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26 Aug, 2013

Australia Pledges A$3 Million to Complete Islamic Museum

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 26 August 2013 (19 Shawwala 1434). Pls click on any of the headlines below to go to the story.


Great Opportunity for Muslim Entrepreneurs: Attend the 4th Global Entrepreneurship Summit, Kuala Lumpur, 11-12 October

Registrations are open for the 4th Global Entrepreneurship Summit to be held in Kuala Lumpur between 11-12 October. More than 3,000 entrepreneurs, speakers, investors and policy-makers from over 50 countries are projected to attend the event, originally initiated by U.S. President Barack Obama to create “the next generation of dreamers, creators and builders.” GES was launched as a global platform “to empower entrepreneurs with the skills and resources necessary to compete and thrive in the 21st century”. First held in Washington in 2010, it was subsequently held in Turkey and Dubai. This year’s Summit is organized by the Malaysian Ministry of Finance (MoF) under the patronage of the Prime Minister, with the theme “Empowering and Connecting Entrepreneurs”. Spearheading the Steering Committee is Tan Sri Mohammed Irwan Serigar Abdullah, Secretary General of the Treasury at MoF. “We are very excited about the 4th GES and the other events that will lead up to it,” he said. As Malaysia heads towards a developed and high income nation by 2020, Malaysian innovators and creators are the main components that will drive the economy towards this vision. The GES brings together expertise and experience in Businesses, Social Works, Women’s Issues, Public Policies and Education. President Obama is scheduled to deliver the keynote address and he will speak about the importance of entrepreneurship, particularly for young people, in driving economic progress. According to Ben Rhodes, President Obama’s Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications (Digital News Asia, August 06, 2013), “Malaysia is a perfect venue for a global entrepreneurship summit. It has an economy that is growing; an economy that is an engine of growth for this region; and one that is increasingly connected to the global economy.”

For further info, pls click here: http://www.geskualalumpur2013.org/

Or contact the organising company: AOS CONVENTIONS & EVENTS SDN BHD (Member of AOS Tours & Travel), No. 39 & 40, Jalan Mamanda 9, Ampang Point 68000, Kuala Lumpur Malaysia. Tel : +603.4252.9100. Fax : +603.4257.1133. Email: Managing Director Anthony Wong: <anthony@aosconventions.com> or alternately: <eric_chuo@aosconventions.com>, <aldia.lai@aosconventions.com>, <nastenka.yip@asianoverland.com.my>


WORLD ISLAMIC TOURISM MART (WITM) 2013, 4-5 September, Kuala Lumpur

Malaysian Association of Tour & Travel Agents (MATTA) will be organizing the World Islamic Tourism Mart (WITM 2013) from 4-8 Sept 2013 in conjunction with the MATTA FAIR SEPT 2013. WITM 2013 will comprise of a International Conference from 4-5 Sept 2013 to be held at Hotel Istana and a TRAVEX and Travel Fair from 6-8 Sept 2013 at PWTC, Kuala Lumpur. Message from Dato Mohammed Khalid Harun, Chairman, WITM 2013: We have several key speakers at our WITM 7th InCoMTHU Conference on 4 & 5th September. This is something no member engaged in Islamic tourism can afford to miss. WITM 7th InCoMTHU Conference focuses on Islamic travel and we have speakers who are specialists in the subject from various countries in the region. Do come and learn about – Syariah Tourism from the Vice President of Tourism from Indonesia; – Medical Tourism which is Syariah compliant; – How a country like Japan is dealing with halal requirements; – How to create a Muslim travel package, and lots more interesting topics that will help to grow your Islamic travel business. Even Malaysian inbound players should attend this as you will have Muslim travellers who expect syariah compliant travel. You will become more aware of the Syariah requirements and how Malaysia is coping with the ever increasing numbers of Muslim travellers especially from the Middle East. We look forward to meeting you at the WITM 7th InCoMTHU Conference. Please register www.witm2013.matta.org.my.

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

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

twitter: http://twitter.com/tourismmalaysia

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


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.



Women’s entrepreneurship to change Afghanistan’s future

Islamabad: August 23 – FPCCI and IWCCI on Friday pledged to support the women entrepreneurship in Afghanistan which can change the destiny of the war-torn country with a battered economy.

The assurance came in a meeting chaired by President FPCCI Zubair Ahmed Malik which was attended by CEO Export Promotion Agency of Afghanistan Najlla Habibyar, President IWCCI Farida Rashid, Samina Fazil, Executive Director PEAD Samina Imtiaz, MPA KP Province Amna Sardar, members of Pak-Afghan Women Forum, and leading Pakistani and Afghan businesswomen.

Speaking on the occasion, the FPCCI president said that women are some of the most vulnerable members of Afghan society which has resisted their growth including entrepreneurship activities.

Zubair Ahmed Malik said that Afghan women have been supplementing the meagre earnings of their families by engaging in weaving carpets, handicrafts, ornaments, tailoring, jewellery, embroidery, pottery, cooking, and farming etc. but they got little appreciation.

However, he said, the situation in urban centres has been changing with more and more women striving to take part in the economic activities which must be supported.

Many Afghan businesswomen have not been able to communicate with the market and receive feedback which can improve the quality of their products and open doors to increased opportunities, therefore FPCCI and IWCCCI have decided to extend all possible support to them, he assured.

Malik also asked the international community to help Afghanistan exploit treasures of minerals buried in various parts of the country which can turn around Afghanistan bringing an end to extremism.

Speaking at the occasion, Samina Fazil and Farida Rashid said that Pakistan government should support SMEs which are a key economic driver of Afghanistan constituting 75 per cent of the labour force and generating over 50 per cent of GDP.

They said that we will fully support Afghan women through information sharing, networking, sharing experience, education, business-to-business meetings, expos and training.

Samina Fazil and Farida Rashid said that we will try to support women build successful businesses so that financial independence can result in a shift in structure of the Afghan family and society.

They said that small loans can help Afghan women can start projects, developed their farms and livestock to boost their role in the market economy.

The leaders of women entrepreneurs said that Afghan businesswomen struggle to obtain the capital, management advice, equipment, and technologies they need to grow their businesses for which international community needs to take serious steps.

Widespread leakages further blocks women entrepreneurs to take on business initiative while banks provide loans on high interest rate while there are insufficient subsidies for women entrepreneurs.

As the deadline for withdrawal of international forces from Afghanistan nears concerns are increasing that hard-fought gains made by Afghan women will be rolled back, said Farida Rashid.

The participants also discussed issues pertaining to Afghan transit trade, smuggling, terrorism, cross border issues, role of India, Nato supplies, education, infrastructure, regional and international issues and impact of politics on trade.

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OIC Halal Middle East to boost innovative products, awareness

Khaleej Times – 19 August, 2013 – An upcoming halal event in Sharjah is set to open up better opportunities for regional players in the $ 1.8 billion Islamic finance industry. Underscoring the galloping pace of Islamic finance, Emirates Islamic Bank (EIB) will support the second OIC Halal Middle East Exhibition and Congress, according to its organiser.

The event will be held at Expo Centre Sharjah from December 16 to 18, 2013.

“EIB will be a key partner in highlighting halal finance opportunities for participants,” said Saif Mohammed Al Midfa, director-general, Expo Centre Sharjah.

The value of Shariah-compliant assets has more than doubled in the last six years alone. Global Islamic assets held by commercial banks stood at $ 1.3 billion in 2011, but the industry’s forecast growth of some 40 per cent over two years will see this figure rise to $ 1.8 billion in 2013, according to research by Ernst & Young.

Eight of UAE’s 51 banks are Shariah-compliant units, with their total assets exceeding $ 55 billion at the end of 2012.

However, the global Islamic finance industry is not growing at its true potential as Shariah-compliant assets account for less than two per cent of conventional equivalents, providing ample room for growth, point out industry experts.

“The Islamic finance industry has undergone rapid growth in recent years, but it remains an untapped market across many asset classes and geographies. We need to redefine our strategies to capitalise on these opportunities. The industry support to the second OIC Halal ME Exhibition and Congress will go a long way in creating awareness and planning innovative products to achieve that objective,” Midfa said.

Industry observers are also pointed out that with the debt crisis deepening in the West, investors are increasingly looking to move away from a speculative financial system. And, Islamic finance’s fundamental tenets have helped boost its image as a safe haven.

The show has also come at a time when the UAE Central Bank is planning to create a governance unit that will organise the activities of Shariah-compliant banks and Islamic units at commercial banks.

For its second edition, while Halal ME will be a comprehensive sourcing point for all halal products, from food to pharmaceuticals and insurance to tourism, the Halal Congress will offer a gathering point for food producers, exporters, importers, dealers as well as scholars and experts on halal markets and standards.

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Qassim hosts world’s largest date market

Arab News – 16 August, 2013 – Buraidah’s date season started and the air in the area designated for the city’s annual date market was filled with auctioneers’ calls to mark the start of the biggest agricultural economic activity in the world.

The projected Date City opened its doors and started receiving thousands of kilograms of dates since last Monday. The 75-day market offers over 45 kinds of dates. These will be sold the traditional way by marketing each day’s shipment from date farms. Dates are usually packed in special boxes that have defined weights to prevent fraud. However, sukkari dates account for 80 percent of the region’s production.

Qassim Mayor and the festival’s supervisor general Saleh Al-Ahmad said the municipality has prepared the Date City project to receive this important event.

Al-Ahmad expected this seasonal business to create more than 3,000 job opportunities for Saudis.

Farmers said this is their best season in terms of quality. “The harvest is outstanding this year and farmers will achieve good profits,” said Ali Al-Rashed, a major date farmer. He estimated there is an increase of 20 percent in the number of fruit-bearing palm trees every year in the region.

Sultan Al-Thunayyan, chairman of Qassim’s Dates Committee, said farmers achieved good profits in recent years compared to the period a few years ago before developing date festivals. “Sukkari is the prevailing date type in Qassim, and is considered to be one of the most important dates in the area,” he added.

Al-Thunayyan expected this date season to achieve high returns for farmers because of an increased quality of production that is the result of farmers’ recent implementation of corrected cultivation practices.

The date season is launched in mid August every year in a harvest celebration that farmers started practicing 50 years ago when they sold their yield in Al-Jardah market.

The municipality established a project that is called Date City to offer services for merchants and farmers, in addition to establishing special locations for trade activities that are connected to date production.

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S. Sumatra to host Islamic Fashion Festival

Thu, August 22 2013 Palembang (ANTARA News) – The South Sumatra provincial capital of Palembang will host an International Islamic Fashion Festival (IFF) on September 8 this year.

“Palembang will be one of the four cities in the world to host the festival this year,” spokesman of the event`s organizing committee Encik Ahmad Rizian bin Abd Gani of Malaysia said here on Thursday. The other cities are London, Paris and Geneva.

Among the four cities, Palembang will be the first to host the festival this year, he said.

He said the selection of Palembang as the host of the event is because Malaysia and Indonesia have many things in common.

In addition, South Sumatra will also host Islamic Solidarity Games which will coincide with the festival, he said.

South Sumatra Governor Alex Noerdin said after receiving members of the event`s organizing committee that the provincial government will fully support the festival to make it a success.

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Quran reading competition among blind to be held in Grozny

islam.ru / 20 Aug 2013 – Russian competition of reading the Quran among the blind believers according to Braille method of reading, which are devoted to the name of first President of Chechen Republic, the Hero of Russia Akhmad-Haji Kadyrov, will be held in Grozny. It will be conducted on 24 August at the Russian Islamic University named after Kunta-Haji Kishiev.

The organizers of the event are television company “Put’” named after Akhmad-Hadji Kadyrov and the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Awqaf of Kuwait, in the person of the Deputy Minister Dr. Adel Al-Falah. The event will bring together representatives of different regions of Russia.

The purpose of the contest is to support visually impaired people, to give them a chance to feel themselves as full members of society, to help them to gain confidence in their abilities.

The jury team will consist of well-known theologians such as the counselor of the Head of the Chechen Republic, director of Television and Radio Company “Put’” Adam Shahidov, hafiz from Syria, Sheikh Mahira Al-Munandzhid, well known in the Muslim world as the master of the Quran Ayman Rushdi Suwaid, a representative of the World Organization of Qur’an studying, Ibrahim Sabirov.

