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21 Apr, 2014

Six Dubai Metro stations to be transformed into museums of Islamic art, culture

Compiled by Imtiaz Muqbil & Sana Shamsi

A compilation of progressive, positive, inspiring and motivating events and developments in the world of Islam for the week ending 21 April 2014 (21 Jumaada al-Thaani 1435). Pls click on any of the headlines to go to the story.



The tragedy of MH370 has led to a decline in visitors from China to Malaysia. The Islamic world can help make up for the shortfall. Supporting Malaysia in these difficult days must be an Islamic imperative. Take your next holiday or organise your next business event in Malaysia and make a small contribution towards helping the country mitigate the potentially wider economic impact of the tragedy.


The Islamic Tourism Centre in Malaysia has launched a vibrant new website presenting Malaysia as a prime destination for Islamic tourism and a global halal hub. The website offers a wealth of information on Mosque trails, Islamic Museums, Ramadan & Eid-ul Fitr, Muslim-Friendly Tour Highlights, as well as a Muslim Visitor’s Guide, Halal Directory and Souvenirs Directory. Located strategically at the heart of Southeast Asia, Malaysia is well-known for its natural beauty and diverse cultural landscape. At its social core are three of Asia’s oldest civilisations – Malay, Chinese and Indian – as well as the ethnic communities of Sabah and Sarawak, resulting in a unique and inspiring blend of cultures. With an abundance of halal food, prayer facilities and Islamic attractions, Malaysia perfectly caters to the needs of Muslim travellers. The ITC plays a pivotal role in bringing Malaysia to the forefront of Islamic tourism. It works with industry players to build their capacity in Islamic tourism, thus ensuring that the needs of Muslim visitors are better served. ITC has also taken several initiatives in standardising industry’s best practices through research, seminars, workshops and industry outreach programmes. Now is the perfect time to experience the country’s multitude of Muslim-friendly tourism products – Islamic architectural heritage, halal gastronomic delights, vibrant Islamic festivals and world-class Islamic events – all guaranteed to give visitors an incredible time.

Click here to see the fabulous new 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.






PUTRAJAYA, 2 April 2014 – Local and international visitors can look forward to having a memorable time in Malaysia as the month of May will be celebrated with various cultural, sports and musical tourism events. Some of the highlights include:


As one of the highlights of the Gawai Dayak celebrations, the Sarawak World Harvest Festival 2014 is an ethnic festival which provides a captivating insight into the cultures, traditions and aspirations of Sarawak’s Dayak community.

Highlights of the event include theme play, “Miss World Harvest Festival 2014”, “Ironman WHF 2014”, Dayak Food Festival and concert by international artistes. Let’s learn more about Sarawak!

Organiser: Sarawak Cultural Village

Date: 2 – 4 May 2014

Venue: Sarawak Cultural Village, Sarawak

Contact: +6 082 846 411

Website: www.scv.com.my

SABAH FEST 2014 – A Cultural Extravaganza!

Explores the romance and nostalgia of Borneo through the biggest and grandest cultural celebration in Sabah!

Handicraft-making demonstrations by local experts, pocket shows of traditional music and dance performances, as well as various traditional foods to sample are all part of this much anticipated three-day cultural extravaganza.

Sabah Fest 2014, a celebration of Sabah’s Natural Charms!

Organiser: Sabah Tourism Board & Sri Pelancongan Sabah

Date: 2 – 4 May 2014

Venue: Auditorium, Department of Culture and Arts Sabah (JKKNS), Sabah

Contact: +6 088 212 121/ +6 088 232 121

Email: shahira@sabahtourism.com

Website: www.sabahfest.com


In conjunction with Visit Malaysia Year 2014 and Visit Sarawak Year 2014, the Borneo Jazz Festival 2014 is organised to give all Jazz lovers a fun-filled and entertaining experience.

The impressive line-up includes Iriao from Georgia, Vocal Sampling from Cuba, Brassballett from Germany, Mario Canonge from Martinique/France, YK Band from Indonesia, Anthony Strong from UK, and Sarawakian artiste Diana Liu who will represent Malaysia/USA/Taiwan, together with her band members including drum virtuoso Lewis Pragasam.

Organiser: Sarawak Tourism Board

Date: 9 – 10 May 2014

Venue: Parkcity Everly Hotel, Miri, Sarawak

Contact: +6 082 423 600

Website: www.jazzborneo.com


Hitch a ride with the longboats and watch how the surfers, jet skiers or boatmen braving the Batang Lupar’s Benak waves – the 4th largest in the world among the Top Ten Tidal Bores!

Also known as the “town of peace”, Batang Lupar Sri Aman in Sarawak is one of the four places in Asia that experience the unique tidal bore phenomenon. Highlights of the event include the Regatta Batang Lupar (longboat paddling competition), Benak surfing, speed boat competition, jet-ski competition and Miss Tourism Benak.

Organiser: Pejabat Residen Bahagian Sri Aman

Date: 16 – 18 May 2014

Venue: Batang Sri Lupar, Sri Aman, Sarawak.

Contact: http://www.sriamanro.sarawak.gov.my/


Malaysia’s premier cultural extravaganza – the Colours of 1Malaysia 2014 is back to dazzle locals and tourist with its colourful sights and sounds!

Delight your senses with a cornucopia of traditional performances, colourful parades and exhibitions by various ethnic groups in the country. The streets will be filled with an array of stalls selling local delicacies, arts and handicraft, as well as holiday packages introducing the wonders of Malaysia.

Have fun, be part of the flash mob and go jamming with fusion rock and traditional music by Man Kidal’s team!

Organiser: Ministry of Tourism and Culture Malaysia

Date: 24 May 2014

Venue: Dataran Merdeka, Kuala Lumpur

Contact: +6 03 2693 7111

Website: www.vmy2014.com


Colourful kites of all sizes and shapes including the famous traditional Kelantanese ‘wau’ will dominate the sky for the 32nd Kelantan International Kite Festival 2014!

This annual 4-day festival draws local and international kite fliers from as far as Belgium, China, Germany and Japan. Check out the highlights of the event such as beach soccer competition, kite-making contest, “dikir barat” competition and silat demonstration. Be “wau”ed and more!

Organiser: Kelantan Tourism Information Center (TIC)

Date: 28 – 31 May 2014

Venue: Pantai Geting beach, Tumpat, Kelantan

Contact: www.tic.kelantan.gov.my


Come and celebrate the annual ‘Tadau’ (festival) ‘Kaamatan’ (after harvest) in Sabah as it marks the end of the harvesting season and the beginning of a new season for the Kadazan-Dusun community.

Don’t miss the Unduk Ngadau (State Harvest Beauty Queen) and Sungdoi (Kadazan Idol), which are the main highlights of the festival. Be enthralled by the cultural performances, traditional games and delicious delicacies served by the local folks!

