on the crossroads of Europe and Asia” dated to the Day of Independence of the Republic of Kazakhstan is underway at the Shanghai Museum of Arts. It showcases photos of the Kazakh capital – Astana. According to Kazakhstani diplomats, the photo exposition is an important cultural event devoted to the Independence Day and 20 years of diplomatic relations between Kazakhstan and the People’s Republic of China.

Kazakh Consul General in Shanghai Gabit Koishibayev noted the expo is of paramount importance in terms of strengthening cultural and humanitarian ties between the neighbouring nations. Reps of local political, social, and scientific circles as well as mass media and diplomatic corps accredited in Shanghai were present at the solemn opening ceremony. The photo exhibition “Kazakhstan: on the crossroads of Europe and Asia” is set to be held until 25 December.

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Private Turkish airline Pegasus buys up to 100 Airbus jets for $12 billion

Private Turkish airline Pegasus announced yesterday that it had ordered up to 100 Airbus passenger jets as part of its newly revealed growth strategy up to 2023, the biggest single order ever made by a Turkish airline. The airline placed a firm order for 75 planes and took options on 25 others from the Airbus A320 series, in a deal that would carry a catalogue price of $12 billion.

“When our first Pegasus flight took off we broke new ground by placing the biggest order in the history of Turkish private civil aviation at the time,” Pegasus Airlines Executive Board Director Ali Sabancı said at a signing ceremony, also attended by Transport Minister Binali Yıldırım, at the Pegasus headquarters in the Istanbul district of Kürtköy. “As we look ahead to the next decade, we know that apart from human resources an airline’s most important asset is its fleet. Therefore, once again, we have said to ourselves, ‘we don’t yet have enough,’” Sabancı said.

It’s not just the largest order in the private civil aviation sector, but also the largest in the history of Turkish civil aviation, according to Sabancı. “We are delighted to be signing this agreement with the world’s leading aircraft manufacturer, Airbus, for 100 new A320neo and A321neo aircraft, worth a total of $12 billion. With this pioneering investment in 100 new aircraft, we at Pegasus are breaking new ground in the development of Turkish civil aviation,” he said. Transportation Minister Yıldırım said he was proud of the Turkish aviation sector’s performances.

“When I first came to office, 100 planes made up 67 percent of the total commercial fleet in Turkey,” Yıldırım said. “Today, one of our companies sets a target for 2023 and signs a $12 billion deal. We are also set to build the world’s biggest airport and there will be no problems when it becomes operational in three to four years. This shows how the political will has changed the country.”

Pegasus, which is considered a budget carrier, currently operates 40 Boeings, and this represents the first time Pegasus has not placed its orders with Airbus’ archrival Boeing of the United States. The firm is set to become the first Turkish airline to operate the A320neo plane, which is to be equipped with new engines and “sharklet” wing tips that provide substantial fuel savings.

Christopher Buckley, Airbus’s Executive Vice President, responsible for Europe and Asia-Pacific, said deliveries would begin in three years and run through 2022. “Turkey is rapidly developing into Europe’s most dynamic commercial aviation market and Pegasus is one of the major players in this transformation,” Buckley said.

Pegasus Airlines CEO Sertaç Haybat stressed that Pegasus Airlines had flown 49 million passengers since launching, adding that the firm had grown rapidly since its founding – recognized as Europe’s “Fastest Growing Airline” in 2011.The airline also owns 12.02 percent of the voting rights in the Germany low-cost airline Air Berlin.

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Jakarta to take Istanbul as example

Turkey’s Ambassador to the Indonesian capital of Jakarta Zekeriya Akcam visited Joko Widodo, newly elected governor of Jakarta, at his office to congratulate him over his new post.

During the meeting, Akcam and Widodo exchanged views on a variety of issues, and discussed certain projects of Turkey aimed at opening a school and hospital in Jakarta. Stating that Istanbul is an exemplary city, Akcam said that they were ready for extending all sorts of support to Jakarta.