“The competition will be a significant event not only for the participants of the competition,but for the youth too. We are hoping that the behavior of the visually impaired believers will push young generation of faithful to the study of the sacred book of Muslims, “- said the deputy chairman of the organizing committee Ramzan Mustae.

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Upcoming Brunei ASEAN Expo great opportunity for local SMEs

August 22, 2013 – Borneo Bulletin – A senior official from the Marketing and Promotion Department under the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources (MIPR) has welcomed efforts by Cityneon Displays and Construction Sdn Bhd in the organisation of the much-anticipated Asean Expo 2013 scheduled to be held at the BRIDEX Hall in Jerudong from October 26 to 30.

In a brief interview at Cityneon Displays and Construction Sdn Bhd, Nordin Ahmad pointed out that this will be an excellent opportunity for local small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to showcase their products, and to show other local, regional and international parties what Brunei companies have to offer in terms of products and services.

Expanding further, Nordin Ahmad said MIPR supports efforts by local companies to promote the work of local SMEs, especially efforts by local communities in making the ‘One Village, One Product’ (OKOP) project an overall success. This ensures exposure on handicrafts, food products and eco-tourism products.

The expo can also generate a possible wealth of opportunities for local companies in attracting business interests from within and outside the region, he added.

Sheikh Jamaluddin Sheikh Mohamed of SHJ Consultant, as the event consultant, meanwhile, noted that the OKOP project has made enormous strides in creating quality products, a testament that Bruneians can generate products of value and marketable.

Successful business outcomes from this expo will be a great boost to the nation’s economy, Sheikh Jamaluddin added.

Cityneon Brunei has led efforts in it cooperation with MIPR in organising the expo, which will boast a total of 400 booths for local and international exhibitors.

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India’s Kerala State Opens First Sharia-Based Non-Banking Finance Company

MUMBAI, Aug 19 (NNN-Bernama) — After refusing to allow Islamic banking in the country for nearly a decade, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has finally allowed the Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation (KSIDC) to launch a Non Banking Financial Company (NBFC) that offers services compatible with Sharia law.

“The RBI has permitted (government agency) KSIDC to float a non-banking finance company and offer products based on Islamic finance principles,” the Central bank spokesperson Alpana Killawala told Press Trust of India (PTI) on Sunday.

Outgoing governor Duvuuri Subbarao, who is retiring on Sept 4, had earlier said that Islamic banking was not possible in the country.

“Islamic banking is not possible in the country as there are some legal problems,” Subbarao said last November.

However, RBI clarified that what it has allowed “is not Islamic banking” in the strict sense, as the greenlight is solely given to an NBFC and not commercial banking.

NBFC is a company engaged in the business of loans and advances, acquisition of shares, stock, bondsire-purchase, insurance business or chit business.

South west Kerala state has become the first state in India to start a Sharia-based NBFC.

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Australia Pledges A$3 Million to Complete Islamic Museum

IslamOnline 13 August 2013 – Foreign Minister Bob Carr has announced a re-elected Rudd Labor Government would contribute $3 million to enable completion of the Islamic Museum of Australia in Thornbury in Melbourne’s north. Funding for this project is already included in the national budget.

The announcement was made upon the occasion of Eid al-Fitr – the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. The $10 million museum will be the first Australian museum dedicated to Islamic art when it opens to the public next year. Australia is a vibrant and successful multicultural nation and this funding will ensure the wider Australian community can learn about the rich history of the Muslim faith.

The history of Islam in Australia long precedes the arrival of white settlement. For centuries, vessels from Indonesia visited the shores of northern Australia where they traded with local Indigenous people.

In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, other Muslims came to Australia, often as the crew of ships bringing white settlers. They were followed in the mid-19th century by the Afghan Cameleers. The museum will allow their stories to be told and it will also be a place to display and share the cultural history of Islam.

The Islamic Museum of Australia is described as an “Islamic exploratorium” and will house calligraphy, paintings, glass, ceramics, textiles and arts dating back to the 7th century, with special programs for school children. The building blends the purity and sophistication of Islamic design and features a large rusted “veil” as part of the entranceway.

The Islamic Museum of Australia is a community foundation with the vision of establishing a leading cultural institution to showcase and preserve the arts, history, culture and heritage that Islam and Muslim societies have brought to Australia and the world.

The Jewish Museum of Australia, which has been involved in the development of the Islamic Museum, welcomed the government support. The Jewish Community Council of Victoria’s president Nina Bassat told J-Wire: “The Islamic Museum of Australia is an important development for the Islamic community. Much thought and care has gone into the project, including consultation with the Jewish Museum of Australia, which it is using as a model. The Islamic Museum will add to the cultural life not only of the Islamic community, but to the celebration of multicultural art for the whole of Victoria.”

Some political analysts claim that this is part of a Labour Party funding programme tailored to sway voters in marginal seats. Almost half a billion dollars have been strategically allocated to be used for targeted CCTV and crime prevention grants, ethnic museums, libraries and green buildings. Half of the recipients had been announced in marginal electorates by Justice Minister Jason Clare in the first week of the campaign.

The grant for the Islamic Museum comes from the new $4.55 million Building Multicultural Communities fund. Minister for Multicultural Affairs Kate Lundy also made awards to African and Khmer communities in Adelaide, and the Korean community in Bennelong.

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Brunei aims to become best airfreight solution in region

James Kon

August 22, 2013 – Borneo Bulletin – BRUNEI Darussalam looks set to become the best airfreight solution in the region after the recent establishment of Air Logistics Sdn Bhd, a joint venture between BIACC Sdn Bhd and Air Logistics Group, one of the five top airfreight companies in the world with offices in 43 countries.

With the joint venture, the cargo volume is expected to grow by 20 per cent to 22,200 tonnes in the first year and the country is expected to emerge as a major hub for cargo in the next few years.

The aspiration to turn the Sultanate into a centre of excellence for airfreight was revealed by Royal Brunei (RB) CEO Dermot Mannion in his keynote address during the Asean Business and Investment Summit 2013 session, where the focus is on “accelerating Asean Connectivity-Linkage for growth”.

The project, he said, started a month ago and was already off to a terrific start. “In the first month, we have already seen a growth in cargo activity of more than 20 per cent. We have great hope in the development of the area.”

Highlighting the success of RB’s rebranding and restructuring exercise, Dermot said, “RB had taken the time-out to restructure in 2011 and 2013 but has come back leaner and meaner thanks to a solid growth path.

“Sometimes in the airline industry, we need to take a step backward to take two steps forward.”

“We are repositioning the RB brand and redefining ourselves as a boutique airline, a stylish small airline operating in a very interesting and attractive part of the world.

“Brand positioning means being able to compete as a premium carrier with the best there is in the low-cost carrier area.”

RB’s latest development has seen the national carrier sign a codeshare agreement with MASwings and in six weeks, the national carrier will be receiving the 787-800 Dreamliner.

Dermot said, “RB is the first airline in Southeast Asia to receive the B787-800. I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to His Majesty and the leadership of the airline, who back in 2006 had the vision to seek the aircraft. It’s truly a game changer in a long haul. We are very excited.”

On connectivity in BIMP-EAGA region, he said: “The codeshare agreement with MASwings was signed on June 28 this year, when we added Kuching to our route network and Kota Kinabalu to MASWings route network. This is the first of a number of interesting developments in the area of cooperation between RB and other regional carriers.

“We see our growth and ability to direct connectivity in the future through our ability to cooperate and work with other carriers in the region. This is the first of the initiatives, there will be more. We are currently working on another as we speak.”

In terms of growth, Asia Pacific is predicted to be the leading region in the airline industry over the next 20 years.

“Asia Pacific is projected to have an annual growth rate of seven per cent ahead of other regions. A separate data has shown that the recent growth and activities across Asia have seen more than 10 per cent growth rate of connectivity in August this year,” he said.

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Brunei oasis for foreign investors

August 22, 2013 – Borneo Bulletin – AGAINST the backdrop of global turbulence and uncertainty, Brunei Darussalam could be considered as an oasis for foreign investors and businesses within a fast-growing Asean and Asia-Pacific region.

This observation was made by Dato Paduka Haji Ali bin Haji Apong, the Deputy Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office and Chairman of the Brunei Economic Development Board (BEDB), as he pointed out some of the Sultanate’s modest successes in attracting FDI including the US$4 billion integrated refinery and aromatics complex by Zhejiang Hengyi from China, the US$102 million Multi-Purpose Training Centre that is equipped with the latest state-of-the-art helicopter simulation facilities by CAE from Canada, as well as the US$18 million Halal nutraceuticals plant by Viva Pharmaceutical from Canada.

“Clearly, with a population of around 400,000 (in the country), these investors must surely see Brunei Darussalam as a hub from which to export their goods and services not only within Asean but also to the Asia-Pacific region and globally,” said Dato Paduka Haji Ali Apong, who was speaking during the Asean Business & Investment Summit at the International Convention Centre yesterday.

In ensuring future sustainability, the Government of His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam has recently established the Brunei Research Council (BRC) whose main focus is to encourage both public and private research and development (R&D) in areas such as energy, environment, food security, healthcare and health services, as well as ICT, so as to ensure the nation’s long-term competitiveness.

As such, His Majesty’s Government has committed B$200 million to be utilised for R&D purposes over the next few years.

He said, “A portion of this will be used for a cost-sharing grant scheme where we will look to fund private sector R&D in collaboration with our institutes of higher learning and government agencies in projects with strong commercialisation potential.

“One example is where we have initiated a R&D collaboration with an Australian firm undertaking R&D in the development of healthcare supplements and nutraceuticals from locally derived natural plant extracts.”

Furthermore, Brunei has also stepped up efforts to encourage entrepreneurship and innovation, whilst ensuring adequate IPR protection.

“Our iCentre or Innovation Centre has incubated a number of innovative ICT start-up companies that have won regional awards and some have even achieved international recognition. In addition, we have extended our reach to the Institutes of Higher Learning through an Entrepreneurship @Campus initiative to inculcate a spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation amongst our youths,” the deputy minister said.

Speaking on Asean, Dato Paduka Haji Ali said despite foreign investors being cautious about recovery in the world economy, Asean has continued to forge ahead with its commitment to create an Asean Economic Community (AEC) by 2015, which aims to create a single market and production base, a highly competitive region, a region of equitable development and a regional economy fully integrated with the global economy.

One such initiative that will play a significant role leading up to the Asean Economic Community is the Asean Comprehensive Investment Agreement (ACIA). ACIA is a comprehensive set of agreements that encompasses all four major aspects of investments, namely liberalisation, facilitation, protection and promotion. It will be a key enabler that will pave the way towards this single, integrated market community by removing impediments towards investments into and within Asean.

He said, there is no doubt that a more open and transparent investment regime would enhance Asean’s attractiveness as an FDI destination.

Nonetheless he also urged to be mindful that Asean, as a collective grouping needs to improve its competitiveness so as to remain relevant to foreign investors in today’s fast-changing global environment.

According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index (GCI), which covers 144 economies, Asean individual member states’ ranking were highly disparate – from two to 85. Whilst Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei were ranked within the top 30, it shows that there is still much room for improvement and need for equitable development by Asean as a whole.

In the long term, it is not desirable nor is it sustainable for Asean to compete solely on cheap natural resources and cheap labour, where he said in the context of Brunei Darussalam, for example, the Sultanate has recognised that the oil and gas resources are finite and have already taken active steps towards economic diversification by focusing on higher value adding oil and gas downstream activities, as well as in the non-oil and gas export-oriented manufacturing (such as food, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics) and service sectors (such as Infocomms Technology (ICT) and financial services).

In the area of manpower, Dato Paduka Haji Ali said, Brunei, like its Asean counterparts, has continued to invest heavily in education and is revamping its vocational and technical training to ensure that the country produces quality skilled labour that will allow the country to undertake higher value added activities and to transform itself into a knowledge-based economy.

Dato Paduka Haji Ali emphasised that besides education and training, there are clearly two indicators measured in the GCI – technological readiness and innovation – that stand out as key areas that Asean as a region is falling short compared to other regions in the world.

