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23 Sep, 2013

Free Muslim Hospital Offers Hope in Burma

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 23 September 2013 (18 Dhul Qa’dah 1434). Pls click on any of the headlines to go to the story.


Registration Fee: ONLY US$100. Great Opportunity for Muslim Entrepreneurs: Attend the 4th Global Entrepreneurship Summit, Kuala Lumpur, 11-12 October

For only US$100, you can get a chance to hear some of the world’s best entrepreneurs, speakers, investors and policy-makers at the 4th Global Entrepreneurship Summit to be held in Kuala Lumpur between 11-12 October. More than 3,000 delegates 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/



The World Tourism Conference is to be held in Melaka, Malaysia, between 21-23 October 2013. The Conference covers a wide range of sectors in the global tourism industry represented by a formidable list of speakers for example the cruise sector (Ms. Christine Duffy, CEO Cruise Lines International Association), the aviation low cost carrier sector (Mr Azran Osman Rani, CEO, Air Asia X, Malaysia), the mega-events sector (Hon. Christopher Rodrigues; Chairman, VisitBritain, United Kingdom), travel technology (Mr. Rob Torres, Head of Travel, Google, USA), youth tourism (Mr. David Chapman, Director General, The World Youth Student & Educational Travel Confederation) and ecotourism (Mr Zhang Xinsheng, Chair of International Union for Conservation of Nature). The Conference which is the third in the series, is organised by the Malaysian Ministry of Tourism and Culture in collaboration with the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO). As a contribution to the global tourism industry, all registered delegates are subsidised by the Organisers of which the delegate fee is only USD100 for foreign delegates and RM100 for Malaysian delegates. The conference includes 2 days of Plenary Sessions, lunches, refreshments and a technical tour either the Homestay Programme or the Heritage Walk/River Cruise. There is no delegate fee for spouses if they do not join in the Plenary Sessions. It will be a great networking event for the tourism industry as a whole. The official website is www.WTC2013Malaysia.com and registration can be made online at http://www.discoverymice.com/WTC2013MALAYSIA/registration.html


Malaysia will host the upcoming ASEAN Tourism Forum 2014, to be held in Sarawak, Malaysia from 16 to 23 January 2014. The ATF is a cooperative regional effort to promote the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region as one tourist destination where Asian hospitality and cultural diversity are at its best. This annual event involves all the tourism industry sectors of the 10 member nations of ASEAN: Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Adopting the theme “ASEAN – ADVANCING TOURISM TOGETHER,” the ATF 2014 will explore the sustainable development of tourism and look at how tourism initiatives and plans can further support this decades mantra of “Tourism conserves, preserves and protects.” It will be a timely platform to think and act on implementing innovative and sustainable energy initiatives that will ensure the preservation of the natural environment for future generations. Each year, the hosting of ATF is rotated among the member countries. ATF 2014 marks the 33rd anniversary of this event since its inauguration in Malaysia in 1981. Kuching, Sarawak is all geared up to welcome over 1,600 delegates which includes some 150 ASEAN tourism ministers and officials, 800 ASEAN exhibitors, 400 international buyers, 150 international and local media as well as 100 tourism trade visitors. The ATF aims to: Project ASEAN as an attractive, multi-faceted single destination; Create and increase awareness of ASEAN as a highly competitive regional tourist destination in the Asia Pacific; Attract more tourist to ASEAN member countries; Promote intra-ASEAN travel; Strengthen cooperation among the various sectors of the ASEAB tourism industry. For the travel trade, ATF also provides a platform for the selling and buying of regional individual tourism products of ASEAN member countries, through the 3-day TRAVEX event. For further details, pls click here.

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.



New chapter opens in cultural ties between Iran, Indonesia

Tehran, Sept 21, IRNA – Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance Ali Jannati, after meeting with his Indonesian counterpart Muhammed Nuh, said a new chapter has opened in cultural ties between the two countries.

In the meeting here on Saturday afternoon, the two sides considered ways of expansion of relations and underlined development and deepening of cultural and art interactions.

Jannati said Indonesia is an important country in the Islamic world and in Asia continent, adding that fortunately the two countries have good cultural, economic, social and political cooperation.

He reminded that during past years, several agreements and cultural and art exchanges have been signed between the two countries.

Holding Iran cultural week in Jakarta and Indonesia cultural week in Tehran in upcoming days are results of these agreements, said the Iranian minister.

Jannati also underlined Iran’s readiness for joint cooperation in the fields of cultural heritage, cinema, theatre and holding exhibitions and festivals.

He added that Iran is ready to send artists in different fields and tranfer its experiences to Indonesia.

Referring to current problems in the Islamic world and expansion of radicalism and emerging of new sects, Jannati underlined we should try to introduce the real face of Islam to the world by using different instruments, especially culture and art.

The Indonesian minister, for his part, appreciated Iranian hospitality and underlined that as a Muslim state, we admire Iranian rich culture, friendship and brotherhood.

Muhammed Nuh also referred to vast commonalities between the two countries, adding that we can develop and strengthen our cooperation upon these commonalities.

He also asked his Iranian counterpart to establish a committee with representatives of both countries to follow up signed agreements and their results.

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“The Best of Kaohsiung” Makes Its Debut in Malaysia

KAOHSIUNG, Taiwan-September 23, 2013-(BUSINESS WIRE)–Headed by Agriculture Bureau of Kaohsiung City Government this year, five exhibitors approved to be the best participated in the grand 12th Malaysian International Exhibition of Food, Drinks, Hotel, Restaurant & Foodservice Equipment, Supplies, Service and Related Technology (also called Malaysia’s international Food Hotel Show in 2013) from September 17-20 at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre.

Kaohsiung City Government is also the only city government in Taiwan Pavilion Expo, which has much more symbolized meanings.

Malaysia’s international Food Hotel Show is a biennial pro expo of Food, Drinks, Hotel, Restaurant Equipment, Service and Related Technology. It is not only a very important activity for food industries to develop markets in Southeast Asia but a gateway to get into food industries in Southeast Asia. The show is mainly composed of retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers from Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, India and some neighboring areas; moreover, there’re over fifty countries all over the world showing their newest products, best services and most advanced technologies.

The Agriculture Bureau of Kaohsiung City Government says that The Best of Kaohsiung not only provides customers in Southeast Asia the best agricultural products in Kaohsiung but shows the insistence in food security and quality assurance. This is the first time that city government participates in food show in Islam markets.

Though Malaysia’s international Food Hotel Show takes strict measures to assure security, which makes the procedure much more complicated, every exhibitors pass the tests fast because the government has counseled farmers to apply Taiwan’s agriculture and food traceability and so on for many years and checked on the quality of fruits and vegetables, establishing the foundation in the security of Kaohsiung’s agriculture. Kaohsiung city government has participated in international food show for some years, and all of them are producing good results.

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Pakistan unveils Rs 20bln package to create jobs for young people

ISLAMABAD, 2013-09-21 (APP): Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Saturday announced a development package worth Rs20 billion for the country’s youth comprising six projects, aimed at providing them assistance mainly through affordable education, soft loans and skill-based training.

The six projects include Micro Interest Free Loans Scheme, Small Business Loans Scheme, Youth Training Scheme, Youth Skill Development Scheme, Fee Assistance Scheme and PM’s Scheme for Laptops Provision, said Nawaz Sharif in his second televised address to the nation.

He said the government was committed to the uplift of youth. “I am sure that a self-reliant and prosperous youth will prove as a vanguard in the nation’s journey towards national integrity, prosperity and sovereignty.”

The premier announced that the six development schemes would be applicable for the youth of the four provinces, Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan. The federal cabinet had approved the basic features of these programmes on September 13 and the system for their implementation was also in place.

Sharif said, however, to ensure more transparency, clarity and merit in these schemes, it was his desire to seek guidance from general public. He said input on these schemes could be given at the website, www.pmo.gov.pk, being uploaded on September 23.

A special mobile phone number ‘80028’ had also been dedicated for this purpose to which suggestions could be sent through SMS.

The prime minister said the details of these schemes would also be circulated through national media including newspapers and television channels.

Nawaz Sharif said the general public was welcome to send their written proposals addressed to the Prime Minister’s Office in Islamabad as well. He said 10-days had been allocated for collection of suggestions and recommendations, and added he would not be satisfied until receiving an ample response from youth on the schemes meant for their prosperity.

The schemes would be launched soon after working on the proposals and giving them a final shape. He said Rs20 billion allocated for the schemes for youth was not a big amount; however the limitation of resources owed to the severe economic problems of the country.

The issues including electricity shortage, the projects about construction of roads, motorways, hospitals and setting up of industrial units needed large monetary resources.

He expressed hope that a time would come when the tax payers’ money would be largely spent on the welfare projects and vowed to allocate more funds for the schemes of public importance in coming years.

About the first scheme, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said the ‘Micro Interest Free Loans’ is especially focused upon the financially weak segments of the society. Under this scheme, a total of Rs3.5 billion would be earmarked in the current financial year, which would benefit about 250,000 people. No interest would be charged on these loans.

He also announced ‘Small Business Loan Scheme’ exclusively for the educated youth willing to initiate their private businesses.

The prime minister said 50 per cent loans would be specified for the women. Under this scheme, skilled individuals would get loans worth Rs0.5 million to Rs2 million each to help start their work in agriculture sector or to open workshops.

“The markup rate on this loan would be 8 per cent as the remaining would be borne by the government. Initially, the National Bank of Pakistan and First Women Bank will extend this loan,” said the premier, adding that the government had allocated Rs5 billion for the scheme.

The third initiative, he said was ‘Youth Training Scheme’ under which the youth having completed 16-year education from accredited educational institutes would be provided training so that they may find suitable job opportunities locally or abroad.

He also prayed that every citizen may get job opportunity in the country without going abroad.

Prime Minister Sharif said during the on-job-training, the youth will be paid Rs10,000 stipend monthly for one year and Rs4 billion have been allocated for the scheme that would benefit around 50,000 graduates.

Under the ‘Youth Skill Development Scheme,’ he said youngsters would be trained to help them earn their livelihood respectfully. The youth aged up to 25 years and with education up to eighth grade would be entitled to avail this facility.

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Islamic World Universities’ Vice Chancellors Forum to be held in Pakistan

The Director General the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO), Dr Abdualziz Othman Altwaijri, will take part in the second edition of the Vice Chancellors’ Forum, to be held under the theme “Universities in the Islamic World: Challenges of Internationalization”, on September 23rd and 24th.

The Forum, to be co-organized by ISESCO and Pakistans’s Ministry of Science and Technology, Higher Education Commission (HEC), and COMSATS Institute of Information Technology (CIIT), will bring together two hundred participants, including university vice-chancellors, higher education institutions’ directors from the Member States of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), and a host of higher education experts.

The Forum will be held as part of promoting cooperation and experience sharing among the Islamic world’s universities and enhancing their role as socioeconomic development agents.

Participants will address such various topics as “Internationalization and Universities: Building Human Capital in the Islamic World”; “Building World Class Universities in Islamic World”; “Future of the University & University of the Future”; “Policy Reforms in Internationalization: Experience of Islamic World”; “Research and Innovation: the Role of International Collaboration”; “Islamic Educational Networking Opportunities for Scholars, Experts and Researchers”; and “Role Model University from Islamic Perspective”.

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Pakistan, India lawmakers back sustained dialogue

Islamabad, (Dawn) 2013-09-21 – Indian and Pakistani parliamentarians have called for a sustained dialogue process and expressed the hope that prime ministers of the two countries would meet in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session.

They were speaking at the concluding session of the fifth round of dialogue between parliamentarians of Pakistan and India organised by civil society organisation PILDAT here on Friday. In a joint statement issued after the meeting, they said the two prime ministers should meet in New York to keep the door open for peace and good relations.

They urged the two governments to continue the process of dialogue for durable peace in the region and for resolving issues affecting ties between the two countries.

Addressing the need for a holistic approach to conflict resolution, the parliamentarians urged their governments to engage on all issues, including those related to Jammu and Kashmir. As representatives of the people of Pakistan and India, they noted progress on various issues, including visas and trade, and urged them to strive to improve both neighbourly and regional relations.

They said there was an urgent need to address the critical issue of rising water scarcity in both the countries. Acknowledging that the Indus Water Treaty was the best means for resolving any possible differences relating to water resources, the parliamentarians urged the two governments to jointly examine issues relating to climate change and environment impact assessment and to consider technologies of efficient use of water in agriculture and to substantially improve yields.

Underlining the huge potential for bilateral trade which currently stood at $2 billion but had the potential of reaching $10bn if all agreements were implemented expeditiously and outstanding issues were resolved, the parliamentarians welcomed the establishment of India-Pakistan Joint Business Council and the priority areas of business it had identified.

They agreed that further improvements in trade and economic cooperation between the two countries required early progress towards granting the most-favoured nation status to India, addressing issues of non-tariff barriers identified by Pakistan, fully utilising and further expanding newly-built infrastructure at the Wahga-Attari border and opening the Monabao-Khokhrapar route for trade.