Speaking for his part, Widodo said that he wanted to take Istanbul as a model in the process of reconstructing the city.

Furthermore, Widodo was surprised to learn from Akcam that Istanbul and Jakarta are actually sister cities. The meeting was comprehensively covered by media institutions of the two countries.

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Turkey to begin second restoration of historical Armenian church

12/18/2012 Turkish News – The Armenian Akdamar Church, located on Akdamar Island on Lake Van, is scheduled to be restored again as part of a project in line with preservation programs which have been recently completed by the Turkish government.

Turkey finished the restoration of the historical Armenian church of Akdamar on Lake Van last year. A mass ceremony was also held at Akdamar last fall, which was attended by thousands of Armenian worshipers throughout the world and the Armenian community of Turkey and led by Archbishop Aram Ateshian of the Armenian Patriarchate of Turkey.

The second restoration project which is set to begin in April 2013 is expected to take six months with a cost of approximately TL 1.2 million.

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Erdogan launches 89 projects in Konya

12/17/2012 Turkish News – Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan officially launched 89 projects in Konya including the Blue Tunnel irrigation project aimed at channeling 414 million cubic meters of water from the Goksu River to Konya Plain and the Basbagi Dam. Stating that investments amounting to 10 billion TL have been made in Konya in the last decade, Erdogan said that the Konya Plain Project, which has been suspended before, was launched again during the term of his government.

“As part of the Konya Plain Project, we have also completed the Derebucak and Professor Yilmaz Muslu Dams. Thanks to these projects, Konya basin will have a total of 649 million cubic meters of water. Once the project is fully completed, 1.1 million hectares of soil will be irrigated and 3 billion kilowatt/hours of energy will be produced annually,” Erdogan said.

The opening ceremony was also attended by Minister of Forestry and Water Works Veysel Eroglu, Culture and Tourism Minister Ertugrul Gunay, Health Minister Recep Akdag, Parliament members from Konya and Erdogan’s daughter Sumeyye Erdogan.

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Center of Chinese education and culture opened at National Library of Kyrgyz Republic

Bishkek, December 18 / Kabar /. Opening of the Center of Chinese education and culture is held in Bishkek at the National Library with the support of the Embassy of China in Kyrgyzstan.

The Chinese Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan Wang Kaiwen said that, the main goal of the Center is to promote the culture and provide wide access to various resources of China for all Kyrgyz citizens. “In recent years we widened and deepened the humanitarian cooperation between Kyrgyzstan and China. Creative contacts in educational, scientific and cultural spheres received great development. The opening of the center is the result of development of cultural ties between the National Library of the Kyrgyz Republic and the Embassy of China in Kyrgyzstan. I hope that the center will help to strengthen the friendly relations between our countries, “he said.

The opening ceremony was attended by cultural figures, representatives of science and education spheres, representatives of Kyrgyz universities, intellectuals.

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Three winners of Prince Naif International Prize for Prophet’s Sunnah

Riyadh, 28 Muharram 1434/ 12 December 2012 (IINA) – Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Salman, deputy premier and minister of defense, yesterday distributed Prince Naif International Prize for Prophet’s Sunnah and Contemporary Islamic Studies to its winners.

The winners were: Abdul Rahman bin Mualla Alluwaihek, a Saudi, (for his research on intellectual security in the light of Sunnah). Muwaffek Salim Al-Jawadi and Abdussattar Jassim Al-Hayati, both Iraqis, shared the prize for the second subject (cultural values in Sunnah). Raghib Al-Sarjani, an Egyptian, won the prize for Islamic studies (protection of Islamic environment).

On arrival at King Faisal Conference Hall, Prince Salman was greeted by Deputy Riyadh Governor Prince Muhammad bin Saad, and Prince Saud bin Naif, head of the crown prince’s court and supervisor of the prize. Addressing the ceremony, Prince Saud bin Naif commended Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah and Crown Prince Salman for their support to the prize. He said the late Prince Naif had exerted great efforts in the service of Islam and Muslims. He said the prize instituted by Prince Naif would contribute to promoting Islamic research and studies on Hadith.