He said, “In spite of the differing maturity of Asean member states’ economies, there is a need for Asean member states to encourage, invest in, support, and adopt new and innovative technologies so as to constantly sharpen our competitive advantage.

“To do so, we need a conducive environment infused with an entrepreneurial culture and supported by robust Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) protection regime.

“In this ever evolving technological era that we live in today, we have no choice but to continuously strive to find new and innovative solutions to address problems and issues that we face.”

Whilst technology acts as the primary engine for economic growth, innovation, Dato Paduka Haji Ali said it is the fuel that will allow an economy to progress to its next phase.

According to him, without innovation, an economy may face the danger of being stagnated.

“Although a competitive advantage can be achieved and substantial gains can be made through factors such as improved infrastructure, institutions and human capital, it is very likely that these returns will fall short in the long term,” he said. “It is therefore important that provisions be made for innovation to flourish so that sustainable economic growth can be achieved.”

Dato Paduka Haji Ali, meanwhile, reiterated that the future prospects for Asean remains optimistic as Asean strives towards a single integrated economic community.

“I am confident that with our collective efforts, Asean will be able to enhance our global competitiveness and remain relevant in a fast-changing global environment so as to continue to be an attractive FDI destination,” he said.

Today, Asean has a combined population of 620 million, with a combined GDP of US$2.2 trillion. Inward FDI has grown about five times from a mere US$22 billion in 2001 to US$118 billion in 2012, whilst Intra-Asean FDI has grown by more than 10 times from US$2.5 billion to US$26 billion during the same period.

Meanwhile, total trade volume in Asean today stands at US$2.4 trillion per year, representing approximately 24 per cent of global trade.

On the whole, Asean GDP in 2012 grew by a respectable 4.8 per cent compared to global GDP growth of 3.2 per cent buoyed by domestic investment, as well as Intra-Asean trade and investments.

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Oman Chamber of Commerce to take part in OIC-China expo

Oman Tribune – 21 August, 2013 – Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OCCI) will take part in the OIC-China Expo and Economic and Trade Forum 2013, due to be held in the China’s city of Yinchuan from September 15 to 19.

OCCI will be represented at the event by Eng. Ridha Bin Juma Al Saleh, member of OCCI Board with participation of a number of businessmen and businesswomen, representatives of the Omani private sector’s companies and establishments.

Eng Al Saleh said that the participation of OCCI and the private sector comes within the participation of the Arab and Islamic countries in this exhibition to enhance trade and investment ties with partners, pointing out that the Arab-China Exhibition enjoys the support of the relevant agencies in China.

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Qatar Airways begins flights to fifth Iraqi destination

Gulf Times – 22 August, 2013 – Qatar Airways yesterday launched flights to its fifth destination in Iraq, Sulaymaniyah, increasing the airline’s frequency across Iraq from 16 to 20 flights each week.

The new services, which will operate four-times-a-week non-stop from the airline’s Doha hub, brings the carrier’s global network to 129 destinations worldwide.

The Doha–Sulaymaniyah route is being operated by a state-of-the-art Airbus A320 featuring 144 seats in a two-class configuration of 12 seats in Business Class and 132 seats in Economy. The launch marks the rapid expansion by Qatar Airways in Iraq since the middle of 2012 when it began flights to Erbil, followed by the capital Baghdad, Najaf and Basra.

Sulaymaniyah also marks the carrier’s fifth new Middle Eastern destination launched this year after Basra, Najaf, Gassim in Saudi Arabia and Salalah in Oman.

The arrival of Qatar Airways’ flight QR438 was welcomed with a water salute at Sulaymaniyah International Airport and a reception presided over by local officials. Fathi Al Shehab, Qatar Airways Senior Vice President GCC, Levant, Iran and Indian Subcontinent, led an official delegation on the flight from Doha and was welcomed at the airport by Director General Sulaymaniyah International Airport Eng Tahir Qadir.

“The Republic of Iraq has been on our list of expansion priorities for some time and the last 12 months have seen us move forward very quickly opening up four new gateways in Iraq with a fifth, Sulaymaniyah, starting today,” said Qatar Airways Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker.

The Sulaymaniyah flights connect to over 100 destinations worldwide, including London, Paris, Singapore, Bangkok, Beijing, Johannesburg, Melbourne, Delhi and Mumbai.

Sulaymaniyah is an important economic and cultural centre for Iraq. It is a mountainous province and had been named the cultural capital of Kurdistan Region of Iraq. Due to relative peace in the region it has a more developed economy in comparison to other parts of Iraq.

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Oman-Saudi direct road to cut distance by 1,200km

Saudi Gazette – 22 August, 2013 – The work on a road to link Oman with Saudi Arabia via Al Rab Al Khali region will be completed by the end of next year, according to a report published by Al Shabiba, the Arabic newspaper of Times of Oman.

Eng. Salim bin Mohammed Al Nuaimi, undersecretary of the Ministry of Transport and Communication, said that some agencies have requested the roadway to be opened for light traffic. The distance of the road on Omani side is around 160km, which was completed in 2004. However, the remaining 10km distance has been delayed till the border crossing between the Kingdom and the Sultanate is mutually agreed, noted the report.

Al Nuaimi said that the project is facing delays as the Saudi side has not completed their part of the project. He added that necessary facilities and services will be provided for successful completion of the project.

“The Oman-Saudi Arabia highway project will facilitate one border crossing point instead of four to benefit travellers from both the countries,” the undersecretary said in an interview with Al Shabiba. He also hoped that the project will help promote tourism and business between the two brotherly nations.

Saudi Minister of Transport Dr Jabbara bin Eid Al Sarisari was quoted earlier as saying that work on the 519-km-long section, which will connect Al Batha border post in Al Ahsa governorate is under construction at an estimated cost of SR1.623 billion. The Saudi minister hoped that the section will be completed by the end of this year.

The new Oman-Saudi Arabia road will help reduce distance between the two countries from current 2,000km to just 800km once the construction on the Haras to Al Kharkhiir section is complete. Travellers from the Sultanate will not have to travel via the UAE once the joint-project is complete.

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Iran to hold foods and goods expo in Afghanistan

Tehran Times – 18 August, 2013 – An exclusive exhibition of Iranian goods and food products will open in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan on September 17, ILNA reported.

Food products, including canned food, dairies, tea, jam, and edible oil, as well as detergents, construction materials, home appliance, clothing, computer software, cars, and machinery, will be on display during the 3-day event.

In July, Afghanistan’s Ambassador to Tehran, Nasir Ahmad Noor, said that Iran and Afghanistan should boost their bilateral trade.

“Kabul currently imports over 5.5 billion dollars worth of goods from Iran,” he said.

“Oil products account for 5.2 billion dollars of the mentioned amount,” he noted.

“The two country’s trade in the previous (Iranian calendar year which ended March 20) faced 15 percent increase compared to its preceding (Iranian calendar year),” he added.

“Currently 500 Iranian companies are active in Afghanistan’s markets,” Noor explained.

In June, the Afghan ambassador said that once the development plan of Iran’s southwestern port city of Chabahar gets finished, the two countries bilateral trade will rise noticeably.

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Saudis help growth in Pak tourism

Arab News – 19 August, 2013 – Tourism is a growing industry in Pakistan and with more foreign investment and funding flowing in, including from Saudi Arabia, the country has been able to develop infrastructure.

It has now built major road and air networks to cater for the mass movement of cargo and inter-city travel. Roads are being developed by several consultants from the Northern Areas all the way down to the Port of Karachi.

Often described as the “next big thing” of the tourism industry, tourism in Pakistan, with its diverse culture, people and landscapes, attracted 1 million tourists last year, which is expected to grow further by the end of this year.

The main destinations of choice for these tourists are the Khyber Pass, Peshawar, Karachi, Lahore, Swat and Rawalpindi.

In its bid to promote tourism in the recent past, Pakistan, which has unique and varied cultural heritage, launched a campaign in 2007 called “Visit Pakistan,” which involved various events throughout the year including fairs and religious festivals, regional sporting events, various arts and craft shows, folk festivals and several openings of historical museums. Consequently, the World Economic Forum’s Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report published in 2009 ranked Pakistan as one of the top 25 percent tourist destinations for its World Heritage sites.

Pakistan enjoys good tourism relations with Saudi Arabia and religious and cultural tourism form a major part of their cordial relation.

Enthusiasm is growing among the younger generation in Pakistan to perform Haj and Umrah, and according to a recent survey by a Pakistani media, every 10th person seen in Holy Ka’ba or Masjid-i-Nabvi in Madinah is a Pakistani. Urdu and Punjabi speakers wearing shalwar kameez or western suits can be seen all around.

Saudis too visit Pakistan in substantial numbers. The tourist’s attraction in the country ranges from the ruins of the historical sites of Harappan civilization mainly at its two megapolis Harappa and Mohenjo-daro and the site of one of the most ancient university in the world at Taxila, to the Himalayan hill stations, which attract those interested in winter sports.

Pakistan is also home to several mountain peaks towering over 7,000 meters, which attracts adventurers and mountaineers from around the world, especially K2, the second highest peak in the world after Mt. Everest.

The northern part of Pakistan has many old fortresses, ancient architecture and the Hunza and Chitral valley, home to small pre-Islamic Animist Kalasha community claiming to be descendants of Alexander the Great.

The romance of the historic Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province is timeless and legendry. Punjab province boasts of the site of Alexander’s battle on the Jhelum River and the historic city Lahore, Pakistan’s cultural capital, with many examples of Mughal art and architecture such as Badshahi Masjid, Shalimar Gardens, Tomb of Jahangir and the Lahore Fort.

The Saudi Government has provided extensive religious and educational aid to Pakistan, being a major contributor to the construction of mosques and madrassas (Islamic seminaries) across Pakistan, and one of the major tourist destination in Pakistan — the Faisal Mosque (dedicated to King Faisal) in Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan, is the epitome of growing cultural ties between the Kingdom and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

Responding to the rich support provided by the Kingdom, Pakistan renamed one of its major cities Lyallpur as Faisalabad in honor of King Faisal in 1977. Saudi Arabia was also a major supporter of the “Islamization” program of the Pakistani military ruler General Zia-ul-Haq in the 1970s.

Moreover, Saudi Arabia remains a major destination for immigration amongst Pakistanis, whose numbers in Saudi Arabia stands between 900,000 and 1 million.

Strengthening the cultural ties, Pakistan also conferred King Abdullah with their highest civilian decoration, Nishan-e-Pakistan, in 2006. President General Pervez Musharraf conferred the highest civilian award of the country in recognition of his outstanding contribution to development of greater understanding and co-operation between the two countries.

Recently a non-governmental organization was also launched to promote education, trade, investment and tourism between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia in Islamabad.

Besides promoting economic and cultural ties with the Kingdom, the NGO will also facilitate the exchange of visits of educationists between the two countries.

The reason for Pakistan being a major tourist destination is because of the multiple attractions in the country. The diverse culture, traditions, historical places, beautiful valleys like Swat and Murree, a popular hill station and a summer resort for tourists are all factors behind Pakistan being an attractive tourist spot.

Historic places such as Mohenjo-Daro, Harappa and Taxila attract archaeologists from all over the world to come and visit the wonderful historic civilizations which are a part of Pakistan.

Other than these, the valleys of Pakistan have been able to attract tourists for a long period of time. These are Swat, Hunza , Naran, Kaghan and beautiful hills like Murree, Nathia Gali, and Changa Gali.

The major cities of Pakistan are not behind when it comes to attracting foreign tourists. All of them have different aspects which define Pakistani culture and traditions. Lahore is Pakistan’s second largest city and it is home to a large number of cultural places which has given it the title of being the cultural heart of the country.

The province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is known for its bountiful nature including valleys and plains. The Karakoram highway is also located in the vicinity of the province. Other cities like Karachi which is the largest city of Pakistan is the business center and commercial capital of the country.

It is the city of Pakistan’s founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah and his mausoleum is an attractive tourist spot. It is known for its beautiful and luxurious hotels such as the Pearl Continental, Marriot and Sheraton.

