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23 Dec, 2013

Bradford synagogue saved by city’s Muslims

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 December 2013 (19 Safar 1435). Pls click on any of the headlines to go to the story.



The internationally renowned “1001 Inventions” is on display at the National Science Centre in Kuala Lumpur. The award-winning exhibition, which was declared the world’s best by the European museums Industry in 2011, is welcoming visitors until 28 February 2014. 1001 Inventions has already received more than three million visitors at blockbusters residencies in London, New York, Los Angeles, Washington DC, Istanbul, Abu Dhabi, Doha and Dhahran and recently began a new European tour in Sweden. The exhibition highlights a thousand year period of history when Muslim Civilisation led the world in scientific, technological and cultural achievement – known as the “Golden Age of Muslim Civilisation.” Ahmed Salim, Producer and Managing Director of the brand, said: ”1001 Inventions features a diverse range of exhibits, hi-tech games, interactive displays and dramatisation that bring to life historic role models from Muslim Civilisation who will serve as an inspiration for ASEAN young people to pursue careers in science and technology.” The exhibition has been immensely popular in Europe, America and the Middle East, where a dual language Arabic-English version enjoyed blockbuster residencies across the Arabian peninsula. 1001 Inventions was voted the world’s best touring exhibition by the Museum and Heritage Excellence Awards in London in 2011, and currently has more than three million online fans on Facebook, Twitter and other social media. 1001 Inventions is a partnership with Abdul Latif Jameel Community Initiatives. Open 9am-5pm daily.


Visit Malaysia Year 2014 is the nation’s biggest and grandest tourism celebration with Malaysia Truly Asia’s endless wonders of events, festivals and activities all-year round. This is the perfect time to see, feel and experience Malaysia! The fourth Visit Malaysia Year will bear the theme “Celebrating 1Malaysia Truly Asia” to reflect the diversity in unity of all Malaysians. The Proboscis Monkey has been chosen as the mascot. VMY 2014 will be the biggest and grandest ever tourism celebration with hundreds of events and festivals all lined up to welcome the world. Overall, it is hoped that VMY 2014 will contribute to the Government’s target to receive 36 million tourist arrivals and RM168 billion in receipts by 2020, as outlined in the Malaysia Tourism Transformation Plan (MTTP) 2020. Click here for full details on the VMY 2014 website.

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.




UNESCO marks 2nd World Arabic Language Day

PARIS, Dec 17 (KUNA) — The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is marking the 2nd World Arabic language Day on December 18, and is organizing ceremonies attended by international specialists and researchers and representatives of UNESCO member states.

This year’s events are planned under the topic “Does Arab media strengthen, or weaken, the Arabic language?” The Chairman of the Consultative Committee of UNESCO’s Arabia Plan and Ambassador of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to UNESCO Ziad Aldrees told KUNA in remarks on this occasion that marking the occasion at UNESCO headquarters is a strong gesture and testimony to the realization of the importance of the Arabic Language. He added the committee planned the activities so that they peak coinciding with events held across the Arab World by both state and national bodies and by educational and cultural institutions.

On UNESCO’s Arabia Plan, the official said that after a very good start, things quieted down in recent years. “The committee is working tirelessly to regain the vigor and vitality of the early days through adoption of ambitious programs to realize its objective in the service of Arabic culture.” For his part, Kuwait’s UNESCO representative Ambassador Ali Al-Tarrah told KUNA, “Marking December 18 as World Arabic Language Day was fruit of great effort by the Arab Group in 2011 towards incorporating this day on the calendar of recognized international occasions. Arabic is the language of the Holy Quran, and is a key cultural tool and component, and in addition to being among the world’s oldest languages, it is the language of some 422 million people.”

The ambassador further stressed, “This day is an important occasion and opportunity to stress and encourage cultural interaction, particularly amid currents of cultural globalization that could prove a threat to our language.” The official noted that the language is increasingly suffering from distortion linked to use of blends of languages or lexical units that are also being used with more and more frequency. It is vital, accordingly, that Arab countries maintain strong and sound educational curricula that help preserve the language among the rising generations, he remarked.

On 23 October, the Consultative Committee of UNESCO’s Arabia Plan, which seeks to increase understanding of Arab culture globally, decided to incorporate World Arabic Language Day as a key activity in its working plan. Celebrated for the first time in 2012, World Arabic Language Day was proclaimed by UNESCO’s Executive Board during its 190th session. The initiative seeks to promote multilingualism and cultural diversity, as well as celebrate Arabic language’s role in and contribution to the safeguarding and dissemination of human civilization and culture.

The choice of 18 December marks the day on which the UN General Assembly designated Arabic as the sixth official language of United Nations organizations in 1973.

In the following year, 1974, the UNESCO General Conference adopted Arabic as an official working language. Upon request of Kuwait, Algeria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Tunisia, Egypt, and Lebanon, Arabic was incorporated into the work of the executive council later that same year. Thus adopted by the two main bodies of the organization, UNESCO moved on to translate all documents and memos and transcripts into Arabic and started providing simultaneous Arabic interpreting services at all meetings and events.

The organization further urged Arab countries to exert more effort into translation of documents and works of different genres from Arabic to other languages and vice versa.

The UNESCO continues to consolidate use of the Arabic Language through such efforts as developing its Arabic page on the internet, translating UNESCO terminology into Arabic, and encouraging translation of all works of value to and from the language and publishing such translations.

The Consultative Committee of UNESCO’s Arabia Plan was founded in 1999.

According to the international organization’s internet page, “The Arabia Plan is intended to increase the knowledge of Arab culture in the world and to encourage greater mutual understanding between Arab culture and the other cultures, by promoting dialogue and exchanges. It also seeks to promote intercultural dialogue, cultural diversity and development.

“The aims of the Plan are to highlight and promote dialogue between Arab civilization and culture and the world’s other civilizations and cultures with particular emphasis on respect for the cultural diversity of the peoples; publicize the contribution of Arab culture to universal civilization; help Arab culture to master and develop the new information, communication and computer technologies in the service of modern culture; and contribute to the development of present-day Arab culture by encouraging the creation and flowering of different intellectual, literary, scientific and artistic currents and the free exchange of knowledge.

“It is implemented by the UNESCO Secretariat in cooperation with the UNESCO Arab Group, the Arab League Educational, Cultural, and Scientific Organization (ALECSO), the Islamic Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (ISESCO), and all other concerned organizations.”

The plan puts particular emphasis on Arabic Language vis-a-vis new developments and technologies. An important contribution to efforts in this area was that by Saudi Arabia in 2007, the “Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud’s contribution to the improvement of the presence of the Arabic language in UNESCO”.

Arabic is one of six working languages at UNESCO, and is the language of 22 member states, spoken by 422 million Arabs and over 1.5 billion Muslims around the world.

As part of this year’s World Arabic Language Day activities, the UNESCO is organizing seminars on the themes “Is news media in Arabic (ie: Al Jazeera, BBC Arabic, France 24 Arabic, among others) helping to spread the Arabic language outside the Arab world?”, “What are the motivations for launching international news channels in Arabic?”, and “Does the traditional media affect the usage of language on social media, especially by Arab youth?”

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World Arabic Language Day: ISESCO calls on Islamic world to promote Arabic

Rabat 17/12/2013 – In an appeal to the Islamic world, issued on the occasion of World Arabic Language Day, celebrated on 18 December of every year, the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) called for promoting the Arabic language and developing it, using modern academic methods, so as to make it able to keep abreast of the developments in the different fields.

It also highlighted the need for devoting the Arabic language the interest it deserves in the educational, academic, administrative, social and media fields, putting it in its rightful place in all fields, and incorporating it in the modern life. It also underlined the importance of enacting laws that protect and preserve its effective and efficient role in society, as a receptacle of the Arabic culture and Islamic heritage, and as a constituent of the civilizational, cultural identity.

In the same connection, ISESCO called on its 51 Member States to update their Arabic teaching curricula, while inspiring from modern language teaching methods, and improve the educational process in general. It also called on them to incorporate Arabic in the educational programmes, in order not to “isolate” it from the development witnessed by the educational system, and so as to make it a language of science, technology and innovation.

Likewise, it invited its non-Arabic speaking Member States to expand teaching Arabic, include it in the educational curricula of the different classes, and open Arabic Language classes in the faculties, for it is the language of the Islamic heritage, and a means to connect the countries of the Islamic world.

Also, it called for using Arabic in the various economic, commercial, financial, social, cultural, and information activities, especially as Arabic is a rich language, capable of adapting to the rapid changes of life.

It also called on the countries of the Islamic world to positively respond to the Decision of UNESCO Executive Board to celebrate 18 December of every year as World Arabic Language Day, through seeking to achieve the objectives of this celebration namely promote the Arabic language, develop it, celebrate it in a way that would serve these objectives and raise awareness of the importance of the Arabic language and its international status.

In the same vein, ISESCO declared its pursuance of the implementation of Arabic language programmes and activities, aimed at teaching Arabic as a foreign language in the Islamic world, and to Muslim minorities, improving the capacities of the Member States to train Arabic teachers, publishing specialized school books, and holding symposia, workshops and conferences on different themes.

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Arabic Language Day marked with special events

SHARJAH, 19th December, 2013 (WAM) — The Sharjah Calligraphy Museum will be marking International Arabic Language Day with several exhibitions and workshops.

Arabic Language Day occurs annually on 18th December and seeks to promote multilingualism and cultural diversity while celebrating the Arabic language’s role and contributions to the promotion and preservation of human civilization and culture, Taking place under the Sharjah Museums Department’s (SMD) social responsibility initiative, ‘Because We Care’ and entitled ‘Arabic – The Dhad Language’, the occasion will be celebrated at Sunset Mall in Dubai on 18th and 19th December, in collaboration with Iqra’a Arabic Language Centre.

Commenting on International Arabic Language Day, Manal Ataya, Director-General of Sharjah Museums Department remarked, “Language is far more than a tool for communication, it is the vehicle for sharing our cultural expressions and traditions, and the bridge for fostering positive relations between societies. Each year, International Arabic Language Day enables us to raise awareness of our civilization’s cultural treasures.” SMD and Sharjah Calligraphy Museum have been celebrating this day since 2008 with various events and programmes. This year, the focus will be on Arabic calligraphy, not only as an art form, but also as a medium for expressing culture and heritage. Artists participating in the two-day event will include Zayd Al Aazami, Narjis Noureddeen, Ali Alhamadi, Iman Albastaki, and the Al Harf Wa Ana team consisting of female artists Maryam Al Boloushi, Nada Almazmi, and Haya Al Kitbi.

In addition to showcasing the work of these artists, Sharjah Calligraphy Museum will offer workshops on Arabic specific fonts and calligraphy tools and methods, and will host a lecture on the historical development of Arabic fonts, their rules and specific characteristics. Another highlight will be a unique workshop by artist Ridha Juma, which will leave attendees with a special commemorative souvenir.

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Emirates NBD launches “My Heart Speaks Arabic’ initiative

Dubai, 17th Dec. 2013 (WAM): Emirates NBD, a leading bank in the region, announced today the launch of “My Heart Speaks Arabic,” an initiative that seeks to celebrate the richness and beauty of Arabic language. Representative of the bank’s close association with the history, culture, tradition and heritage of the Arab World, the community-focused programme aims to bring together the influencers and the Arabic speaking community and admirers through a range of initiatives.