They called for re-opening the Indian consulate general in Karachi and a Pakistani diplomatic mission in Mumbai, strengthening air and shipping routes between Karachi and Mumbai and opening bank branches to facilitate trade exchanges.

The dialogue was attended by former Indian minister and member of Indian Rajya Sabha Mani Shankar Aiyar, K.C. Tyagi, D.P. Tripathy, Ms Anu Aga, Prof S.P. Singh Baghel and Ram Kirpal Yadav.

Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Defence Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed, former defence minister Syed Naveed Qamar, former foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Minister for Science and Technology Zahid Hamid, Senator Nasreen Jalil and Senator Afrasiyab Khattak attended from the Pakistani side.

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Free Muslim Hospital Offers Hope in Burma

IslamOnline 18/09/2013 YANGON – In a country reeling from recent religious violence, a Muslim free hospital is offering a rare oasis of communal harmony, offering medical service to hundreds of Muslims, Buddhists and former political prisoners.

“I am a surgeon so my responsibility is to cure suffering patients,” Tin Myo Win, the only Buddhist department head at Yangon’s Muslim Free Hospital, told Agence France Presse (AFP) on Monday, September 16.

“The policy of this hospital is not to discriminate. It does not matter whether people are rich or poor, or what religion they are,” he said. The doctor was speaking as he made a tour at Yangon’s Muslim Free Hospital has been serving as a symbol of unity in a country riven by religious unrest.

The hospital started work in 1937 as the result of a campaign by young local Muslims when Burma was still running as an outpost of British India under colonial rule.

Growing over the past years, the hospital, which received more than 500 outpatients a day, offers treatments that would be beyond the reach of the poor elsewhere in Burma’s desperately underfunded health system. It now has departments specializing in surgery, obstetrics and gynecology, eyes, and psychiatry.

Treatments are free to those deemed too poor to contribute, while a small fee is charged to those able to pay. Being a well-known former political prisoner who has for years been the personal physician for opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, doctor Myo Win said he had treated “many monks” during 21 years at the hospital.

He noted that the Muslim practice of donating 10 percent of their income to charitable causes, or Zakat, was an important source of income for the hospital. Built on Muslim donations, the facility became a rare beacon of communal harmony in a country reeling from recent religious violence.

While the spread of religious unrest has stoked tension in the country, in which at least 250 people, mainly Muslims, were killed and more than 140,000 left homeless, people visiting the hospital in a multicultural quarter of downtown Yangon said differences should be put aside.

“I don’t think about it,” said Tin Tin Khaing, a Buddhist, whose 57-year-old father travelled from the Irrawaddy Delta region to have a hernia operation. I have done business with Muslims many times in the past. I have a good friendship with them,” he added.

The doctor praised the hospital which has long stood as a local symbol of tolerance and a refuge for those with nowhere else to go. “They don’t just come here because of financial problems. It is also maybe because they believe in me,” the 44-year-old said.

“We understand each other very well. Only those who stayed in jail know how we suffered inside for food and health. The situation inside was terrible.”

Under decades of junta rule, Burmese authorities swept up hundreds of activists into the country’s notorious jails, particularly those involved in mass anti-government protests in 1988 and 2007. Political prisoners were often subjected to dire conditions, held far away from their families, treated with brutality and given no access to proper healthcare.

Many left jail in an extremely poor physical and mental state but were unable to afford treatment in state hospitals, which were also seen as hostile to the released campaigners, said Tin Myo Win.

The doctor spent three years in prison after taking part in a failed 1988 student-led uprising that also saw the rise of Suu Kyi’s opposition. After his release, he decided to join staff at the Muslim Hospital, which welcomed the detained activists.

After political reforms in 2011, former detainees are no longer shunned by state hospitals.

But old loyalties remain firm. “The doctor is like my family member. We trust him, so we went to the hospital after we were released,” said Kyaw Soe Naing, a five-time political prisoner who is now a close aide to Suu Kyi.

The doctor said he hopes the Muslim Hospital would continue to grow, wishing that other medical center follow its example. “Whatever religion people believe in, they must receive treatment when they are sick. I want many such hospitals,” he said.

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French Mosques Showcase Islamic Heritage

IslamOnline 15/09/2013 PARIS – French mosques have opened their doors on European Heritage Days on Saturday and Sunday to welcome visitors interested in the Islamic culture and architecture, joining thousands of buildings across Europe.

“People between 130 and 150 people aged 20 to 70 years” are welcome every weekend, Ibrahim Cissé, President of the Secretariat of the Union of Muslim Associations of Créteil, manager of the Sahaba Mosque, told Saphir News.

Offering them a chance to “discover the mosque”, Cissé added that the mosque officials will try “to explain Islam and to convey a different image than the media.”

The Sahaba Mosque was one of various Islamic houses of worship across France who decided to open their doors to visitors during the European Heritage Days on Saturday 14th and Sunday 15th September.

During these days, the French are invited to visit the places that make the French heritage, including mosques, which form a basic part of French heritage.

The event offered Muslims an opportunity to correct misconceptions about their faith, the second largest in France.

It has also given non-Muslims a chance to discover the Islamic architecture and basic beliefs, including women position in Islam.

“Issues that come up most revolve around the status of women in Islam. When exposed their texts, they are surprised to see that it has nothing to do with the ideas they have or what they can see,” Cissé said.

Along with the Sahaba Mosque, other mosques have opened their doors for the first time during Heritage Days this year.

These mosques include places of worship recently opened such as the Assalam mosque in Nantes (Loire-Atlantique) which was inaugurated in November 2012.

Other mosques affiliated with the Union of Islamic Organizations of France (UOIF) have also opened their doors to non-Muslim visitors. They include the Great Mosque of Limoges (Haute-Vienne), the Othman Mosque Villeurbanne (Rhone) and the Great Mosque of An’Nour Quievrechain (North).

Muslim leaders have praised the event, hoping that mosque visits would offer a correct image of Islam. “Mosques realized the utility to open on their neighbors,” commented Mr. Bouchama. “The Islamophobic climate is not new, but now it is publicized,” he adds, estimating that participation in such days with “opening on society” is the best answer to combat Islamophobia.

Fouad Douai, the manager of the civil society Great Mosque of Strasbourg, who participated in his first edition of the Heritage Days this year, agreed. “Our policy is to pacify Islam with the whole society. This happens by welcoming and opening doors,” Douai said.

The purpose of these visits is to “make Islam accessible to everyone, to reconcile Islam with the society,” he added. France is home to a Muslim minority of six millions, Europe’s largest.

In October, a poll by Ifop’s opinion department found that almost half of French see Muslims as a threat to their national identity. The poll also found that most French see Islam is playing too influential role in their society.

In January, another poll by Ipsos and the Jean-Jaures Foundation found that French are growing concerned with immigrants, politicians, globalization and media, with 74 percent believe Islam is not compatible with French society.

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Centuries-old Holy Qur’an Found In Turkey

IslamOnline 16/09/2013 MUGLA – Preserved for centuries in a prayer rug, a 1200 year-old handwritten Holy Qur’an and tafsir books have been found in a Turkish mosque in Mugla province in the southwestern Aegean Region of Turkey. “We did not give it any importance thinking that it was an ordinary Qur’an,” Yaksel Karslan, the imam of Tepecik Mosque where the Qur’an was found, told Anadolu Agency reported on Monday, September 16. “But I realized that it is handwritten and the figures on it show that it dates back to 1,200 years ago.”

Located in Aegean resort town of Bodrum, Tepecik Mosque has been the local since 1737. Earlier this month, the 1200-year-old handwritten Qur’an was found in the basement of Tepecik Mosque in Turkey’s Bodrum district in Mugla province rolled in a prayer rug. After a series of examinations by historians, it has been confirmed that the Qur’an dated back more than a thousands year.

“After informing Bodrum’s Mufti, the Qur’an copy was repeatedly examined by historians, who found that the Qur’an dated back for more than a thousand year. I went to Ankara to talk to officials and they asked me to give it to the relevant institute.” Karslan said.

The Qur’an copy was handed to Bodrum Underwater Archaeology Museum in a ceremonial event. Officials said that the handwritten Qur’an will be sent to a manuscript library in Izmir after undergoing some maintenance.

Fragments from a large number of Qur’an codices were discovered in Yemen in 1972. They are now lodged in the House of Manuscript in Sana’a. Tests date some of the parchments to 645-690 AD, however, archeologists said that calligraphic datings have pointed to 710-715 AD. One of the three Qur’ans attributed to Uthman, the Samarkand Kufic Qur’an is preserved at Tashkent. It is believed to be of a date between 595 CE and 855 CE.

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KazanSummit 2013 – V between Russia and OIC countries

Ijtemt.org – 20 Sep 2013 – KazanSummit 2013 – V International Economic summit of Russia and OIC countries will be held October 2-3, 2013, in Kazan, Russia. KazanSummit is the only platform for economic cooperation between Russian regions and the most developed countries of the Islamic world.

This year KazanSummit 2013 will celebrate its first anniversary – the fifth time the Summit will turn Kazan into the platform of economic cooperation between investors, businesses and government.

The summit of such scale is the only one in Russia and the CIS. It is jointly organized by the Tatarstan Investment Development Agency and the Islamic Business and Finance Development Foundation with support of the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation and under the patronage of the Government of the Republic of Tatarstan.

First held in 2009, KazanSummit from the scientific conference on Islamic finance has grown to a large international economic summit, whose work promotes international relations of Russia and consistently promotes the attraction of investments in its regions.

The Progress of KazanSummit is noticeable. One can look just at the numbers: In 2009, 250 participants attended the summit, in 2010 – 400, in 2011 – 750, in 2012 – more than 1000 guests, over 30% of which came in Kazan from around the world.

KazanSummit became a brand under which the Islamic world supposes acquaintance with the potential of Russian regions where cooperation with Islamic investors can get the most intensive development due to the openness and versatility of business meetings and negotiations site.

Although KazanSummit has the main aim to promote the development of economic and financial relations of the participants of business activities in accordance with the requirements of Shariah, it does not mean that the geography of the summit’s participants is limited only to Muslim countries. In 2012, out of 34 countries, which participated in KazanSummit, were 7 European countries, as well as South Korea, Hong Kong and the United States.

Every year the interest of Russian regions to the international summit is also increasing. Last year, 13 subjects of Russia took an active part in the events of KazanSummit, presenting their investment potential in the framework of the Investment Forum.

It is important to note that since 2012 KazanSummit went to a higher level thanks to the support of the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation. Held last year within the framework of KazanSummit 2012 conference of representatives of parliaments of the OIC member countries identified a new aspect of the discussion within the framework of international summit – the strengthening of intercultural dialogue between Russia and OIC countries.

Thus, the concept of KazanSummit is getting wider and offers an open dialogue between East and West. All activities are characterized by a special atmosphere of benevolent interest in constructive discussion of economy trends and work together to develop solutions. Business meetings are held in the format “without ties”, which allows to discuss the prospects of cooperation in the personal atmosphere of mutual interest of the parties.

That openness of KazanSummit, width of discussed and covered topics, constructive dialogue and possibilities opened here attract the participation of representatives of the government of Russia and foreign countries, the heads of Russian regions, international investors and industrialists, global business community, experts of banking and financial institutions, scholars from Russia, OIC countries, CIS, Europe, Southeast Asia and the Middle East.

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Juma mosque of St.Petersburg to be renovated this year

islam.ru – 17 Sep 2013 – The authorities of St. Petersburg city will allocate 14.9 million rubles for the restoration of the city’s main Juma mosque, located near the “Gor’kovskaya” metro station on Kronverkskiy Avenue, 7. It is reported by St. Petersburg today news agency.

According to the contest, a construction company will have to strengthen the masonry walls of mosques, refresh the trim minarets’ domes, windows fillings and openwork lattice facade, as well as to put in place massive granite elements of the building which were restored in 2012.

A separate item of the contest’s tasks was marked an examination of minarets and propose options for it strengthening. Recall that in September 2012 granite elements of the western minaret collapsed at a mosque portal and damaged the roof. Thus, the current restoration of the building has a fairly urgent, and after the announcement of the competition results on October 30, 2013, the winner will have to complete the renovation works during 37 days.

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‘Pearls in Arabian Gulf’ expo opens in Moscow

Gulf Daily News – 18 September, 2013 – Culture Minister Shaikha Mai bint Mohammed Al Khalifa launched an exhibition ‘Pearls in the Arabian Gulf’ at the All-Russian Museum of Decorative, Applied and Folk Arts in Moscow.

The expo is in line with Manama being named Capital of Arab Tourism 2013 and celebrates ‘Leisure Tourism’ and ‘Intraregional Tourism’, considered the first co-operation agreement between Bahrain and Russia.

At a Press conference, Shaikha Mai expressed her delight at such co-operation which represented an exchange of the nations’ heritage. She also asserted that the agreement includes organising three exhibitions between Bahrain and Russia.

A second exhibition ‘Modern Bahraini Art’ was opened last night, promoting the human and historical aspects of art, and tells Bahrain’s pearl diving history and the life of the sailors. The exhibition also highlights the achievements of modern decorative and artistic movement in the kingdom.