The government of Pakistan is trying to attract more tourists to Pakistan by initiating the sponsorship of new businesses within the tourist market and building and maintaining road and air networks to meet international standards.

The vast human and natural resources can also contribute to the development of this growing industry as advertising campaigns need to attract tourist by developing holiday packages tailored to explore the great regions of the country.

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Malaysian Tourism Industry Shows Remarkable Growth – PM Najib

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 15 (NNN-Bernama) — Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak said the country’s tourism industry showed a remarkable growth as the sector contributed over RM47 billion to the Gross National Income (GNI) last year.

The prime minister said the achievement had become a key pillar for the country to achieve its goal of becoming a high-income nation by 2020.

“Malaysia has seen remarkable growth in its tourism industry,” he said in his Facebook site which also attached a link to an article published by a local newspaper with the heading, ‘Giving the tourism sector a boost’.

A news report stated that the second largest foreign exchange earner after manufactured goods and the seventh largest contributor to the Malaysian economy, the tourism industry raked in a GNI of RM47.2 billion last year.

The industry experienced a remarkable growth and evolved to become one of the country’s fastest growing economic sectors, contributing RM60.6 billion in tourist receipts, with tourist arrivals registering at 25.03 million in 2012.

Meanwhile, on his Twitter account, the prime minister wished all the best to two photographers who were representing Malaysia at the World Press Photo (WPP) 2013 Exhibition.

Two Malaysian freelance photographers have marked Malaysia’s milestone entry into the WPP 2013 Exhibition, together with 52 other photographers from around the world.

The prize winning photographs selected for the exhibition were a colourful bull-racing photo entitled ‘Joy at the End of the Run’ by Dr Chen Wei Seng that was taken in Sumatra, Indonesia, under the Sports Action category, and Stefen Chow’s photograph titled ‘A Chinese Contemporary Artist Ai WeiWei’ under the Staged Potrait category.

The WPP 2013, the world’s largest and most prestigious annual press photography contest exhibition, is being hosted by TNT Malaysia Express along with the embassies of the United Kingdom and the Netherlands here and feature stunning photographs taken by members of the press worldwide.

The exhibition is open to the public starting yesterday at the Bangsar Shopping Centre.

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Uganda, South Korea Co-Operate To Develop Entebbe International Airport

By Moses Walubiri

KAMPALA, Aug 15 (NNN-NEW VISION) — The government of South Korea, through its international aid agency, the Korea International Co-operation Agency (KOICA), is set to undertake a string of developments at Uganda’s Entebbe International Airport (EIA) aimed at modernizing and enhancing aviation safety.

According to the Ugandan Director of Airports and Aviation Security, John Kagoro, the ambitious project is part of the government’s concerted effort to turn EIA — Uganda’s main international airport, located at Entebbe on the shores Lake Victoria, about km from here — into a regional aviation hub.

The developments will entail the establishment of computerized maintenance management of facilities and systems at the airport, an air traffic management system, enhancement of training and research in civil aviation and a review of the communications navigation and surveillance master plan and airspace redesign for Entebbe Information Region.

The project, which is expected to cost 10 million USD, is, according to visiting KOICA president Young-Mok Kim, an integral component of the Ugandan government’s “cherished desire to tap into its strategic location in the region”.

“Being a landlocked country, a modernized EIA can bring great dividends through being a gateway to the region,” Kim said here Monday during a meeting with Minister of Transport Abraham Byandala and a host of ministry technocrats.

Kim’s visit is a follow-up on discussions held with President Museveni regarding future development co-operation during the latter’s visit to South Korea in May.

According to Kagoro, the project, once completed, will enhance aviation safety at EIA through reporting of faults and also improve the flight information displays. “If a runway develops a crack, it can easily be detected because the reporting of such a problem will be automated,” Kagoro told journalists.

South Korea will also train Ugandans in specialized aviation courses to help the country keep abreast with rapidly changing aviation demands.

This development comes at a time when Government has earmarked 448.5 million USD on redesigning and modernizing the EIA.

The ambitious project will see the strengthening and widening of the existing runway and its associated taxiways as well as redesigning and re-equipping of the control tower to support future aviation technologies. Part of the funds will be expended on constructing state-of-the-art cargo and passenger center complex and terminal complex respectively.

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Dubai to host The Hotel Show on September 28

Khaleej Times – 15 August, 2013 – The region’s most prominent and knowledgeable professionals from the leisure and hospitality industry will gather to discuss key figures and trends at The Hotel Show 2013, which will be held at the Dubai World Trade Centre from September 28 to September 30, 2013.

Now in its 14th year, The Hotel Show 2013 will once more maintain its position as the leading hospitality and supplies show in the Mena region, bridging the gap between industry leaders, investors and stakeholders to look forward and work towards the next twenty years of growth for the UAE and wider Middle East.

This year, a new feature at the event will be the Vision Conference, with six key note speeches from some of the industry’s strongest leaders and experts such as Jeff Strachen, formally of Marriott, and global architect Steven Miller.

Helal Saeed Almarri, Director General of DTCM, who will be speaking on the second day of the event, is expected to go into further detail of the significance of the tourism and hospitality industry in Dubai’s Tourism Vision for 2020, and the importance of industry collaboration to achieve the broad objective of welcoming 20 million visitors per year by 2020.

Almarri said: “2012 saw us achieve the landmark figure of 10 million visitors for the first time, and now we have been set the ambitious but achievable target of doubling this by 2020. In order to achieve this target we must harness the collective power of our partners in the tourism and hospitality industry, and I look forward to discussing the Vision with many of them during The Hotel Show.”

Commencing the conference programme on September 28 with a keynote speech on where the hospitality and digital industries are heading, Alexander Barder, regional director of business development MEA at Sabre, will share his insights on the growth of digital technology from marketing and promotional benefits, as well as revenue management and more efficient communication between hotels, their partners and their guests via digital and social media channels.

Speaking ahead of The Hotel Show 2013, Barder said: “As one of the world’s most ambitious emerging markets, the Middle East and specifically Dubai is on its way to leading the growth for innovation and technology. How this innovation can be used to increase profitability, guest relations and indeed service standards within the hospitality industry will further increase the quality and pace of growth in the market.”

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New UAE centre to boost wellness tourism

Khaleej Times – 15 August, 2013 – Residents of the UAE and other Gulf states were the first clients to experience the new integrative medicine and wellness centre in the Capital.

The DNA Centre for Integrative Medicine and Wellness combines cutting-edge, scientific-based Western medicine with Eastern alternative modalities and has the potential to turn the emirate into a health and wellness destination.

The Centre, which is located on The Collection retail complex of the five-star St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort Abu Dhabi, was officially opened in May by Shaikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Culture, Youth and Community Development. The flagship centre of the US-based DNA Health Corp provides a “holistic approach” for residents and international visitors seeking wellness and rejuvenation.

“The centre will contribute to attracting visitors in the medical tourism sector to the UAE,” said Noor Al Nuaimi, head of marketing and communications at the Centre.

She added that the centre will shortly launch campaigns to promote its services in Saudi Arabia, Russia and other countries.

A first-of-its-kind in the region, the centre offers four dimensions of wellness — clinical, preventive, alternative and bio-aesthetics — based on the highest level of US healthcare and functional medicine protocols for the treatment of chronic diseases, lifestyle management and healthy ageing.

Chief among the services offered at the multi-million-dollar facility include the treatment and reversal of the metabolic syndrome such as diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular diseases (lifestyle management); and cancer support treatment. Working within the ‘DNA 4 Life’ personalised lifestyle medicine concept, a treatment plan is based on an individual’s genomics and DNA profiles, laboratory tests and comprehensive assessment on the current state of health.

This is combined with the Eastern healing traditions of Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine. “The Centre brings a unique approach involving the latest in western diagnostic techniques and traditional healing remedies for healthy ageing and disease prevention,” said Al Nuaimi. “We are seeking to turn Abu Dhabi into a favourite global destination for wellness tourism and bio-aesthetics beauty treatments, based on a tested model being implemented in Hollywood and utilised by the celebrities and stars,” she added.

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Saudi Arabia first in regional tourism growth

Arab News – 16 August, 2013 – Saudi Arabia is ranked first in the growth of tourism in the Arab world followed by Egypt and Morocco, according to a recent report by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

Saudi Arabia’s top ranking was not hampered by a significant decline in the number of tourists in 2012. The report said the Kingdom witnessed the largest decline in the number of tourists — 22 percent — in 2012 compared to a whopping increase of 61 percent in 2011 over 2010. Tourists numbers are likely to drop again at the end of this year.

The 2012 drop in tourists had minimal impact on Saudi Arabia’s growth ranking because of the huge increase in visitors in 2011, according to Saudi tourism officials.

Saudi Arabia has heavily promoted itself as a religious tourist destination. It waged several high-profile regional marketing campaigns.

“The tourism sector was booming in the Kingdom in 2012 and is still running on the same line this year and we are proud of it,” says Saeed Asiri, vice president of the Tourism Committee at the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry. “In another 10 years time, we can open up our tourism for people to see our traditions and customs.”

The expected decline in visitors for 2013 stems from Saudi authorities deciding to reduce the number of pilgrims coming from each country by 20 percent. Authorities also reduced the local pilgrim rate by 50 percent during the Haj season due to the expansion of the Grand Mosque in Makkah.

The reporter also said that Lebanon remained the most affected in the number of tourists in the Arab world with a decline of 18 percent due to the repercussions of the war in Syria.

Additionally, Saudi Arabia, ranked 21st in the top 50 most visited countries in the world. The Kingdom was followed by Egypt at 23rd and Morocco at 31st. Tunisia occupies the 34th position and Bahrain the 45th.

Most tourists to Saudi Arabia are almost exclusively pilgrims.

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Malaysia Seeks Stronger Cooperation With Guyana

GEORGETOWN, Aug 17 (NNN-GINA) — With common positions at the multilateral level and a potential for enhanced trade cooperation at the bilateral level, a Malaysian diplomat is looking to build on the linkages between Guyana and her country.

Sudha Devi Vasudevan presented her letters of credence to President Donald Ramotar Friday as the new Malaysian High Commissioner to Guyana with priorities focused on diversifying collaboration in areas such as tourism, Information Communication Technology (ICT), education and construction.

The existing relationship between Guyana and Malaysia has been characterised by shared common positions on political, economic and social issues at various international forums like the United Nations (UN), the Commonwealth, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the Non-Aligned Movement.

Bilaterally, Guyana has opened the door to Malaysian investors, and while the level of trade relations between the two has been relatively low, the Malaysian Government believes that the prospects for expansion are positive.

President Ramotar told the Malaysian High Commissioner that he is willing to explore cooperation in various areas given the opportunity which South/South cooperation provides.

He said Malaysia’s commitment to intensify the two countries’ relations through the Malaysian Technical Cooperation Programme, and the conclusion of trade and economic agreements which would provide the opportunity for the private sector of the two countries to explore means through which they can make a contribution to economic development.

“I am convinced that Guyana and Malaysia can actively explore several areas of cooperation. It is therefore my sincere hope that during the time you will serve as High Commissioner that our relations would be significantly enhanced,” President Ramotar said.

Last year a delegation from Malaysia’s largest multifaceted company Wee Boon Ping Group indicated its willingness to partner with Guyana, drawing inspiration from similarities in forest resources and the promotion of sustainable forestry practices.

The visiting delegation was led by Chairman of the Company Wee Kok Tiong, the third generation successor to the family owned business.

Malaysia is located in Southeast Asia occupying a landmass of 329,847 square kilometres.

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Uganda: Kidepo Voted Third Best Tourist Attraction in Africa

By Titus Kakembo

New Vision – 14 August 2013 – Kidepo Valley National Park has been voted the third best tourist attraction on the African continent by CNN Travel. Because of the achievement, the national park has become one of the most sought after attractions in Uganda.

“In five years we expect to triple the number of visitors from 2,700 to about 7,000,” said the area conservation manager, Johnson Masereka, while launching a new product called The Ik On Moru Engole nature walk. “The revenue will double last year’s collection of sh466m.”