Organiser: Kadazan Dusun Cultural Association (KDCA)

Date: 30 – 31 May 2014

Venue: Kadazan Dusun Cultural Association (KDCA), Penampang, Sabah

Contact: Dr. Benedict Topin, +6 088 713 696

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Major Project to Upgrade Historic Iraqi Port of Basra

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates-April 14, 2014-(BUSINESS WIRE)–NAWAH Port Management (NPM), a business unit of North America Western Asia Holdings, announced today that it has entered into a formal agreement with Iraq’s Ministry of Transportation and the General Company for Ports of Iraq to quadruple the size of its terminal operations at the Port of Basra (also known as Al Maqal Port), Iraq’s historic port located in Basra’s city center on the Shatt Al Arab waterway.

By expanding its operations to a second terminal, NAWAH is building upon its commitment to modernize the Port of Basra, revitalizing the Shatt Al Arab as a major trade lane for industrial and commercial cargo alike.

“Basra is one of the most dynamic, fastest growing cities in the Arabian Gulf,” said Ali Hazim, a leading business owner and major trader of Basra. “Having state-of-the-art, customer focused shipping and logistics capabilities conveniently located in downtown Basra will be key to supporting our city’s continued growth. NAWAH has delivered upon and continues to fulfill its far-reaching commitment to our city.”

NPM’s first modernized container terminal, opened in October 2013, is already proving to be an important gateway for a full spectrum of cargo – from consumer goods to meet the needs of Iraq’s burgeoning middle class to critical equipment and materiel fueling Iraq’s massive oil and gas development efforts. Imported and exported goods are moving smoothly between the Gulf and NPM’s container terminal into the city of Basra and throughout Basra Province. A significant scale of cargo is also moving to the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala, capital city Baghdad and beyond.

Beyond a full array of imported goods, NPM has helped spur the export of one of Iraq’s quintessential products – dates. In the past two months, NPM exported more than 4,100 metric tons in 250 containers from its terminal at the Port of Basra to the United Arab Emirates to reach markets throughout the Middle East.

“We are immensely proud to be working hand in hand with our Iraqi partners to further Basra’s growth and reemergence as a strategic trading center, bridging East and West,” said Paul Brinkley, NAWAH’s president and CEO. “Beyond our goal to create a world-class port operation, we are deeply committed to building local talent and we’ve already demonstrated that through our staff – a team comprised of Iraqi managers, professionals and operators, trained in world-class technology and equipment operation.”

As part of this most recent 10-year agreement between NAWAH and the Iraq government, NPM will rehabilitate Berth #13’s 150-meter waterfront and its 40,000-square meter cargo laydown yard. Once construction culminates on the berth, it will join NPM’s Berth #14 operations as the only fully containerized terminals at the Port of Basra.

“The demands on Iraq’s ports continue to grow significantly every month,” Brinkley said. “NAWAH Port Management is committed to providing a viable alternative for local traders and international companies to move time-sensitive, high-demand cargo into Iraq. Recent announcements by the governments of Iraq and Iran regarding the upcoming restoration of the Shatt al Arab to full deep draft only increase the importance of our operation in Basra’s city center. As the market demands continue to increase, our expansion to Berth #13 will help us support that growth.”

NPM signed its first contract with GCPI in October 2012 to construct and operate a modern container terminal at the Port of Basra’s Berth #14. Handling containerized, break-bulk and project cargo, NPM operations support regularly scheduled feeder service from the United Arab Emirates to downtown Basra.

“NAWAH serves as an exemplary model for Western investment and joint-operating agreements in Iraq,” said Captain Omran Thani, director general of Iraq’s port authority, the General Company for Ports of Iraq. “Combining its Western business know-how with its deep respect for Iraq, its people and its culture, NAWAH truly stands apart.”

“Rebuilding Basra into the vibrant commercial city that it’s historically been is more than a business venture for NAWAH,” Brinkley added. “We are extraordinarily proud to be a part of the fabric of this city and to play a role in this history-making moment.”

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Oman: SMEs Get Exemption From Visa Ban Curbs

MUSCAT, April 18 (NNN-ONA) — The Public Authority for the Development of Small and Medium Enterprises (PADSME), in coordination with the Ministry of Manpower, has decided to exclude the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) from the ministerial decision banning employment of expatriates for six months in the construction and cleaning sectors, but on certain conditions.

The decision affirms that the enterprise should be managed full time by their owners, who are registered with PADSME and insured with Public Authority for Social Insurance (PASI), and the owners should be registered as jobseekers at Public Authority of Manpower Register.

The decision aims at helping SMEs get work permits for expatriates necessary for the work and projects.

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Number of Saudi students in US reaches 111,000

Jeddah, 20 April 2014, Arab News – The number of Saudi students in the United States has reached 111,000 this year, up from 10,000 in 2007 while the number of Saudi students studying medicine in the States is over 600.

The Department of Commerce in the US said that international students have contributed to revive the US economy with $22.7 billion in 2011. “The number of Saudi students increased by 50 percent in 2011 alone,” local media said.

Saudi students can go for higher studies abroad through enrolling in the King Abdullah Foreign Scholarship Program that allows access to the best world universities to pursue disciplines which lead to bachelors, masters and doctorate degrees and medical fellowships.

The countries where Saudi students are sent to study are selected on the excellence of their educational programs and are subject to periodic reviews. Currently, students accepted in the program are sent to the USA, Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Spain, Italy, Australia, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, New Zealand, Austria, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Singapore, South Korea, Japan, the People’s Republic of China, Malaysia, India and South Africa, according to the Ministry of Higher Education’s website.

However, the most preferred destination for Saudi students is the US owing to the excellent academic programs in their universities. Accordingly, the Saudi government has raised the financial allocations of the education sector by 21 percent from the amount it had allocated in 2012. Education spending accounted for 25 percent of the Kingdom’s public spending for the year 2013.

“The Saudi government is interested in sending its students to the best universities in the world. American universities represent a top priority for the Saudi government in spite of the high costs of living. In view of this, the Kingdom has allocated SR10 billion to send Saudi students to the US,” Farooq Al-Kateeb, a former professor of economics at the King Abdul Aziz University and financial analyst told Arab News.

“Saudi students in the US play a big role in reviving the US universities which are currently facing a financial crisis.

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Six Dubai Metro stations to be transformed into museums of Islamic art, culture

April 21, 2014, Gulf News, Dubai: Work on transforming six Metro stations into museums of art and culture has begun with the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) and Dubai Culture and Arts Authority (Dubai Culture) signing two Memoranda of Understanding (MoU). The agreement also involves decorating bridges and underpasses in Dubai in a bid to add artistic touches to the streets of the emirate.

The Dh184 million project, which was announced by Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, last month, is set to be ready by March next year, transforming the transportation landscape of the city. This unique initiative aims at creating permanent museums and art galleries to showcase artistic and cultural works and innovations rendering them an integral part of the lifestyle and mobility experience in Dubai.

The initiative will also result in bringing artistic, cultural, aesthetic and historical artefacts and creative works to the attention of the public rather than bringing the public to them. Among the six stations earmarked for the project are Bur Juman station, Emirates Towers station, Financial Centre station, Burj Khalifa/Dubai Mall station, Business Bay station and Noor Bank station.

The MoU signed between RTA and Dubai Culture demarcates the roles to be played by both the authorities in executing the project.