“At Emirates NBD, we believe the celebration of Arabic language in all its depth and richness is extremely important, particularly given its current status as the fifth most widely spoken language in the world with more than 285 million native speakers,” said Saif Al Mansoori, Deputy Head – Group Marketing and Branding, Emirates NBD. “In line with our role as a community-focused bank offering dedicated financial services to over a million customers from various countries, Emirates NBD is pleased to launch “My Heart Speaks Arabic” initiative that will add value to the lives of residents.”

“My Heart Speaks Arabic” project will support the beauty of Arabic language through a three-pronged approach that includes organising exhibitions and networking forums to showcase the Arabic work of regional authors, poets, artists and musicians, sponsoring or supporting organisations that work on like-minded initiatives and co-ordinating interactive fun activities in Arabic language on social media platforms. As part of this initiative, Emirates NBD has produced a song titled “My Heart Speaks Arabic” to be aired across all radio stations in the UAE in early 2014. A series of animated cartoons on social media platforms also highlight the beauty of Arabic in a fun-focused initiative.

“Emirates NBD believes there is unlimited scope within this project to raise awareness and interest in Arabic and create a snowball effect that links Arabic influencers with language enthusiasts in on-going social media initiative,” said Al Mansoori. “It is also fitting that this community-focused initiative is being launched this year to coincide with Arabic Language Day on December 18, and in the year that we are also celebrating the 50th anniversary of our establishment as the first national Bank in the UAE, with Arabic closely linked to our history and tradition.” The campaign is expected to be sustained through competitions, conversations, sharing of content, engagement on Emirates NBD’s social media platforms.

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Approval for first mosque in Santa Barbara, California

California, Sunday, 19 Safar 1434/ 22 December 2013 (IINA) – A years-old dream of the first Islamic worshipping house in Goleta city in the southern Santa Barbara County, California, has finally come true after the Muslim community received the green light earlier this week.

“All of us made history today,” Jamal Hamdani, the chair of the Islamic Society of Santa Barbara, said after the Center’s approval, Santa Barbra Independent reported on Thursday, December 19. “I am truly proud to be an American, a Muslim, and a member of this community.” Goleta Muslim community has been waiting for the approval of their proposed Islamic centre since 2001, after buying the land at the corner of Los Carneros Road and Calle Real. Living together for 30 years, more than 35 Muslim families along with students from US Santa Barbara University and Santa Barbra City College have formed the Islamic Society of Santa Barbara (ISSB).

Without a worship place, Muslims community used to pray in the Goleta Valley Community Center. This all changed after the Muslim community got the go ahead for their own centre, thanking Goleta City Council who has unanimously approved the project. “You’ve waited a long time for a home and now you have it,” Councilwoman Paula Perotte told Noozhawk. The approved Islamic centre will be 10,000 square foot including a mosque, a dining room and a lecture hall. “People can finally come to our house, our place,” said Yama Niazi, the imam for the Islamic Society of Santa Barbara.

The community’s support for the new Islamic centre was vehemently welcomed by Goleta Muslims. “All these people come together for one purpose, and that’s to follow the journey of the Islamic Society to its final home in the good land,” said Councilman Roger Aceves. “I think it’s an absolutely perfect project for this site,” said Ernest Kolendrianos, who attended the council. “What was shared there was an experience of the world that we would all like to be part of,” said Rabbi Steve Cohen of Congregation B’nai B’rith. The same enthusiasm for the Islamic centre was shared by the council members who praised the unique design of the centre. “We’ve never had a meeting like this in City Hall,” said Ed Easton, a council member. “This is amazing. This is amazing.”

Lauding the project, Councilman Jim Farr said, “I’ve only been on council a year, but this is far and away the most rewarding experience I’ve had yet.” “I don’t want to get too emotional here, but it’s been great to be a part of it,” he added. The United States is home to a Muslim minority of between six to eight million. A recent survey found that American Muslims are the most moderate around the world. It also showed that US Muslims generally express strong commitment to their faith and tend not to see an inherent conflict between being devout and living in a modern society. An earlier Gallup poll found that the majority of Americans Muslims are loyal to their country and optimistic about their future in the United States.

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Palestinian film “Omar” nominated for Oscar

California, Sunday, 19 Safar 1434/ 22 December 2013 (IINA) – Oscars organizers shortlisted the Palestinian film “Omar”, directed by Hany Abu-Assad, along with eight other movies for best foreign language prize, offering surprises and some unexpected snubs.

Films left out included Saudi Arabia’s first-ever candidate and Pakistan’s first entry in five decades, while an Oscar-winning Iranian director also failed to make the cut. Films by Belgian, Bosnian, Cambodian, German, Hungarian and Italian directors are on the shortlist, which did not include any women filmmakers. “The Hunt” by Dane Thomas Vinterberg, “The Grandmaster” from Hong Kong’s Wong Kar-wai and “The Great Beauty” by Italian Paolo Sorrentino could be among the frontrunners.

But Iranian entry “The Past”, directed by Asghar Farhadi, who won the best foreign film Oscar in 2012 for “A Separation”, was not on Friday’s list, despite forecasts that it would be among the leading nominees. The films were whittled down from a long list of 76 movies announced in October by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which organizes Hollywood’s biggest annual awards fest.

The shortlisted films will be reduced to five nominees next month, before nods in all Oscar categories are announced on January 16. The 86th Academy Awards will be held on March 2.

Industry journal Variety said the most surprising snubs were for Chilean Sebastian Lelio’s “Gloria,” Poland’s “Walesa: Man of Hope” by Andrzej Wajda, as well as the Iranian and Saudi entries. The Saudi long-list candidate, “Wadjda” by Haifaa al-Mansour, is an avowedly feminist movie about a young girl’s quest to own a bicycle in the ultra-conservative Muslim kingdom where women are deprived of many rights, among them driving. Directed by Saudi Arabia’s first female filmmaker and shot entirely in the Gulf state, the film won best Arabic feature award at the Dubai Film Festival last year and picked up an award at Cannes in March.

For Pakistan, “Zinda Bhaag” (“Flee Alive”) was the first Oscar entry in more than 50 years. It is a comedy-thriller about three young men trying to escape the drudgery of their everyday lives through unconventional means. Other high-profile titles not on the shortlist include Chinese director Feng Xiaogang’s “Back to 1942,” “Winter of Discontent,” by Egypt’s Ibrahim El Batout and Israel’s “Bethlehem” by director Yuval Adler, Variety said.

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1,111 Muslim couples tie the knot in Nigeria

Kano, Nigeria, Saturday, 18 Safar 1434/ 21 December 2013 (IINA) – More than 1,000 Muslim couples tied the knot at a mass wedding Thursday in Nigeria’s second city of Kano, part of a government program. The scheme was aimed at combating rising rates of divorce and births out of wedlock, and the number of impoverished widows and divorcees forced to make a living on the streets in Muslim northern Nigeria.

The elaborate event at the city’s central mosque included 1,111 previously divorced women and an equal number of men, many of whom had also been married before. The mass wedding program was launched last year by the state government and Shariah police, or Hisbah, who enforce Islamic law, in response to what officials have described as a divorce epidemic. “We are gathered here today to solemnize the weddings of 1,111 couples under Kano state’s mass wedding program,” Deputy Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje said at the ceremony, the fourth of its kind since May 2012.

“The high divorce rate in our state leads to rampant cases of births outside wedlock, with children being born and dumped which leads to appalling social decay,” Ganduje said. Hisbah chief Aminu Daurawa said the program has arranged 4,461 marriages over the last 18 months. The deputy governor called for stricter policies to discourage divorce and, when marriages do break up, harsher penalties for men who fail to pay alimony so that single mothers can “provide a good upbringing for their children and make them good citizens.” Under the match-making program, the state government pays the traditional bride price, provides brides with furniture and seed money to start a small business.

Kano’s government and the Hisbah have launched a massive crackdown on so-called “immorality,” arresting hundreds of people accused of using drugs, engaging in commercial sex and dressing inappropriately. The Hisbah also destroyed 240,000 bottles of beer at a public ceremony last month. Officially, Shariah was restored across Nigeria’s mainly Muslim north in 2001, but the Islamic legal code has been unevenly applied.

Daurawa told AFP the crackdown on immorality and the marriage program are also being applied to Kano’s minority Christian population. “We have included 50 Christian couples in this batch in liaison with the Christian leaders in the state and they will have their weddings in church,” he said.

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Indonesia must have agricultural development model: President

Bogor, W Java (ANTARA News) December 20 2013 – Indonesia must have an agricultural development model that responds to global economic changes and developments, so that agriculture can contribute in overcoming various global problems, stated President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

“This problem must be put in the current context where Indonesia is adopting a decentralization system with its high economic growth. An agricultural development model will decide the direction and history of the nation in the future,” the President announced at the anniversary of the Bogor-based Institute of Agriculture (IPB), here on Friday evening.

Yudhoyono pointed out the need for at least three agricultural development models.

The first model is an economic development strategy, which offers ample opportunities for the market economy to decide the direction of development.

In this case, the government should play a role in creating a market that can function efficiently and effectively. However, this model is not able to create equitable economic development. It often fails to create justice, among other things, because the underprivileged are often left behind by the fast economic growth.

“The second model is an economic development strategy that highlights the importance of the governments involvement in development. The government has to be involved from the beginning, right from charting out the strategic plans to their implementation. The agricultural development model is the realization of a concept for a centralized authority on economic issues,” the president explained.

And the third model is an economic development strategy, which basically incorporates the principles of the first and second strategies mentioned above.

The government should intervene by involving other sectors such as the private sector, state-owned enterprises (SOE), and cooperatives.

This development strategy should be implemented with the awareness about the likelihood of market failure hence the governments role remains vital. However, absolute and excessive intervention will also produce, what is termed government failure, he stated.

“I believe that Indonesia should adopt the third strategy as earlier pointed out. In various occasions during my government tenure for almost nine years, I have always put forward the vision, policies, and strategies of this middle way of economic development, namely, The Third Way, including development in the agricultural sector,” the president added.

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Indonesian Muslim Intellectuals Seek “New Balance” for Development Path

Jakarta (Antara News) December 20 2013 – Vice President Boediono has officially opened the Indonesian Muslim Intellectuals Association (ICMI) National Conference at Jakarta Convention Center, here on Friday. During his opening remarks, VP Boediono talked about the significant role of the ICMI in the development of Indonesia’s democracy, as a think-tank that can offer inputs to the government.

“I have spent more than 30 years in governance and I think there are lots of experiences, good and bad, in every period. Hence, I call on all the ICMI’s intellectuals to find those good experiences from the earlier period that can be passed on to the current government as well as to the future,” stated Boediono.

According to Boediono, Indonesia, which is eager to move forward with a reformation spirit, is facing a dilemma in achieving a democratic nation and state, as it is still being overshadowed by the era of New Order or “Orde Baru”.

“On the one hand, Indonesia is already being recognized as a fully democratic country. But on the other, our development is not yet optimal,” he pointed out. “That is why perhaps we have to learn from our past. I think we can take the positive sides of the achievements during the era of the New Order, as we know that the New Order was indeed recognized worldwide as success for development,” Boediono added.

However, Vice President Boediono also emphasized that Indonesia has to stick to reformation and democratic values in order to develop the country. “I don’t say that we have to go back to the New Order, but what I underline here is that we need to find a balance,” he explained.

The ICMI National Conference 2013 projects “Indonesian New Economic Movement: Access Mobilization for People Prosperity” as the tagline and aims to empower small and medium enterprises through the Indonesian Halal Business and Food exhibition held on December 20-21, 2013.