There are investment opportunities waiting to be taken up by the private sector in the park. The park has three hotel sites waiting to be developed and needs transport services and aggressive tour operators. “Given the road unit being donated by USAID, we are going to make mobility in the park easy and improve the products in place,” Masereka said.

The UWA marketing officer, Ingrid Nyankabwa, said the park has 120 lions. “When here, chances of hearing the lions roar by your banda veranda are numerous,” she said.

She advised tour operators to include the national park on their itinerary when marketing gorilla tracking, nature walks and bird watching. “The game drive treats you to a wide variety of attractions ranging from giraffes, elephants, zebras, water bucks and ostriches.”

Philip Akoromwe, a ranger, said Kidepo National Park has a unique experience that cannot be found anywhere else. “The Kidepo setting is the closest you can get to nature in a raw form. There is something to interest everyone. The packages offer a nature walk, 460 birds, traditional dances, butterflies and interesting communities,” he said.

Sarja Bush from Spain said: “I found the 13-hour trip from Kampala to Kidepo National Park tedious but what I have seen makes the experience worthwhile.”

“I would not mind recommending Kidepo to a colleague. I find the panoramic view so nice. It is a break away from the concrete that is character of sprawling cities today,” she added.

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Aguene Art Foundation Set to Promote Tourism in Nigeria Ogbonna

Vanguard – 17 August 2013 – The vision and passion of artistic invention that runs in the family of Chief Ogbonna was an ancestral heritage from the art loving family of late Chief Aguene Nwinyinya Okorie of Umuchita-Uudomi village in Onicha Igboeze, Ebonyi State.

Speaking on the development and benefit Nigeria stands to gain through Aguene Art Foundation, Solomon said, “without vision the people perish”, quoting the Bible. “A man without vision is not capable of achieving any high enterprise, and he that has focus should not allow anything to distract him until he gets to his final destination”.

This philosophy has helped him today to raise this art foundation that would not only anchor on preservation of the art, culture and tradition of the people but is bent on bringing development to the country and also making it a tourism site for all and sundry.

Chief Solomon, who officially conducted Ohanaeze Ndigbo in Lagos, well-wishers, pressmen and friends around the exhibition centre in Ajah, Lagos, had at the age of 9 developed special interest in traditional art forms including paintings, sculptures, bronze, wood, etc. At the age of 11, he was already a regular sight in the company of his father at high profile traditional ceremonies and gatherings of titled men, though without prejudice to his education.

It was funny, when at 15 with the influence of his father was admitted into the spiritual group, “OGBO-EKWA” which then stood as ancient police in Onicha Igbo-Eze (a group that chastises evil doers in the community and brings them to justice), he said.

He believes that art is a form of culture and an extension of the mind and reasoning of the spirits. Therefore, he is resolute in his advocacy for custom and tradition of Africans, and he is convinced that nothing will strengthen a people as much as a proper appreciation and understanding of their own history as recorded by their own people, in their own language.

However, in his quest to perpetuate and develop the ideals of his late father, Aguene Art Foundation, an indigenous non-governmental organisation was set up for the collection, preservation, development and advancement of arts and culture. To further enhance the preservation of our proud African heritage on a global level, Chief Solomon Ogbonna, chairman, Board of Trustees of the foundation, the patron of Onicha Igbo-Eze Town Union, Lagos branch, an ambassador for Peace, also an awardee of Pan-African Partnership Award for Peace, Art and Culture Development etc. has embarked on the establishment of Aguene Museum Of Master Pieces of Art.

President, South-East, South-SouthTraditional Ruling Council, Lagos, Dr. Sylvan O. Ebigwei, advised all and sundry to support Chief Solomon succeed in this vision taken to make Nigeria great like other countries of the world.

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Gambia: West African Tours Organises Tour for Students

The Daily Observer – 21 August 2013 – The local tour operators, West African Tours, Saturday organised a one-day sight-seeing tour for students from various schools after they successfully participated in an essay writing competition on tourism. The sightseeing tour of the capital city and Greater Banjul Area enabled the students to see what tourists to The Gambia do enjoy each time they are in the country on holidays. Among the sites and places visited during the tour are the National Museum situated at Independence Drive in Banjul, and the crocodile pool popularly known as Katchikally in Bakau.

Angela Andrews, director of West African Tours, described the tour as an extension of studies for the students. She explained that apart from the weather and the hospitality of the Gambian people, tourists come to visit some of the country’s attractions. Madam Angela further remarked that what the students have learnt on the tour is an educative way to let them know that tourism is everyone’s business. She also congratulated the successful winners of the essay in the persons of Ramatoulie Jarju from Ndow Comprehensive High School, Binta Faye – Methodist Academy, Yassin Susso – Gambia Senior Secondary School, Yousupha Touray – John Pickering School and Omar Ceesay -Ana Maririvee. She advised them to circulate the importance of tourism among their mates in the school.

For his part, Muktar Bojang, a tour guide with the West African Tour, said the programme title ‘know your country’ is a campaign to give the students the opportunity to know their own local area particularly the historical sites where tourists normally visit each time they are in the country. Martin Joiner, one of the teachers who accompanied the students expressed his delight with the tour and thanked the staff and management of the West African Tour for organising such an important tour for the students.

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Algerian Tourists Return to Tunisia

Magharebia – 21 August 2013 Tunis — Cars with brass yellow license plates from Algeria are once again roaming the streets of Tunis and coastal cities.

The Tunisian tourism ministry has been monitoring the return of Algerian tourists after the end of Ramadan on August 8th. Their numbers are below expectations compared to 2010. Back then, 7 million Algerian tourists visited the country, according to statistics National Office of Tunisian Tourism (ONTT) statistics.

The number of Algerian tourists dropped by 28% and the number of arrivals to the Tunisian territory did not exceed 29,000 people before July 10th, according to tourism figures.

Tourism Minister Jamel Gamra paid a visit to the city of Tabarka along the Algerian border on July 16th, where he met a group of Algerian journalists and operators in the sector.

Gamra sought to reassure the Algerians that what was taking place in Jebel Chaambi was under control: “What is certain is that the phenomenon has been limited to the area of Jebel Chaambi and that it did not affect security in the rest of the region.”

“Security authorities have worked in collaboration with Algeria to neutralise terrorists in Jebel Chaambi,” Gamra told Echorouk. “The authorities took maximum measures and pre-emptive steps to ensure the security of its visitors.”

The interior ministry has also been holding training sessions with hotel staff about safety and emergency response all the while ensuring a comfortable stay for tourists, Gamra added.

Algerian tourists expressed confidence about the way authorities are handling the security situation.

“In the beginning, news about the security situation in Tunisia were not reassuring, especially for those like me who have to cross the border on their own cars,” Algerian tourist Mourad Qallala told Magharebia. “We arrived safely and roads adjacent to the borders were protected. We will spend the rest of the summer in Tunisia, which has been our favourite destination for years.”

Newlywed Tariq Ajaj, who is spending his honeymoon in Tunisia, complained about congestion at the border crossing and the multiple security checks: “This is acceptable if we know the threats that our brothers in Tunisia are facing. We in Algeria have tasted the bitterness of terrorism and we hope that Tunisia overcomes this ordeal.”

“At this time of the year my restaurant was extremely active until the wee hours,” Tunis restaurant owner Mokhtar Ben Jannet said. “The majority of my clients are Algerians, but because of the recent news about terrorism, the number of Algerian clients declined.”

“I understand their decision,” Ben Jannet added. “They have suffered from the scourge of terrorism.”

Gamra told the Algerian media that his government is planning to expand border crossings and develop roads leading to them.

“We allocated a budget of 300,000 dinars to expand the Melloula border crossing in order to accommodate a thousand tourists a day,” he said.

The project is expected to be launched next month, the parking lot will be expanded and the crossing border office will be equipped with air conditioning and chairs, he added

The waiting time at the border crossing will be reduced to a maximum of 10 minutes, according to the minister.

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Mozambique: New Tourism Zone Established

Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique – 14 August 2013 Maputo — The Mozambican government has approved a decree creating a new integrated tourism resort in the northern province of Nampula.

The new tourism zone covers the Crusse and Jamali islands in Mossuril district, and the adjacent area of the mainland, covering a total area of 1,750 hectares. Crusse and Jamali had already been earmarked as an “area of tourism interest” in a government decree of 2010.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, at the end of a meeting of the Council of Ministers (Cabinet), the government spokesperson, Deputy Justice Minister Alberto Nkutumula explained that the creation of this zone is intended to help create poles of development in areas with the potential for developing integrated projects, particularly in the hotel industry and tourism.

The idea, he said, was to build luxury hotels, and complementary units such as a marina, a casino and an 18 hole golf course. There would also be an area for “residential tourism”.

“The vision is to transform the area of Nacala, Mossuril, Matibane, Crusse and Jamali into one of the most attractive zones for luxury tourism in the world”, said Nkutumula.

The two islands are uninhabited, but about 3,600 people live in the mainland area covered by the tourism zone. “In principle, a resettlement plan will be drawn up for these people”, Nkutumula said, stressing that local communities will be involved in the tourism projects.

A tourism operator for the entire area will be chosen through an international public tender.

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“Burka Avenger” swoops to popularity in Pakistan

Centralasiaonline.com 2013-08-22 ISLAMABAD – She flies through the night in a ninja-style black outfit to fight for justice, peace and education for all. She is Burka Avenger, the hero of an animated series that recently launched on Geo Tez, a private TV channel.

The latest Pakistani superhero is a teacher out to fight “bad guys” who bar girls from seeking education. Her weapons: pens and books, with some martial arts moves thrown in for effect.

The character has grabbed media attention for several reasons. First, Burka Avenger is the first-ever animated superheroine in Pakistan; second, the stories highlight female education, an institution targeted by Islamic militants in Pakistan.

Burka Avenger hit television screens about a year after the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) shot schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai in Mingora last October. Malala, now living in England, has been an advocate for girls’ education worldwide, only gaining stature since the attack.

Such attacks moved musician and producer Aaron Haroon Rashid to create the superheroine.

“I was inspired by real-life events,” he told Central Asia Online. “I was reading about girls’ schools being shut down by extremists in the northern areas of Pakistan, so I came up with this idea where the protagonist schoolteacher is preventing [them] from being shut down.”

The roots of Burka Avenger

Rashid initially created Burka Avenger as a mobile phone game in 2011 because he noticed people were “really saddened by what’s happening in our country and I thought that it’s our duty to try to make a difference.”

She wears a burqa because “I thought it would be iconic to have a woman in a burqa fighting extremists,” he said.

It worked. Burka Avenger is gaining popularity.

“The feedback is amazing, [with] people from all over the world writing in and saying such positive warm things that really touch the heart,” Rashid said. A foreign director and a film agency even contacted Rashid about selling the rights.

“They are interested in making a live action film on Burka Avenger,” he said, but he declined the offer. “At this point we are going to keep Burka Avenger in the animated world because we don’t want its image to be damaged.”

Instilling values peacefully

Pens and books are Burka Avenger’s weaponry, he said, because of his anti-violence leanings.

“I have always been against guns being shown even in my music videos,” he said. “I don’t want to show anything violent – that’s not who I am. So we came up with the idea of what could you find in school.”

Burka Avenger is winning praise for the good it can do for children.

Cartoon characters can have a positive effect on children’s personalities, Mohammad Fahim Qasim, an assistant psychiatry professor at Mohi-ud-Din Islamic Medical College in Pakistani-administered Kashmir, said.

“A good character exhibiting civilised behaviour can influence a child to interject his or her goodness within himself or herself or to care strongly about good character,” he told Central Asia Online.

A positive cartoon character can also help children develop self-esteem and confidence, learn to differentiate between good and bad and show resilience in life, he said.

Educators expect Burka Avenger to cause positive ripples in Pakistani society in general and in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) in particular, especially for children. “The form Burka takes seems to be familiar to this part of the world, and hence children can easily associate themselves with Burka Avenger and with all the goodness that she carries with her,” Khadim Hussain, managing director of the Peshawar-based Baacha Khan Trust Educational Foundation, told Central Asia Online.

Viewers’ response

Four episodes have aired since its launch on July 28 on Geo Tez, and the response has been overwhelming. Burka Avenger’s official Facebook page had more than 75,000 likes as of August 20 and has elicited many comments.