Abdul Rahman Al Owais, Minister of Health and Chairman of Dubai Culture, and Mattar Al Tayer, Chairman of the Board and Executive Director of the RTA, signed the agreements.

Al Owais said: “The objectives of the MoU are in coherence with the endeavours of the Dubai Culture aimed at uplifting the innovative profile of the emirate through interactive communication with all spectrums of the community to keep pace with the growing artistic movement in Dubai such that all components of the city will act as a platform for exhibiting stunning art innovations.”

He added that the step is a vital contribution to realising the vision of Shaikh Mohammad for the lead-up to the World Expo 2020.

“The RTA, in collaboration with the Dubai Culture, will strive to complete the project in March 2015 so that Dubai Metro stations’ art galleries will be, as envisioned by Shaikh Mohammad, as key facilities in our society and core ingredients of our daily life,” said Al Tayer.

He added that the project will be particularly appealing to Dubai Metro riders and add an aesthetic dimension to Dubai Metro stations which are mainly designed to be unique architectural showpieces characterising the Dubai Metro, contributing to achieving RTA’s strategic objectives of increasing the number of mass transit ridership.

The project will also see the trains transformed into moving art pieces, with the carriages wrapped through e-paper technology.

The Dubai Metro network, which transports 137 million passengers annually, will be equipped with the latest technologies as well as smart and interactive applications representing the Smart Dubai initiative.

The stations will also play host to a variety of artistic performances including music synchronised with the movement of the Metro, light show on the roofs of stations, 3D shows as well as interactive screens via smartphones.

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Jordan: PM Lays Foundation Stone For Three Tourism Projects At Dead Sea

DEAD SEA, April 15 (NNN-Petra) – Jordan’s Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour laid on Monday the foundation stone for three tourism projects at the Dead Sea Development Zone. The projects involve a total investment of JD1 billion.

Ensour laid the foundation stone for the Porto Dead Sea project, a JD800 million venture of the Egyptian Amer Group.

He also laid foundation stones for the Sweimah Corniche Project and the Amwaj Dead Sea Project, both with a total investment of $40 million by an Iraqi investor.

The Amwaj Dead Sea project includes the establishment of a hotel and a tourism resort on the north eastern shores of the Dead Sea. The 30-dunum facility will have 200 rooms and suites in addition to 50 chalets.

The prime minister said these projects will reflect positively on the national economy as they are considered among the mega projects in Jordan’s history.

The government, Ensour added, was ready to provide all facilities and incentives to attract investments and ensure their success due to their role in boosting the economy, developing local communities and creating job opportunities.

He called for further enhancing tourism cooperation between Jordan and Egypt and implementing joint tourism projects as both countries enjoy strong ties.

The Chairman of the Amer Group, Mansour Amer, voiced the hope that the group would be able to achieve a qualitative leap in the Kingdom’s tourism sector in general and the Dead Sea in particular.

He said the Proto Dead Sea Project will provide 8,000 job opportunities for Jordanians, adding that the first phase will start once the necessary licenses are ready.

The project will be the first integrated tourism city off the hilly area overlooking the Dead Sea. It will be established on an area of 800,000 square meters and will include, in addition to the hotel, thousands of hotel apartments, 20 restaurants, international cafe, trade and medical centers and other tourism facilities.

With the prime minister present, Minister of Education Mohammad Thneibat and chairman of the Amer Group also signed a memorandum of understanding to establish a training facility for the Sweimah School that will train students to work in the tourism market.

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Sudan’s Affirms Govt’s Support For Bid To Join WTO

KHARTOUM, April 17 (NNN-SUNA) — Sudanese First Vice-President Lieutenant-General Bakri Hassan Salih has affirmed the State’s support for the Ministry of Commerce in its efforts to make the country a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

He gave this assurance when Commerce Minister Osman Omer Al-Sherif called on him here Wednesday to brief him on the plans and policies of the ministry to organize its various domestic and foreign trade activities, including the campaign to seek accession to the WTO.

The activities of the ministry also include the organization of markets, realization of commercial balance through increasing the country’s exports and rationalization of imports and the consolidation of co-operation between the ministry and friendly countries and with regional and international organizations.

The meeting underscored importance of co-ordination and follow-up action between the Ministry of Commerce and the various states of Sudan in the field of agricultural strategic crops.

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Over 300 Global Investors Expected In Maldives’ First Investment Forum

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka April 17 (NNN-Bernama) — More than 300 investors from around the world have registered to take part in Maldives’ first investment forum due to be held in Singapore later this month, China’s Xinhua news agency reported.

At least 15 countries are expected to attend the forum, which officials say is a glittering platform for the Maldives government to launch bids for key projects.

The countries include Singapore, United States, India, Germany and China.

“This is a far greater support than we had expected. We hope this forum will be a vast platform where investors from different industries will meet,” Economic Ministry’s director Riyaz Mansoor told reporters.

Notable investors include American investment company Blackstone, Singapore-based HPL Hotels and Resorts, China Machinery Engineering Corporation (CMEC), the Carlson Group of Companies, Pan Pacific Hotels and Resorts, United Bunkering and Trading Group, and Singapore Enterprise.

Investors will have opportunity to submit proposals for five mega projects, including the development of Ihavandhippolhu as an economic zone, “I-Heaven” and Ibrahim Nasir International Airport, the second phase of Hulhumale island, shifting of a commercial harbour to Thilafushi and its development, and oil and gas exploration in the Maldives.

Maldives President Abdulla Yameen, Economic Minister Mohamed Saeed and local business tycoons are among speakers at the forum.


The Maldives Investment Forum (MIF), Singapore is an initiative of the Ministry of Economic Development of the Government of Maldives, showcasing the immense potential of Maldives as an attractive investment destination.

The President of Maldives H.E Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom, will inaugurate the first forum to be held in Singapore on 25th April 2014, and will share his vision in taking the country to new heights of development. At this high level investment focused event, the strategic development projects of the Government will be unveiled to reputed corporate and individual investors around the globe.


I. Ihavandhippolhu Integrated Development Project (iHavan)

II. Expansion of Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA)

III. Hulhumale’ Phase II Development

IV. Relocation and expansion of the existing central port

V. Exploration for Oil and Gas

Website: http://www.sbf.eventnook.com/event/mif2014

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Malaysia To Boost Imports From Indonesia’s Aceh

PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia April 17 (NNN-Bernama) — Malaysia aims to import 400 tonnes of vegetables and 45 tonnes of fishes worth RM1 million from Aceh by next month, said Minister of Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry, Ismail Sabri.

He said currently, Malaysia imported 80 tonnes of vegetable products, comprising potatoes, cabbages, carrots and tomatoes and 1.5 tonnes of Grade A fishes such as red snapper, mackerel and pomfret from Aceh.

“It is a part of our efforts to stabilise the prices of these products in the local market and the import values may increase depending on the quality, price and consistency of the offers,” he said after witnessing the signing of memorandums of understanding (MOUs) here today.

The first was between PT Nafasindo, a subsidiary of the National Farmers Organisation (NAFAS), signed the MOU with PT Keluarga Manget Sabe and PT Pandu Buana Nusantara Drive for import of vegetables.