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Yemen participates in JATA Tourism forum, Travel Showcase

Yemen News Agency – 18 September, 2013 – Activities of JATA Tourism forum and Travel Showcase 2013 was concluded on Monday in the Japanese capital, Tokyo, with the participation of Yemen along with 150 other countries around the world.

Tourism Minister Qasim Sallam made clear that Yemen’s participation in the forum, which was held on 12-16 of September, was distinctive in view of the wide turnout by visitors to the Yemeni pavilion.

He also noted to the significance of promoting the Yemeni participation in the future to contribute in highlighting the civilization, culture and tourism features of Yemen and to increase the movement of Japanese tourists coming to Yemen as well.

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Database on ‘Islands of Maldives’ created

Sun.mv – September 16, 2013 – The Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture has created a database on the ‘Islands of Maldives’, including information on inhabited islands, uninhabited islands and reefs in the Maldives. Deputy Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture Ali Solih told Sun today that the database can be accessed by visiting www.islandsofmaldives.gov.mv.

“Complete information will be available, including the nearest airport to the island, the nearest hospital, and so on,” he said. Solih said that the database will be officially launched after more information is added, which will be done soon.

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Universal Enterprises to operate Kandholhudhoo as a resort

Sun.mv – September 19, 2013 – Universal Enterprises Private Limited has decided to establish a five-star resort in Alifu Alifu Kandholhudhoo.

Universal Enterprises, one of the largest resort operators in the Maldives, will inaugurate the new resort ‘Kandholhu Island’ in January 2014. The arrival of the first tourist to the island has been scheduled for 11 January 2014.

The $12 million project includes the construction of thirty rooms in five different categories on the island, which until now, has been used as a picnic island. The resort will also have four restaurants, a bar, a four-room spa, a fitness room; and will offer diving, water sports and excursions. The island is accessible on seaplane from Male’ within 20 minutes.

A tourism news website said that the five-star resort would be one with rich vegetation, beautiful beaches, clear waters and colourful corals.

Director General of the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Hassan Zameel, said today that Universal Enterprises has proposed to operate Kandholhu Island, previously used as a picnic island, as a resort. He said that the company has already made the necessary payment to the government, to transform the island into a resort.

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Futuristic airport set for passengers in Dubai

Khaleej Times – 18 September, 2013 – The futuristic Dubai World Central Al Maktoum International Airport, envisioned to be the world’s largest airport complex when fully completed, is set to open for passenger flights next month following the certification for operation of its new passenger terminal.

The General Civil Aviation Authority, or GCAA, the sole regulator of all licenced airfields within the UAE, has certified Al Maktoum International for passenger operations after assessing and confirming full compliance of the aerodrome with its stringent requirements.

Dubai Airports, the company that operates the emirate’s two airports, said on Tuesday that the certification paved the way for a successful opening of the new passenger terminal building on October 27. It is designed to accommodate up to seven million passengers per year.

When completed, DWC will be the largest airport in the world with five runways and capacity for 160 million passengers and 12 million tonnes of cargo.

Saudi Arabia’s Nas Air and Hungary’s Wizz Air are expected to kick off operations at the new facility. The airport eventually expects to welcome Emirates airline in the mid-2020s.

The GCAA’s Air Navigation and Aerodrome department said in its letter that it accepted the implementation process for full passenger operations at the new airport and acknowledged the “hard work and commitment of Dubai Airports in achieving the status of full aerodrome operations”.

“Regulatory oversight is managed through the close cooperation of Dubai Airports Airside Operations staff who work closely with the GCAA to ensure that all aspects of operations at both DXB and DWC are fully compliant with the highest professional international standards and regulations set out in federal law,” Dubai Airports said in a statement.

“This is a welcome and critical step forward in the process of preparing DWC for full passenger operations,” said Jamal Zaal, vice-president of Airside Operations at Dubai Airports.

“We will continue to press ahead with trials that test every system, process and piece of equipment in the new terminal, be it signage, gates or boarding procedures to make sure the new facility is ready to accept passengers on October 27.”

Facility preparations culminate in advanced passenger trails on October 12, when some 1,000 members of the travelling public will test the full passenger journey through the new terminal to identify any areas for improvement before its doors open for business, the statement said. An advanced passenger trial using employees will take place in early October as a dress rehearsal for the public trials.

Dubai Airports experienced overwhelming support from volunteers in its trial recruitment campaign and was oversubscribed within the first 48 hours.

“As was the case with Concourse A trials last year, the support from volunteers has been tremendous which only goes to prove that in Dubai, people are passionate about aviation,” said Paul Griffiths, chief executive officer of Dubai Airports.

Dubai Airports is even considering whether to increase the capacity of Al Maktoum International Airport to 200 million passengers per year. Griffiths was quoted in an interview recently as saying that it was likely that Dubai would build an airport capable of handing up to 200 million passengers. “Ultimately, we want to create the world’s largest airport, and we’re looking at the design capacity.”

The world’s current busiest airport is Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport in the US, which handles around 89 million passengers a year. Dubai Airports is currently working on a 2045 master plan to help manage the expected growth of the emirate’s two facilities.

The emirate’s first airport, Dubai International Airport, is undergoing a $7.8 billion expansion plan to boost its capacity to around 100 million by 2020.

The airport is projected to become the world’s busiest in terms of international traffic at some point in 2015, overtaking London Heathrow. Cargo operations at Al Maktoum International Airport started in 2010. During the first six months of 2013, air movements rose 37 per cent to 10,237, up from 7,474 movements in the first half of 2012. For the second quarter of 2013 air movements rose 35.4 per cent to 6,133, up from 3,961 in the three months to June 2012.

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Islamophobia: OIC Media Advisory Committee formed

Istanbul, Monday, 11 Dhul Qaada 1434/ 16 September 2013 (IINA) – The First International Conference on Islamophobia: Law & Media, which concluded its proceedings in Istanbul on Friday endorsed the formation of an Advisory Media Committee to meet under the umbrella of the newly established OIC Media Forum headquartered in Istanbul.

The Committee will be tasked among other things to examine further the recommendations of the Conference on how to better deal with the issue of Islamophobia from various viewpoints including media and legal perspectives, according to an OIC press statement.

The conference endorsed a number of other important recommendations, which emanated from the conclusions of the three pre-conference workshops that discussed Islamophobia from a media, legal, and political perspectives. Among these recommendations that were unanimously approved by the participants was the institutionalization of this conference in order to be convened periodically in the OIC Member States.

This Conference comes in support of the OIC efforts to launch a Campaign to correct the image of Islam and Muslims in Europe and North America, which has been approved by the 9th Session of the Islamic Conference of Information Ministers, 39th Session of the Council of Foreign Ministers and the latest OIC Islamic Summit Conference.

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TIMEZ5 launches global Haj, Umrah agency network

Arab News – 18 September, 2013 – The creators of TIMEZ5, the “world’s first physiological prayer mat,” are launching global Haj and Umrah agency network (GHAUN) to support travel agencies in better catering to the physiological needs of their pilgrims. This initiative will help travel agencies differentiate themselves, offering a unique value proposition in a very saturated and competitive Haj and Umrah travel market.

According to DinarStandard, a Muslim market research firm, two trends are driving growing physical demands during the pilgrimage: older age of average Pilgrims given significant Haj waiting periods, and major expansion projects in Makkah and Madinah.

Given the astronomical growth in demand for Haj, large Muslim countries have significant Haj waiting periods, such as 10 years in Indonesia, and 20 years in Turkey. Countries with extremely long waiting periods are prioritizing elders in their quota allocation process. The average age of pilgrims from most countries is at least 45 years old. In addition, major expansion projects will increase the distance most pilgrims will have to travel; the Makkah Grand mosque is expected to increase its capacity from 800,000 pilgrims today to 2.5 million in the near future. Indeed, pilgrimage operators will increasingly be seeking comfort specific to elders.

TIMEZ5 is partnering with select agencies to provide a more comfortable Haj and Umrah experience by bundling the TIMEZ5 prayer mat as part of their mid to high end packages. Beyond that TIMEZ5 offers educational videos designed by their R&D arm, TIMEZ5 Labs, through a series of videos targeting unique physiological issues exclusive to Muslims available on their YouTube channel.

Amid this backdrop enters an entirely revolutionary product, based on what TIMEZ5 calls the physio-spiritual experience, which redefines how we use our prayer mats.

Intensive market research and R&D went into developing the TIMEZ5 prayer mat over five years, including core patent filings across several markets globally.

A former NASA scientist, a team of psychologists and design specialists led the TIMEZ5 prayer mat R&D. The key benefit is that it helps relieve pain and stiffness, improves posture and boosts energy during prayer. The proprietary space-age materials used in the TIMEZ5 prayer mat were originally designed to help control G-forces, heat transfer, and in providing pressure resistance to make a safer environment for astronauts and high performance vehicles while in outer space.

The cumulative effect of these innovations and the patented 5-layer composition of the TIMEZ5 prayer mat is a dramatic reduction in stress on your joints, and improved posture, while praying, and an overwhelming sense of composure and peacefulness. It is particularly helpful for the elderly, and those suffering from lower back or joint pains, as the range of motion in both cases is usually constricted due to excruciating pain. TIMEZ5 actually counters the stress of weight and redistributes it to lessen the pressure on joints, allowing for a more comfortable prayer experience and a greater range of mobility.

Haj pilgrims have reached 3.1 million in 2011 with an estimated total expenditure for Haj and Umrah of $ 14.7 billion according to DinarStandard. In a hyper competitive and saturated market, travel agencies that provide add-on products and services will stand to gain a powerful competitive advantage and clearly differentiate themselves from other agencies.

Aside from getting the TIMEZ5 prayer mat via Haj and Umrah agencies, customers can directly purchase it for their own trips from their website or as a unique Haj gift for a loved one.

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Oman to begin building first rail network in 2014

The Peninsula – 16 September, 2013 – Oman will next year begin building its first railway network at a cost of up to $ 15.5bn, the Gulf sultanate’s Transport Minister Ahmed Al Futaisi said yesterday. Construction is to be launched in the last quarter of 2014, Al Futaisi said and trains are to start running at the beginning of 2018.

The 2,244km railway is part of a regional rail network expected to link the six Gulf Cooperation Council countries — based on a 2004 agreement. “The Omani government is committed to funding at least infrastructure works of the project estimated to cost between 5bn and 6bn riyals ($ 12.9bn to $ 15.5bn),” said Al Futaisi.

Development aid worth $ 10bn over 10 years which was pledged to Oman by its Arab neighbours in the Gulf could be used in the funding of the railway project, he added.

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Qatar Airways promotion to mark Saudi National Day

Saudi Gazette – 17 September, 2013 – Qatar Airways is offering up to 23 percent discount to customers in Saudi Arabia to a wide variety of destinations during a five-day sale.

The sale – which started Sunday 0000 hours (Saudi local time) and will end at 2359 hours Thursday (Sept. 19) KSA local time – offers customers the opportunity to travel to a variety of destinations across Europe, Middle East, Africa, Asia, Australia and the Americas at very attractive fares.

Customers can book online at qatarairways.com/sa or visit their local travel agents. Customers can also visit our local City offices to avail of the offer. Travel under this promotion is valid until Dec. 10, 2013.

Qatar Airways offers extensive travel options with over 65 weekly flights from 5 major gateways that include Jeddah, Riyadh, Dammam, Madinah and Qassim. Qatar Airways’ commitment toward Saudi Arabia continues with the launch of services from Taif on Oct. 2, 2013, which will be the 6th gateway offering convenient connections to Europe, Far East & Indian subcontinent.

Qatar Airways Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker said: “It is our pleasure to celebrate the Saudi National Day, and bringing more options to passengers from KSA by connecting them to Qatar Airways’ global network.”

Qatar Airways has seen rapid growth in just 16 years of operations, currently flying a modern fleet of 129 aircraft to more than 125 key business and leisure destinations across Europe, Middle East, Africa, Asia Pacific and The Americas.

Over the next few months, the network will expand with the addition of further destinations Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (Sept. 18), Taif, KSA (Oct. 2), Clark International Airport, Philippines (Oct. 27) and Philadelphia, US (April 2, 2014).

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Iran expands carpet export markets

Tehran Times – 16 September, 2013 – Iran has expanded its carpet export markets to Russia, Malaysia, South Africa, and China, the deputy director of Iran’s National Carpet Center, Mojtaba Feizollahi, stated.

He also said that the center is planning for exporting carpets to other countries, including Qatar and the UAE, the Fars News Agency quoted Feizollahi as saying.

Dispatching trade delegations to different countries and establishing commercial centers overseas are on the agenda to expand carpet sales, he said. Iran has exported some €24.9 million worth of handmade carpets to the EU during the first half of the current Iranian year, according to Persian language Jahan Sanat daily.

Germany, France, Italy, Sweden, and the UK were the main European importers of Iran’s handmade carpets during the period, the report said.

Iran exports carpets to at least 70 countrie, constituting about 35 percent of the global carpet market share. There is an estimated population of 1.2 million carpet weavers in Iran, producing carpets for domestic and international markets.