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Indonesia, Palestine to advance relations

Jakarta (ANTARA News) December 20 2013 – The sound bilateral relations between Indonesia and Palestine will continue to strengthen and become more substantial, stated the Palestinian Ambassador to Indonesia Fariz Mehdawi in a meeting with Indonesian senior journalist Parni Hadi on Thursday. Parni Hadi, who is also the founder of the Dompet Dhuafa charity organization, said that he met the Palestinian ambassador to discuss efforts to increase bilateral cooperation.

On the occasion, Ambassador Mehdawi praised Indonesia for its staunch support to Palestine in its struggle for independence. They agreed that the bilateral relations can be further improved and made more substantial to benefit the people of both countries.

Dompet Dhuafa (DD) is a pioneer organization working to empower the poor through the management of Zakah (obligatory alms), Infaq (charity), Sadaqah (donation), Waqf (endowment), and other halal funds derived from individuals, institutions, and corporates.

Meanwhile, as part of Indonesia’s strong commitment to help the Palestinian people work towards the establishment of an independent state, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has pledged capacity building programs for 1000 Palestinians through various training courses within the five-year period (2008-2013). So far, around 1.2 thousand Palestinians have joined the capacity building programs organized by Indonesia.

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Bradford synagogue saved by city’s Muslims

It was around this time last year that the trustees of Bradford’s final remaining synagogue faced a tough choice. The roof of the Grade II-listed Moorish building was leaking; there was serious damage to the eastern wall, where the ark held the Torah scrolls; and there was no way the modest subscriptions paid annually by the temple’s 45 members could cover the cost.

Rudi Leavor, the synagogue’s 87-year-old chairman, reluctantly proposed the nuclear option: to sell the beautiful 132-year-old building, forcing the congregation to go 10 miles to Leeds to worship.

It was a terrible proposition, coming just after the city’s only Orthodox synagogue had shut its doors in November 2012, unable to regularly gather 10 men for the Minyan, the quorum of 10 Jewish male adults required for certain religious obligations.

But rather than close, Bradford Reform Synagogue’s future is brighter than ever after the intervention of Bradford’s Muslim community, which according to the 2011 census outnumbers the city’s Jews by 129,041 to 299.

A fundraising effort – led by the secretary of a nearby mosque, together with the owner of a popular curry house and a local textile magnate – has secured the long-term future of the synagogue and forged a friendship between Bradfordian followers of Islam and Judaism. All things being well, by Christmas the first tranche of £103,000 of lottery money will have reached the synagogue’s bank account after some of Bradford’s most influential Muslims helped Leavor and other Jews to mount a bid.

Click here to read the rest: http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2013/dec/20/bradford-synagogue-saved-muslims-jews

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Bangladesh sets Guinness World Record for biggest human flag

DHAKA, Dec. 16 (Xinhua) — Tens of thousands of Bangladeshi volunteers have formed the world’s biggest national flag in a bid to breach Guinness World Record. Organizers said 27,117 volunteers from the Bangladesh Army, educational institutions and the general public stood up with red and green placards to form the national flag in Dhaka’s National Parade Ground.

The placards, held above their heads, collectively depicted the Bangladeshi national flag. The participants stood there for 6 minutes 16 seconds, though the requirement for setting a new world record was 5 minutes, they said.

Organizers had earlier said the main objective of this event was not only to celebrate Bangladesh’s Victory Day which falls on Monday but also show the world the inner strength and unity of the people of the nation.

According to the organizers, previously the largest human national flag was created in Pakistan on 21 October 2012, with 24,200 participants attending the Punjab Youth Festival at the National Hockey Stadium in Lahore, Pakistan.

Bangladesh’s third largest cell phone operator Robi Axiata Limited in collaboration with the Bangladesh Army organized the event.

After successful completion of the incredible event, organizers said all the relevant documents and images will be sent to the Guinness World Record committee for validation.

A Guinness-accredited auditor was present to oversee the creation of national human flag.

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India Releases Updated Urdu Software Tools CD and Urdu Children Stories

Ministry of Communications & Information Technology, 16-December-2013 – Mr Kapil Sibal, Minister for Communications and Information Technology, here today released ‘Updated and advanced Urdu Language Software Tools CD, Bharat Operating System Solutions (BOSS 5.0) CD and Urdu children stories for Android based Aakash Tablet’ for public use. These are now also available for free download from http://tdil-dc.in. These have been developed by CDAC under the mentoring of TDIL Programme of Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY), Govt. of India. The previously released Urdu language software tools CD did also have tools supporting legacy applications. However, with the advent of universal standards, such as Unicode and the version changes in the free and open source software’s necessitated the updation.

The updated and advanced ‘Urdu Software Tools CD’ is a set of standards compliant free software tools, that enables Windows and Linux users to carry out various task on computers in Urdu Language. The software applications are organized under three categories namely desktop usage , internet usage, and other useful software utilities.

The “Bharat Operating System Solutions CD (BOSS 5.0)” is a GNU / Linux developed by C-DAC under the guidance of Free and Open Source Software’s (FOSS) group of DeitY, Govt. of India is having Urdu language interface. This localized Operating System and tools will benefit the usage of Free / Open Source Software in India. This new release of BOSS 5.0, namely “ANOKHA” comes with many new applications focused on enhanced security and user friendliness. The release also includes the software updates for various packages including Apache Server, BIND DNS Server, GNU Compiler collection, GIMP, MySQL, Open SSH, php, python, etc.

Children stories for Android based Aakash Tablet is a collection of 21 educational literature books from National Council for Promotion of Urdu Language (NCPUL). C-DAC is working with NCPUL for the same.

C-DAC is carrying out pioneering Research and Development in the area of language technologies and has several products / tools / technologies to its credit, which is powering various projects of National importance.

The National Council for Promotion of Urdu Language (NCPUL) is an autonomous body under the Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD), Department of Higher Education, Government of India and is actively involved in production of literature in the Urdu language, including books on science and other branches of modern knowledge, children’s literature textbooks, reference works, encyclopedia, dictionaries, etc.

TDIL Programme & FOSS group of DeitY and C-DAC will be further working with NCPUL under the overall guidance of DeitY for bringing out various standards, tools and technologies for Urdu language.

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Malaysia Airlines sponsors Indian hit movie “Dhoom 3”

Mumbai, Dec 20 2013, Indian Express – Malaysia Airlines has announced the associate partnership for the release of Bollywood blockbuster, ‘DHOOM 3’ starring Aamir Khan and a star-studded cast. The airlines has also organised a contest named ‘Machao Dhoom with Malaysia Airlines’ contest.

According to Azahar Hamid, regional senior vice president, South Asia and Middle East, Malaysia Airlines said, “Malaysia Airlines is excited to be part of the much awaited ‘DHOOM:3′ release. Bollywood is great at taking the viewers’ imagination to destinations around the world. With Malaysia Airlines, we can make that journey happen.”

Famous for its suave villains and intrinsic storyline, the ‘Dhoom’ series continues with more action, more roaring and daring bikes stunt, cupid thieves and foot-tapping music, to make for an exciting Christmas at the movies.

Ashish Patil, business and creative head, vice president, Y-Films, Brand Partnerships, Talent, stated, “Dhoom:3 is a film that will have a huge play globally. So it was a great idea to partner with an international airline like Malaysia Airlines who also appeal to a large global audience. We are delighted to be on this journey with Malaysia Airlines and look forward to creating some Dhoom while we’re at it!”

Malaysia Airlines recently embarked on an extensive brand campaign themed along ‘Journeys are made by the people you travel with’. Flying from six cities in India to its hub in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Airlines connects to over 60 destinations within its own network, and covers 880 destinations in more than 150 countries with its members of one world.

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IIMC Commences Diploma Course in Urdu Journalism

Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, 19-December-2013 – In a major initiative to mainstream the use of Urdu in journalism, the Indian Institute of Mass Communication, New Delhi has commenced a five month Diploma Course in Urdu Journalism. The course intends to promote the proficiency of working journalists in Urdu language newspapers and the capabilities of media professionals in the Urdu language.

The initiative to launch the course had been taken after Minister for Information & Broadcasting, Mr Manish Tewari had detailed discussions with working journalists and editors of Urdu language newspapers at the All India Conference of Urdu Editors. During the discussions, the representatives of the Urdu newspapers had requested the Minister to initiate skill and capacity building measures through short term courses in the medium.

The course currently initiated by the Institute is non residential. It focuses on contemporary trends and practices in the field of journalism, use of technology, copy-writing and writing for TV. The course aims at capacity building and enhancing the skills of practitioners of Urdu journalism.

The Indian Institute of Mass Communication invited applications on 16th Sept. 2013 by placing advertisements in leading Hindi and Urdu newspapers. The entrance exam for the Urdu Journalism Course was held on 20th Oct. 2013. Interviews were held on 9th Nov. 2013. The course commenced on 2nd Dec. 2013 with 8 students, 12 candidates had appeared for the Entrance Examination and out of them 11 had been shortlisted for the interview. The course is expected to be completed by April 2014.

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U.A.E. signs Air Services Agreement with Jamaica

DURBAN, 15th December 2013 (WAM) — The U.A.E. has signed an Air Services Agreement (ASA) with Jamaica.

U.A.E. Ambassador to South Africa, Hamad Hareb Al Habsi, signed the ASA on behalf of the Government of the U.A.E. with the Jamaican Ambassador to South Africa, Norma Taylor Roberts, in Durban, South Africa.

The signing ceremony was attended by Omar Saeed bin Ghalib, Deputy Director-General of U.A.E. General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), and Michael Hylton, Chairman of the Board of the Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority (JCAA).

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California is most sought-after state for UAE students

DUBAI, 18th December, 2013 (WAM) — Carian College Advisors, a specialist American education consultancy headquartered in Dubai, has named California as the No. 1 choice of students from the U.A.E. pursuing higher education in the United States, based on the list of clients they served in 2013. Peter Davos, Managing Director, says that the choice comes as no surprise to him as California is renowned for the quality of its higher education system, its attractive climate and excellent quality of life. “California is by far our students’ most popular destination; it is home to some of the world’s top universities, such as Stanford University, Harvey Mudd College, California Institute of Technology, UCLA, UC Berkeley, Pomona College and Claremont McKenna College.

“Stanford University has surpassed Harvard University this year as the most difficult university in the U.S. to be accepted to, while Harvey Mudd College graduates earn the highest average salaries of any university in the U.S.. California Institute of Technology was ranked as the Best University in the World in the 2011 Times Higher Education World University Rankings in Engineering and Technology and Physical Sciences and both Pomona and Claremont McKenna are ranked among the top ten liberal arts schools in the U.S. by US News and World report.”

With over 4,000 degree-granting institutions of higher learning in the 50 states, Carian College Advisors caters to the varied needs and preferences of U.A.E. students. Davos added “The U.S. remains one of the world’s leading destinations for students living in the U.A.E. Our clients from all over the world continue to choose the U.S. over other countries because of its flexible curriculum, interdisciplinary approach to education and emphasis on holistic development of the individual. The United States is one of the most culturally diverse and inclusive societies in the world, having welcomed visitors and students from foreign countries for centuries. The most popular majors for U.A.E. students are Business and Management, Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Science.”

Davos said that flexibility is one of the key factors why U.A.E. students favour the American education system, as students are encouraged to take a broad array of courses and are only required to declare their major at the end of their second year of study. American universities encourage these exploration and development processes and view it as an inherent part of an undergraduate education. Students at American universities are allowed to choose a minor, double major, or triple major, as long as they fulfil the stipulated course requirements.