The second was between National Fishermen’s Association (Nekmat) and Inter Sulair Hasil Laut and Udi Camar Laut for fish import.

Ismail said from May this year Malaysia would also market approximately 500 agricultural products worth about RM80,000 to Aceh through the establishment of Malaysia Agrobazar there.

“Malaysia is also looking to build an animal feed plant in Aceh as there is lack of supply for the product and it is too expensive for our farmers,” he said.

He said the ministry was also looking at the possibility of buying live cattle or raising them in Aceh and bring them home later. Aceh Governor, Dr H. Zaini Abdullah, said the collaboration with Malaysia would increase the income of Aceh’s people as most of them are farmers and fishermen.

“We welcome the move and are happy with this trade cooperation,” he said.

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Malaysia-Turkey Sign Free Trade Agreement

By Noor Soraya Mohd Jamal

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia April 18 (NNN-Bernama) — Malaysia and Turkey yesterday signed a bilateral Free Trade Agreement (FTA) in Ankara, Turkey, that would serve as the catalyst to boost bilateral trade to US$5.0 billion in 2018.

Malaysia was represented by International Trade and Industry Mustapa Mohamed while Turkey was represented by its Minister of Economy Nihat Zeybekci.

Mustapa and Nihat Zeybekci signed the agreement, which is Malaysia’s seventh bilateral FTA with foreign countries, after Japan, Pakistan, New Zealand, Chile, India and Australia. The signing of the FTA was witnessed by Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“It is a significant FTA because it is between two moderate Islamic countries, two members of OIC (Organisation of the Islamic Conference), and two members of D8 (Group of Developing Eight).

“This agreement really puts impetus not just on our bilateral relation but also on OIC and D8,” MITI Secretary-General Dr Rebecca Fatima Sta Maria said at a press conference yesterday.

Total trade between Malaysia and Turkey increased 86 per cent over five years, reaching US$1.1 billion in 2013.

At its core, the Malaysia-Turkey FTA (MTFTA) is an arrangement that provides preferential market access for Malaysian goods entering the Turkish market and vice-versa.

Additionally, it also covers a number of areas related to goods, including rules to determine origin of products, disciplines that relate to standards and sanitary measures, as well as, other provisions that provide for facilitation of trade such as customs cooperation, economic and technical cooperation.

Rebecca said the most significant outcome of MTFTA is the fact that Malaysia was able to lock-in tariff preferences that were either on par with, or better than, those previously granted under Turkey’s Generalised System of Preferences (GSP), which were no longer available for Malaysia, beginning Jan 1, 2014.

As such, with the signing and subsequent entry into force of MTFTA, Malaysian exporters can not only continue to gain preferential market access into, but also remain competitive in, the Turkish market.

Turkey’s commitments under MTFTA required the country to eliminate and bind duties at zero per cent for close to 70 per cent of tariff lines, immediately upon entry into force of the FTA.

In return, Malaysia too has reciprocated and offered to bind duties at zero per cent for 70 per cent of our tariff lines.

Malaysian exports that would benefit from immediate duty-free treatment in Turkey include electronics & electrical products, rubber products, chemicals, selected iron and steel products, machineries, wood products and leather products.

Based on existing trade trends, the estimated value of Malaysian exports for these products is averaged at around US$250 million.

Rebecca said among potential areas of collaboration with Turkey are renewable energy sector, MRO services, aviation related products, defence related products, automotive sector and petrochemicals.

Meanwhile, Turkish exports to Malaysia that would benefit from immediate duty-free access include agricultural produce, fisheries, food products and mineral products.

Rebecca said as the FTA is realised over a period of eight years, more and more products would benefit from reduced or eliminated duties, resulting in about 86 per cent of tariff lines in Turkey that grant preferential market access to Malaysian exports.

Another significant gain for Malaysia is in the textiles and apparel sector, which make up Malaysia’s largest export items to Turkey.

Under the FTA, Turkey will eliminate duties on all textiles and apparel products, with much of the elimination exercise taking place immediately upon entry into force of the FTA.

Furthermore, Turkey would eliminate all existing additional duties on textiles, apparel and footwear products.

These duties affect more than a thousand lines and range between 20 and 30 per cent.

Rebecca said Turkey also agreed not to reintroduce or impose new additional duties upon entry into force of the FTA.

For palm oil and palm products, Turkey offered a one-off duty reduction of 30 per cent from the current Most Favoured Nation rate.

Reduction of duties on these products essentially mean that Malaysian palm oil and palm products are placed at a competitive advantage in the Turkish market, over similar products originating from other countries.

In line with existing policies and practices, Malaysia has excluded rice, alcoholic beverages, tobacco, used tyres and weapons from any tariff concessions under this FTA.

Malaysia and Turkey began negotiations for the MTFTA in May 2010 with a view to conclude an FTA.

Almost four years and rounds later, both sides successfully closed the deal in January 2014, having arrived at a mutually beneficial package.

It was also agreed that the FTA will first focus on goods, and subsequently cover investment and services.

“Negotiations on services are expected to commence one year from the signing of MTFTA,” said Rebecca.

Both Malaysia and Turkey will commence respective ratification procedures after the signing yesterday.

The FTA would only enter into force after both sides have completed this process.

The ratification process for Turkey may take more than 12 months from the date of signing as Turkey has to obtain Congressional approval for the Agreement.

Rebecca said Malaysia would be able to complete its ratification process upon signing.

Earlier, Najib witnessed the exchange of memorandum of understanding between Felda Global Ventures Holdings Bhd’s new company FGV Cambridge Nanosystems and Nanokomp Ileri Teknoloji Malzemeleri Arge Dan Ins San Tic Ltd Sti.

Through this agreement, FGV’s unit will provide Nanokomp with a steady supply of graphene and carbon nanotubes.

FGV also inked the memorandum of understanding with Evyap Sabun Malaysia Sdn Bhd, a unit of Evyap Group Turkey to supply about 1,000 tonnes of palm oil for Evyap Sabun’s oleo-chemical plant in Johor, based on their requirement and needs.

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Tunisia Restores Mark Of Gorgon To Algeria

TUNIS, April 14 (NNN-APS) — Algeria’s Minister of Culture, Khalida Toumi, and her Tunisian counterpart, Mourad Sakli, have signed the minutes on the restitution to Algeria of the Mask of Gorgon, a rare archaeological piece stolen in eastern Algeria in 1996 and later found in Tunisia.

The 320-kg white marble piece, exhibited at Carthage Museum during the restitution ceremony, returned to Algeria Sunday to be exhibited from Monday at the National Museum of Antiquities in Algiers.

The restitution of the Mask of Gorgon to Algeria is “a moment of great ethical, symbolical and political importance for the two countries,” said Toumi here Sunday, adding that the “current regional context requires from both countries to strengthen their solidarity”.

Toumi underlined the theft of the Mask of Gorgon from Annaba, 600 kilometres east of Algiers, in 1996 while Algeria “was facing with courage and abnegation the fundamentalist terrorism, was perceived by the Algerian people as a stab in the back at a time when they were mobilized for the protection of Algeria as a State, a nation and a society”.