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Global summit to focus on Islamic finance, halal industries

Arab News – 16 September, 2013 – Global Islamic Economy Summit, the first forum that brings together the Islamic finance and halal industries, will be held at the Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai on Nov. 25.

The two-day forum will discuss the evolving Islamic economic landscape and the implications for the 57 Muslim countries around the world. The summit will also talk about how the Islamic finance and halal industries can push beyond the Muslim world to benefit from and participate in the global economy.

Organized by the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Thomson Reuters, the conference will open with a keynote speech addressing Dubai’s potential to play a constructive role to develop the Islamic economies around the world.

“Dubai’s ability to bring together key decision-makers and stakeholders is indicative of its ability to act as a bridge between the East and West; Muslim and non-Muslim; business and consumer,” Abdul Rahman Saif Al-Ghurair, chairman of Dubai chamber, said in a statement related to the event.

“The Islamic Economy is emerging as a new paradigm that will be driving economic growth over the coming decade. Bringing together diverse elements across various industry sectors, spanning geographic regions and crossing cultural boundaries, this inaugural summit will be the defining event for Thomson Reuters and Dubai,” said Russell Haworth, MD, MENA, Thomson Reuters.

The summit is in line with the launch of Dubai: Capital of Islamic Economy by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, vice president and prime minister of the UAE and ruler of Dubai, and is held with his support. The event will culminate with a senior-level panel discussing Sheikh Mohammed’s Islamic economy vision, specifically looking at the role of governments and the private sector to facilitate development of the Islamic economic sectors.

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Mozambican Economy Expands By 6.5 Pct In H1 2013

MAPUTO, Sept 17 (NNN-AIM) — The Mozambican economy grew by 6.5 per cent in the first half of this year, compared with the same period in 2012, according to the balance sheet on the government’s 2013 Economic and Social Plan.

Presented at a session of the Development Observatory, which brings together representatives of the government, civil society and the international community, here Monday the document shows that the strongest areas of growth were financial services (23.3 per cent), mining (22 per cent) and government services (16.2 per cent), all well in excess of their annual targets of 17.7, 18.6 and 4.1 per cent respectively.

The agriculture and livestock sector grew at 5.3 per cent compared with an annual target of 4.6 per cent. Other sectors were disappointing. Electricity production fell by 22 per cent, instead of growing by 5.7 per cent. Manufacturing grew by 4.8 per cent, against a target of 5.8 per cent, while construction grew by 1.9 per cent rather than the desired 5.6 per cent.

The document notes that the floods of January and February were a constraint on economic growth, and forced the government to revise its forecast for the gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate down from 8.4 to seven per cent.

Introducing the document, Minister of Planning and Development Aiuba Cuereneia said the floods had posed a serious challenge in rebuilding damaged infrastructure. Nonetheless, immediate work on flood damaged roads allowed traffic to return to normal within three months. Cuereneia was convinced that the revised growth target of seven per cent will be met.

In other areas, the government also seems certain to meet its target; thus, in the first six months of the year, the average 12 monthly inflation rate was three per cent. The government should thus have little difficulty in reaching the annual target of an inflation rate of no more than 7.5 per cent, particularly since in July and August, months not covered by the report, prices continued to fall.

In the first quarter of the year, exports reached 995.9 million US dollars, just over 25 per cent of the annual target of 3.95 billion USD.

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Accor Seeks To Promote Indonesia’s Tourist Destinations

JAKARTA, Indonesia Sept 17 (NNN-Bernama) — Accor, the world’s leading hotel operator and market leader in Europe, said it will be operating about 70 hotels in 21 cities across Indonesia. “Our strategy of promoting our hotels and tourism destinations where the hotels operate is the key to our success. We will operate the hotels as of the end of the year,” Indonesian news agency ANTARA reports Accor senior vice president Gerard Guillouet as saying on Tuesday.

Accor recently took part in the Garuda Indonesia Travel Fair 2013 (GATF) from Sept 13 to 15 at the Jakarta Convention Centre during which it promoted its “Great Prize, Great Location” deal offering hotel packages at special fares.

The Accor Foundation said that to further develop tourism sector in Indonesia, it will continue to cooperate with business partners such as GATF, BNI (or Indonesian State Bank), Telkomsel and Telkom Indonesia. Accor has more than 3,500 hotels in 92 countries.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said recently he was optimistic the national tourism sector would continue to develop through cooperation between regional governments and private entities.

“Economic potential from our tourism sector remains high and will continue to be developed. I ask the regional governments and private parties to cooperate in developing the sector,” Susilo said in a post on his Twitter account on Sunday.

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West Sumatra To Host 19th Tourism Indonesia Mart In Oct

JAKARTA, Indonesia Sept 18 (NNN-Bernama) — The Indonesian Tourism Society (MPI) will organise the 19th Tourism Indonesia Mart and Expo (TIME) in Padang, West Sumatra from Oct 18 to 21, Indonesian news agency ANTARA reported.

TIME 2013 will help promote West Sumatra as an international tourist destination and attract investors to develop infrastructure and facilities such as hotels in the province, said Tourism and Creative Economy Deputy Minister Sapta Nirwandar on Tuesday.

The event, part of a government’s programme called “Wonderful Indonesia”, will also promote tourist attractions in the country. TIME is a business-to-business forum that connects players in the tourism industry in Indonesia and abroad.

The event is listed on the international travel mart calendar along with other events such as Internationale Tourismus-Börse (ITB) Berlin, World Travel Mart (WTM) London, Arabian Travel Mart (ATM) and Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Travel Mart.

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Abu Dhabi business events to boost economic growth

Khaleej Times – 14 September, 2013 – Studies commissioned by Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority (ADTCA) and Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre suggest the economic impact from business events in Abu Dhabi will increase by approximately seven per cent per year on average up until 2020. The emirate’s tourism industry has made no secret its ambitious plans to keep developing its business events here.

Already ranking among the top 100 busiest global meetings destinations in the International Congress and Convention Association’s 2012 global cities league, Abu Dhabi is now looking to leapfrog into the top 50 within five years. “It’s all part of our strategy to boost business events, which includes securing six major business wins this year, a further eight next year and a total of 10 wins during 2015. Alongside this we will also be courting organisers of smaller meetings and incentives,” said Mohammed Al Dhaheri, strategy and policy director at ADTCA.

To start with, the capital will host later this month host two international meetings initiatives meant to propel the emirate’s business events ambitions.

First off is the inaugural C&IT Middle East Forum, organised by the UK’s Conference and Incentive Travel magazine, which will run from September 29-30 at Yas Marina Circuit.

Hosted by Abu Dhabi Convention Bureau and Etihad Airways, the forum will bring 40 UK senior level event buyers and professional MICE (meetings, incentives, conference and exhibitions) organisers, all of whom have a minimum budget of $ 150,000 to spend in the Middle East. “The forum will include strategic level discussion of Abu Dhabi as a business events destination, examine the experience and explore opportunities of holding a meeting or doing association business in the emirate and the wider region,” pointed out Mubarak Al Nuaimi, director of Promotions and Overseas Offices at ADTCA.

“We hope to dispel reservations and misconceptions about doing business in the region and instead hammer home the distinct opportunities we hold out and to get the message across about the incentives our bureau can provide to make meetings in the emirate highly affordable and successful,” he added.

Meanwhile, from September 29 to October 2, ADTCA and Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre will host the Council Meeting of the International Association of Professional Congress Organisers (Iapco), which represents 116 professional organisers, meeting planners and managers of international and national congresses, conventions and special events from 39 countries.

“Iapco has put together as powerful education programme, which will give stakeholders a greater understanding of the global market place for international association meetings and the latest industry trends, also giving them tips on bidding for major business with case studies on winning pitches,” explained Al Nuaimi.

Through Iapco, ADTCA will reach an extended database, since its members organise in excess of 6,500 meetings annually, totalling some 2.5 million delegates and representing an economic impact in the region of €4.15 billion.

In November, the International Conference on Neurology and Epidemiology comes to Jumeirah Etihad Towers with 600 to 800 practitioners in these specialised fields.

In December, the Seatrade Middle East Cruise Forum arrives at the five-star Rosewood Abu Dhabi, as regional cruise industry officials, and itinerary planners of the major lines meet to discuss the sector’s future. Also in December, FTI Touristik, a tour operator for Germany, Austria and Switzerland, will bring 150 of its top selling German travel agents to Abu Dhabi for a sales appreciation incentive and educational workshop programme — its first outside of Europe.

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Uganda To Acquire More Land For Entebbe Airport

KAMPALA, Sept 14 (NNN-NEW VISION) — In a bid to expand Entebbe International Airport (EIA), the Ugandan government has embarked on gazetting land worth $300m near the airport for procurement and freeze development of storey structures near the runway.

Whilst Civil Aviation Agency Uganda (CAA Uganda) acquired 66 acres of land formerly owned by the agriculture ministry, acquisition of more land for expansion is still on card in line with its 20-year Civil Aviation Master-plan (CAM), said transport state minister, Stephen Chebrot.

The acquisition of the 66 acres followed a plea CAA Uganda logged to President Yoweri Museveni in 2009, requesting to channel the whole 132 acres of the ministry’s idle land for EIA expansion.

“The President allowed CAA Uganda to utilise the land, but (Bright) Rwamirama (animal husbandry state minister) complained (to Museveni), saying they needed the land for research purposes, especially for new cow breeds,” Chebrot told New Vision in an interview.

“He (Museveni) agreed that CAA Uganda and the ministry share the land. CAAU continued engaging the ministry to surrender the whole land because there is no reason for keeping cows near the airport as they would attract birds that may cause accidents, but they refused to give up.”

However, comparing Jomo Kenyatta International Airport that owns 6,000 ha following the acquisition of 2,000 ha near the national park and Julius Nyerere International Airport’s 4,000 ha, Chebrot noted that even with the 66 acres now under its control, CAA Uganda is constrained by space for expansion.

“I have directed CAA-U to gazette land near the airport for future expansion. “I have also written to private land owners (near EIA), including the islands across the airport, to allow CAA-U buy their land. This would follow the normal procurement process,” he said.

Under the expansion master plan, the government will invest $300m to expand EIA in order to boast Uganda’s tourism sector currently averaging 21% annual growth and contributing 24% of the total foreign exchange earnings as well as attract new investments following the discovery of about 3.5billion barrels of oil.

The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), an umbrella organisation of 134 Civil Aviation Authority (CAAs), CAA Uganda inclusive, procured a consultant to undertake a six- month’s feasibility study expected to be ready by December 2013.

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Ugandan Joint Projects To Usher In Middle Income Status

KAMPALA, Setp. 15 (NNN-NEWVISION) –Construction of the railway line linking Mombasa to Kigali through Uganda will commence in November. It is expected to cut the cost of doing business in the region.

More than 70% of Uganda’s population is below 30 years. The situation is similar in Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi due to a generally high fertility rate in the region. A high fertility rate and large youthful population make the task of reaching middle income status more daunting for the region.

Wolfgang Fengler, a World Bank economist, notes that at current rates of economic growth the East African region can hit middle income status in the 2030s. Kenya has the highest annual average income per individual at $784 in 2011, Rwanda at $556, Tanzania at $546 and Uganda at $526.

Achieving the average $1,000 middle income level will require a hat trick of high economic growth, significant poverty reduction and reduced income inequalities.

World Bank reports indicate that Uganda needs to create at least two million jobs every two years for the next ten years to absorb the bulging youth labour force and to grow incomes at a household level.

Amelia Kyambadde, the trade minister, noted that countries in the East African Community (EAC) are opting for joint energy and infrastructure projects due to the enormous cost and scale of some ventures.

The number of shared projects between countries in the EAC and the wider Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA) are on the rise. It is hoped that lower costs of business, free movement of goods and labour, reliable power and efficient transportation systems will improve business margins and individual incomes as the region steers towards middle income status.

Construction and rehabilitation of the railway linking Mombasa to Kigali through Uganda will kick off in November this year and be completed by March 2018. The weight of heavy cargo trucks on Uganda’s roads causes wear and tear worth an estimated $21m (sh54b) annually in maintenance costs. The railway will cut this cost.

When completed, the new rail infrastructure will spiral the region’s competiveness by moving larger cargo volumes much faster and deliver larger business margins. The railway is expected to cost $5b (sh13 trillion), nearly Uganda’s total annual budget.

Presidents from the five East African countries agreed recently in Mombasa to set up monitoring and evaluation mechanisms to ensure the project finishes on schedule. Also included is the Tororo-Gulu-Nimule railway line which will be upgraded to standard gauge railway line by March 2018 to unlock the South Sudan markets.

The railway line from Kigali to Bujumbura will be also extended by March 2018 to connect the entire EAC region, boosting integration efforts. East African Community partner states are expected to confirm their participation in the development of the Uganda oil refinery by October 15, 2013.

Single visas, national IDs

Provisions for a single East African visa for visiting tourists and the use of national ID cards as travel documents will be implemented by January 1, 2014. This will improve competitiveness of region. South Sudan and Somalia have applied to join the East African Community; negotiations between the countries and the EAC council of ministers are currently under way.