“A woman is strong enough to protect herself … This cartoon makes me feel more proud about my BURKA!!!” Laraib Hamid wrote.

“Amazing cartoon … amazing concept. Keep up the great work!!” Sarah Mumtaz commented.

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Kyrgyzstan seeks to attract tourism

Centralasiaonline.com 2013-08-22 BISHKEK – Kyrgyzstan is working on measures to promote tourism so it can expand its revenue base.

Officials are trying to address several issues that would remove barriers and improve the overall tourist experience and thus make the country more of a tourist destination, Economy Ministry official Tilek Sayakbayev told Central Asia Online.

Kyrgyzstan’s tourism contribution to the country’s GDP has not budged in recent years –varying between 4% in 2007 and 4.2% in 2011, Ainoura Sagynbayeva, director of SIAR Research and Consulting Group, said.

The Economy Ministry hired SIAR to conduct a study on Kyrgyz tourism in which it polled 1,750 tourists ages 18 and over from both Kyrgyzstan and abroad.

Tourists spend less than Kyrgyzstan would like, the study concluded. More than 50% of tourists coming to Kyrgyzstan visit Lake Issyk-Kul and 30% visit museums, spending an average of only US $86 (4,200 KGS) per day.

Tourism dollars help grease the wheels of the economy in several ways. First, spending keeps restaurants, hotels and other attractions afloat; second, the government gets money in the form of surcharges and taxes that it can put back into the industry.

Challenges the country faces

The tourism sector’s lack of vision sets Kyrgyzstan at a disadvantage, Sagynbayeva said.

“Kyrgyzstan … doesn’t set a common direction or lay out a vision for developing the tourist industry, and there is no continuity in policy,” she said. “The human resources, and consequently the level of service, don’t reach the level we need.”

Kyrgyzstan has been working to restore tourism since the revolution and ethnic riots in April and June 2010, she said.

Simple changes can improve the tourist experience, she asserted. ”

We’ve made recommendations to the Economy Ministry, … The [ministry] was very open. It has discussed this report with us and with tourism providers,” she said, noting that not only the cleanliness of hotel rooms and restrooms but also the attitude of waiters and hotel staff goes a long way in regard to customer satisfaction. “We need to improve our airports too. Tourists form their first impression from border guards, customs officers and taxis.”

Breaking down tourism hurdles

Removing travel barriers is also crucial in encouraging outside visitors, Sayakbayev said. “In the summer of 2012, we abolished entry visas for tourists from 44 [wealthy] countries.”

Since visa-free entry became the norm for those countries, the number of tourists contacting Kyrgyz travel agencies has increased by 66%, according to the Kyrgyz Association for Community-Based Tourism (KATOS).

Sagynbayeva suggested an “open skies” policy that would allow foreign airlines to compete for flight slots to enter and depart Kyrgyzstan.

Finally, money is needed to revitalise the sector, Asylbek Rajiyev, executive director of KATOS, told Central Asia Online. Having more money in the industry promotes competition for that money, he said, which in turn would improve the quality of service.

KATOS is actively working on new ways to develop tourism, Rajiyev said.

“In every oblast, we’re teaching the public how it can begin to make money from tourism,” he said. “We’ve already trained 2,500 people, and as a result, 17 groups [of trainees] have opened their own tourist facilities.”

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Kazakh universities permit online enrolment

Centralasiaonline.com 2013-08-22 ASTANA – Eighteen Kazakhstani universities will now permit students to enrol in classes online, Kazakhstan Today reported August 21, citing the Transport and Communications Ministry press office.

Previously, students had to sign up for classes on paper.

The service, which should make the registration process easier, is available through egov.kz, the government’s electronic portal.

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Camel milk becoming more popular in UAE

Dubai, Tuesday, 13 Shawwal 1434/ 20 August 2013 (IINA) – Camel milk is becoming more popular in the United Arab Emirates, available in coffee outlets and high-end hotels. Sold across the country, the Bedouin staple is a low-fat alternative to cow’s milk.

Costa Coffee, the first international coffee shop chain to offer camel milk, has joined other big-name brands such as Harrods, the Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal, and al-Nassma Chocolate. The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal hired a “camel milk mixologist” to create non-alcoholic cocktails to coincide with Ramadan.

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Indonesia, Kazakhstan to boost links in 13 economic sectors

Wed, August 21 2013 – Jakarta (ANTARA News) – Indonesia and Kazhakstan have decided to step up cooperation in 13 economic sectors.

“Kazhakstan is a trading partner as well as a friend of Indonesia. The joint commission meeting today was quite productive, resulting in agreements in 13 economic sectors, categorized under five working groups,” Indonesia`s Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs Hatta Radjasa said after attending the first meeting of the Indonesia-Kazakhstan Joint Commission on Economic Cooperation (JCEC) here on Wednesday.

The 13 economic sectors are trade and investment (under the first working group); industry, agriculture, and infrastructure (second working group); oil, gas, and energy (third group), transportation and logistics (fourth group); and banking, shariah finance, and pharmaceutical (fifth group).

Hatta said the first JCEC was held after a meeting between the two countries` leaders, who later asked their economic ministers to boost bilateral cooperation.

“As already known, the state visit of Kazakhstan president Nursultan Nazarbayev resulted in an agreement to increase the trade value between the two countries to US$100 million by 2017,” he continued.

Hatta noted that the volume of trade between the two countries had doubled from US$35 million in 2008 to US$64 million last year.

However, he said, the figure could be much higher if the two countries increased their cooperation in various fields.

“Keeping that in view, we have agreed to increase trade volume and cooperation in 13 economic sectors,” Hatta explained.

He revealed that the two sides signed a memorandum of understanding at the JCEC meeting for the establishment of Indonesia-Kazakhstan Joint Economic Cooperation.

“We have also agreed that some joint projects will be implemented even before President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono visits Kazakhstan,” Hatta said.

“We are optimistic that economic ties between the two countries can be strengthened through cooperation efforts under the five working groups,” he added.

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DEMU train service begins on Dhaka-Joydebpur route

DHAKA, Aug 22, 2013 (BSS) – Bangladesh Railway (BR) has opened up a new chapter in its expansion process by launching modern and speedy Diesel Electric Multiple Unit (Demu) train service for commuters on the Dhaka-Joydebpur-Dhaka route.

Railway Minister Mujibul Haq formally inaugurated it at Joydebpur Railway station, saying the Demu train service on Dhaka- Joydebpur- Dhaka route would make the journey easier, fast and comfortable by reducing the traffic congestion.

State Minister for Women and Children Affairs Meher Afroj Chumki, AKM Mozammel Haq MP, Jahid Ahsan Russel MP, Gazipur Distrct Council Administrator Aktaruzzamn, Bangladesh Railway Director General Abu Taher, Advocate Wazi Uddin Miah and joint secretary Sunil Chandra Paul spoke, among others, on the occasion.

The railway minister said the government had signed an agreement with a Chinese company in 2011 for procuring 20 sets of Demu at a cost of Taka 460 crore and all of those Demus reached the country within the stipulate time.

With its two engines at both ends, and one compartment in the middle, the Chinese DEMU train is good for short-haul travels as these two engines, capable of moving either way, would save time (about 20 minutes) and would be able to maintain schedules.

On 24 April, the Prime Minister unguarded the first ever DEMU trains services on Dhaka-Narayanganj route followed by Chattagong- Laksham route, Chittagong-Foujderhat route, Mymensingh-Joydebpur route and Comilla-Akhaura route.

A DEMU train, having 460 horsepower engine, has a life span of 30 years and these are more nimble energy-efficient than locomotive-hauled trains. Like the locomotives, its maximum speed is 80 kilometres per hour, said officials.

Mujibul Haq said, rail service is one of the oldest and traditional modes of transports of Bangladesh. Since it’s inception in British era, the minister said, the train service in course of time has been the low cost, safe and comfortable mediumof communication for commoners in Bangladesh.

“Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina imported modern trains from abroad. On the other hand, trains were ransacked and burnt to ashes at the directives of opposition leader Begum Khaldea Zia,”he observed.

As part of government initiatives, the rail minister said,they have taken 34 projects at a cost of Taka 18,310 crore for developing the railway service and make it time befitting.

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Metro rail project to be started this year

DHAKA, Aug 16, 2013 (BSS) – The Mass Rapid Transit Line 6 (MRT) project will start this year, as land acquisition nearly finished, an official familiar with the process said today.

“The metro rail project needs 54.34 acres of land for implementation of the project at Uttara third phase while it got 14.07 acres from RAJUK and 40.27 acres are under process,” additional secretary of the roads division of the communications ministry Farid Uddin Ahmed Chowdhury told BSS.

He said the appointment of consultants for the overland Metro Rail is under process, as the Awami League led government is gearing up to implement the project for easing the city’s chronic traffic congestion and comfortable commuting.

The government led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina would lay foundation stone of the project within this year, the additional secretary said. “Once the project is implemented, the MRT will be able to ferry around 60,000 to 70,000 commuters an hour,” he said.

Farid said Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (RAJUK) has already allocated 14.07 acres of land for the Metro Rail Project, adding, “After appointment of consultants, project officials would go for physical construction of the project.”

He said the project would requires Taka 21,985.07 crore and of that fund Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) would provide Taka 16,594.59 crore and the rest of Taka 5,390.48 crore would be borne by the Bangladesh government.

Farid said JICA pledged for providing fund with 0.01 percent interest rate and the repayment period is 40 years with 10 years grace period.

“As a popular mode of economical public transport system in the world, the government is committed to implement the project which would enable comfortable commuting for city dwellers,” he said.

According to a ministry source, the 20.1km long metro rail route will start at Uttara and end at in front of the Bangladesh Bank building in the capital’s Motijheel area, he said, adding that the project has also got assurance for uninterrupted power supply and received certificate from Environment Department.

As per the latest design, the route of the MRT Line-6 would go to Bangladesh Bank at Motijheel from Uttara having 15 stations including Pallabi, Farmgate and Doel Chattar and National Press Club. DTCB under Communications ministry will implement the project and Dhaka Mass Transit Company (DMTC) will operate the metro rail.

In the first phase, 11 km rail track from Pallabi to Sonargaon Hotel will be completed by 2019, the 4.4 km second phase from Sonargaon Hotel to Bangladesh Bank will be built by 2020 and the third phase of 4.7 km from Uttara to Pallabi will be implemented by 2022.

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Pakistan-German Business Forum held in Lahore

LAHORE, Aug 20 (APP): German Ambassador to Pakistan Dr. Cyrill Nunn has said there is wide scope to further enhance trade and economic ties between Pakistan and Germany. He was addressing a ceremony here after launching the Lahore Office of Pakistan-German Business Forum (PGBF).

President Northern Chapter of Pakistan-German Business Forum Masud Akhtar and a large number of representatives of business community were also present on the occasion. He said, “Both Germany and Pakistan will largely benefit from stronger business ties and the launch of the Lahore office of PGBF is an important step for the business communities in both the countries.”

The German ambassador said the strategic dialogue at level of Foreign Secretaries between Pakistan and Germany would be held in last quarter of 2013 in Islamabad to further strengthen bilateral ties in all fields.

He said the second round of the strategic dialogue will focus on bilateral economic issues. The German ambassador said both Germany and Pakistan are planning to undertake further efforts to foster mutual business relations.

He said “Pakistan Business Days” will take place in Berlin and Munich from October 30 to November 1 this year. He said organized and facilitated by the Karachi-based Pakistan-German Business Forum (PGBF), a delegation of Pakistani companies will travel to Germany to meet with potential German business partners. The focus will be on energy, textiles and mechanical engineering, he added.

Against this background, Germany offers assistance in enhancing corporate social responsibility, human rights and core labour standards in textile manufacturing, aimed at improving working conditions for employees.

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Rs. 21.04 billion released for Pakistan development projects

ISLAMABAD, Aug 21 (APP): The Ministry of Planning and Development has so far released Rs 21.04 billion under its Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) against the total allocations of Rs 540 billion for the fiscal year 2013-14. According to the latest data of the ministry, an amount of Rs 347.495 million has been released for the Cabinet Division against the total allocation of 2179.800 million for the current financial year.