“It is not just an archaeological object to be recovered but a cultural heritage of the Algerian nation that must be restored,” she said.

Referring to the fight against trafficking in cultural property, the minister said the restitution of the archaeological piece was only a milestone in the efforts of Algeria in the area, stressing the need to combine efforts in this fight.

In this regard, Toumi called on Tunisia to get mobilized with Algeria for the restoration of their stolen cultural property.

This joint mobilization is due to be achieved by the forthcoming creation of an Algerian-Tunisian committee of experts, in charge of the fight against trafficking in cultural property, as decided in February during the 19th session of Algeria-Tunisia High Joint Commission, she recalled. The Mask of Gorgon was found in the possession of Sakhr El Matri’s, son-in-law of the deposed Tunisian president, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, in 2011.

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Bahrain Hosts Sixth Gulf Cooperation Council School Theatrical Festival

MANAMA, Bahrain, Apr 16 – (NNN-BNA) – Under the auspices of Education Minister, Dr. Majid bin Ali Al-Noaimi, the Kingdom of Bahrain will host the Sixth Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) School Theatrical Festival on May 6, at the Bahrain Cultural Auditorium.

The Head of Artistic Activities in the Ministry of Education, Abdullah Malik, said that the Services Department in the Education Ministry is currently working on prearrangements for hosting the festival.

The event will see the participation of all GCC countries in activities at the festival matinees in various schools in Bahrain.

Bahrain had participated in the Fifth GCC School Theatrical Festival and won the composition, best actor, best actress and second best actress awards.

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Sharjah Woos Chinese Tourists

A special report by NNN-XINHUA

BEIJING, China April 12 (NNN-Xinhua) — Sharjah, the third largest emirate of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), hopes to draw more Chinese tourists, said a Sharjah government official Thursday in Beijing.

“It will surely be a fantastic journey for tourists to enjoy the sea view, desert and mountains … while commuting between two beaches at both sides of the emirate,” said Mohamed Ali Al Noman, chairman of the Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority.

He made the comments while promoting Sharjah tourism at the ongoing China Outbound Travel and Tourism Market in Beijing.

In 1998, Sharjah was named the “Cultural Capital of the Arab world” by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

The emirate, with a population of only one million, has about 1,000 mosques and more than 20 museums. It is also renowned for various cultural and sports events.

Mohamed Ali Al Noman founded the Sharjah Light Festival, an annual nine-day show in early February featuring “light-painting” on the front of buildings and other light and sound spectacles.

“The light of the experience will forever illuminate your imagination. It is a kind of link with the past and today,” he said, adding that it showcases Sharjah’s inspiring architecture and rich heritage.

The festival is staged using the latest energy-efficient lighting to promote awareness of energy conservation and energy-saving technology, according to the authority.

“I have noticed that more Chinese people, especially the middle-class, travel overseas. They prefer nice views, enjoy the culture and like shopping,” he said, adding that these can all be found in Sharjah.

The Sharjah government authority is planning to set up offices in major Chinese cities to promote tourism in the booming Chinese market.

In 2013, about 20,000 Chinese tourists travelled to the emirate, arriving first in neighboring Dubai. The figure represented a 10 percent year-on-year increase for the emirate.

“Sharjah is a good choice with nice weather, diversified natural views, cozy shopping and Islamic culture,” said Mohamed Ali Al Noman.

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Kazakhstan Intending To Boost Trade Turnover With Bahrain

ASTANA, April 14 (NNN- Tengrinews.kz)– Kazakhstan intends to boost the trade turnover with Bahrain, Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev said following his talks with Sheikh ?amad ibn Is? ?l Khal?fah in Astana, Kazakhstan’s capital city.

“The trade turnover figure of $1.5 million is rather low. I am confident your visit will give a boost to the trade and economic ties between the two nations”, Nazarbayev said at the talks.

It’s the first official visit of Sheikh ?amad ibn Is? ?l Khal?fah to Kazakhstan. Nazarbayev emphasized that the delegation (of over 200 people) is a sign of good intentions of the visitors.

“We’ve covered a range of important issues today. Kazakhstan believes Bahrain to be a major partner among Arabic countries”, Nazarbayev said.

In his turn, Sheikh ?amad ibn Is? ?l Khal?fah expressed hope that the talks would be the first step towards further cooperation between the two nations. “We are looking forward to a close cooperation; hopefully, such cooperation will be our common task. We are glad to have signed memoranda of understating”, he said.

During the visit the two sides have signed memoranda of understanding in food security, finance, education, and investments. Earlier the two sides agreed on cooperation to produce aluminum.

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Some 11 Kuwaiti Firms Partake In OIC Agribusiness Expo

JEDDAH, April 14 (NNN-KUNA) — Kuwait’s Ministry of Commerce and Industry has brought on board 11 local companies to partake in the Agribusiness Expo for Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) member states in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Launching the event was Makkah region’s Director General for Agricultural Affairs Hassan bin Obaid Sanqouf, on behalf of the Saudi Minister of Agriculture Fahad Balghenaim. The opening was attended by several Saudi and OIC member nation officials, including Kuwait’s Charge d’Affaires at the consulate in Jeddah Sultan Al-Subaie.

The event, held between April 13 and 16, is being organised by the OIC’s Morocco-based Islamic Centre for Development of Trade (ICDT) in collaboration with a Saudi events management company.

Chief organizer of the Kuwaiti contributions Mohammad Al-Khaldi said that the country is taking part in the exhibition with a huge stall that will be showcasing 10 leading local companies operating in the food industry and one in packaging.

Kuwait hopes to make its national products more known to international markets through the move, he said, expressing delight at participating in the event, as it encourages “continuing commercial and investment cooperation with Saudi Arabia.”

Kuwaiti food companies have made a huge impact in the Saudi market, said the ministry’s representative Noura Al-Dowailah, which is why the ministry looks to help these companies open up new channels to market their products in other regions. The ministry has helped local companies to take part in six international exhibitions this year, and is keen on adding some more, she added.

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Lebanese Startup Goes Global

BEIRUT, April 14 (NNN-DAILYSTAR.LB) — Despite an underdeveloped telecommunication infrastructure compared to its regional peers, Lebanon has managed in the past few years to lay the foundations of a supportive environment for startups.

Entrepreneurs who a few years back struggled to secure funding to launch their businesses are today more likely to gain the backing of financial institutions.

The trend may gain further momentum now that a number of startups have managed to scale their operations and attract international buyers, says Herve Cuvilliez, a co-founder of Lebanese-based regional news platform Diwanee.

Diwanee, a digital media company that specializes in content creation targeting women in the Middle East, was recently acquired by French digital publishing company Webedia.

“The deal proves that international companies aren’t afraid to acquire a Lebanese-based or regional company, and I believe more deals will follow, which will encourage financial institutions to invest more in the ICT sector,” Cuvilliez says.

Cuvilliez didn’t disclose the financial terms of the deal but told The Daily Star that it was one of the biggest involving a startup from the Middle East.

According to a number of reports, Webedia made an investment of $12 to $15 million for a majority equity stake in Diwanee, which was valued around $25 million.

As part of the deal, Webedia also injected an additional $5 million in cash into Diwanee.