Once admitted, the EAC markets will grow by 20 million people to 155 million and increase the EAC combined GDP by $21b to $105b. Much progress has been made in linking the tax systems of Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda as well as the decision to limit weigh bridges.

However, William Busulwa of the Uganda National Transporters Association (UNTA) points out that there is need to harmonise trade and transportation laws in East Africa. While Kenya revised its transport laws this year to allow a maximum weight of 50 metric tonnes per truck, Uganda still applies a 2011 transport law which stipulates a 48 metric tonne limit. The discrepancy causes delays and unnecessary fines.

“We are really happy with the changes President Kenyatta has implemented in such a short time. We need the Ugandan Parliament to harmonise our laws with Kenya’s laws,” he said.

He explained that specific weight and size standards should be given to shipping lines and that proper inland truck parking spaces should be gazetted to avoid having trucks parking by the roadsides.

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Indonesian President opens Aceh cultural week festival

September 20 2013 Banda Aceh, Aceh (ANTARA News) – President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono opened Aceh’s Cultural Week Festival (PKA) VI at Taman Ratu Safiatuddin Park, in Banda Aceh City on Friday. The President was clad in Acehnese traditional costumes, accompanied by First Lady Mrs Ani Yudhoyono and a number of his cabinet ministers.

Among the ministers who accompanied the president were Coordinating Minister for People`s Welfare Agung Laksono, Minister for Administrative Reforms Azwar Abubakar, Education Minister M Nuh, Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Marie Elka Pangestu and Minister/State Secretary Sudi Silalahi.

Before the President opened the festival, the head of the Central Aceh District handed over the PKA Challenged Cup to Aceh Governor Zaini Abdullah. The Central Aceh District was the overall champion in the PKA V festival in 2009.

The Aceh cultural week is the biggest cultural festival in Aceh usually attended by 23 districts and the Aceh City in Aceh province. The province has a population of about 5 million. President Yudhoyono earlier received an honorary doctorate degree in the field of law and peace from the Syiah Kuala University (Unsyiah), Banda Aceh, on Thursday night.

Yudhoyono called on the Acehnese people to remain optimistic about developing their region in an effort to reach better prosperity, just and lasting peace.

“We have traveled the journey (of history) quite long and many victims have fallen, so we should maintain peace,” the President said on the sidelines of his scientific oration when receiving the honorary doctorate degree on Thursday night.

Yudhoyono on the conferment of honorary doctorate degree with regard to the Unsyiah 52nd anniversary also said that Aceh has turned into a peaceful territory and its people should be prepared to develop the region. “Let us forget the past wounds and continue to rise together for the Aceh’s future that is more just and prosperous,” the President said.

The President believed that Indonesia’s western-most province of Aceh will continue to rise and secure the peace. The honorary doctorate degree conferment by Unsyiah in the former restive province among other things was attended by First Lady Ani Yudhoyono and several cabinet ministers.

The President is also scheduled to say his Friday prayer at Banda Aceh’s Baiturrahman Grand Mosque before he leaves for Jakarta.

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Sail Komodo to preserve Indonesia tourism

Sat, September 14 2013 Labuan Bajo, East Nusa Tenggara (ANTARA News) – President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has said Sail Komodo 2013 would preserve Indonesia tourism by making East Nusa Tenggara province a world tourist destination.

“I hope the international marine event of Sail Komodo 2013 will accelerate the development in East Nusa Tenggara and preserve the tourism in Indonesia,” the head of state said during the Sail Komodo peak event here on Saturday.

President Yudhoyono and his entourage arrived at Labuan Bajo in West Manggarai district on Friday and then boarded naval boat KRI Baladau 643 for Komodo island, renowned for its large Komodo reptiles that have been named one of the seven wonders of the world.

“The visit is part of the Sail Komodo 2013 peak activities in East Nusa Tenggara,” Coordinating Minister for Peoples Welfare Agung Laksono, who was part of the presidents entourage, said.

He added that there are a number of activities scheduled at the international sailing event at Labuan Bajo in the province`s West Manggarai district. “The President spends a night at Labuan Bajo before taking part in Sail Komodo 2013 on Saturday,” he said.

Planning for the event has been continuous since July 2013, with all provinces in the archipelago becoming destinations for the sailing participants and Kupang, the capital of the province, serving as the entry point.

Besides arts and cultural performances, there are also other activities that have been held to highlight the event, as it reaches its peak on Saturday.

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Indonesia pledges support for regional tourism development

Sat, September 14 2013 Labuan Bajo, E Nusa Tenggara (ANTARA News) – The Indonesian central government has pledged its support for tourism-development efforts made by the country`s citizens and regional governments once Sail Komodo 2013 concludes.

“We will provide support for regional marine-tourism development. We will determine which areas need to be developed under priority,” Marine Affairs and Fisheries Minister Sharif C. Sutardjo said on the sidelines of the Sail Komodo 2013 inauguration in Labuan Bajo, East Nusa Tenggara, on Saturday.

He noted that the most urgent issues would take priority to allow people to enjoy the immediate benefits of hosting Sail Komodo 2013 in Indonesia.

The minister remarked that the international community should also have the opportunity to see the unspoiled beauty of Labuan Bajo, especially that of Komodo National Park, which hosts Indonesias Komodo dragons---one of the worlds largest lizard species.

Earlier, on Friday, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono had officially named the park a world heritage site. Meanwhile, Chief People’s Welfare Minister Agung Laksono said the aim of Sail Indonesia, especially Sail Komodo 2013, was to identify Komodo National Park as a world tourism destination.

“We will provide consistent support after Sail Komodo 2013 to ensure that it improves conditions here,” Agung stated.

He claimed the government would attempt to empower the locals by providing entrepreneurship training and would support efforts to develop the area`s image as a tourist destination through the sale of handicraft products, the provision of guided tours, and the provision of tourist accommodations.

The peak event of Sail Komodo 2013, inaugurated by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono with the press of a button on Saturday, was held at Pede Beach, Labuhan Bajo, East Nusa Tenggara. The event witnessed participation from some 106 yachts from 26 countries.

Also present at the inauguration were First Lady Ani Yudhoyono, Coordinating Minister for People’s Welfare Agung Laksono, Marine Affairs and Fisheries Minister Syarif C Sutarjo, and East Nusa Tenggara Governor Frans Lebu Raya.

Other ranking officials attending the opening included State Reforms Minister Azwar Abubakar, Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan, Social Service Minister Salim Segaf Al Jufri, Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Marie Elka Pangestu, National Defense Forces (TNI) chief General Moeldoko, National Police chief General Timur Pradopo, Attorney General Basrie Arief, and several lawmakers and ambassadors.

Sail Komodo is the fifth sailing event to be held in Indonesia after Sail Bunaken was held in North Sulawesi Province in 2009, Sail Banda in Maluku Province in 2010, Sail Wakatobi and Bitong in Southeast Sulawesi Province in 2011, and Sail Morotai in North Maluku Province in 2012.

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London steps up Islamic finance ambitions

London, Reuters, 18 Sep 2013 – Britain is encouraging banks through a task force to establish sharia-compliant products, aiming to position London as a Western hub for a fast-growing Islamic finance sector that is expected to reach $2.6 trillion by 2017.

Aiming to build on London’s status as a leading exporter of financial services, Britain hopes to step up the challenge to Islamic finance centres such as Dubai and Kuala Lumpur.

“We want to be the leading (Islamic) finance sector outside of the Muslim world,” deputy mayor of London Edward Lister said in a press conference in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday.

Islamic finance follows religious principles such as bans on interest and gambling, and is playing an increasingly prominent role internationally as often oil and gas-rich investors from Islamic countries put more of their money to work overseas.

Britain’s Islamic finance task force, established in March, is led by several ministers and industry figures as well as top executives from Gatehouse Bank and Oakstone Merchant Bank Ltd.

It was launched ahead of London hosting the World Islamic Economic Forum in October and its mandate is to facilitate Islamic financial business, including investment in British infrastructure by Islamic sovereign wealth funds.

The forum, which saw 28 billion ringgit ($8.6 billion) worth of deals inked last year, is being held outside an Islamic city for the first time.

Islamic finance has already played a role in several major deals in London, with Qatari investors taking part in funding the city’s Shard tower, Harrod’s department store and the athletes’ village used for last year’s summer Olympics.

A Malaysian consortium is also spearheading the redevelopment of London’s Battersea power station, after acquiring the site for 400 million pounds last year. Malaysia is the second largest investor in London’s real estate market behind the United States.

“The task force has just started and its aim is to make it easier for banks in London to have Islamic products, which is still quite a new concept to any of them,” Lister said.

“Only now people are beginning to understand what the products actually mean and how they comply … What you will see is a lot of companies introducing those products.”

Maybank Islamic, an arm of Malaysia’s largest bank Malayan Banking Bhd, has launched a sterling-denominated and sharia-compliant mortgage product for high net-worth Malaysians looking to invest in London’s real estate market.

Britain currently has 22 financial institutions, including five fully sharia-compliant banks, offering Islamic finance products. They are supported by 30 London law firms offering expertise on the sector.

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Indonesia inaugurates Komodo National Park

Fri, September 13 2013 Labuan Bajo, East Nusatenggara (ANTARA News) – President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono attended the inauguration on Friday of the Komodo National Park (TNK) as one of World`s Seven Wonders on the Komodo island, East Nusatengggara.

The inauguration ceremony was also attended by Bernard Webber, the president of New7Wonders Foundation, ‘Komodo ambassador’ M. Jusuf Kalla and a number of foreign envoys.

Komodo dragons, rare ancient animal species, which are found only on the Komodo island, have been named one of the seven wonders of the world.

Yudhoyono said he was amazed after for the first time physically seeing the ancient animals. “Thanks God after nine years of longing to see komodo has at last come to reality,” he said upon arrival on the island in Manggarai Barat in the province of East Nusa Tenggara.

He said Indonesia, the East Nusa Tenggara people in particular should be proud with the inclusion of komodo as one of new seven wonders of the world.

Jusuf Kalla reflected how he had gone through difficulties to get acknowledgement of komodo one of the world`s seven wonders. Komodo beat candidates from hundreds of other countries in the world, he said.

Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hassan said the Komodo National Park was already named a World Heritage by UNESCO in 1991. The process of inauguration was marked with the handing over of a certificate by Bernard Webber to East Nusa Tenggara Governor Frans Lebu Raya and the unveiling of the name board.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and First Lady Ani Yudhoyono and entourage boarded the navy ship the KRI Baladau 643 to visit the Komodo island as part of the Sail Komodo 2013.

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Hotel growth predicted in Azerbaijan

18 September 2013 – TODAY.AZ – Azerbaijan was included in the list of countries for hotel growth in the August 2013 STR Global Construction Pipeline Report. The expected growth in Azerbaijan is 27.9 per cent with 1,145 rooms.

According to the report, the Europe hotel development pipeline comprises 816 hotels totaling 134,819 rooms. The total active pipeline data includes projects in the In Construction, Final Planning and Planning stages but does not include projects in the Pre-Planning stage.

Among the countries in the region, Kazakhstan reported the largest expected supply growth (+39.3 per cent) if all 2,147 rooms in the total active pipeline open. Four other countries reported expected growth of more than five percent: Azerbaijan; Russia (+22.9 per cent with 21,531 rooms); United Kingdom (up eight per cent percent with 41,182 rooms); and Poland (+5.6 per cent with 3,059 rooms).

STR Global provides clients – including hotel operators, developers, financiers, analysts and suppliers to the hotel industry – access to hotel research with regular and custom reports covering Europe, Middle East, Africa, Asia Pacific and South America.

STR Global provides a single source of global hotel data covering daily and monthly performance data, forecasts, annual profitability, pipeline and census information.

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Construction starts of first mosque in Slovenia

16 September 2013 – TODAY.AZ – Thousands attended a ceremony in Ljubljana as foundation stone is laid for a Muslim place of worship. Slovenian Prime Minister Alenka Bratusek has helped lay the foundation stone for what will be the country’s first mosque, 44 years after the initial request to build it was made.

Bratusek declared the move in the capital, Ljubljana, a “symbolic victory against all forms of religious intolerance”, adding that Europe would not be as culturally rich without Islam.

About 10,000 people attended the ceremony on Saturday, including Ljubljana Mayor Zoran Jankovic, and a government minister from Qatar which is helping fund the project.

“We are happy to be starting this civic project in Ljubljana, which will thus become a better-known and a more pluralistic city,” Mufti Nedzad Grabus, the highest representative of Slovenia’s Islamic community, told the ceremony.

Building will begin in November and should be finished by the end of autumn 2016. The cost of the project, which includes a Muslim cultural centre, is $16m, 70 percent of which will be met by Qatar.

“This means the world to me,” said Sahra Kacar, who was born the same year as the first official petition to build the mosque in Ljubljana was filed. “We will have a proper place to pray, rather than using various public halls.”

The proposal for a mosque had been held up by reluctant local officials, some of whom tried to force a referendum on the matter in 2004. Five years later, about 12,000 people signed a petition calling for a referendum, but once again Slovenia’s Constitutional Court ruled against it on the grounds of religious freedom.