Meanwhile, an amount of Rs 8.188 million was released for the development projects of Climate Change Divisions as the government has earmarked Rs 58.762 million including the foreign component for various projects of common interest in the country.

The government has also released Rs 13.433 million for various on-going and new development projects under PSDP 2013-14 in Interior division against the total allocations of 6259.166 million.

An amount of Rs 461.368 million has been released for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Division against the total allocation of 2363.97 million for the year 2013-14.

For fulfilling the commitment to provide better health facilities to the common man in the country the government has allocated a abandoned money in PSDP 2013-14 as Rs 24215.9 million has been set to be spent on public health services improvement and development.The government has so far released Rs. 5638.97 million for different health projects.

Rs.7243.40 million has been released for Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission where as a sum of Rs 93.55 million for the Planing and Development Division respectively.

Under PSDP 2013-14, Rs 5535.179 million has been released for Railways Division to strengthen and improve the railway network in the country, where as Rs.200 million was released for Water and power Division so far.

Rs.1500 million released for the Earth Quake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority as against the total education of 7500 million in PSDP 2013-14.

It may be recalled that funds for Tameer-e-Pakistan Programme are released by the Cabinet Division.

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Pak exhibitors keen on Shanghai’s Intertextile Exhibition

SHANGHAI, Aug 19 (APP): Pakistani exhibitors have evinced keen interest in taking part in the upcoming Intertextile Exhibition to be held here by the end of the current month, official source said Monday. As many as ten exhibitors from Pakistan have so far been sponsored by Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP) for the 3-day fair.

These exhibitors are mainly dealing with cotton yarn, textiles, home textiles, bedding, curtains and carpets, an official at Consulate General in Shanghai said. In addition to these ten exhibitors, a sizeable number of Pakistan exhibitors are also privately showcasing their products, he noted.

The Intertextile Exhibition Shanghai is taking place from August 27 to 29 at Shanghai New Exhibition Center. He pointed out that the Consulate General Pakistan, Shanghai has booked stalls for the exhibitors in a especially designated “Pakistan Pavilion”. Information booth would also be set up by Consulate to disseminate information and highlight Pakistani products.

Consulate staff would be present at the site to facilitate exhibitors and help them for holding business meetings. The CG has widely circulated information about Pakistan Pavilion to the Chinese private sector and business associations to visit and see the products.

The Consulate is in close contacts with the Chinese Embassy, Islamabad and Consulate at Karachi for expeditious issuance of visas to exhibitors. The Consul General will visit and meet the exhibitors during the exhibition.

Over 1,350 home textile suppliers from 31 countries and regions will exhibit in 12 halls across 138,000 sqm at the Shanghai New International Expo Centre, said the organizer. This show is dedicated to providing visitors with an insight into local market trends, and as such, not only bedding & towelling, but also decorative fabrics and carpets & wall coverings suppliers will feature throughout the fair.

Buyers can also learn more about the whole-home design concept a developing trend amongst Chinese consumers.

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SR300 billion projects underway in Makkah

Makkah, Thursday, 08 Shawwal 1434/ 15 August 2013 (IINA) – New projects worth more than SR300 billion are being implemented in Makkah to improve services being rendered to millions of pilgrims who come for Haj and Umrah, said Makkah Governor Prince Khaled Al-Faisal.

He said the new development projects in Makkah, including largest expansion of the Grand Mosque, were not aimed at making any financial gains for the Kingdom but to enhance facilities for the guests of God who are growing in numbers year after year.

“The ongoing Haram expansion project, the largest in history, is being carried out on an area of 400,000 square meters. It will double the mosque’s capacity to two million worshippers,” the governor said.

The new Haram project has six main components: Expansion of its plazas; construction of bridges and pedestrian pathways; new service buildings; health centers; civil defense office; a central air-conditioning station; and a reserve power plant.

“There are plans to construct more pathways and tunnels around the mosque as part of the project,” he said, adding that all these works would facilitate the movement of pilgrims. Prince Khaled stressed the significance of the SR69 billion Makkah public transport project, including a metro system, adding that it would ensure smooth flow of traffic inside the city.

He also said the King Abdullah Project for the Development of Makkah and Holy Sites aims at increasing the present capacity of Mina and linking the holy sites with Makkah with an advanced transport system.

The ongoing expansion of King Abdulaziz International Airport (KAIA) in Jeddah will increase its capacity to 80 million passengers, he said. KAIA is the main gateway of pilgrims.

“The Haramain Railway will reduce the waiting time of pilgrims at KAIA and will carry more than three million passengers annually,” the governor said. The railway linking Makkah and Madinah via Jeddah will have a length of 480 km. He referred to government’s plan to set up a full-fledged pilgrim city in Makkah with housing units, offices of Haj service providers and exhibition centers. The expansion of masaa, the running area between the Safa and Marwa inside the mosque, has increased its capacity to 188,000 pilgrims per hour, he said.

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Swedish women don ‘hijab’ to support attacked Muslim woman

Stockholm, Tuesday, 13 Shawwal 1434/ 20 August 2013 (IINA) – Scores of Swedish women from various faiths have posted pictures of themselves wearing hijab, or traditional Muslim headscarves, in solidarity with a woman attacked in a Stockholm suburb, apparently for wearing one.

Police spokesman Ulf Hoffman said an unknown assailant had attacked the pregnant woman in the suburb of Farsta on Friday by banging her head against a car. Hoffman said the man shouted slurs which have led police to believe the attack was motivated by the woman’s religion. Using hashtag #hijabuppropet (hijab outcry) women posted their photos in headscarves on the social networking sites Twitter and Instagram. Swedish television host Gina Dirawi and politician Veronica Palm are some of the notable figures who expressed solidarity with #hijabuppropet.

Green Party leader, Asa Romson, went as far as to change her Twitter profile picture, in support of the campaign. “Risk of being beaten and discriminated against for how they choose to dress, everyday life for many women in Sweden 2013” Romson said on her twitter account. Some men also supported the campaign posting photos in which they covered their heads.

Joel Almorth tweeted: “Yes wear veils today to show solidarity for all women, are put up with harassment and attacks!” In an opinion piece published in the Swedish newspaper, Aftonbladet, on Sunday, the organisers of the ‘hijabuppropet’ urged Justice Minister Beatrice Ask to take measures to “ensure that Swedish Muslim women are guaranteed the right to personal safety and religious freedom, without being subject to verbal and physical attacks”.

“In addition, we demand that responsible politicians actively draw attention to and fight the structural discrimination that affects Muslim women. “We believe that’s reason enough in a country where the number of reported hate crimes against Muslims is on the rise – and where women tie their headscarves extra tight so that it won’t get ripped off – for the prime minister and other politicians to take action to stop the march of fascism,” the authors wrote. The Justice Minister has also agreed to meet with the organisers of the campaign on Tuesday. “This must be taken very seriously,” Minister Ask told TT news agency.

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Atatürk’s ‘Walking Mansion’ now open to visitors

YALOVA – Anadolu Agency – Republican founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s mansion in Yalova, known as the “Yürüyen Köşk” (Walking Mansion) because Atatürk had the building moved to prevent a sycamore tree from being moved, has been opened after a restoration process.

The mansion is opening its doors after 84 years, Yalova Gov. Esengül Civelek, said during an opening ceremony. “Atatürk came to our Yalova and stayed here between 1930 and 1938. He had three mansions and two farms here in Yalova,” he said, adding that the Yürüyen Köşk was the smallest and most modest of the three residences.

Located in the northwestern province of Yalova, the mansion was last restored in 2006. Some parts of the historical mansion have been restored twice to date but have become damaged again due to humidity and salt water, according to Yalova Mayor Yakup Koçal.

The mansion was originally constructed in 1929. Atatürk saw the mansion during a yacht trip and rested under the shadow of a sycamore tree growing beside it. The branches of the tree had begun to damage the mansion, and the gardener proposed trimming them. However, Atatürk ordered the mansion be moved instead.

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Turkey ‘may lure’ Chinese tourists despite setbacks

ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News – There are increasing opportunities for Turkish tourism companies to establish partnerships with their Chinese counterparts, thanks to the Chinese government’s attempts to open the sector to foreign players, Turkish Industry and Business Association TÜSİAD’s China representative Iraz Turhan has told the Hürriyet Daily News.

Many Chinese people want to visit Turkey, but most of them could not due to the lack of communication between Turkish and Chinese tourism companies as well as the setbacks in the visa procedures, sector representatives said.

“The Chinese government has promised to open its economy to foreign players gradually, starting mainly from services industry, including tourism sector, in its 12th five-year Economic Development Plan. They then gave the business license to three tourism agencies with foreign partners in 2011. Turkish tourism companies could build partnerships with their Chinese counterparts and attract many more Chinese tourists, who spend a lot during their holidays,” she said.

Over 84 million Chinese people traveled abroad last year, according to official Chinese data, spending around $100 billion.

“Around 114.000 Chinese people visited Turkey in 2012, comparatively in small numbers to Europe or the United States. China is expected to send the most tourists abroad in the next five years. Turkish tourism companies may take a larger slice from this cake by building more direct communication with their Chinese counterparts,” Turhan noted.

In this manner, the difficulties in the visa procedures should be resolved between the two countries, sector representatives said to the Doğan news agency yesterday.

“One of my Chinese clients wanted to visit Turkey this year and applied for the required visa 10 days before his visit. Twenty-five days passed and he is still waiting for the visa,” a Turkish tourism agent from the southern Chinese province of Xiamen told Doğan news agency.

The representatives from the Turkish Consulate General in Beijing admitted some communication problems, but said that the complaints about the procedural setbacks were exaggerated. Sector representatives said that the number of the employees in the consulate was not enough to meet the demand from the Chinese people who wanted to visit Turkey.

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Istanbul’s luxury hotel awarded

ISTANBUL – Hurriyet – The luxurious Grand Tarabya Hotel in Istanbul has received the Five-Star Diamond Award from the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences (AAHS), one of the most prestigious awards in luxury travel.

This award enables the Grand Tarabya Hotel to take its place in the AAHS’s portfolio as a member of the Five-Star Diamond, and luxury-travel lovers will reach all its information, the company has said in a press release, adding that the hotels “above the line” like Four Seasons New York and The Ritz Paris had received this award before.

The Grand Tarabya Hotel also received the Central Asia and Turkey Hotel Investment Conference (CATHIC)’s award for the best hotel in Turkey in February.

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Turkish director launches a ‘Balkan project’

SARAJEVO – Anadolu Agency – Turkish director Yeşim Ustaoğlu was one of the guests at the 19th Sarajevo Film Festival where her latest movie “Araf” (Somewhere in Between) was screened. Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Ustaoğlu said that this movie was already screened internationally, and well received by the audience.

It is a story about the world that is changing quickly and people who are trying to understand and follow these changes. The director announced that her new project will be with producers from Bosnia and Herzegovina, but was not ready to give more details “and the only reason is not to jinx the entire project.”

“We are in the middle of making financial construction for the project, and I am still not sure what will happen in the end. It is a project that concerns the entire region of the Balkans, including Turkey. I am more than happy to have a chance to work with artists from Bosnia,” she said.

Speaking about the times she began working, and by way of advice for young directors and artists, she said that it was not enough only to watch a lot of movies.

“Huge influence for my work is coming from literature and poetry. But also politics. And life more than anything. After all that you read, feel, taste, it all leaves some marks on a person. Everyone is unique. There are many things we cannot see. But we have to try to see, and to see what others cannot see. To feel it. That is art,” Ustaoğlu said.

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Turkey aims to become leader in thermal spring, hamam culture

ANKARA – Anadolu Agency – Turkey ranks first in Europe in terms of resource potential and third in terms of thermal spring practices. Attempting to make use of this advantage, the Culture Ministry will bring a new approach to use traditional thermal springs more effectively with new projects and the establishment of new facilities

Turkey, which is among the top seven countries in the world on the list of geothermal resources, is set to make its thermal spring and hamam culture a “brand” by 2023, the 100th anniversary of the foundation of the Republic.