More important than the cash injection, according to Cuvilliez, is the technological dimension that Webedia is now helping Diwanee with.

“Online publishing is a business with a very large technological dimension, especially when it comes to new advertising techniques such as targeted and real time advertising,” Cuvilliez explains.

“We reached a point that requires us to develop our advertising techniques to be able to compete for advertisers with larger companies in the Middle East. There is no way that we could have made that investment alone on the regional level.”

Diwanee’s most recent round of funding prior to its acquisition by Webedia was a $3.25 million private placement last year by MedSecurities Investment, a BankMed subsidiary.

Diwanee has a predominantly female audience of over 5 million monthly visitors, with a portfolio of sites that includes such subjects as fashion, beauty, entertainment and ecommerce. Webedia attracts over 40 million monthly visitors to sites of the same category.

The similarities between the two companies allow them to share and co-develop the same technologies, Cuvilliez says. “An industrial partnership with Webedia makes sense from a financial point of view.”

Diwanee generates most of its revenue from advertising and branded content, with 70 percent of its visitors coming from GCC countries, while the remaining 30 percent are from the Levant, Egypt and other countries.

As a result of its acquisition by Webedia, Cuvilliez expects Diwanee to double the number of its monthly unique visitors in the next two to five years and increase its audience in Egypt and the Levant.

A short-term goal for Diwanee is also to begin monetizing in 2014 and 2015 its traffic originating from the Levant and Egypt and to grow its ecommerce platforms, which also generate a part of its revenue, Cuvilliez says.

A subscription-based model to generate profits is not on the menu in the short to medium term, Cuvilliez adds, arguing that offering paid content in the Middle East requires further growth in online payments and credit card penetration.

“Instead, we will be looking in the future into selling subscriptions to premium services within our websites,” he says.

Diwanee, which has offices in Dubai, Belgrade and Beirut, currently employs around 130 individuals, with the majority of its staff based in Lebanon. Following its acquisition by Webedia, Diwanee hired 15 more employees for its office in Beirut.

“Most of our websites content is generated in Beirut, whereas the technology operations are handled in Belgrade,” Cuvilliez says.

Despite the high Internet cost in Lebanon, Cuvilliez says the total cost of operating in Beirut is cheaper than other place, particularly when taking into account the country’s highly skilled workforce.

“It is true that we are paying much more for an Internet connection in Beirut than in Belgrade. But it is also true that it costs a lot more to hire people in Dubai than in Lebanon, which is a country rich in talent.”

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Jordan, Egypt, Iraq discuss building joint railway

Islamic Invitation Turkey / 14 Apr 2014 – Jordan, Egypt and Iraq have discussed a joint railway project that would link the three countries.

Jordanian Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour met with Egypt’s Transportation Minister Ibrahim Demeiri and Iraq’s Transportation Minister Salman Jassim in Amman on Saturday to discuss the project.

Petra news agency quoted Ensour as saying that the railway project “will increase the trade cooperation and consolidate the Arab countries’ economic interests.”

The report did not provide further information about the project.

They also discussed the Arab Bridge Maritime, a joint venture of Jordan, Egypt and Iraq, which accumulated a profit of more than $250 million.

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Azerbaijan to construct Caucasus’ largest mosque in Baku

islam.ru | 15 Apr 2014 – A mosque being built in the Azerbaijani capital of Baku will be the largest one in the Caucasus, relevant authorities have said. The temple under construction will accommodate four thousand worshippers and will be built according to traditions of Shirvan.

An initiative by the Azerbaijani President, the mosque will have four minarets and nine domes. Diameter of the largest dome, which will be decorated with special carvings is 38 meters.

The total height of the minarets is 95 meters. Inside the mosque will be equipped with special elevators. Inside the mosque will house two separate halls for men and women. Also six escalators will be installed at the entrance – two for women and four for men.

The project also provides facilities for believers with disabilities. The complex, to be built on an area of ??1.3 hectares, will also have as planned parking lots for 400 vehicles.

14 # Canadian college student experiments with wearing a hijab

Daily Mail / 15 Apr 2014 – A Canadian college student recently conducted a social experiment to see if people treated her differently if she wore a hijab – a traditional Muslim veil that covers a woman’s head and chest – and what she discovered was a bit unexpected.

Anisa Rawhani, a third-year student at Queens University in Ontario, wore the traditional Muslim garb for 18 days in January as she worked at the university’s library, visited stores and restaurants near the campus and as she did volunteer work with local children.

According to Rawhani – who conducted the experiment to see if people in her community were racist towards minority groups – she noticed that people actually treated her more kindly and with more respect than when she didn’t wear the hijab.

Rawhani, who is not Muslim, wrote about her experience wearing traditional Muslim clothing in the March edition of the Queen’s Journal, where she works as a copy editor – the article is titled ‘Overt to Covert.’

‘At first I thought I was just imagining things. There’s no way this is actually happening,’ Rawhani told the Whig.com.

‘I went with my hijab and people were very nice, people were polite, parents would shake my hand, so the experience was all across the board in Kingston.’

In some cases, she says, she would go out with friends who weren’t wearing any identifying religious symbols and she was treated much nicer than they were.

‘There was this excess (of niceness) that I would experience that I couldn’t account for,’ she said. ‘Like really going the extra mile like smiling broadly and being so so polite, which I’ve never experienced before. It was a stark contrast that was going on that threw me for a loop.’

Rawhani discussed her findings with a psychology professor at her university – she calls the interesting phenomenon an overcompensation.

‘It can be that someone actually does harbour racist tendencies but doesn’t want to look racist to others so they overcompensate in that way,’ she says.

She also says that it could stem from people who might think they have a bias but are trying to suppress it by being overly accommodating to people of other races or religions.

‘In general, just from my interactions, I think people honestly believe in equality and have those values but they just don’t know how to interact with minorities,’ she says.

Rawhani, who is of Iranian descent, was inspired by a similar experiment done in the United States, where women were asked to wear a hijab for a day and watch how people treated them.

‘The desire came from wanting to understand better because there is so much tension around the idea of covering,’ she says. ‘I wanted to understand why women in Islam cover and also how it can actually be difficult in our culture to be covering.’

‘There’s so many misconceptions and people think you’re oppressed and there are also issues of racism, that’s what prompted it,’ she continued.

‘People, culture and religion aren’t concepts you can understand on your own. Rather it’s through dialogue that we generate understanding and respect between people,’ Rawhani concluded.

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Korea publishes revised guide book for Muslim tourists

By Yun Suh-young

Korea Times / 15 Apr 2014 – The Korea Tourism Organization recently published a restaurant guide book for Muslim visitors as well as a guide book for independent travelers from Asia.

The “Restaurant Guide for Muslim Visitors” is a revised version of the 2012 publication which introduces halal restaurants or alternative restaurants that Muslim tourists can visit during their stay in Korea. The revised version includes evaluation of the restaurants’ service, quality of food and taste based on research and visit. The guide book also includes information on nearby tourist sites that are accessible from the restaurants.

“Korea, Free and Easy” which is the guide book for tourists from Asia and the Middle East introduces recommended sites by themes such as season, shopping, family outings and hallyu.