Slovenia is a Catholic country of two million people, of which about 50,000 are Muslims.

While the plan for a mosque had stirred debate, the concerns have been overshadowed by the financial turmoil facing the country. The project comes during Slovenia’s worst financial crisis since independence in 1991, which threatens to make the country the latest member of the 17-nation eurozone to seek a bailout from the EU and the International Monetary Fund.

“I personally am not against the mosque but I do know people who are still against it,” said a 30-year old designer who lives near the site of the new mosque and gave her name as Ana. “But the mosque is no longer that high on the political agenda because the attention is now focused on the economic crisis that is crippling Slovenia,” she said.

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Int’l Anadolu Culture Festival hosts Azerbaijani Evening

17 September 2013 – TODAY.AZ – An event titled “An evening of Azerbaijan” was held in Turkish capital Ankara as part of the 10th Festival “International Days of Anadolu” on September 15. The event was organized by Etimesgut municipality of Ankara and Azerbaijani Embassy in Turkey, the embassy said.

Diaspora representatives, Azerbaijani students, embassy officers and Ankara residents participated in the event. Azerbaijani dance group of Nakhchivan State Philharmonic who performed at the event was cheered.

Azerbaijani ambassador to Ankara Faig Bagirov said the event was of great significance as it brings Azerbaijani and Turkish peoples even closer.

The visitors of the event also had a chance to get familiar with the “Area of Azerbaijan” created as part of the event. They were presented the magazine “Heritage”, as well as books “Ilham Aliyev” and “Heydar Aliyev”, published in the Turkish language.

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53 sportsmen to represent Azerbaijan at Islamic Solidarity Games

14 September 2013 – AzerNews – 53 athletes competing in nine disciplines will represent Azerbaijan at the third Islamic Solidarity Games to be held in Indonesia from September 22 until October 2. The national team will join such sports as athletics, weightlifting, karate, taekwondo, badminton, tennis, archery, swimming, and wushu.

The Azerbaijani team will consist of outstanding athletes, including Hayle Ibrahimov, Layes Adbullayeva, Intiqam Zairov, Sardar Hasanov, Silvia Angelova, Zulfuqar Suleymanov, Radik Isayev, Gunay Agakishiyeva, Rafael Agayev, Shahin Atamov, and Aykhan Mamayev.

The national team will try to bring home as many medals as possible, especially since Azerbaijan was chosen as a host country for the fourth Islamic Solidarity Games due from June 23 to July 2, 2017.

The Games, which will bring together athletes from 57 countries, will be held under the slogan “Solidarity is our power”. More than 160 Azerbaijani sportsmen will participate in the Games. The Muslim religion of all athletes is not a pre-condition for participation in the competition.

The Islamic Solidarity Games is a multinational, multi-sport event involving the elite athletes of the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which is the second largest inter-governmental organization after the UN with 57 member states spread over four continents.

The first of the ISG tournaments was held in 2005 in Saudi Arabia with an Olympic-style tournament aimed at showing Muslim sports prowess and featuring 6,000 athletes. Azerbaijan gained four gold, four silver and seven bronze medals at the first ISG, thus becoming the eighth country in the medal table.

The second event, originally scheduled to take place in October 2009 in Iran, and later re-scheduled for April 2010, was cancelled after a dispute emerged between Iran and the Arab countries.

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Three East African countries Endorse Single Tourist Visa, Travel by ID Card

16 September 2013 – The New Times – Ministers from Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda have approved the use of national identity cards as travel documents and the issuance of a single tourist visa. They made the endorsement at the end of a two-day meeting that sought to iron out issues under the tripartite arrangement. The meeting ended Friday in Kigali.

During the Heads of State Summit in Entebbe, Uganda, in June, Rwanda was assigned to spearhead single tourism visa, use of IDs as travel documents as well as single customs territory.

The ministers adopted the use of entry coupon that will accompany the identity cards. The coupon will act as an entry stamp. They also endorsed the design of the single tourist visa sticker. All the documents will be tabled before the Heads of State from three countries in the October Summit for final approval.

Significantly, this framework does not include the other East African Community partner states-Tanzania and Burundi. Speaking to The New Times after the meeting, Francois Kanimba, the minister for trade and industry, said the move aims at speeding up the implementation of some of the EAC projects.

“The EAC Treaty mandates more than one partner state to integrate as they wait for others to catch up and this is what we are doing. We need to realise the goal of regional integration for smooth trade and cooperation,” he said.

Kanimba said some programmes like the use of IDs as travel documents and the single tourist visa have been there but some countries are reluctant to implement them, the reason Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya decided to speed up the process.

The $100 (about Rwf65,500) visa valid for 90 days will be paid at the point of entry or in foreign missions and each state will take a share of $30. However, the country that processes the visa entry will receive an extra $10 in an administration cost.

The document, referred to as the ‘East Africa Tourist Visa,’ is green in colour. It has emblems of the three countries, common wildlife, place of validity, a unique visa number and spaces for personal data.

The coupon is marked by the flags of the three countries arranged in alphabetical order. It contains a name of issuing country, traveller’s name and ID/voter/student card number, nationality, an emblem of the issuing country in the background of each coupon and a serial number. The coupon is valid for six months.

The use of national identity cards as travel documents and the issuance of a single tourist visa within the three EAC partner states will come into effect in January.

Amb. James Baba, Uganda’s deputy minister for internal affairs, said the move is about facilitating travels within the three countries. “We have agreed that countries with national IDs use them as travel documents but for the case of Uganda, our ID will take us about a year to get. Member states have allowed us to use voter’s card until such a time Uganda will be able to produce national IDs,” he said.

Amb. Baba said tourists coming to the three countries will find it easy to use a single visa to all the countries. “We want to make work easy for travelling public, visitors, and investors to move across borders.”

Mutea Iringo, Kenya’s principal secretary for interior, said the development will facilitate free movement of goods and services within in the EAC. “We have started as three countries and are optimistic other remaining EAC countries will join us in a short while and we have agreed in principle to fully implement the initiatives,” Iringo said. “We look forward to continue sharing that database of the vital documents so that we don’t have criminals abusing the process.”

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Nigeria: French Investors Plan Low-Cost Airline in Nigeria

13 September 2013 – New Vision – The pioneer managing director of Arik Air, Alex Van Elk, has announced plans by French investors to float a low-cost airline in Nigeria.

The Dutch-born international aviator said he was already mobilising French investors for that purpose. Although he would not disclose the name of the new airline for now, he promised that it would become operational in the next ten months. “We have made contacts with Nigerian authorities and they are quite pleased with our plans and assured us of government support” he said.

Elk stressed that the airline would succeed because it would be devoid of the mistakes associated with most Nigerian airlines, which usually lead to their early exit. He itemised such mistakes as poor revenue accounting, acquisition of aging aircraft, lack of good reservation systems and heavy cost of overheads as well as ambitious route networks.

The emerging low-cost carrier, he said, would not venture into unprofitable routes and would be run professionally with the right calibre of staff.

He also disclosed that the airline was making wide consultations with mega carriers in Europe, Asia and Africa for interlining arrangements stressing that the responses had been very encouraging.

Elk further added that the promoters, which comprised of both Nigerian and French investors, had already made contacts with aircraft manufacturing company, Airbus, for new A319 aircraft for the take-off of the new airline.

He assured that the fare would be very affordable, but noted that there would be no in-flight refreshment. “We will only serve water on board for an hour flight but for those who will want to have something extra they will have to buy”.

Elk further disclosed that his target would be to run efficient service for the first year locally and launch regional operations afterwards.

On whether the airline would operate intercontinental routes, Elk said, “We don’t have such arrangement in our plans; rather we will seek code share and interline collaborations with global carriers in Asia, Europe and Africa.

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Egypt: New Seven Touristic Projects in Red Sea and Ain Sokhna

14 September 2013 – Egypt State Information Service – Minister of Tourism Hisham Zaazou received a report from the ministry’s leaders and authorities on the follow-up and evaluation of performance to make sure that all sectors are implementing the ministry’s plan to promote and develop the tourism industry.

The report showed that the Tourism Development Authority has finalized allocation of lands for a number of seven projects with a hotel capacity of 2310 rooms in the Red Sea and Ain Sokhna. It added that the ministry has extended licenses for new 12 companies.

The report referred to participation in 8 international exhibitions, an Arab exhibition and three festivals with the purpose of promoting tourism in Egypt.

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Bangladesh railway starts Chandpur-Laksham-Comilla route

CHANDPUR, Sept 13, 2013 (BSS) – Bangladesh Railway (BR) has started a new chapter in its expansion process through launching a modern and speedy Diesel Electric Multiple Unit (Demu) train service for commuters on the Chandpur-Laksham-Comilla route.

Railway Minister Mujibul Haq, MP, formally inaugurated the service at a function here and said the Demu train service on Chandpur-Laksham-Comilla route would make the journey of the passengers more easy, fast and comfortable reducing the traffic congestion.

Home Minister Dr Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir, Foreign Minister Dr Dipu Moni, Rafiqul Islam ,MP, Bangladesh Railway Director General Abu Taher and joint secretary of the ministry Sunil Chandra Paul spoke, among others, on the occasion.

The railway minister said the government has 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 stipulated time.

With its two engines at both end, 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 April 24, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina unguarded first ever Demu trains services on Dhaka Narayanganj route that followed by Chattagong- Laksham route, Chittagong-Foujderhat route, Moymenshing-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 the service has evolved as the low cost but safe and comfortable medium of 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 with the directives of opposition leader Begum Khaleda Zia,” he observed.

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

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Three-day Bonsai exhibition begins in Rajshahi

RAJSHAHI, Sept 14, 2013 (BSS)- A three-day Bonsai exhibition and competition began here yesterday aims at making the bonsai culture popular among the people. Rajshahi Bonsai Society (RBS) arranged the fair in the conference hall of Rajshahi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (RCCI) for the 14th consecutive time with support from Home Stone Limited.

Newly elected mayor of Rajshahi City Corporation Mosaddeque Hossain Bulbul opened the exhibition as the chief guest while Prof Afrauzzaman Khan Chowdhury of Rajshahi University and Registrar of Barendra University Prof Abdus Salam spoke as special guests with RBS President Syed Mahfuz-E Towheed in the chair.

In his welcome speech, RBS General Secretary Sarwar Morshed illustrated the various aspects of bonsai culture and its positive impact on society.

Terming the bonsai practice as an art of precision, Mayor Bulbul said it has been playing a vital role in reducing social crimes.

Highlighting the various other aspects of bonsai culture he said the country could earn a lot of foreign currency through the export of quality bonsai to the developed countries. Some 57 bonsai-parishioners are attending the exhibition with 165 bonsai of 36 species.

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Kyrgyz Rural women learn to develop small businesses

Centralasiaonline.com, 2013-09-16, OSH – Kyrgyzstan is working to empower its rural women economically so that they can support themselves and their families.

“To start their own small business, women need not only start-up capital but also entrepreneurial know-how,” Avazkan Ormonova, head of Demilgeluu Ishker Ayaldar (DIA), an NGO that focuses on enterprising businesswomen, told Central Asia Online.

Since May, Plan Your Future workshops, sponsored by Eldom Consulting Co., Bai-Tushum Microfinance Bank and DIA, have been taking place throughout Osh Oblast, she said.

People who live in the country’s more rural areas often lack the skills they need to avoid debt traps, she said.

“The (large) number of banks and lenders in Kyrgyzstan has enabled rural residents … to take out loans, sometimes two or three at a time, without giving any thought to the sometimes grave consequences,” she said. “That’s why our organisations will be working closely with rural women for 27 months to educate them about finances and help them expand their economic opportunities.”

One rural woman, Mairam Kozukulova, shared her story of debt-caused hardship.

Kozukulova, a 28-year-old mother of three from Bash-Bulak village, was forced to borrow money to feed her family in 2011. “I took out a 200,000-KGS (about US $4,100) bank loan to buy sheep, but the lambs froze to death,” she said. When it came time to repay the loan, she was not prepared and she temporarily lost her house.

She and her children ended up on the street before her relatives and her husband came to the rescue, she said. Her husband returned from working abroad and bought the house back from the bank.

“This was a good lesson not just for me but for all the other villagers,” she said. “That’s why we’re all eager to acquire financial literacy.”

Local officials, who want to eradicate poverty and improve rural dwellers’ lives, completely favour such workshops, whether they focus on financial literacy in general or something more specific to running a business.

“Our women keep the fires at home burning … but they aren’t always successful because they lack financial or legal know-how,” Kanybek Kimsanov, deputy chief in charge of social issues for the Kara-Suu District government in Osh Oblast, told Central Asia Online. “We whole-heartedly support the NGOs that teach them.”

Too many ill-prepared borrowers perceive a loan as a permanent solution, Kimsanov said, adding that demonstrations have broken out in the countryside when borrowers felt trapped by loans they couldn’t repay. Such unrest shows the need to educate the rural population financially, he said.

The financial-literacy workshops already are bearing fruit, he said.