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Conference to explore role of Sharjah museums in preserving identity

SHARJAH, 18th December, 2013 (WAM) — Sharjah Museums Department (SMD) has successfully concluded a first-of-its-kind conference aimed at exploring in-depth how museums can help preserve national and cultural identity at the Sharjah Archaeology Museum.

The Conference saw the participation of 7 local and several other GCC universities. The list of participants included Sharjah University, American University of Sharjah, U.A.E. University, Paris-Sorbonne Abu Dhabi, Sultan Qaboos University, King Saud University, and University College London – Qatar, In addition to various authorities, including Sharjah Museums Department, Sharjah Art Foundation, Dubai Culture and Arts Authority, and House of Islamic Antiquities in Kuwait.

The two-day event, entitled “The Role of Museums and Cultural Institutions in Strengthening Identity”, was inaugurated by Sheikh Salim bin Abdulrahman Al Qasimi, accompanied by Abdullah Al Owais, Chairman of the Department of Culture and Information, and Manal Ataya Director-General of Sharjah Museums Department, which aimed to stimulate meaningful dialogue about how museums can preserve and disseminate information about Arab and Islamic culture in a world that has seen extraordinary changes politically, economically and socially largely as a result of globalisation.

Commenting on the need for such a conference in the region, Manal Ataya, Director-General of Sharjah Museums Department remarked, “Dramatic globalisation with limitless socio-political and economic impact, has affected cultural and social structures worldwide.

Moreover, it is essential to investigate how museums can play an integral role in disseminating a shared Arab and Islamic tradition with the world beyond.

She added, “This conference aims to highlight the early development of the museum sector in the GCC region and its ongoing growth, as well as explore the role of museums in community engagement. The speakers will examine contributions made by a variety of GCC cultural institutions to further strengthen and celebrate identity.

Habib Al Sayegh, Chairman of the Emirates Writers Union, delivered the opening speech before various speakers delved into their presentations on the first topic, “The evolution of museums in the GCC region’.

The second of the conference’s three topics, Museums and Cultural Institutions: Cooperation and Integration for Identity Preservation, commenced in the afternoon and was chaired by Dr Hamad bin Seray, Associate Professor at UAEU.

Dr. Zaki Aslan, Director of ATHAR Regional Conservation Centre, Sharjah, delivered the session’s first paper, “Role of International Organisations in Supporting and Strengthening Cultural Identity: Cultural Heritage Conservation Programme in the Arab World (ATHAR)’.

This was followed by a paper on the “Role of ISESCO in Preserving the Islamic Cultural Identity’ by Dr. Abdulaziz Al Jabouri, an expert in ISESCO.

The conference is particularly pertinent as Sharjah takes great pride in its rich cultural history, the Emirate was named as the “Cultural Capital of the Arab World’ by UNESCO in 1998, and was selected by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation as the Capital of Islamic Culture for 2014.

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Sharjah to offer Friday sermons in five languages

Sharjah, 15 Safar 1434/ 18 December 2013 (IINA) – Deaf and non-Arabic speaking Muslims will now be able to better understand their faith after UAE’s Sharjah religious authorities announced their plans to offer Friday’s sermons in five languages, along with translating them into sign language, Khaleej Times reported.

“The department, geared up to meet needs of all segments of society, has hired and dedicated 48 mosques to give the Friday sermon in Urdu, Malayalam, Pashto, Tamil, and English languages,” Sheikh Saqr bin Mohammed Al Qassimi, Chairman of The Department of Islamic Affairs in Sharjah (DIAS), said. In cooperation with the Sharjah City for Humanitarian Services, the department will hire sign language experts to translate sermons for the deaf worshippers. “Such a service, the first of its kind in the country, is being offered at Imam Ahmed bin Hanbal Mosque for the benefit of people with hearing impairments,” Al Qassimi added. The Sharjah mosques’ initiative to serve deaf Muslims is not the first. Last June, a mosque in Moscow started offering courses for hearing-impaired people to translate the holy book into sign language, fulfilling the dream of deaf Muslims to read and understand the Noble Qur’an. Earlier in December 2012, Global Deaf Muslim (GDM) launched a new campaign to translate the holy book into American Sign Language.

Muslims believe that being disabled is a test from Allah in this life, and therefore can be a blessing in disguise. Every disabled person should be patient and live up to this challenge. Islam also instructs Muslims to offer people with special needs due respect and attention. They should be cared for and all their needs should be fulfilled and they should not be isolated as they are an integral part of the society. Serving Sharjah Muslims, the Department of Islamic Affairs runs more than 1,000 mosques, 685 of them are affiliate to Sharjah emirate. “These are added to 430 private mosques for which the department picks a qualified Imam out of those nominated by the philanthropists who run the mosque,” Al-Qassimi said. “We have also been asked to manage 15 new mosques this year so far, whereas 64 are under construction.”

To accommodate hundreds of mosque in Al-Sharjah, DIAS has appointed 698 Imams and muezzins. Al-Qassimi added that DIAS has sponsored 1,431 public lectures during 2013 so far, along with 572 specialized classes and 48 scientific courses. “Staff Imams and preachers have also presented 200 on-air TV and radio programs for enlightening people and giving authentic answers to their queries,” Al-Qassimi added. It has also issued four volumes of fatwas replying to the most common public questions to boost the Islamic awareness. Social networks were also deemed a new filed for da`wah work after the department launched several accounts at the major social networks websites. “We are posting audio clips of staff preachers so that people can easily learn and find answers to their queries anywhere and at any time,” Al-Qassimi added.

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IDB plans to develop Islamic center of excellence in Malaysia

Kuala Lumpur, 16 Safar 1434/ 19 December 2013 (IINA) – The Jeddah-based Islamic Development Bank (IDB) has plans to develop an Islamic Centre of Excellence at the TunRazak Exchange in the Greater Kuala Lumpur in three to five years, Malaysia’s Second Finance Minister Ahmad HusniHanadzlah said.

He said the centre of excellence would provide services in Islamic finance and banking-related transactions.The project would be developed in collaboration with the Malaysian government, he said.”The Malaysian government has always viewed IDB not only as an international institution but also as a partner in charting our nation’s growth,” he said in his speech at the IDB High Level Regional Forum.

Headquatered in Jeddah, the IDB has four regional offices located in Rabat -Morocco, Almaty-Kazakhstan and Dakar –Senegal, in addition to Kuala Lumpur.

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Turkey and EU to open talks on visa agreement

ANKARA – Turkey and the EU have signed a readmission agreement on Monday in exchange for launching talks on visa liberalization for Turkish citizens.

The readmission agreement with the EU necessitates the processing of illegal immigrants who enter the EU through Turkey. In return, talks will be launched on visa liberalization to allow Turkish citizens to travel to EU countries without a visa within three and a half years at the latest.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan attended the signing ceremony for the readmission agreement on Monday.

Erdogan said Turkey would not be a burden to the EU, but would take the burden off the EU countries with the readmission agreement which would facilitate the return of citizens of non-member countries traveling to Europe illegally.

“The deal is a milestone in Turkey-EU relations,” said Erdogan adding that it will also initiate a new era.

“Nobody should be worried when visas are lifted with the EU. The visa requirements should have been removed long ago. The fact that they haven’t been removed yet has only harmed the European Union,” said Erdogan. “Turkey is no longer a country that people escape from, but one which people return to. Today, there is no situation which requires people to escape due to economic reasons or limitations on their freedom.”

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said a new term will begin between Turkey and European countries with the visa liberalization, adding, “It will both accelerate and increase work between the Turkish and the EU institutions.”

Signing the readmission agreement on behalf of the EU, European Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmstrom noted that cooperation between the EU and Turkey has taken a tremendous step forward.

“We are uniting people and building trust today. We have started in parallel two very important initiatives which will have an important effect on the relations in the near future,” she said. “Turkey and the EU have been under pressure from illegal migration flows and we expect to see the positive effects of this agreement soon, particularly the reduction of migrant flow.”

Stressing that the visa liberalization dialogue will be frank and transparent, Malmstrom added, “We will do our best to facilitate the smooth implementation of the dialogue providing technical and financial support.”

Turkey, a candidate for EU membership, lies on a major route for illegal migration into Europe from Africa and the Middle East.

Whereas about 70,000 people illegally crossed Turkish borders in 2011, this number dropped to 35,000 in 2012, Turkish Minister for EU Affairs and Chief Negotiator Egemen Bagis said on Saturday.

Talks on the readmission agreement which allows the return of illegal immigrants have been stalled for years, largely due to Turkish distrust over the EU`s willingness to ease visa rules.

Turkey began negotiations for EU membership in 2005, 18 years after applying to join the union. However, a series of political obstacles, notably over the divided island of Cyprus and resistance to Turkish membership from Germany and France, have slowed progress.

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Two Arab women in list of ‘leading global thinkers’

Beirut, Thursday, 16 Safar 1434/ 19 December 2013 (IINA) – Alongside notable global figures such as Iranian President Hassan Rohani and US Secretary of State John Kerry, two Arab women are in the list of 100 people chosen by Foreign Policy magazine as the “Leading Global Thinkers of 2013.”

A Saudi film director, and a UAE media executive, who has “built an Arabic-language media empire,” are part of the long list, which is created through a voting process by readers. Saudi director Haifa Al-Mansour had her 2012 film “Wadjda” premiered at the Venice Film Festival. The film made her the first person to ever shoot an entire movie in Saudi Arabia.

Mansour was touted by Foreign Policy “for quietly breaking the Kingdom’s gender barriers.” In her film, “Mansour produced a gently moving portrait of one girl’s quest to buy a bicycle in a country where she isn’t allowed to ride one.” Her ability of depicting a strong message in a non-confrontationist tone has won her government support.

Saudi Arabia recently submitted her film — which was released to American audiences in 2013 — for an Oscar nomination. According to Foreign Policy, Mansour was able to “accommodate Saudi customs while filming Wadjda by directing from inside a van while dressed in an abaya.”

Another woman listed by the magazine is UAE citizen Noura Al-Kaabi, who is the CEO of twofour54, an Emirati-funded company that offers education and training to media producers. While Arabic is one of the world’s 10 most spoken languages, it is only used in a very small percentage of global media content. Kaabi has expressed her wish to narrow that gap. Since Kaabi took up her position in 2012, “the company has expanded its work in video game development and has introduced a literary award for Emirati novelists.” Kaabi was also included on Forbes’s 2013 list of the 30 most influential Arab women in government, as well as on the Hollywood Reporter’s list of the 25 most powerful women in global television.

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Omani Flying Exhibition Project Launch

Muscat, Dec 19 (ONA)— The Omani Society for Fine Arts affiliated to Sultan Qaboos Higher Centre for Culture and Sciences at the Royal Court Affairs today launched a project called ‘ The Omani Flying Exhibition ‘, which coincides with the Sultanate’s celebrations of the 43rd National Day anniversary and the 20th anniversary for the establishment of the Omani Society for Fine Arts.

The exhibition, which is the biggest art exhibition to be organized for the first time, aims at achieving cultural, tourist and civilizational goals, especially it uses the fine art in the service of the Omani heritage in a modern and stylish way for the public inside and outside the Sultanate.

Maryam bint Mohammed al-Zadjaliyah, Director of the Omani Society for Fine Arts said that the exhibition is a cultural and art qualitative leap in the history of the Omani fine art movement, especially it goes beyond the geographic limits to showcase the best of the Omani culture.

The exhibition, which will continue for one year, is titled ‘colors in the sky’ to symbolize the diversity and richness of the Omani fine art 43 Omani artists will fly over Oman Air to showcase their works at seven destinations round the world.