Makkah Governor Prince Khaled Al-Faisal said the prize was instrumental in creating competition among scholars and researchers all over the world and conduct studies on contemporary issues. Interior Minister Prince Muhammad bin Naif said the prize had played a big role in encouraging Islamic scholars to conduct more studies on Hadith, which is the second main source of Shariah after the Holy Qur’an. Saaed Al-Harithy, secretary-general of the prize, said the winners were selected from 322 research papers. “Since the beginning of the prize, we have received a total of 2,250 research papers. Among them 22 have won prizes.”

A total of 257,731 students took part in Hadith competitions held by the prize’s secretariat and 180 of them have won prizes. It has published 157 studies on the Sunnah and contemporary Islamic issues.

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Sri Lankan makes history, wins King Abdul Aziz Qur’an competition

Makkah, 01 Safar 1434/ 15 December 2012 (IINA) – Sri Lankan teenager Riski Mohamed Riskhan won the first prize at the 34th King Abdul Aziz International Competition for Memorization of the Holy Qur’an, which concluded at the Haram Mosque in Makkah.

The annual event, which promotes the memorization and recitation of the Holy Qur’an, was conducted by the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Endowment, Call and Guidance in the Kingdom. It was held under the auspices of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah and was attended by participants from 53 countries throughout the world.

The prize distribution ceremony was held in the presence of Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh, Minister of Islamic Affairs Sheikh Saleh Al-Asheikh, Head of the Presidency for the Affairs of the Holy Mosques and Haram Imam Sheikh Abdul Rahman Al-Sudais, Tunisian Religious Affairs Minister Nuruddin AlKhadimi and several senior officials and Islamic scholars.

There were 25 winners in the competition. Riskhan, the first prize winner, represented Madrasathul Ilm from the Colombo Grand Mosque. The winner of the first prize received a cash award of SR 100,000 while the next four winners bagged cash prizes of SR 90,000 (second), SR 80,000 (third), SR 70,000 (fourth) and SR 60,000 (fifth) respectively.

Salman bin Muhammad Al-Amri, public relations director of the contest, said in a statement that out of 161 contestants from 53 countries, 87 competitors were sent by their respective governments, while 66 represented Islamic organizations in Muslim and non-Muslim countries. “The contest aimed at highlighting the Kingdom’s interest in the memorization and recitation of the Holy Qur’an. The Kingdom wants to promote learning of the Holy Qur’an among the Muslim youth,” he said.

The contest had 10 judges, four of whom were from the Kingdom. The other six came from Egypt, Jordan, Mauritania, Malaysia, Pakistan and Nigeria. The Kingdom spends annually more than SR 100 million for the contest without seeking any material motive, the director said.

Competitions were held in the categories of memorization of full text with correct intonation, commentary and meaning of words, and memorization of 20 continuous juz (parts) with intoned recitation..

“The Sri Lankan boy Riski Mohamed Riskhan has created history by winning an international Qur’an recitation contest in the Kingdom,” Consul General in Jeddah Adambawa Uthumalebbe said yesterday. “This is the first time a Sri Lankan has won this international annual competition, beating participants from 53 countries,” said Sri Lankan Senior Minister Abdul Hameed Mohammed Fowzie.

On arrival in Colombo, Mohamed Riskhan received a hero’s welcome for his accomplishment. He was received at the Bandaranaike International Airport by M.K.D.S. Gunawardena, the deputy minister of Buddha sasana and religious affairs, and Mervyn Silva, minister of public relations and public affairs.