“We’ve seen the first positive outcome. In villages like Jany-Arik, Mady, Otuz-Adyr, Kyzyl-Kyshtak, etc., hard-working women are developing small businesses by growing … fruits and vegetables in greenhouses and opening up sewing and candy shops,” Kimsanov said. “They strengthen the rural economy by providing locally needed goods and helping eradicate unemployment and poverty.”

Besides the workshops for women, officials this fall are opening a unified information centre in Ishkavan village, Kara-Suu District, where residents will be able to receive economic and legal advice.

“Sometimes they don’t know how to turn a profit from selling their corn, potatoes on cotton … because they lack the economic skills,” village head Osorbek Abdazimov said. “We welcome the coming information centre.”

Financial education in the countryside is the key to producing successful entrepreneurs, Abdazimov said, explaining that such training is vital to how an entrepreneur manages his or her capital. The most important lesson is how to plan the economic future of oneself and one’s family, he said.

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World focus on Brunei as ASEAN host

September 20, 2013 – Borneo Bulletin – IN JUST a few short weeks, Brunei will once again play host to the Asean Summit but this time, witnessing the attendance of the bloc’s many regional and international allies whose presence in the Sultanate will make the small oil-rich nation the world’s focus.

Leaders from Asean and their counterparts are set to gather in the Abode of Peace on October 9 and 10 following their Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) meeting in Bali and expected to be tabled, it was shared by the Prime Minister of Singapore, will be topics that are related to Asean’s many ambitions and the issues that the region is currently facing.

During a press conference with Asean journalists here in Singapore recently, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in response to the Borneo Bulletin, said leaders “will be reviewing the progress which Asean has made,” during the upcoming Asean Summit in the wake of what he described as “a good meeting” in Brunei that took place earlier in April this year.

“We had a clear statement on what we wanted to do in terms of Asean cooperation,” he said. “I expect that we will be reviewing the same issues again because these continue to be the main agenda for Asean and I look forward to making more progress.”

Among these issues, it was added, will include claims on the South China Sea (SCS) and though the area will be among the issues that will be discussed, the way it has been brought up numerous times before this in various other countries and during other meetings, the prime minister does not hold much hope that the debate over who has what claim over the natural-resource abundant area can, or will, be resolved.

“These are territorial disputes … so, therefore, I do not think that the overlapping claims can be cleared up. They will remain overlapping,” he said.

Though Singapore has no claim over the areas, the issues surrounding the seven-way dispute that include claimants Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Philippines, Taiwan and China “is a matter which has to be resolved peacefully and in accordance with international law including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea”.

“All parties have to exercise restraint and avoid doing anything provocative which will raise the temperature or result in escalation and some mishap happening, which will have unintended and grievous consequences and that remains our position. It has not changed..

“In terms of what steps to take, we in Asean have been pushing for full implementation of the Declaration on Conduct, at the same time, the negotiation of a Code of Conduct between the parties and I think we have agreed with China to start on this process but I think, realistically, it will be quiet a long process.”

What can be done, he added, “is to manage the situation, avoid some escalation at sea, on the land or sea itself, and where possible, conduct joint development of the resources which are there, which I think is Brunei’s approach from what I can see.”

Last year during the Asean meeting in Cambodia, the bloc had surprised the international community by not declaring a joint communique – a first in Asean’s history – that was caused by several member’s discontent on the SCS issue but all seemed well during the Foreign Ministers’ meeting in July in Brunei when foreign minister leaders issued a joint statement that signalled some form of understanding between parties.

Commenting on this particular change of winds that became evident during the Asean Summit in April that he said went well, the prime minister said the shift can be attributed to the fact that “we had had our difficult discussions earlier already,” which he said was helpful.

“But I think Asean makes progress incrementally and not in dramatic leaps but gradually we move forward and from time to time, we have difficulties and you may encounter setbacks and you have to try and recover and go ahead and I think what happened in Phnom Penh was a setback.

“After that, the fact that we were able to come out with some principles on our approach to the South China Sea, I think it was helpful and provided some basis to make sure that our discussions in Brunei could make further progress.

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Turkish films come to coastal town for free

MUĞLA – Anadolu Agency – The third Bodrum Turkish Films Week, which will start in the touristic Aegean town on Sept. 23, is set to screen 11 films for audiences. The head of the Cinemarine Movie Theaters, Cenk Sezgin, said some films would be shown for the first time at the event.

“We will premiere four films in the festival. One is İzcan Deniz’s ‘Su ve Ateş’ (Water and Fire). He will be here with the cast. The opening film of the festival is his previous ‘Evim Sensin’ (You’re My Home),” he said.

Sezgin said labor awards would also be presented at the event. “Veteran Turkish artists of Turkish cinema, such as Selda Alkor, Fikret Hakan, Bulut Aras, Nuri Alço and Mahmut Hekimoğlu, will be presented labor awards. The films will be screened at the Cinemarine Bodrum Oasis AVM for free during the week. Also, every night a director will attend the screening of his latest film in Bodrum Castle.” The event will continue until Sept. 28.

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Turkey Plans Theme Park Based on Aesop’s Fables

KÜTAHYA – Anadolu Agency – Bringing the tales of one of its most famous sons to life, Kütahya in western Turkey is creating a theme park devoted to the fables of Aesop, the world-famous fabulist who lived in the area.

Aesop’s fables, the world-famous moral tales from ancient Greece, will soon come to life in a theme park that is under construction in the Aegean province of Kütahya.

The park is the first of its kind in Turkey and will recreate 13 works by Aesop, who was born in the area, with squash- and mushroom-shaped houses from the Phrygian period, as well as castles, windmills and animal mockups.

The owner of the construction company set to carry out the project, Kamil Yurtalan, said works started on May 20 in the city’s Akkent neighborhood and would be finished soon.

He said building and road construction would be finished in two weeks, after which human and animal mockups will be placed in the park. “The park will open to visitors after the environmental arrangements are complete.”

He said the themed structures, children’s play groups, viewing platforms, buildings and some parts of the roads in the project belonged to their firm.

“This is a different project, which does not exist in Turkey. The main theme here is the Aesop Fable Island. It aims to project the animation of Aesop’s fables. People will be able to see the story of the tortoise and the hare or listen to the story of the grasshopper and the ant. When the works of sculptors are finished, visitors will be able to vividly imagine Aesop’s legendary fables in their minds. We are working with 50 people on buildings, roads and installments,” he said.

He said buildings that people did not see in their daily lives were being constructed in the park and were being styled manually. “For example, there are structures carved into rocks like inns or viewing platforms in the shape of a castle.”

Yurtalan said the structures in the park were very strong and would be able to stand for many years with only minor restorations necessary every 10-15 years. “The park can also be used as a space for children’s films,” he added.

Objects from 13 fables

The Aesop Fable Island has been designed to include talking animals and their houses, created by Aesop, who lived around Kütahya in 500 B.C. and still draws great interest from children around the world. The houses from the period, as well as animals like the grasshopper, ant, fox, lion, mouse, and others, will take children back to a time set approximately 2,500 years ago.

The park’s illustrations and drawings were completed by Dumlupınar University Fine Arts Professor Adem Dönmez, while the human and animal mockups were created by sculptor Mustafa Kemal Altınsoy.

For the fable island, the organizers settled for building types from the Phrygian era as they constructed their park on a 17,000-square-meter area. Dresses, daily objects, architectural structures, hair and beard styles, music and agricultural tools of this period were also designed in such a way as to remain true to their original form.

The best-known fables of Aesop, such as “The Ant and the Grasshopper,” “The Fox and the Grapes,” “The Fox and the Crow,” “The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse” and “The Two Pots” will also be featured in the park.

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Muğla’s Sedir Island captivates visitors

MUĞLA – Anadolu Agency – Sedir Island, also known as Kleopatra Island, is around 25 kilometers from Marmaris and receives more than 120,000 visitors a year. As its very special golden yellow sand is under special protection, visitors are forbidden from entering the island’s beach with shoes or towels

Sedir Island, which is home to golden yellow sand and different tones of blue as well as historic artifacts, is being rushed to by visitors from around the world after recent improvement works.

The island, also known as Kleopatra Island, is around 25 kilometers from Marmaris and receives more than 120,000 visitors a year. As its sand is under special protection, visitors are forbidden from entering the island’s beach with shoes or towels.

Signboards placed on the road to the beach warn people: “It is strictly forbidden to take sand from the beach.” Visitors are also not permitted to enter the beach with towels or shoes, in order to prevent the sand from moving from the beach. Everyone is obliged to take a shower to rid themselves of the sand on their body before leaving the beach.

The local name “Kleopatra Island” comes from the legend that the island’s sand was brought from Egypt by vessels for the queen Cleopatra and her lover, the Roman commander Antonius, in order for them to meet on the island. Experts say the sand in the northern part of the island is made up of limestone droplets that are especially formed. Such sand is only seen elsewhere in Crete Island in the Aegean and Mediterranean area besides the Sedir Island.

The Provincial Tourism Director Kamil Özer said Sedir Island could be reached by boats from Marmaris and Akyaka on the Gulf of Gökova and that they had made improvement works on the island to serve visitors in a better environment.

“This place serves tourism both with its history, sea and sun,” Özer said, adding that following the improvement works, the island has been visited by 90,494 people in eight months and received 426,360 Turkish Liras in revenue.

He said that with more than 120,000 visitors a year, everything from toilets to sunbeds had been renewed on the Sedir Island. “In the region, Sedir Island is the second most visited place after the Bodrum Underwater Archaeology Museum. The golden yellow sand, which appeared on the Kleopatra Beach with geological formations, has been protected with a series of safety measures in recent years.

Officials, who guard the entrance of the beach, do not let visitors enter the beach with shoes or towel. We make an effort to protect the beach and historic remains on the island. It is also a frequent place for daily excursion boats from the Gulf of Gökova, and receives more visitors every year,” Özer said.

How to get to Sedir Island

To reach Sedir Island, visitors should travel to the mainland village of Çamlı’s pier, a five kilometer walk from the village, off the Marmaris-Gökova highway. To get to the island it costs 15 liras per person by boat.

Following a 20 minute boat trip, visitors reach the island and pay 10 more liras there. Those with a “Müzekart” do not pay the entrance fee. The entrance fee allows for use of the islands umbrellas and sunbeds, while toilet, shower, and food services are also all provided.

From Akyaka, visitors who join excursion boats by paying 25 liras are able to reach Sedir Island after six coves.

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Seminar highlights dissemination of Islamic knowledge through ICT

September 16, 2013 – Borneo Bulletin – “THE JOURNEY of knowledge and learning began many millenniums ago. It started when the first question was asked and its solution was sought and implemented. Every millennium and century has its own trend as well as impacts on the coming times.”

These were expressed by Abdullah Yusuf Usman, an invited speaker during an International Seminar on Al-Quran Al-Karim at Universiti Islam Sultan Sharif Ali (UNISSA).

Abdullah Yusuf Usman who is from the Department of Religious Studies, Faculty of Arts and Social Science, Taraba State University, Jalingo, Nigeria was invited to present a talk on “Harnessing Information and Communication Technology to Enhance the Preservation and Dissemination of The Glorious Quran in the Age of Globalisation”.

The seminar focused on the preservation of Al-Quran’s content and text as well as Islamic knowledge through the use of information and communication technology (ICT). These technologies include computers, Internet, radio, television and telephone

“When used appropriately, ICT can help expand access to education, strengthen the relevance of education to the increasingly digital workplace and raise educational quality by making the preservation and dissemination of knowledge easier,” noted Abdullah.

ICT offers various technologies that can be used to facilitate humans’ routine activities and one of the greatest benefits gained from the use of ICT is the Internet.

“Internet is a modern advanced means that has been developed to enlarge and strengthen the communication system. Through it, any piece of information can be very easily publicise,” pointed the speaker.

Amongst the numerous facilities made available to humans by the Internet which aided the preservation and dissemination of knowledge, Abdullah shared some notable facilities it offers.

“One can open and read any book including the Al-Quran which is available on the net and can take printout of its pages for teaching and learning purposes. There are many Islamic sites that have been developed with the purpose of providing and disseminating Islamic knowledge as well as information.”

He briefed that it has become a new mechanism for Islamic scholars and students all over the world to collect, store, exchange, share and spread information about Islam. Internet has become an important tool to distribute Islamic teachings and a platform to unite Muslim communities.

“These days, they can learn more about their religion through many websites available on the Internet.”

Abdullah pointed out that, Islam welcomes every new lawful invention based on the exploration of the forces of nature and never disallowed the use of newer inventions without genuine reasons.

“Al-Quran is a powerful microscope used in determining the lawfulness of this world. It declares that all things are the creation of Allah the Almighty who has created them for the benefit of human beings,” said Abdullah.

He also stated that Muslim scholars of earlier generations travelled long distances to study under other teachers and they spent many years of their lives venturing from one city to the other gathering knowledge.

“Nowadays, one can travel around the world in less than a day. But, to gain Islamic knowledge, one does not have to travel at all. The amazing online technology means that Islamic knowledge is at our fingertips. It is just a matter of making the right decision and having the discipline to carry us through,” said the speaker.

In addition, the preservation of the divine revelation has been the concern of Muslims for many centuries.