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Oman, USA Sign Open Skies Agreement

Muscat, Dec 19 (ONA) — An Air Transport Agreement “Open Skies Agreement” between the Sultanate and the United States of America (USA) was signed at the Public Authority for Civil Aviation (PACA) today within the framework of the strong relations binding the governments of the two countries.

The United States-Oman Open Skies agreement permits unrestricted air service by the airlines of both countries between and beyond the other’s territory, eliminating government restrictions on how often the carriers fly, the kind of aircraft they use, and the prices they charge. This agreement allows for the strengthening and expansion of the strong trade and cultural links and promote increased tourism, benefitting U.S. and Omani businesses and travelers by expanding opportunities for air services and encouraging vigorous price competition by airlines, while preserving our commitments to aviation safety and security.

The agreement was signed on behalf of the Government of the Sultanate by Eng. Salim bin Nasser al-Oufi, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of PACA whilst it was signed on behalf of the USA Government by Greta C. Holtz, USA ambassador to the Sultanate.

Eng. al-Oufi pointed out that the agreement signed today is considered the agreement No. 78 in the field of air transport between the Sultanate and countries of the world. He explained that as per the open skies agreements, this agreement is the 21st.

He added that the number of passengers between the Sultanate and USA stands at more than 49 thousand annually. “This is a very good time to prepare for direct flights between the two countries especially with the expansion of Muscat International Airport and other airports in the Sultanate,” Eng. al-Oufi said.

He also affirmed Oman Air’s ambition to purchase jumbo aircrafts capable to reach the USA by two upcoming years.

On her turn, Greta C. Holtz, USA ambassador to the Sultanate said that the Sultanate is considered a major partner in many trade, tourist and cultural fields and logistic services. She highlighted the growing strong relations between the two friendly countries after signing the Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

She added that the USA is looking forward to sign agreements with the Sultanate in the fields of science and technology. She pointed out that both sides work together in research and education projects with the objective of enhancing the partnership with the Sultanate.

Signing the agreement comes within the framework of efforts exerted by the Sultanate’s Government, in cooperation with the USA to facilitate movement of passengers, cargo and mail, in addition to tourism and trade exchange between the two countries, which will enhance the competition among airlines companies to provide best services for the passengers.

It is worth mentioning that the upcoming months will witness conducting official talks with a number of countries to discuss activating the agreements signed with them or signing new agreements pertaining to the air transport.

By allowing air carriers unlimited market access to our partners’ markets and the right to fly to all intermediate and beyond points, Open Skies agreements provide maximum operational flexibility and commercial opportunity for airline alliances and demonstrate the shared commitment to an open, competitive, market-based international economic system. The Open Skies agreement is a pro-consumer, pro-competition, and pro-growth accord. It represents a market-oriented approach to aviation relations: airlines, not governments, will be able to decide which cities to serve, the frequency of flights, the equipment used, and the prices charged.

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New section of Western China-Western Europe transit corridor opened

ASTANA. December 20. KAZINFORM A new section of the Western China-Western Europe transit corridor has been launched today by President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev. The launching ceremony of the Shymkent-Turkestan section took place within a teleconference bridge dated to the Day of Industrialization in Astana.

Within the televised conference, Vice Minister of Transport and Communications of Kazakhstan Mereke Pshembayev confirmed the new section of the Western China-Western Europe transit corridor was ready to be put into commission and asked the Head of State to give the go-ahead.

After the official launch, President Nazarbayev noted that particular section of the corridor is of paramount importance since it links the southern parts of Kazakhstan.

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Kazakhstan bid to cut dependence on imported medicines

ASTANA. December 21. KAZINFORM – President Nursultan Nazarbayev has launched new production facilities of “Himfarm” JSC in South Kazakhstan region during the national teleconference held December 20 in Astana.

As the representatives of the company informed during the teleconference, which was dedicated to the presentation of investment projects of 2013, and been commissioned in the framework of the AIID State Program (Advanced Industrial adn Innovative Development), so far that was the first phase of the project on the organization of high-tech industries with a complete cycle.

“We have launched this project together with our Polish partners, who are major shareholders of the company”, Nursultan Nazarbayev reminded.

However, Kazakh President noted the importance of this production, and stressed that for all Kazakhs the good news was that in Kazakhstan there would be production of a large range of medical drugs that had been previously imported from abroad.

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Work on Pak-China Economic Corridor in full swing

ISLAMABAD, Dec 19 (APP): Special Assistant to the Prime Minister Syed Tariq Fatemi has said development of the Pakistan-China Economic Corridor is a matter of high priority for both sides and the work on the project is in full- swing. He said the corridor envisages connectivity, development of rail and road links, fiber optic cable, energy projects and development of special economic zones, Radio Pakistan reported on Thursday. The Special Assistant said the corridor is a historic project which would trace the prints of old “Silk Route” and will connect China with Pakistan and onwards with Central Asia and East Europe. Tariq Fatemi said that it would not only benefit and bring prosperity to both countries but also generate economic activity, peace and stability to the people of the whole region.

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Govt.working to create a secure trade corridor for economic development

ISLAMABAD, Dec 19 (APP): Federal Minister for Finance Senator Mohammad Ishaq Dar said on Thursday that the government is working to create a secure trade corridor for economic development of the country. He stated this while inaugurating the, a conference on “Integrated Transit Trade Management” organized here Thursday by Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) on “Integrated Transit Trade Management” here Thursday with a view to enhance Transit Trade controls through modernization of Customs’ business processes in collaboration with all Donor Agencies including World Bank, IMF, ADB , JICA, USAID, HIS, UNODC etc.

The conference was also attended by Secretary Economic Affairs Division, Secretary Communication, Secretary Board of Investment, NLC and former Chairman FBR, Abdullah Yousaf.

The Minister Finance said that the government is working to create a secure trade corridor for economic development of the country.

He stressed the need to update existing logistics to improve international transit trade.

Addressing the session Chairman FBR Tariq Bajwa elaborated on the concept of the day long conference as to develop a strategic road map for modernization of Pakistan Customs Business Processes to enable Pakistan to become a hub of transit trade with all regional countries including India.

This, he said will facilitate the journey towards ultimate development of the country.

Member Customs in his opening presentation explained the challenges faced by Pakistan Customs as it strives to facilitate transit trade from Karachi, Chamman, Torkham and Wagah borders.

“If the impediments faced by Pakistan Customs due to lack of resources can be eased, Pakistan can prove to be an excellent transit trade route for its land locked neighbor, Afghanistan and provide cheaper access to sea port for China, besides improving bilateral trade with India”, he said.

Transit trade is already on rise as a global phenomenon. International donors showed immense interest in the project since the facilities provided to Pakistan Customs will not only lead to making Pakistan a transit trade hub but also mean that Pakistan Customs is more equipped to safe guard the borders of the country and the society from illicit trade.

The experts of the conference hoped that with the help of International donors, Pakistan will be able to use its strategic location for its economic development, a key economic resource which till this date remains largely unexplored.

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Pakistan releases Rs. 153.204 billion for development projects

ISLAMABAD, Dec 18 (APP): The government has so far released Rs. 153.204 billion under its Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) for various projects against the total allocations of Rs. 540 billion for the fiscal year 2013-14. According to latest data of Ministry of Planning and Development, out of these allocations, Rs. 25,862 million have been released for various projects of Pakistan Energy Commission, out of its total allocations of Rs. 52,300 million earmarked under PSDP for FY2013-14. Similarly, a sum of Rs. 19614.901 million has been released to National Highway Authority out of total allocation of Rs. 63,038.619 million for the current fiscal year.

Out of the total funds of Rs. 25,739.199 million allocated for the National Health Service Regulations and Coordination Division for the current year, the Planning Commission released Rs. 10,504.797 million so far.

The Commission also released Rs. 11,129 million for Railway Division out of its total allocations of Rs. 30,964.894 million whereas Rs.306 million have been released for National food Security and Research Division out of its total allocations of Rs. 750 million for the year.

Rs. 7,396 million have been released for Higher Education Commission out of its total allocation of Rs. 18,490 million for the year 2013-14 whereas out of total allocations of Rs. 2,363.974 million earmarked for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Division, Rs.489.401 million have been released so far.

According to the data, the commission released Rs. 30,673 million for WAPDA (Power) out of its total allocations of Rs. 51,543.425 million whereas Rs. 14,569.505 million have been provided to WAPDA (Water Sector) out of its total allocations of Rs. 57,840.211 million.

Meanwhile, Rs.4,462 million have been released for EarthquakeReconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority (ERRA) out of its total allocations of Rs.10,000 million for the current year.

The commission also released Rs.895.613 million for cabinet division, Rs.17.913 for Climate Change Division and Rs.316.4 million for Commerce Division.

In addition, Rs. 179.526 have been released for Education and TrainingDivision, Rs.2,348.718 for Finance Division, Rs.160.954 million for Industries Division, 2,441.284 for Interior Division and Rs.68.694 for Narcotics Control Division.

The Commission, released Rs.20 million for Petroleum and Natural Resources Division, Rs. 157.710 for Planning and Development Division, Rs.868.042 million for Science and Technology Research Division, Rs.77.864 for SUPARCO and Rs. 126 million for Textile Industry Division.

Rs.4,815.400 million have been released for AJK (Block and other projects), Rs. 4,456.200 million for Gilgit Baltistan (Block and other projects) where as Rs. 8,571 million have been released for SAFRON/FATA.

The Planning Commission of Pakistan has been following a proper mechanism for the release of funds and accordingly funds are released as per given mechanism.

The commission releases 20 percent of funds in first quarter (July-September), 20 percent in second quarter (October-December), 30 percent third quarter(January-March) and 30 percent in fourth quarter (April-June).

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Pakistani diaspora invited to invest in their home country

LAHORE, Dec 17 (APP): Federal Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal has urged Pakistani diaspora to share their experiences as IT professionals and entrepreneurs and invest to put the country on the road to progress. The private sector should lead the growth on the economic front as the public sector had meager resources and the PML-N government’s economic philosophy believed in the contribution of the private sector, he said while chairing a meeting of the IT professionals and entrepreneurs from the US at the Arfa Information Technology Park (AITP) here Tuesday.

The Federal Minister said that the new government was moving in the right direction and the grant of GSP Plus status to Pakistan by the European Union (EU) was a diplomatic as well as economic success of the present government. The minister said that the world has felt the democratic change in the country and is ready to help Pakistan in achieving stability.

Responding to a question the minister said that political instability and weak institutions forced the investors to shy away from investment in the past but the things are different today. He said that the year 2013 was important as it witnessed smooth transfer of power in the important five officesincluding Speaker National Assembly, the Prime Minister, the President, the Chief of the Army Staff and the Chief Justice of Pakistan which are reflective of political maturity the country has gained over the year.

To another query, he said that all these US entrepreneurs of Pakistani origin have come with an aim to play their role in the development of the country.

Ahsan Iqbal said the PML-N government believed in transparency and merit, adding that efforts were underway to achieve economic stability.

He said that the IT industry has performed very well over the past three years adding that the country has earned a revenue of over two billion dollars and some 1800 IT companies are working at present in the country.

Earlier, Federal Minister Ahsan Iqbal introduced the visiting US based IT professionals and entrepreneurs from the Silicon Valley to the media men including Idress Katahari of the OPEN, Mauzam Chaudhary from Orcale, Junaid Qureshi, Arshad Qazi, Muhammad Irfan, Nargis Bokhari, and Mubashir Hameed.The Pakistani expatriates expressed their commitment to contribute in the growth of the IT sector and economic progress of Pakistan.