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Turkish foundation to build mosque in Cuba

World Bulletin / 16 Apr 2014 – Turkey’s Religious Affairs Foundation (TDV) sent a delegation to Cuba to discuss building a mosque in its capital Havana.

Having paid a visit to the Cuban department of religious affairs, TDV assistant manager Mustafa Tutkun sought permission to begin work on the mosque, which will be designed after the famous Ortakoy mosque in Istanbul.

The mosque is being built to serve the city’s 3,500 Muslims and will be complete within a year, Tutkun said.

Land for the mosque has already been allocated in the city’s Old Havana district. Tutkun said that the design of Ortakoy mosque would fit in nicely with the architecture of the surrounding area.

The plan is part of a wider project by the TDV in building mosques for Muslims who live in the Caribbean. A similar project in Haiti is due to be complete by the end of this year, Tutkun said.

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UK To Examine ‘Shariah-Compliant’ Student Loans

Telegraph with Independent / 18 Apr 2014 – The Government is inviting responses to its consultation on whether or not to introduce a student loan that is compliant with sharia law, amid reports that the UK’s Muslim population is divided on the issue.

It comes after concerns were raised that the existing finance options on offer from the Student Loans Company were unsuitable for Muslims, with sharia law forbidding loans that involve the payment of interest.

Announcing the proposed new sharia-compliant scheme at the start of this month, the universities and science minister David Willetts said the loans would “ensure that anyone with the ability and desire can go to university”.

Under the new plans a special advisory committee would oversee a mutual fund pooling model (takaful), whereby those who have been to university and moved on to well-paid jobs help to pay for those who come along after them.

Funds would be withdrawn from the pool for prospective students, who would later make a series of repayments to pay for future generations

Around 115,000 Muslim students currently attend universities in the UK but it is claimed that many have been put off a degree by the Coalition’s new loans system – introduced in 2012 – that carry a real rate of interest above inflation. It coincided with a near tripling of the cap on tuition fees to almost £9,000.

Omar Ali, president of the Federation of Student Islamic Societies, told the Telegraph: “We know of many students who finished college but decided not to go to university because of the way the new system was set up. We welcome this proposal.”

The announcement was made as part of a wide-ranging strategy designed to boost access to degree courses for under-represented groups. This included a new responsibility for universities to help boost post-graduation employment rates for poor students.

Mr Willetts said the Government wanted to make the “path to university easier for everyone”, adding: “We are aware that some Muslims and young people of other faiths might be put off taking out a conventional student loan.

“To address this we have developed a potential model alternative finance product which would be Sharia-compliant and could be offered alongside traditional student loans.”

The plans have been set out in a consultation document published by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

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Russian Halal Industry to be presented in Malaysia

Muslim Eco / 18 Apr 2014 – The delegation of Russia muftis council flew to Malaysia to participate in the 11th International Halal Industry Exhibition – Malaysian International Halal Showcase (MIHAS).

The exhibition will be held on April 9-12 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Organized under the auspices of the Malaysian government, MIHAS is hosted by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) and is organized by the Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (Matrade).

MIHAS is a largest show, where Halal products and services from all over the world are presented. About 500 companies take part in the exhibition; half of them are represented by Malaysian organizations and companies.

This year Russian Halal Industry also will be presented on the stand of Moscow International Halal Exhibition Moscow Halal Expo on the MIHAS.Samat Sadykov, Halal Industry expert, the member of the organizing committee of Moscow Halal Expo, will participate in the exhibition in Kuala Lumpur. Patina Sadykova, the specialist of the Economic Department, arrived as a journalist to cover such major event in world Halal Industry.

Visitors and participants of MIHAS are welcome to find out more information about Moscow Halal Expo exhibition and to talk to the representatives of the organizing committee on the stand number D 50.

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Life of Tatarstani Muslims to be broadcasted in Malaysia

Islam.ru / 18 Apr 2014 – In Kazan, Malaysian state broadcasting company shoots series of films about the spiritual life of the Tatars. They are going to be broadcasted during the holy month of Ramadan. Shooting in the capital of Tatarstan will last until April 19.

The camera crew have already visited the Russian Islamic Institute, “Yardem” the Muslim Education and Rehabilitation Center for the Blind and “Huzur” publishing house.

The mufti of Tatarstan Kamil hazrat Samigullin gave an interview, in which he spoke about the history of Islam in Tatarstan, the current situation in the Muslim community of the republic and the activities of Tatarstani Myftiyat.

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Saudi Arabia among top five countries in e-services

Riyadh, Monday, 14 Jamada Al Akhir 1434/ 14 April 2014 (IINA) – Saudi Arabia ranks fifth among the world’s top 10 countries in e-government services and online government-citizen interactivity, according to a comparative study conducted by Accenture International, a company specialized in administrative consultation.

The Kingdom was found to excel in providing online portals for public services and using social media networks to interact with citizens. The study was conducted on a sample of 5,000 individuals from the 10 countries that topped the list. “Singapore came first, scoring 7.4 out of 10 on a scale evaluating digital services and citizen engagement,” the report said.

Norway came second, scoring 7.3, followed by the UAE with 6.7 points, South Korea with 6 points, and Saudi Arabia with 5.9. “Citizens want to interact online with retailers and banks,” said Bernard Le Masson, head of Accenture. “They also want to engage digitally with their government and feel connected through mobile devices 24/7.” “We found that citizen demand for digital services is even stronger in emerging markets, such as India, Brazil, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, where 80 percent of citizens said they would like to communicate with government via social media and on their mobiles,” he said.

Brazil, Germany, India, the United Kingdom and the United States also ranked in the top 10. The majority of countries that scored high in the study have made a sustained investment in digital government, he said. “The highest-ranking countries also actively seek and listen to citizen feedback.”

Criteria is measured on the basis of citizen service delivery experience, citizen satisfaction and service maturity. According to the report, high-performing digital governments are focusing on their digital strategy, which is deeply embedded in government agenda, public reforms and continuing long-term investment in key information and communication technology assets.

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Philippine president receives draft law for Muslim self-rule

Manila, Tuesday, 15 Jamada Al Akhir 1434/ 15 April 2014 (IINA) – Philippine President Benigno Aquino on Monday formally received a draft law representing a crucial step towards the creation of an autonomous area for the country’s Muslim minority, following a historic peace deal.

Aquino received the Bangsamoro Basic Law from a special transition committee headed by representatives of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), once the main Muslim rebel group in the majority-Catholic Philippines, his aides said. The law will speed up the process of creating the autonomous region as part of a peace process to end decades of fighting that has claimed tens of thousands of lives. Just last month, the MILF signed a landmark pact to end one of Asia’s longest and deadliest conflicts, promising to give up their arms for an autonomous homeland in the southern Philippines.

As part of this accord, a transition committee was formed that drafted the “basic law” for the autonomous area. Presidential spokeswoman Abigail Valte said that the draft law would stand the legal challenges of groups which are opposing the accord. “Some groups have already made known their intention to challenge the Bangsamoro Basic Law,” Valte said. “The panel… have made sure that they had the proper legal guidance while (the draft) was being crafted and that it will stand up to scrutiny,” she added.