In the contemporary period, Allah the Almighty has provided a more advanced way to preserve and disseminate the knowledge of Al-Quran.

“Islam being a dynamic religion, needs a paradigm shift from the conventional model of preservation and dissemination of knowledge to the new and modern ways.”

Some software on Al-Quran and Hadith contains the Arabic text, translation and commentary of the Al-Quran. The ‘Sahih Bukhari’ and other Islamic books are preserved and made available for scholars to access any time.

These applications can be efficiently utilised in promoting Islam and thus, it is necessary for all Muslims to use and master the new technology as well as put more effort to learn and comprehend Islamic teachings.

Abdullah added that employing ICT facilities in preserving Al-Quran can be difficult if the basic challenge of ICT is not addressed

“Where there are ideas, there are always some obstacles or problems that needs to be overcome,” said the speaker.

“The problems include the lack of basic and adequate infrastructures or resources; the lack of ICT technicians and personnel; inadequate funding or financial crisis; lack of basic education and ICT skills as well as interruption of ICT facilities by electricity and computer networks failure during the process of preservation and dissemination of knowledge,” highlighted Abdullah.

As an effort to realise the effective utilisation of ICT facilities and skills in record keeping, Abdullah Yusuf Usman presented some recommendations.

“The authority should make orientation programmes on how to use ICT facilities for preservation and dissemination of knowledge available to its citizens. In addition, there should be adequate supply of electricity and computer networks,” stated Abdullah.

He also emphasised that seminars and workshops on the use of ICT for preservation and dissemination should be organised by the government especially in the Muslim countries.

There should be budgetary allocations by the government for the procurement of ICT related equipment and facilities.

“Muslims should be trained in IT so that they can ensure its proper usage in their quest to inculcate religious knowledge.

“If the teachers master the technology and techniques designed for the Internet, they will have a much better chance of achieving the objectives of the course,” claimed Abdullah.

He also discussed some prospects with the audience to further inculcate knowledge to the participants.

“Preservation and dissemination of Islamic knowledge is the duty of the Muslim community especially at a period when there are efforts from the non-Muslim quarters to distort the original text of Islam,” he added.

He claimed that it was important to fully apply ICT in the preservation and dissemination of the Al-Quran as this will fortify the safe keeping of the Islamic text.

“Furthermore, energy and time used on manual record keeping will be saved as ICT will facilitate an easy way of preservation and disseminating the Islamic text.

“The use of ICT holds out a bright prospect of filling the vacuum created by manual record-keeping and at the same time, it also could improve the safe-keeping of Islamic knowledge in the form of a soft copy,” concluded Abdullah.

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Nigerian wins Miss Muslimah World in beauty pageant

Jakarta, Thursday, 14 Dhul Qaada 1434/ 19 September 2013 (IINA) – A Nigerian woman tearfully prayed and recited Qur’anic verses as she won a beauty pageant exclusively for Muslim women in the Indonesian capital yesterday, a riposte to the Miss World contest that has sparked hardline anger.

The 20 finalists, who were all required to wear headscarves, put on a glittering show for the final of Muslimah World, strolling up and down a catwalk in elaborately embroidered dresses and stilettos. But the contestants from six countries were covered from head to foot, and as well as beauty they were judged on how well they recited Qur’anic verses and their views on Islam in the modern world. After a show in front of an audience of mainly religious scholars and devout Muslims, a panel of judges picked Obabiyi Aishah Ajibola from Nigeria as the winner.

While the event in a Jakarta shopping mall paled in comparison to Miss World on the resort island of Bali, in which scores of contestants are competing, Ajibola was nevertheless overwhelmed. Upon hearing her name, the 21-year-old knelt down and prayed, then wept as she recited a Qur’anic verse. She said it was “thanks to almighty Allah” that she had won the contest. She received 25 million rupiah ($2,200) and trips to Makkah and India as prizes. Ajibola told AFP before the final that the event “was not really about competition.” “We’re just trying to show the world that Islam is beautiful,” she said.

Organizers said the pageant challenged the idea of beauty put forward by the British-run Miss World pageant, and also showed that opposition to the event could be expressed non-violently. Eka Shanti, who founded the pageant three years ago after losing her job as a TV news anchor for refusing to remove her headscarf, bills the contest as “Islam’s answer to Miss World.”

“This year we deliberately held our event just before the Miss World final to show that there are alternative role models for Muslim women,” she told AFP. “But it’s about more than Miss World. Muslim women are increasingly working in the entertainment industry in a sexually explicit way, and they become role models, which is a concern.”

Hosted by Dewi Sandra, an Indonesian actress and pop star who recently hung up her racy dresses for a headscarf, the pageant featured both Muslim and pop music performances, including one about modesty, a trait the judges sought in the winner.

The pageant, which also featured bright Indonesian Islamic designer wear, is a starkly different way of protesting Miss World than the approach taken by Islamic radicals. Thousands have taken to the streets in Indonesia in recent weeks to protest Miss World, denouncing the contest as “pornography” and burning effigies of the organizers. Despite a pledge by Miss World organizers to drop the famous bikini round, radical anger was not appeased and the protest movement snowballed.

The government eventually bowed to pressure and ordered the whole pageant be moved to the Hindu-majority island of Bali, where it opened on September 8. Later rounds and the September 28 final were to be held in and around Jakarta, where there is considerable hardline influence.

But there are still fears that extremists may target the event — the US, British and Australian embassies in Jakarta have warned their nationals in recent days of the potential for radical attacks. More than 500 contestants competed in online rounds to get to the Muslimah World final in Indonesia, one of which involved the contenders comparing stories of how they came to wear the headscarf.

The contest was first held in 2011 under a different name and was only open to Indonesians, Shanti said, but after the media began comparing it to Miss World, it was rebranded as a Muslim alternative to the world-famous pageant.

The contestants are between 18 and 27 years old, come from six Muslim countries — Indonesia, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Malaysia, Brunei and Iran. To qualify, they must be proficient in reading the Qur’an and have some academic, sports and cultural achievements. They must wear a hijab in their daily lives and even submit an essay titled “My hijab experience”.

Ms. Eka was a successful television anchor in Indonesia, until she was forced to quit her job in 2006 after deciding to wear a hijab. But while some of the women participants have fought to wear a hijab instead of uncovering their hair, other contestants have fought to wear a hijab as a liberating alternative to the burqa. “There is no simple narrative of Islam and the hijab,” says Eka.

The contestants have spent the last 10 days in activities ranging from Qur’an recitation, to vocational courses in IT and learning the art of wearing makeup correctly. “Our women are sholeha (pious), smart, and stylish,” says Ms. Eka. “They are an answer to those who only equate Islam with poverty and terrorism.”

Twenty-three-year-old Evawani Efliza, an Indonesian contestant studying for a Psychology degree in Canada, says joining the contest has helped her to understand how to better her character and be “more sincere in her relationship with God.” “I’ve learnt to have a positive attitude at all times and contribute as a Muslim woman to my country and my family.”

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Mega projects to develop Makkah’s unplanned districts

Makkah, Sunday, 10 Dhul Qaada 1434/ 15 September 2013 (IINA) – An effective mechanism for partnership and investment in developing Makkah’s unplanned districts will be unveiled on Sunday in front of leading investors, property owners, as well as mutual fund and bank officials.

Execution of five mega projects, including that of Jabal Al-Sharashif, will be the major highlight of the meeting, which will be held under the aegis of Makkah Emir Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, who is also chairman of the Executive Committee for Developing Unplanned Districts. Al-Baladul Ameen Company for Development, the investment arm of Makkah Mayoralty, will organize the event at Makkah Clock Tower Fairmont Hotel, said Makkah Mayor Osama Al-Bar. He said that development of 66 unplanned regions in Makkah will start with five giant projects in the districts of Quz Al-Nukkasa, Al-Kadwa, Al-Zohour, and Jabal Al-Sharashif or Al-Sharashif Mountain.

“The Real Estate Appraisal Committee will start fixing prices of about 12,000 real estates in Jabal Al-Sharashif, located in the center of Makkah with narrow streets and an overcrowded presence of illegal workers. There are several unplanned residential buildings at the foot and on top of the mountain,” he said. Development of Jabal Al-Sharashif, which covers a total area of 1,631,000 square meters, will transform the unplanned Makkah neighborhood into a major urban center, consisting of hotels, commercial and residential buildings, educational and health facilities and other supporting services. The new township in the district would consist of 1,000 plots of land spread over a total area of 7.2 million square meters. It would house residential buildings for both permanent and seasonal use, commercial buildings, social centers, educational facilities, health centers, mosques, offices of Civil Defense and police, in addition to parks and greenery. The project is linked internally and externally with the surrounding regions by a network of roads, flyovers and bridges.

According to Al-Bar, appraisal of properties in Jabal Al-Sharashif will be followed by receiving title deeds and documents from property owners prior to their expropriation. As part of developing the region, a ring road around the mountain versant will be constructed after demolishing unplanned structures. Hotels and residential buildings for pilgrims on mountainsides will also be built. This will be with the assumption that local residents would cover 30 percent of the area while seasonal dwellers, including pilgrims and visitors, would have the remaining 70 percent, the Makkah mayor said.

Al-Bar noted that Jabal Al-Sharashif, one of the most crowded unplanned regions, which is close to the Grand Mosque, will witness development work in the near future. There is a dire need to develop this area into a major urban center in view of the region’s poor infrastructure facilities. The region is characterized by insurmountable terrain with several deep curves and valleys and thus posing difficulties in building infrastructure facilities.

The mayor also disclosed that the company will construct several residential buildings so as to distribute them at affordable and reasonable prices in Makkah by facilitating partnership between the Mayoralty, private sector and property owners in a way serving the interests of all parties concerned.

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Louisiana Traces Islamic History in America

IslamOnline 18/09/2013 CAIRO – Digging into the history of Islam in America, students at Louisiana University will have the opportunity to get better information about Islam and Muslims in a five-week series of readings and discussions.

Islam is the world’s second largest religion, so when it goes through a period of internal revision it affects more than just its own adherents, Dr. Ahmad Nazir Atassi, a Tech assistant professor of history, told Shreveport Times.

The Muslim professor was speaking about a new course planned by Louisiana Tech’s department of history to discuss the Muslim experience in America.

The course titled, Let’s Talk About It: Muslim Journeys, will be divided into five sessions, each scheduled for a Tuesday evening during October

Atassi, serving as facilitator and discussion leader, noted that the program would begin at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 1 and continue every Tuesday evening until Oct. 29.

Accompanied by appropriate readings, session topics will include women and gender in American Islam.

The course will also tackled American Muslims from the 18th Century to World War I, American Muslims since World War I, cultural encounters and cultural integration, and American Muslim politics between identity and 9/11.

The course is funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Library Association.

It is also a part of the Readings in Literature and Culture (RELIC) program of the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities. Louisiana Tech is one of 840 educational and cultural institutions selected nationally to present the series.

In a shrinking world, the program was praised for serving multiculturalism in the US and helping Americans to get better information about Islam and Muslims.

Although the Muslim experience in America did not come to the forefront until recently, it has deep roots in the nation’s past and it is an integral part of our history, just like all the other immigration waves that have enriched the American experience,” Dr Atassi said.

A member of the Louisiana Tech faculty since 2007, Atassi holds a Ph.D. in history and religious studies from the University of California at Santa Barbara. He teaches courses on Middle East history, the history of Islam and the history of US-Middle East relations.

Although there are no official figures, the United States is believed to be home to between 6-8 Muslims. In 2010, Dr. Edward E. Curtis, Professor of Religious Studies and American Studies at the Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis, traced the history of Islam in America.

His book “Muslims in America”, traces Muslim tales, from African American converts to Islam in the 1920s, to the post-1965 wave of professional immigrants from Asia and Africa, to Muslims in post 9/11 America. He also documented the lives of American Americans in the early history in the eighteen century.

Professor Sulayman Nyang, chairman of the African Studies Department at Howard University in Washington, has also traced the history of Islam in America, even before the arrival of Christopher Columbus. In his book, Islam in the United States of America”, and many essays, Nyang said that Muslims came to America during the times of Mansa Musa, the celebrated King of Mali in Western Africa who revealed Muslim voyages to the New World.

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Muslim youth conference to be held in Khanty-Mansiysk

islam.ru – 18 Sep 2013 – Local Muslim religious organization “Mahalla” of Khanty-Mansiysk implements socially oriented project “Yugra – the territory of Peace”, YUGRAINFORM news agency reports.

The “Yugra – the territory of Peace” project won the first place in the district competition “Maintaining inter-ethnic and inter-religious peace and harmony, the development of international cooperation” in August of this year.

Under the project framework was held awareness-raising activities among the youth of Khanty-Mansiysk for the formation of a correct understanding of Islam and counter the influence of destructive sects.

The project is aimed at young people age 15-20, who are the students of secondary schools and institutions of the Khanty-Mansiysk. The project is financed by the budget of the region and “Mahalla” religious organization.

The first conference of the Muslim youth “Yugra – the territory of Peace” project will be held on September 22 in Surgut.

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