According to information provided by the Culture and Tourism Ministry, Turkey ranks first in Europe in terms of resource potential and third in terms of thermal spring practices. With an attempt to make use of this advantage, the ministry will bring a new approach to the use of traditional thermal springs more effectively.

Within the scope of work that started in 2007, facilities of international standard have been constructed to serve guests throughout the year.

The facilities, which offer all kinds of services such as cure centers, entertainment, sport activities and others, combine Turkish thermal spring and hamam culture with contemporary architecture and business administration.

The Culture and Tourism Ministry, which is progressing to reach the short-term goal of the Thermal Tourism Master plan, which is 50,000 bed capacity, has doubled the number of facilities and beds in five years since 2007.

So far, the number of hotels with tourism establishment certificates has reached 67, the number of hotels with tourism investment license has reached 27, and those with municipal certificates has reached 46. The total number of beds in these facilities has increased from 17,767 to 37,290.

While 68 percent of short-term goals were achieved by 2011, it is expected that the goal will be completely achieved this year and the bed capacity will reach 50,000. Although Turkey has a significant share of sea, sand and sun tourism in its economy, the figures in thermal tourism are not satisfactory.

The share of thermal tourism in the country is about one percent in terms of the number of facilities and bed capacity. There are some 240 thermal springs in 46 cities. On the other hand, the number of international accredited health institutes and hospitals has reached 43. Now the goal is to increase the bed capacity to 500,000 by 2013.

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Tour app a window on Turkish venues

ANKARA – Anadolu Agency – A virtual tour application prepared and supported by the Culture and Tourism Ministry is enabling visitors to discover historical and touristic sites online. The application’s scope is rapidly expanding as more museums, palaces, mosques, churches and monasteries are included in the system.

The sites of virtual visit include Anıtkabir, Hagia Sophia, the Galata Whirling Dervish Hall (Galata Mevlevihanesi), Topkapı Palace, the Çanakkale Martyrs’ Memorial, Konya Mevlana Mosque and Hagia Irene.

The application makes it possible for visitors to explore a location with a 360-degree view; both interior and exterior parts of a place come alive online in every angle and direction. The system also facilitates shifts between images and from inside of a place to the outside. It is possible to zoom in on images and click on them to read further information about a certain section.

Among the myriad locations where virtual tours are possible, the following have attracted the most attention: Dolmabahçe Palace, Maiden’s Tower off of Üsküdar, Pierre Loti Hill, the Basilica Cistern, the Ankara Anatolian Civilizations Museum, Ephesus, Bursa Green Mosque, the Cappadocia Göreme Open Air Museum, the Divriği Great Mosque and Hospital.

Visitors can explore various parts of the Anıtkabir complex, including the Road of Lions, the Ceremonial Plaza, the Hall of Honor, several towers and the Atatürk Museum, which holds Atatürk’s personal items, his library and some of the gifts presented to him. On display are also panoramic paintings depicting the Battle of Gallipoli and the Turkish War of Independence. The virtual tour provides a rich spectrum of informative texts accompanying the impressive imagery.

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Construction of new section of Baku Metro starts

23 August 2013 – AzerNews – Baku Metro started work on construction of the “Khatai-Hazi Aslanov-2” section of the Green line, Baku Metro reported reported on August 22. The line will be constructed by French Buiq and Ukrainian Interbudmontaj companies through mediation of industrial-construction and investment corporation Akkord.

Functioning for about 46 years the Baku Metro is currently 34.6 kilometers long with 23 stations and the Green and Red lines. The number of subway lines is planned to be increased from two to five, the length up to 119 kilometers, and the number of stations up to 76 by 2030.

Baku Metro is implementing a 20-year program for the development of the subway system. Under the program, two subway stations will be commissioned in May 2014 and about six stations are expected to be built by 2016.

Currently, eight stations and two train depots are under construction. Reconstruction of the central Baku subway station “28 May” is to be completed by the year-end. Another, Avtovagzal station is planned to be commissioned in 2014. It will be the first of the 12 subway stations of the planned “Purple” line, which starts from the international bus terminal complex and ends at the Garachukhur district.

The stations will be designed for seven carriages, and will have a special glass barrier along the path to separate the moving trains from the platform. This will allow ensuring pilotless movement of trains in the future.

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Uzbekistan to host International Cotton Fair

19 August 2013 – TODAY.AZ – Annual International Uzbek Cotton and Textile Fair is scheduled to be held on October 16-17, 2013 in Tashkent.

During the fair, which will be held for 9th time this year, its participants will have an opportunity to conclude contracts on Uzbek cotton supply, for development of long-term cooperation in cotton trade, and become familiar with its quality indicators and latest innovations in the spheres of production, trade and logistics.

During the fair, round-tables and bilateral negotiations between exporters and consumers of Uzbek cotton will be organized. The guests of the Cotton Fair will have an opportunity to participate in the cotton trading session on Uzbek commodity exchange on sale of cotton.

In the framework of the fair, it is planned to hold conference, where it is scheduled to discuss current problems and prospects of World Cotton Fair development. In particular, the conference participants, including leading international experts in the sphere of world cotton and textile industry, will discuss the issues of supply and demand, prices and factors influencing in world cotton fair, the state and prospects of production and marketing of cotton in Uzbekistan, new production technologies of competitive cotton, the investment climate and participation of foreign investors in the development of cotton and textile industry in Uzbekistan.

The fair is held in Uzbekistan annually since 2005. It is organized by Uzbekistan government with the support of the International Cotton Advisory Committee (ICAC).

At the fairs Uzbekistan signed a total of export contracts in the volume of around 5.2 million tons of cotton.

As reported, during XII Cotton Fair, held in 2012, the contracts were concluded on purchase of more than 670 000 tons of Uzbek cotton, the volume of concluded contracts on purchase of cotton in comparison with the previous year has increased by 11.7 percent. The contracts on export of Uzbekistan’s textile enterprise products were concluded in the sum more than $600 million (growth by 9.1 percent).

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Azerbaijani children’s books author nominated for Award

20 August 2013 – TODAY.AZ – Azerbaijans author of childrens literature Sevinj Nuruqizi have been submitted to the 2014 Hans Christian Andersen Awards by the National Sections of IBBY (International Board on Books for Young People – IBBY).

The Hans Christian Andersen Award is the highest international distinction given to authors and illustrators of childrens books. The Hans Christian Andersen Awards recognize lifelong achievement and are given to an author and an illustrator whose complete works have made an important, lasting contribution to childrens literature.

For the 2014 Awards 29 authors and 31 illustrators have been nominated from 34 countries. The Jury President will guide the judging process and preside at the jury meeting 15-16 March 2014. The shortlist will be disseminated immediately following the Jury meeting and the winners will be announced at the IBBY Press Conference at the Bologna Children`s Book Fair on Monday, 24 March 2014.

The Authors Award has been given since 1956 and the Illustrators Award since 1966. The Award consists of a gold medal and a diploma, presented at a festive ceremony during the biennial IBBY Congress. A special Andersen Awards issue of IBBY`s journal Bookbird presents all the nominees, and documents the selection process.

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Thai Mosque in Phuket A Dream Come True

IslamOnline 21/08/2013 PHUKET – Putting their dream to build a mosque on hold for decades, the Muslim community in Phuket Island in south-west coast of Thailand will soon inaugurate their mosque to serve an increasing Muslim minority.

“I would estimate that about 30% of the people living in the area around the mosque are Muslim,” Imam Kitti Islam, deputy chairman of the Phuket Provincial Islamic Council, told Khabar Southeast Asia on Tuesday, August 20.

“Many of them have contributed generously to help make the mosque project become reality.” Getting the government approval, the mosque dream started thirty years ago in Phuket.

Yet, the funding has held Muslims back from constructing Al Madinah mosque, named after the holy city in Saudi Arabia. Thanks to funding from benefactors in Brunei, work started in October with a budget of Bt. 18m ($574,400) and is expected to be completed in November.

“This is government land, but they have allowed us to build our mosque here, Imam Kitti said. “We set up a mosque committee to oversee contributions from community members to fund the construction, and we are grateful to some of our generous sponsors that included Bt. 10m ($319,300) from the Royal Family of Brunei and Abdul Aziz Latif.”

The new mosque is being constructed on the outskirts of the Saphan Ruam Community on the east side of Phuket Town. This area has changed dramatically over the past three decades with more Muslims relocating in the district.

“There was once an Islamic community living on public land in the Poon Pon area in downtown Phuket Town, but the tessaban (Phuket City Municipality) needed the land to build a new municipal school to meet the needs of the city’s rapidly growing population,” said Kitti.

“The members of the community at the time agreed to move to this location. There are a lot of Indonesian fishermen living in the area, as well as Burmese and local villagers who work in the local fishing industry. Sometimes they stay here for three months at a time when their ship is in port. Some have married Thais and settled in the area,” he added.

Being deprived of a mosque did not prevent the Muslim community from establishing an Islamic school to offer Islamic teaching to their children. “Six teachers, including myself, take turns leading instruction to some 150 children, who range in age from primary year 1 (age 6) to secondary school,” said Pornchai Matusot Abdullah, a civil servant originally from Krabi who teaches Islam and English on the weekends. “We also teach languages – Malay, Arab and Qur’an reading, and English.”

The school has filled an important void the Phuket Muslims. “I study English and Malay here on Saturdays and Sundays,” Sufee Lamai, a 10-year-old student at the Phuket Provincial Administration Organization’s Ban Taladneua School. “When I grow up I want to open my own roti restaurant.”

Her classmate, 12-year-old Tanitta ‘Yubaida’ Techaniyom, is in her first year at Satree Phuket School, widely regarded as one of the island’s best secondary schools. “I come here to study how to read the Qur’an in Arabic,” she said. “I would like to be a pharmacist when I get older so that I can help people who are suffering.”

Thailand has a Muslim population of about 9.5 million, many of whom live in rural areas.

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Trafalgar Evening Unites Aussie Faiths

IslamOnline 22/08/2013 TRAFALGAR – Two Muslim and Christian women in Trafalgar, Australia, are planning a special interfaith evening in their city, to promote respect and understanding between the two faiths through a conversation on the similarities they share.

“There are so many things in our day to day lives that we can relate to each other,” Arfa Khan, a Muslim resident of Trafalgar, Victoria, told ABC on Thursday, August 22. “The world is becoming so global so you can’t stigmatize or stereotype people by their religion only,” she says.

Meeting Sue Jacka, the town’s Anglican minister, at a preschool music program, Arfa recognized that many of her neighbors know nothing about her faith. Together with Sue, both ladies decided to change this fact, organizing a public conversation about their two religions on Friday, August 23, at the city’s St Mary’s church.

According to Arfa, Islam and Christianity share the same root in Abrahamic faith but differ on the belief of certain prophets. While Muslims fast in Ramadan that is followed by their feast called Eid, Christians too celebrate a period of fasting called Lent that is followed by Easter.

Friday’s discussions would highlight other similarities between Islam and Christianity. “We have a lot of things in common, like when you talk about, love thy neighbor, that’s also the concept of Islam, that’s also the concept of Christianity,” she says.

The discussion would be a breakthrough in Gippsland which holds rare interfaith discussions despite it being a multicultural community. “The Australian public is sometimes a little bit loathed to change… ‘I just won’t bother to find out more’ some people seem to think,” she says.

The interfaith discussion is also expected to correct misconceptions about Islam which followed the 9/11 attacks. “The media started to project Muslims as being extremists and that terrorism and violence is the only (way) for Muslims to gain their means, which is not the case,” Arfa says.

Both women also voiced anger over the recent campaign against halal food. “It makes sense that if we’re going to be welcoming, people that need halal food will be able to buy halal food,” Sue says. “I wouldn’t say if the Christians are allowed to eat certain things I can’t say they shouldn’t have it and they have certain ways of eating it, I think that would be unfair,” Arfa says.

Muslims, who have been in Australia for more than 200 years, make up 1.7 percent of its 20-million population. In post 9/11 Australia, Muslims have been haunted with suspicion and have had their patriotism questioned. A recent governmental report revealed that Muslims are facing deep-seated Islamophobia and race-based treatment like never before.

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