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Cuisine training institutes can create 15,000 jobs for Bangladeshis in UK

DHAKA, Dec 20, 2013 (BSS) – Setting up of cuisine training institutes could open up a new avenue for Bangladesh to create huge overseas jobs with handsome salaries for its young people as the Britain curry industry has a shortage of 15,000 skilled chefs and managers.

“Of course, Bangladesh can easily tap the opportunity of huge jobs in the UK curry industry by setting up a world-class cuisine training institute,” Enam Ali MBE, Director of British- Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BBCCI), told BSS by phone from UK today.

In an exclusive interview, Enam Ali MBE, a Bangladesh-born British entrepreneur and leading restaurateur, said at present there are shortages of some 15,000 skilled chefs in the UK’s curry industry as the British young people are reluctant to build career in the most important part of its hospitality industry.

He said, “I’ve already submitted a very comprehensive proposal to the British Prime Minister. Easing immigration rules are in the proposal.I am closely working with it on behalf of the multibillion dollar curry industry in the UK.”

To maintain quality of the planned institute up to the British standard, he favoured affiliation with an institute to launch a course.

The successful entrepreneur, also President of Guild of Bangladeshi Restaurateurs in the UK, said such training institution could be set up under any credible institute or university in Bangladesh under the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) concept.

The manpower shortfall in catering sector is not only in the UK but also in entire Europe, he said and added that the cuisine training institute will eventually give a big boost to Bangladesh’s remittance earning, said Enam Ali MBE, who founded the most lauded event British Curry Awards popularly known as ‘Curry Oscars’

Referring to the British Prime Minister David Cameron’s remarks in the ninth annual British Curry Awards-2013, the successful entrepreneur said the British government would help tackle the industry’s unique problems, like recruiting from Bangladesh.

“We’ll work together. We’ll continue to help you to get the skills essentials for you. We’ll also work with you to train up the next generation of home-growing chefs,” Ali quoted the British premier as saying in the event.

He said, “We are fortunate the British Prime Minister shows unconditional support to help our industry grow and prosper.encouraged by the industry’s contribution to the UK economy, the British premier coined our British Curry Awards as the Oscar’s of the curry industry.”

Ali said, “Today we are very proud of the curry industry’s contribution to Britain both culturally and economically and of course changing the eating habits of the country.”

He said, “Hundreds of NRB would like to invest in Bangladesh equally, I have great interest in it as you know Bangladesh has so much potential, no other country can offer from garments, pharmaceuticals, ceramics, hospitality, tourism, to handicraft.”

Currently there are some 9,500 restaurants in Britain, mostly owned and run by almost 80,000 Bangladeshi employees with 3.5 billion pound annual turnover.

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153 Bangladesh slum women get Tk 7.65 lakh grants for small business

RAJSHAHI, Dec 20, 2013 (BSS)- Financial support towards slum households for their small-business promotion could be effective means of freeing the urban poor and extreme poor communities from the vicious cycle of poverty and hunger.

Mayor of Rajshahi Mosaddeque Hossain Bulbul said this while disbursing bank cheques of block grants worth Taka 7.65 lakh among 153 poor and extreme poor women for small business in two separate places in the city as the chief guest.

Rajshahi City Corporation (RCC) under its ‘Urban Partnership for Poverty Reduction Project (UPPRP)’ hosted the grant disbursing ceremonies in Chhotobangram and Kazla areas Thursday afternoon.

Under the scheme, around 1,700 slum households will get block grants valued Taka 65 lakh for promotion of various income generation activities especially small business and goat rearing.

Mayor Bulbul urged the cheque-recipients to put in their level best efforts for successful promotion of their small business after best uses of the grants for elevating their living and livelihood condition.

He said the city corporation has been working relentlessly for bringing the poor and marginalized people under a social safety net.

Terming adequate promotion of business as vital means of making any region economically prosperous, the Mayor said priority should be given in identifying the existing problems related to business environment here.

In the wake of gradual rising of slum, poor and extreme poor people, the ongoing anti-poverty scheme needs to be continued for urban poverty eradication in the city. “We want to see visible success of the project to make the city free from various poverty-linked crimes and curses like child marriage, early pregnancy, dowry and drugs addiction and trafficking”, Bulbul added.

In his address of welcome, UPPRP Town Manager Ershadul Haque said the project is being implemented for improving the living and livelihood condition of around three lakh poor and extreme poor people, especially women and girls, in the city.

UNDP in association with UK Aid and UN Habitat are extending financial and technical supports to the project.

The programme promotes household and community level urban food production technology demonstrations and provides small input supports especially for high yielding variety vegetable and fruits seeds, saplings and poultry vaccination to the target group.

It also provides business start-up grants to extreme poor women for poultry, goat rearing, beef fattening and agri- business.

Various other settlement improvement facilities like 11,000 pit latrines, 2,300 tube wells, 57,000 squire-metre footpath, 9,000 metre drain and seven community centres were developed for ensuring improved water and sanitation among the poverty-prone communities.

The access to improved water sources makes the lives of community members healthier while the constructed toilets and bathing facilities leads to improved hygiene practices and the footpaths improves settlement accessibility and mobility.

RCC Ward Councilors Monir Hossain and Ashraful Hassan and other officials and community leaders concerned were present on the occasions.

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Chinese Foreign Minister Visits Ramallah

RAMALLAH, December 18, 2013 (WAFA) – Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi Wednesday met in Ramallah with President Mahmoud Abbas and discussed the political developments in the region.

Wang, who earlier met Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and Foreign Minister Riyad Malki, hailed Palestinian-Chinese relations saying Palestine was the first country he was visiting as part of his tour in the Middle East, according to a statement by the Palestinian Foreign Ministry.

He said this sends a message to the world of China’s support for the Palestinian cause and rights and the importance of an end to the Israeli occupation.

Wang also urged taking advantage of efforts by the US Secretary of State John Kerry to make the negotiations a success and aimed at the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

Malki briefed his Chinese counterpart on the peace process and Kerry’s peace efforts as well as Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank, which he said aims at creating new facts on the ground and preventing the establishment of the Palestinian state.

Wang also attended a reception in Ramallah marking 25 years since the establishment of relations between China and the Palestinians.

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Palestinian-Chinese Relations at their Best, says Official

RAMALLAH, December 18, 2013 (WAFA) – Palestinian-Chinese relations are stronger than ever in spite of the changes worldwide, said China’s ambassador to Palestine Liu Aizhong.

In an exclusive interview with WAFA on the occasion of the 25 anniversary for the establishment of the Palestinian-Chinese relationship, Aizhong said this relationship was started by the late Chinese leader Mao Tse-tung and the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in the 1960s and strengthened following the opening of the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s (PLO) office in 1965 in China.

He said the common struggle of the Palestinian and Chinese people against colonization has brought them closer together.

Official Palestinian-Chinese relations started on November 20, 1988 shortly after the Palestinian declaration of independence.

Following the United Nations recognition of the State of Palestine as non-member state on November 29 of last year, the PLO’s office became the Embassy of Palestine.

Aizhong said the visit by President Mahmoud Abbas to China in May was successful and that it renewed the Palestinian-Chinese relations. He indicated that Abbas was the first president received by the new Chinese president, Xi Jinping.

Answering a question about the impact the Chinese-American rapprochement on Chinese-Israeli relations, Aizhong said China has and is committed to diplomatic relations with Palestine as well as Israel, stressing that its ties with Israel will not impact its friendship with Palestine.

He said the visit by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to the region aims at reinforcing the Chinese-Palestinian relations and to discuss the issues of mutual concern.

It also aims to reinforce the four-point Chinese vision regarding the question of Palestine put forward by the Chinese president while Abbas was in China, to clarify the position of China on the question of Palestine and to put forward new ideas in this respect.

Aizhong expressed his absolute confidence that this visit would have a positive impact on developing and reinforcing the Palestinian-Chinese relations, indicating that the Palestinian issue is a concern not only for the stability and prosperity of Palestine but also for that of the whole region.

He stressed that China is interested in pursuing efforts to advance the peace process within the framework of the UN.

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Egyptian Antiquities Minister to witness fall of Sun’s rays onto Qasr Qarun

20 December 2013 – State Minister for Antiquities Affairs Mohamed Ibrahim will attend a ceremony that will be held in Fayyoum Saturday to mark the fall of Sun rays onto Qasr Qarun, a phenomenon that takes place once a year.

The ceremony will be witnessed by ministers of tourism, culture, environment, youths and sports as well as a number of ambassadors. The local and international media outlets will cover this important event.

Qasr Qarun is one of the major tourist attractions in El Fayum City that marks the site of the ancient Greek city of Dionysia. Temple of Qasr Qarun was dedicated to the crocodile god, Sobek, whose ” offspring” flourished in the marshes of waters of the Oasis of Fayyoum in ancient times. The temple was heavily restored in 1956.

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Railway project linking Djelfa-Boughzoul makes progress

DJELFA (Algeria)- Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal inspected, on Thursday during his working visit to the western province of Djelfa, the 140 kilometer railway project linking Djelfa to Boughzoul, in the province of Medea.

This DZD690 million project which works started in 2012, will allow trains to run with an express speed that will reach 220 km/h.

As part of the rail national development plan, the province of Djelfa also benefited from another railway project linking the province to that of Laghouat, with a length of 110 kilometers.

Another railway line of 151 kilometers, which should link the province of M’sila to that of Medea, will cross over Djelfa in its northern side with a station in the province of El-Berine.

The province of Djelfa will also be crossed over by a railway that will link, once achieved, the province of Tissemsilt to that of Medea in the provinces of Hassi Fdoul and Hassi Ladjel where two other stations will be installed.

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Tune Hotels opening new hotels in Philippines, Indonesia

International value hotel group Tune Hotels is celebrating the arrival of the New Year 2014 with the opening of two new properties – Tune Hotel Davao in the Philippines and Tune Hotel Bekasi in Indonesia.

According to a press release, the 155-room Tune Hotel Davao, located at JP Laurel Avenue in Davao City, the Philippines welcomed its first guests on Tuesday, December 17, while Tune Hotel Bekasi, with 157 rooms and located at Blu Plaza, Jl Chairil Anwar 27-36 in Bekasi Timur, Indonesia opened for business Thursday, December 19.

Mark Lankester, Group CEO of Tune Hotels said: “What a celebration! We have two hotels opening just days apart in two of the most vibrant economies in Asean and this surely is a big cause to celebrate for Tune Hotels. Both Indonesia and Philippines are great markets for us and our rapid expansion in both countries signifies their importance.”

Tune Hotels now has seven hotels in operation in the Philippines and six in Indonesia.

“2013 has been a great year for us. To recap, including the newly-opened Tune Hotel Davao and Tune Hotel Bekasi, we have launched three new hotels each in the Philippines and Indonesia this year alone. By early 2014, three more are coming up in Indonesia and another in the Philippines, and these underscore our plans for the two countries” shared Mark.

Elsewhere, Tune Hotels has 11 hotels in operation in Malaysia, four in Thailand, five in the UK and one each in Australia, India and Japan. It has a total of 40 hotels available for booking on its website www.tunehotels.com.

“Over five million guests have stayed with Tune Hotels and we look forward to welcoming more visitors and tourists by providing them international standard accommodation at highly affordable rates,” he added.

Tune Hotels has pioneered a “pay-as-you-use” concept that has become hugely popular among smart travellers from across the world. Under the concept, guests only pay for room rates with the option of adding on other amenities like air-conditioning, towels and toiletries, in-room Wi-Fi and satellite TV service to keep costs down, reduce waste and save energy.