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Palestinian party launches boycott of Israeli products

Ramallah, 04 Safar 1434/ 18 December 2012 (IINA) – The Palestinian National Initiative Party yesterday launched a new phase of the boycott campaign against products manufactured in Israel and its settlements in West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Mustafa Al-Barghouthi, Secretary General of the Palestinian National Initiative Party and a member of the Palestine Legislative Council, said that the phase of the “Bader Campaign” “is targeting products originating in Israel and its settlements.” Al-Barghouthi said that the store-to-store and home-to-home campaign will educate Palestinian consumers and merchants which products to boycott. The Palestinian lawmaker said that “lowering of the consumption rate of Israeli products by 10 percent will allow Palestinians to create 150,000 job opportunities to unemployed Palestinians and will protect Palestinian industries.” He added that the previous phases of the campaign succeeded in lowering the consumption of an Israeli originated soft drink by 70 percent.

The development comes a day after Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad called on Palestinians to boycott not only settler products, but all Israeli manufactured goods. “We call on Palestinian citizens to stop purchasing Israeli goods as a way of resisting the occupation,” Fayyad told Palestinian reporters in Ramallah. He said his call for a total boycott of Israeli products came also in response to the Israeli government’s decision to withhold tax revenues belonging to the PA. The campaign against settlements products is backed by the law signed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

The new law states that anyone who deals in products produced in settlements will be imprisoned for two to five years and pay a fine of up to $14,000. Those who import settlement products into the Palestinian territories have to face three to six years imprisonment, fines of up to $3,000, and the confiscation of their licenses and vehicles. The PA hopes that the boycott will encourage the international community to adopt a stronger stance against settlements while helping end the Palestinian economy’s dependence on Israel.

In addition to forcing Israeli factories in West Bank settlements to shut down or relocate inside Israel, the campaign is deterring other Israeli businesses from moving to the West Bank industrial zones, which were originally set up to be closer to Palestinian laborers, many of whom are denied permits to work inside Israel. The PA has so far confiscated and destroyed millions US dollars worth of settlement products. It indicted hundreds of Palestinian merchants who violated the boycott of the settlements products. He urged the Arab countries to fulfill their promise to provide the Palestinian Authority (PA) with $100 million each month to solve its severe financial crisis.

He said that the $100 million was less than a third of what his government needs to meet its monthly financial obligations. Fayyad noted that although this was not the first time that Israel had withheld funds, this time it took the liberty to use the money. He was referring to the Israeli government’s decision to transfer 420 million Israeli shekel (some $120 million) in tax revenues more to the Israel Electricity Company to pay the PA’s debts.

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Study: Among religions, Islam is mostly likely to expand in future

Washington, 04 Safar 1434/ 18 December 2012 (IINA) – People with no religious affiliation make up the third-largest global group in a new study of the size of the world’s faiths, placing after Christians and Muslims and just before Hindus. The study, based on extensive data for the year 2010, also showed Islam and Hinduism are the faiths mostly likely to expand in the future while Jews have the weakest growth prospects.

It showed Christianity is the most evenly spread religion, present in all regions of the world, while Hinduism is the least global with 94 percent of its population in one country, India. Overall, 84 percent of the world’s inhabitants, which it estimated at 6.9 billion, identify with a religion, according to the study entitled “The Global Religious Landscape” issued by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life on Tuesday. This study by the Washington-based Pew Forum appears to be one of the most extensive to date.

The “unaffiliated” category covers all those who profess no religion, from atheists and agnostics to people with spiritual beliefs but no link to any established faith. “Many of the religiously unaffiliated do hold religious or spiritual beliefs,” the study stressed. “Belief in God or a higher power is shared by 7 percent of unaffiliated Chinese adults, 30 percent of unaffiliated French adults and 68 percent of unaffiliated U.S. adults,” it said.

Exact numbers for religious populations are impossible to obtain and estimates for the size of the larger faiths can vary by hundreds of millions. Pew Forum demographer Conrad Hackett said the 2,500 censuses, surveys and population registers used to compile the report did not allow a further breakdown to estimate the world population of atheists and agnostics. “It’s not the kind of data that’s available for every country,” he said. “A census will typically ask what your religion is and you can identify a number of particular affiliations or no religion.