Tune Hotels provides international-class high-quality accommodation at central locations and focuses on key essentials but minus the generally underused facilities found in other hotels such as swimming pools, business centres and gymnasiums. By doing away with these costly and high-maintenance facilities, Tune Hotels is able to pass on savings to its guests in the form of super low room rates.

All Tune Hotels feature space-efficient, streamlined rooms focusing on high-quality basics: 5-star beds and powerful hot showers. The strategically located hotels provide housekeeping services, electronic keycard access into rooms, extensive CCTV systems, and no access into the main lobby without a keycard past midnight for extra security.

Tune Hotels is part of Tune Group, a lifestyle business conglomerate co-founded by Tan Sri Tony Fernandes and Datuk Kamarudin Meranun, who are the Group CEO and Executive Chairman respectively of Asia’s largest low cost carrier AirAsia.

For real-time updates and promotion alerts, guests can stay connected with Tune Hotels via Facebook at www.facebook.com/tunehotels and on Twitter via www.twitter.com/tunehotels.

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Malaysia: Penang State Targets 5.5 Million Tourist Arrivals in 2014

BUTTERWORTH, Malaysia Dec 19 (NNN-Bernama) — The Penang branch of the Malaysian Tourism Promotion Board are targeting 5.5 million tourists to visit the state in conjunction with Visit Malaysia Year (VMY) 2014.

Its deputy director Haryanty Abu Bakar said to achieve the target the board was expanding its network with tourism industry players to urge them to join the board’s promotion initiatives throughout the country.

“We have launched 33 tourism packages that involve sports, arts, culture, food and the latest deep sea fishing involving 13 islands and beaches available in the state.

“By introducing unique packages, we are confident of achieving the 5.5 million tourist arrival target,” Haryanty told reporters after distributing 1,000 VMY stickers at the Penang Bridge Toll Plaza, here today.

Haryanty said the state had recorded 706,044 tourist arrivals until November, including 198,881 domestic tourists, with Indonesians accounting for the highest number with 126,550 followed by Singapore with 57,003.

The highlight of the VMY promotion would be the 2014 Countdown Carnival at Queensbay on Dec 28 and 29 which would also feature 13 booths comprising travel agents, tourism products and other traditional and cultural activities.

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Malaysian Genting Resort to get Rm5 Bln Upgrade

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 18 (NNN-Bernama) — Genting Malaysia Bhd (GENM) and its group entity (GENM Group) have joined hands with the East Coast Economic Region Development Council (ECERDC) to embark on a major 10-year master plan for the redevelopment of Resorts World Genting (RWG) at RM5 billion.

GENM Group and ECERDC signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Dec 16 for the RWG redevelopment, known as the proposed Genting Integrated Tourism Plan (GITP), which is expected to be implemented in phases.

Both parties will collaborate and leverage on their respective areas of expertise, strength, experience and available resources, as well as share mutually beneficial information for the GITP development, the casino and hotel operator statement said.

“ECERDC’s role consists of extending assistance to GENM Group, including coordinating with relevant governmental departments and agencies from the Federal and state governments.

“It will also extend relevant tax incentives upon GENM Group meeting the eligibility requirements and terms of the approved incentive package,” Genting Malaysia explained.

The proposed GITP, designated as an Entry Point Project under the ambit of ECERDC, is expected to spur greater economic growth, generate entrepreneurial and employment opportunities, consistent with Malaysia’s tourism and East Coast Economic Corridor targets.

The GITP is a 10-year master plan for development, expansion, enchancement and refursbishment of hotels, theme park and infrastructure of RWG.

Phase One involves RM4 billion investment featuring the world’s first Twentieth Century Fox World Theme Park, which in itself is estimated to require RM1 billion. Phase Two of the GITP is expected to cost another billion ringgit. — NNN-BERNAMA

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Top KL Club To Allow Access for Golf Tourists

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 16 (NNN-Bernama) — Foreign tourists will be allowed to play golf at The Royal Selangor Golf Club (RSGC) in conjunction with the Visit Malaysia Year (VMY) 2014 while promoting Kuala Lumpur (KL) as a premier golfing destination.

Kuala Lumpur Mayor Ahmad Phesal Talib said the premier golf club not only showcases Malaysian history and heritage since 1893, it also offers a panoramic view of the city’s skyline and sustainable environment.

“The golf tourism industry is a promising segment for KL since they are high-spending social groups and tend to repeat their visit in comparison with leisure travellers,” he said.

Ahmad Phesal who is also the Chairman of the Kuala Lumpur Tourism Development Council (KLTDC) said this at the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between KLTDC and The Royal Selangor Golf Club, who were represented by its Club Captain Mohd Azlan Mohammed.

He said the move was also aimed at attracting 2,000 tourists to lengthen their stay in the capital which, according to a survey by consultant Roland Berger, is rated at 2.6 days compared with Jakarta and Bangkok at six to eight days.

Meanwhile, Mohd Azlan said in support of VMY 2014, the club was proud to work with KLTDC to make KL the most visited city in the area while incorporating experiential elements and meeting tourists’ expectations.

“For golfers without handicap, we will arrange sessions with the professionals to make sure they don’t dig out the golf course and ruin the greens,” he said.

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Call For Protection Of Algeria’s Cultural Heritage At M’zab Valley

GHARDAIA, ALGERIA, Dec 19 (NNN-APS) — Participants of a national meeting on Algeria’s Mzab Valley, held under the theme “M’zab: An eco-cultural organization to be protected”, have called for the preservation of this listed urban architectural heritage and the revival of M’zab’s intangible heritage.

The meeting, initiated by the Office of Protection and Development of the M’zab Valley, was to facilitate the discussion of ways to protect the tangible and intangible heritage of the M’zab Valley, which is listed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as a chef d’oeuvre (masterpiece) of humanity.

According to an official at the Culture Ministry, the meeting also discussed ways of implementing a new strategy for the sustainable development of the M’zab Valley, in terms of the protection of heritage and environment, establishing a policy of territorial governance to so that M’zab Valley will become a cultural park.

This cultural park, including large territories and protected sectors, will be endowed with legal instruments of development and protection of natural, historical and architectural heritage and intangible heritage in all its diversity, said the official, Zohir Ballalou.

According to Unesco, the traditional human habitat, created in the 10th century by the Ibadites around their five ksour (fortified cities), has been preserved intact in the M’Zab valley. Simple, functional and perfectly adapted to the environment, the architecture of M’Zab was designed for community living, while respecting the structure of the family. It is a source of inspiration for today’s urban planners). — NNN-APS

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Egyptian TV To Air Chinese Drama For The First Time

CAIRO, Egypt, Dec 18 (NNN-XINHUA) – Egyptian state television will air a popular Chinese soap opera drama series, for the first time in the country, Xinhua news agency reported.

Chinese Ambassador to Egypt, Song Aiguo, said, a ceremony will be held at the embassy tomorrow (Thursday), to launch the airing of the popular Chinese television series ‘Jin Tailang – Happy Life.’

Egyptian Radio and Television Union chairman, Essam al-Amir, said, the programme consists of 40 episodes and will be dubbed in Arabic and aired on Egyptian TV through a media cooperation protocol between Egypt and China, due to be signed soon.

The Chinese drama series has won several prizes and attracted the highest

number of television viewers in China in 2012.– NNN-XINHUA

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Iran Lures European Investment To Boost Economy

TEHRAN, Dec. 21 (NNN-(Xinhua) — Iran is seeking European investment in its industries to activate the sanction-hit economy following the optimism raised in the Islamic republic after the Geneva nuclear deal.

Iran’s Deputy Minister of Economy Behrouz Alishiri has invited Swedish companies to make investment in Iran, Tehran Times daily reported recently.

In a meeting with Chairman of the International Council of Swedish Industry Erik Belfrage, Alishiri expounded advantages of investment in Iran and incentives offered by his ministry to foreign investors, said the report without further details.

For his part, Belfrage said lots of large Swedish companies are interested in the expansion of economic and trade relations with Iran although the economic sanctions imposed by the United States on Iran have undermined Iran-Sweden trade ties.

The International Council of Swedish Industry is a non-profit organization which supports and broadens the scope of operations of Swedish business in the markets inside Sweden as well as abroad.

On Wednesday, Iranian local media reported that directors of the largest private-funded union of employers in France would travel to Tehran in February 2014 to explore ways to invest in different economic fields of Iran.

The announcement was made by Thierry Courtaigne, director general and vice president of the Movement of the Enterprises of France (MEDEF), in a meeting with the director of the Iranian Mines and Mining Industries Development and Renovation Organization (IMIDRO) in Tehran.

Managers of about 50 French companies are scheduled to meet with Iranian officials in Tehran on Feb. 4-5, 2014, Courtaigne said.

“We want to resume relations with Iran,” Courtaigne said, adding that “We have already met with the French ambassador to Tehran, a number of French investors, as well as the chairman of the Iran-France Joint Chamber of Commerce regarding the French delegation’s travel to Iran.”

For his part, the IMIDRO director Mehdi Karbasian said Iran’s mining sector provides unlimited opportunities for foreign investors, “so, French investors should not be lagging behind their rivals.”

Following a deal signed between Iran and the world powers in Geneva on Nov. 24 to resolve the country’s controversial nuclear program, the Islamic republic eyes foreign investors’ presence in its diverse economic projects which have been hit by the international as well as western sanctions.

Under the deal, the United States and its allies will lift part of sanctions on Iran in the fields of oil, gold, petrochemicals, auto industries and civil aviation with an estimated value of about 7 billion U.S. dollars.

In exchange, Iran agreed to halt enrichment above 5 percent and neutralizing its stockpile of near 20 percent uranium by means of dilution or converting.

Last week, Iranian First Vice-President Eshaq Jahangiri said: ” As one of the most developed countries in the region, the Islamic republic is willing to expand economic, commercial and banking cooperation with the European countries.”

Jahangiri expressed hope that the implementation of the agreements already signed between Tehran and Bratislava on dropping double taxation and supporting bilateral investment would lay the ground for further enhancement of economic ties.

World auto manufacturing companies are also seeking to seize potential Iranian market after the Geneva agreement.

On Nov. 30, a number of top auto brands from 20 countries attended an intentional conference in Tehran, which aimed at encouraging domestic and international enterprises to engage in the development of Iran’s industry.

Jahangiri said in the opening ceremony of the conference that the Iranian government sought to bring its auto industry in the country to its thriving days.

Jahangiri said the auto industry was an integral part of a modern society, and Iran had to tackle the challenges including ” low production, pricing, changes in the profit patterns, financing and the quality of cars and spare parts.”

The Iranian auto companies and manufactures of the spare parts, in collaboration with the Ministry of Industry and in an interaction with the international auto companies, should turn Iran into a main producer and exporter of cars in the region, Jahangiri added. – NNN-XINHUA

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Malaysia’s Impressive Record In Reducing Poverty

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 20 (NNN-Bernama) — Malaysia received the thumbs up from the United Nations (UN) for having made impressive strides in reducing poverty since achieving independence in 1957.

Today Malaysia is considered as a upper middle income country with high human development index.

United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food Olivier De Schutter said between 1995 and 2012, the incidence of aggregate Malaysian poverty was reduced from 8.9 to 1.7 percent and urban poverty reduced from 3.7 percent to 1.0 percent.

The rural poverty, a major cause of concern at one time, was reduced from 15.3 percent to 3.4 percent.

“Disparities in income levels amongst Malaysia’s 13 states and three Federal Territories have also been narrowing. The poorest state, Sabah has experienced the highest reduction in poverty, from 19.7 percent in 2009 to 6.1 percent in 2012.

“The number of people living in hardcore poverty, unable to meet their basic food needs, has decreased from 0.7 percent in 2009 to 0.2 percent in 2012,” he told a press conference at the end of his first official visit to the country, here recently.

During his nine-day visit to assess the realisation of the right to food in Malaysia, De Schutter held consultations with a number of ministries and consulted broadly across the civil society.

De Schutter’s report would be presented on March 10, 2014 in Geneva, Switzerland to the 47-member Human Rights Council.

He said since 1970 the economy has gradually transformed from being based on primary production (agrarian) to a diversified one with secondary (manufacturing and production of processed goods) and tertiary (services) sectors being the dominant ones.

“Agriculture, which accounted for more than 20 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 1985, dropped to 7.3 per cent in 2012, surpassed by other sectors of the economy including services (56.4 percent), manufacturing (24.9 percent) and mining and quarrying (8.4 percent) of GDP.

“By moving away from agriculture Malaysia has seen a rapid growth in urbanisation, between 1970 and 2010 the proportion of the population living in urban areas increased from 27 percent to 71 percent,” he said.

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‘Rumi’ musical group to perform in US, Canada

TEHRAN, Dec. 19 (MNA) – The dulcimer player and composer of ‘Rumi’ combined music group has said the group is working to prepare for concerts inside and abroad.

In an interview to Mehr News, Pedram Derakhshani provided the details of the groups most recent activities. “ after the successful concert in musical festival ‘Iran’s today’s voice,’ in Köln and Hamburg in Germany last October 11 and 12, we are planning to prepare for concerts in US and Canada, the details of which will be released soon,” he said.

About their concert in Germany, Derakhshani said that “during the concert, which enjoyed the voice of Bamdad Falahati, we played a selection of episodes of Rumi’s album with Kourosh Babaei, Reza Tajbakhsh, Arash Pajand Moghadam, Dara Daraei, and Arjang Ataollahi, which cheered the audience.”

Pedram Derakhshani is among composer-players who, in recent years, had been dedicated to production of works in combined music. Holding concerts in classic and pop music as dulcimer player, attempts for ‘different’ playing of dulcimer and production of albums Rumi 1, 2, and 3 has been his recent attempts in music.

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Korea Safeguards Cultural Heritage In Afghanistan

Kabul (BNA) December 18, 2013 – In a gathering with the participation of Ministry of Information and Culture (MoIC), the Embassy of South Korea Republic and the UNESCO Office in Afghanistan to ensure further conservation and sustainable development of the Bamyan World Heritage property yesterday.

The ceremony marks the Signing an agreement according to which the South Korea Republic will provide $5.4 million to build Bamyan Museum and Cultural Center.

Dr. Sayed Makhdoom Raheen, Minister of Information and Culture endorsed the Ambassador’s reference to preservation cultural heritage for future generations not only of Afghans, but also the international community, where many international tourists can visit the planned Bamyan Museum.

He thanked the government of the South Korea Republic for their support in preserving cultural heritage in Bamyan through funding the cultural center.

Mr. Cha Youngcheol, Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to Afghanistan highlighting the importance of the preservation of cultural heritage in Afghanistan said “today an important step has taking toward building museums in Afghanistan.

The building of the museum in Bamyan is a valuable contribution to peace and nation-building initiatives, making it possible to have a positive cross-cultural discourse and respect of diversity.

He added: “In as early as the 8th century, a Korean monk visited Bamyan and left his written notes about his journey, contributing to cross-cultural exchange.” The Bamyan museum and cultural center will provide a modern space for showcasing archeological and ethnographic artifacts.

This multi-purpose state-of-the art cultural complex will also be an adaptable space for the local community in Bamyan from young school children and visiting scholars to national and international organizations wishing to hold confidences.

The center will also provide opportunities to local people who can be trained in arts and crafts, conservation, as well as skills for employment in the cultural and tourism industries.

In March 2001, two Buddha statues located in the Bamyan valley, dating back to the mid sixth and the early seventh century AD, were destroyed by the Taliban.

This destruction led to the mobilization of the international community to safeguard the remains of this outstanding example of Afghan heritage. These unique Buddhist monuments together with multiple monumental sites in the Bamyan Valley are from different Islamic periods in the history of Afghanistan.

The outstanding value of the cultural landscape in Bamyan was recognized by the World Heritage Committee in 2003.

At that time, the valley was also placed on the list of the World Heritage in Danger due to ongoing challenges to conservations and development of the site.

Mr. Paolo Fontani Director and Representative, UNESCO Office in Afghanistan highlighted that “The protection and preservation of the World Heritage property in Bamyan is fundamental to creating a physical place where the cultural heritage of Bamyan and Afghanistan can be explained and shared with everyone.”

Mr. Fontani also thanked the government of the republic of Korea for their commitment to preserving cultural heritage in Afghanistan.

He extended appreciation to the Ministry of Information and Culture (MoIC) for continued support to preserve the tangible and intangible heritage in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, Deputy Information and Culture for Publication, Semin Ghazal Hasanzada lauded construction of the museum and cultural center in Bamyan province, called it a step toward expansion of culture in Afghanistan and thanked the Korean government for providing the ground for running the construction project.

She said by building the center and museum and the way of the people income had been paved as well as the main feature of the province could be introduced to the world. Likewise, Gen. Ghulam Ali Wahdat, Bamyan Governor appreciated the UNESCO cooperation and said he was pleased to see a cultural center is being built in one of the country’s ancient provinces, aiming at providing education center for the youth as well.

He said by construction of the museum the work of which would take three years to be completed the main feature of the province would be introduced to the world and the heritages would be protected based on International standard.

Afghanistan national museum chief, Omara Khan Masoudi also expressed pleasure over the building of the museum in the ancient province and said the main feature of Afghanistan could be introduced to the world.

He said the museum was a need of time and would help the young generation get information about their culture. He said similar museums had been built in Kandahar, Ghazni and Khost provinces and also museums are expected to be built in other provinces.

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Handicrafts And Cultural Relics Exhibition Held In Badakhshan

Faizabad (BNA) December 18, 2013 – Handicrafts and cultural relic’s exhibition was held by AFSO in Badakhshan province yesterday. BNA correspondent reported from Faizabad city, the exhibition was held under the name of “Nature” which will be displayed for three days. The exhibition includes photos from picturesque areas of Badakhshan, artistic, tableau, manual works and literary pieces. Matiullah Tayi head of AFSO in Badakhshan called the aims of holding of the exhibition, boosting the artistic talents of the artists in that province.

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Tunisia: Tunisair 3rd most visible company on the net

AfricaManager – Tunisian national carrier Tunisair has been ranked 3rd among the most visible companies on the net with 1.8 million Google indexed pages, according to the African Digital Barometer, the company said in a statement. In addition, Tunisair was ranked 2nd African company in index of interest on the web sparking a volume of 246,000 searches over the past 12 months.

It is noted that the official Facebook page of Tunisair ” Tunisair – National Airline of Tunisia” has nearly 102,000 subscribers. This study published by “Hopscotch Système Africa,” an agency specializing in communication and digital marketing, has assessed the popularity of 50 brands of African companies based on their ranking on the web (search engine: Google) and their presence on social networks ( Facebook. Twitter.etc….).

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Gulf govts to ensure ‘skills-based education’

AfricaManager – GCC governments need to ensure that educational systems are equipping students with skills that enable their countries to build diversified, knowledge-based economies, said a report.

Deloitte’s new whitepaper titled ‘Education – Middle East Public Sector national necessities’ tackles the challenges that Middle East and GCC governments are facing in education reform.

With a fast growing population in the GCC countries, with close to 60 per cent below 30 years old, the public sector is unable to sufficiently absorb school and university graduates as it could in the past, said the report.

The paper particularly focused on GCC countries where expatriates make up the biggest proportion of the private sector workforce in Qatar and Saudi Arabia, while Emiratis make up more than half the public sector.

“The need to diversify employment choices explains why many GCC governments are implementing major reforms, including new curricula, improved teaching standards, increased professional freedom and enhanced use of information and communications technology (ICT) to prepare young people for wider employment opportunities,” said Abdelhamid Suboh, consulting partner and public sector leader at Deloitte Middle East.

Richard Barrett, director in consulting at Deloitte Middle East, said: “Helping young people understand the options open to them through effective careers advice and guidance is essential. Treating teachers as the skilled professionals they are and supporting them to develop more flexible teaching styles and make creative use of technology should continue and increase.”

The whitepaper provided recommendations on skills-based education reform to support the moves underway in GCC countries aiming to develop world-class education to help meet the skills challenge.

They include raising the teaching standards and helping teachers manage change; preparing students for progression; making greater use of ICT to increase the ability of learners; increasing tertiary education enrolment and promoting technical and vocational education; and bringing all stakeholders on board from the beginning of reforms and provide strong leadership.

“It is only by having a highly skilled workforce that GCC countries will keep a competitive edge as the war for global talent accelerates. In terms of demand for education services, a growing national population as well as more expatriates attracted to the region mean that the education sector is set for continued strong growth in demand,” concluded Barrett.

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World Bank US$300 Million Loan for Morocco to Promote Green Growth

Washington, 20 December 2013 – The World Bank board of governors approved on Thursday a USD 300 million loans for Morocco to promote revenue diversification in rural Morocco, improve the management of natural resources and encourage a shift towards low carbon growth.

The Development Policy Loan (DPL), the first in a series of two will support Morocco’s move towards a more sustainable and inclusive development model, the WB says in a release.

“Morocco is putting the green agenda at the forefront of its development priorities to secure a resilient and strong economy providing opportunities to vulnerable populations,” said Simon Gray, World Bank Director for the Maghreb Department. “The Program will introduce sustainable practices in agriculture and develop new sectors such as eco-tourism and aquaculture which have the potential to create jobs and diversify revenues in rural areas, where 70 percent of Morocco’s poor live.”

Morocco has made progress in reducing absolute poverty levels but vulnerability remains high particularly in rural areas. Employment opportunities in sectors like agriculture and fisheries, which account for about 20 percent of Morocco’s GDP and suffer from resource management constraints, are needed to relieve pressures on natural assets, create jobs and contribute to revenue diversification.

The Program will improve the management of coastal and marine assets to alleviate the growing pressures on Morocco’s coastline. Water resource management is a key challenge for Morocco and the Program will regulate groundwater abstraction and improve the existing Water law.

Morocco has set an ambitious target of 42 percent of installed renewable energy capacity by 2020 and has recently started reducing energy subsidies. It has made the sustainability of fish stocks a central tenet of its fisheries strategy, Halieutis. The tourism sector considers natural capital as a strategic asset in rural and coastal areas. Climate change is already shaping key policy and investment decisions, particularly in areas such as agriculture and water resource management.

The Program supports a set of measures aimed at reducing the country’s pollution levels, dependence on fossil fuels, and the total envelope allocated to energy subsidies. Along the environmental measures, the social and economic impact on the population, especially in rural areas where dependence on natural assets is critical, is the substrate of all green growth policies.

“Environmental sustainability involves trade-offs but Morocco often takes the long view,” said Andrea Liverani, World Bank Task team leader. “The shift to green growth is a homegrown strategic agenda, deeply rooted in the minds of policymakers. The Development Policy Loan series backs this policy priority and complements the World Bank’s package of support in areas such as such as energy, water and agriculture.”

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