An age breakdown showed Muslims had the lowest median age at 23 years, compared to 28 for the whole world population. The median age highlights the population bulge at the point where half the population is above and half below that number. “Muslims are going to grow as a share of the world’s population and an important part of that is this young age structure,” Hackett said.

By contrast, Judaism, which has 14 million adherents or 0.2 percent of the world population, has the highest median age at 36, meaning its growth prospects are weakest. Hackett noted that Israel, which has 40.5 percent of the world Jewish population, had a younger age structure than the United States, where 41.1 percent of the world’s Jews live. Global Christianity’s median age is 30 and Hinduism’s 26. With a median age of 34, the growth prospects for religiously unaffiliated people are weak, the study showed.

The study estimated Christianity was the largest faith at 2.2 billion adherents or 31.5 percent of the world’s population. The Roman Catholic Church makes up 50 percent of that total, with Protestants — including Anglicans and non-denominational churches — at 37 percent and Orthodox at 12 percent. There are about 1.6 billion Muslims around the world, or 23 percent of the global population. “The overwhelming majority (87-90 percent) are Sunnis, about 10-13 percent are Shia Muslims,” the study said. Among the 1.1 billion unaffiliated people around the world, over 700 million, or 62 percent of them, live in China alone, where they make up 52.2 percent of the Chinese population.

Japan comes next with the second largest unaffiliated population in the world with 72 million, or 57 percent of the national population. After that comes the United States, 51 million people — 16.4 percent of all Americans — said they have no link to an established faith. The world’s Hindu population is concentrated mostly in India, Nepal and Bangladesh. Half of the world’s Buddhists live in China, followed far behind by Thailand at 13.2 percent of the world Buddhist population and Japan with 9.4 percent.

The study found that about 405 million people, or about 6 percent of the world population, followed folk religions such as those found in Africa and China or among Native American and Australian aboriginal peoples. Another 58 million, or nearly 1 percent of the world population, belonged to “other religions” including Baha’i, Taoism, Jainism, Shintoism, Sikhism, Tenrikyo, Wicca and Zoroastrianism. Most were in the Asia-Pacific region. The study said that 97 percent of the world’s Hindus, 87 percent of its Christians and 73 percent of its Muslims lived in countries where they were a large to overwhelming majority. Christians make up the majority in 157 countries and Muslims in 49, including 19 of the 20 states in the Middle East and North Africa, with the exception of Israel. By contrast, Hindus are in the majority only in India, Nepal and Mauritius.

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Qatari company to produce $1 billion movie on Prophet’s life, teachings

Doha, 04 Safar 1434/ 18 December 2012 (IINA) – A Doha-based media company has planned to make a one billion dollar epic movie based on the life and teachings of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Ahmed Al-Hashemi, chairman of Al Noor Holding, said that the movie is endorsed by Islamic scholars, including Sheikh Yusuf Al Qaradawi, president of the International Union of Muslim Scholars.

The company will raise the budget to $1 billion dollars from the $1.5 million announced three years ago. The biopics will be produced as a series of “seven films — instead of three films as per an earlier announcement — with a total budget of $1 billion,” Al-Hashemi said in a statement yesterday. He said “the team of experts has finished writing the scenario after overcoming numerous artistic and dramatic challenges.” The film would be produced according to the highest international standards using the most sophisticated technical and audio-visual systems.

Alnoor announced in 2009 that it was seeking financing for the film series, to be produced by Barrie Osborne, a Hollywood veteran of more than 40 years whose credits include Lord of the Rings and The Matrix. Sheikh Qaradawi will lead research on the film and serve as technical consultant on the project. The company said the film will be in English and will be translated into several different languages “to correct the wrong image Western societies have of Islam.”

“We are aware of the fact that this (film) is a difficult and a challenging task,” Al Noor Holding said in September. “This is why we have consulted many famous Islamic scholars, among them Dr. Al Qaradawi, who will guide us on the Sharia aspect of the film,” the firm added. Earlier this year, a US-produced low-budget movie called “Innocence of Muslims” that mocking the Prophet triggered a wave of deadly anti-US violence around the Islamic world.

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Emirates set to add capacity on Ghana route

12 December 2012 – Emirates Airline said on Tuesday it will increase capacity on its Accra-Dubai route from January 1 due to growing passenger demand. The Dubai carrier said in a statement that it will upgrade the aircraft used on the service to a Boeing 777-300ER, less than a year after launching the route. The upgraded aircraft will increase passenger capacity by almost 41 percent on the flights to the city in Ghana. Jean Luc Grillet, Emirates senior vice president Commercial Operations for Africa, said: “Ghana is one of our most important markets. The aircraft upgrade will open up more seats to our customers travelling to and from Ghana and also have a positive impact on Ghana’s import and export industry.”

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Corporate Management Boon For Malaysian Zakat-Collection Body

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 21 (Bernama) — By adopting a corporate management style of practice, the zakat collection entity of the Federal Territory Islamic Religious Affairs Council, or PPZ-MAIWP, has managed to boost its zakat collection. Last year alone, PPZ-MAIWP collected RM341 million in zakat from 100,490 payers. The total zakat collected over the past 10 years amounts to RM2.26 billion.

The zakat collection for 2012 is expected to reach RM360 million. Previously, the zakat body had left it to the public to pay their dues, but the corporate-style management as well as the efforts of agency officers in approaching Muslims to brief them on the need to pay zakat has resulted in the increase in collected funds.


Deputy CEO for PPZ-MAIWP Abdul Hakim Amir Osman said MAIWP had previously been hampered by the shortage in manpower. “I commended MAIWP’s move to set up the PPZ as a corporate agency to manage the zakat collection for the whole of the Federal Territory,” he remarked, adding that PPZ-MAIWP is the world’s only zakat-collection agency that practises corporate-style management.

Speaking to Bernama here, Abdul Hakim pointed out that the greatest transformation made by PPZ-MAIWP was the computerisation of all related documentation. “The officers and staff are supplied with computers to complete their work,” he stated.

According to Abdul Hakim, the staff were recruited from various academic backgrounds, and selections were not limited to people with religious qualifications alone.

“In fact, officers with a masters’ degree have been deployed at the front counters to provide the best service for clients,” he noted.


PPZ-MAIWP developed its own Integrated Zakat System (Siza) and used it for systematic zakat collection and data storage. The agency also practises the client-oriented concept of meeting the public’s needs and demands and using Facebook and Twitter.

Businessman Yola Gusandra, 28, received RM4,000 in assistance from the zakat body, which he used to revive his chocolate and confectionary business. This native of Kampung Baru here has a confectionary outlet named Yola Confectionaries, located at Jalan Raja Muda Aziz in Kampung Baru.

According to the entrepreneur, his brand of Yola chocolates had made it big in the local market and had even sold overseas, but several problems associated with his business partner had almost forced him to give up the business.

However, with strong family support, his fervent desire to make a comeback with his business, and assistance from the zakat body, he was able to put Yola back on a firm footing. He now uses some 25 kilogrammes of flour daily for his confectionary business.


PPZ-MAIWP counters are now available at Taman Shamelin, Daruzzakah in Kampung Baru, Masjid Negara, KLSC Wangsa Maju, Presint 9 in Putrajaya, Masjid At-Taqwa in Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Masjid Imam Ghazali in Kepong, Masjid Abd Rahman Auf in Puchong, and UTC-Pudu Sentral. The counters are open to the public from 8:15am-4:45pm on working days. The public can also make their zakat payments through any agents appointed by PPZ-MAIWP, including Bank Islam.

More information is available at www.zakat.com.my.

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