Aquino has said he will submit the draft to Congress so the legislative body can pass it, ideally by the end of this year. This will allow time for other steps such as a local plebiscite to determine which parts of the country will be included in the autonomous area. The government is hopeful of completing the entire process before the president steps down in mid-2016.

However Christian politicians are expected to oppose the draft law while Muslim rebel hardliners have said they will not give up their fight for an independent Islamic state in the south. The autonomous region cannot exist without the law, but there are no guarantees that Aquino can secure majority support in Congress on the highly sensitive issue.

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Entry visa no longer a requirement for Maldivian students in Malaysia

Sun.mv – April 17, 2014 – Ministry of Foreign Affairs has announced that Maldivian students wishing to study in Malaysia are no longer required to obtain entry visa.

This comes following a revision by Malaysian Immigration Authority of a regulation introduced in January 2014, whereby Maldivian students wishing to study in Malaysia were required to apply for entry visa upon receiving the student visa approval letter.

Students who had received the student visa approval letter prior to the introduction of the regulation in January 2014 were not required to apply for entry visa.

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National airline’s first seaplane arrives

Sun.mv – April 18, 2014 – The first seaplane acquired by national airline Maldivian has arrived in the Maldives on Thursday evening. Maldivian said that all preparations necessary to introduce services on the DH-6 Twin Otter Aircraft, including the construction of a floating jetty at the airport, have been completed.

Maldivian said that the aircraft started its ferry trip from Calgary, Canada, en route to Male’ on 10 April.

Competition has been non-existent in the local seaplane market since the two companies providing seaplane services Maldivian Air Taxi (MAT) and Trans Maldivian Airways (TMA) were acquired and merged by New York’s Blackstone Group. Maldivian hopes to re-introduce competition with its penetration into this market.

Maldivian commenced efforts to provide seaplane service in October 2013. The airline has not yet mentioned a date for the formal inauguration of this service.

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Turkish rock singer imam to take stage in New York

ANTALYA – Anadolu Agency – Ahmet Muhsin Tüzer, who has become one of the most famous imams in Turkey because of his rock music career, will give a concert in the United States in April.

Tüzer has been invited to sing at the Ultima Festival in New York by composer Catherine Christer Hennix, who is the founder of the “Choros(s)san Time-Court Mirage” concert.

The concert will take place on April 23 during the festival’s opening ceremony at the Issue Project Room, where Tüzer and his band will recite the call to prayer and Quranic verses, accompanied by drone music.

Tüzer has stated that Amir ElSaffar, Amir ElSaffar, Robin Hayward, Paul Schwingenschlögl, Hilary Jeffery, Elena Margarita Kakaliagou, Stefan Tiedje will take place in the orchestra for his performance.

He added that he would not be able to perform his own compositions in the concert, but he hoped it would still contribute much to his music career. “I will be proud to represent Islam, Turkey and religion in the U.S.,” Tüzer said, adding that it would be an important concert to introduce Islam to U.S. audiences.

Tüzer, an imam in the Mediterranean district of Ka?, became famous after putting together a rock band named “FiRock” with his friends drummer ?dris Tübcil and Do?an Sakin, who was the founder and guitarist of famous Turkish rock singer Erkin Koray’s band “Kramp.”

A probe into Tüzer was opened by Antalya’s Mufti Office after he gave a concert with his band last year.

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First Turkish ballet on Antalya stage

ANTALYA – Hurriyet – The Antalya State Opera and Ballet (ANTDOB) has revised the first and only Turkish ballet in the world repertoire, “Judith,” and now will once again bring it to the stage.

The ballet premiered last night at the Ha?im ??can Culture Center. The ballet’s music was performed by Çetin I?ıözlü and the libretto was written by Medeia Magalashvili. I?ıközlü dedicated the ballet, which was his first work, to his ballerina wife I?ıl I?ıközlü. The first choreography of the one-act ballet was designed by Alfred Rodrigues. This time, it will be staged by Nugzar and Medeia Magalashvili.

The ballet, which was previously staged by famous choreographers such as Frenc Suba and Rene Pegliasco and performed by famous dancers like James Urbai, is the first and only Turkish ballet to have entered the world’s repertoire. The orchestra chief of the ballet is Hakan Kalkan. The ballet will be on stage on April 10, 12, and 19.

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Higher living standards boost charity in Tajikistan

Centralasiaonline.com 2014-04-16 DUSHANBE – Seventeen years after its civil war, charity is flourishing in Tajikistan.

“Today … people can afford to spend on charity,” social observer Firuz Saidov said.

A rising standard of living is strengthening Tajik participation in local charities, according to authorities. Fund-raising evens like open-air film showings and concerts have become more frequent in the past six months, and more charities are finding sponsorship from corporations and individual business owners.

Until the past few years, more than half Tajikistan’s population was struggling to find food. Today, Tajiks are willing and able to help others.

The poor – those who earn less than US $2.15 (10.4 TJS) daily, according to the World Bank – comprised 38.3% of the population in 2012, according to AsiaPlus.tj. More than anything, they need money to live on and pay for health care, said Dasti Yori (Helping Hand) director Kamil Areshev.

The surge in charity benefits donors as well with cultural offerings like charities and film screenings. Donors “make a donation and in exchange can enjoy a good movie,” said Areshev.

Tajikistan’s first ever concert benefitting the Healthy Heart charity appeared in Dushanbe last summer. Healthy Heart sponsors heart surgery for low-income children.

“One concert-goer donated 700 TJS (about US $150),” Healthy Heart Vice-President Rajab Khalimov said. “People…are seeking to contribute to solving the problem.”

To date, Healthy Heart has paid for 20 sick children’s needed operations. Increased prosperity isn’t just increasing funds for charity – it’s increasing the scope of charity, too.

During the desperate days of the civil war (1992-1997), “the only thing we did was feed people,” Safarov said. Today, charities are now supporting art and cultural projects as well, Safarov said.

The rise of charitable donations shows that Tajikistan is becoming a society concerned with its citizens’ welfare, Kironshokh Sharifzoda, head of the Social Journalism NGO, said.

Everyone should perform acts of charity, Dushanbe resident Kurbon Abdulloyev said. “Salvation in the afterlife is earned only through help and donations to the needy,” he said.

Savrinoz Faizova, another Dushanbe resident, would like a more reliable stream of aid for struggling families. “It would be better if (institutions or companies) sponsored children’s homes or hospitals … permanently,” she said. Sporadic events can only raise enough money to support a single child’s home for a short time, she said.

Tajikistan has been taking steps to emulate developed countries by offering tax breaks to entrepreneurs who spend 10% or more of their income on charity, Sharifzoda told Central Asia Online.

Khalimov, meanwhile, is looking abroad for possible help. More than three callers phone him every day, hoping for help with children’s costly heart operations, he said.

“I want to reach out beyond Tajikistan, since it might be too difficult to raise the needed amounts of money domestically,” he said.

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Food festival on authentic Bangladesh cuisine held in Colombo

DHAKA, April 12, 2014 (BSS) – The first-ever food festival on authentic Bangladesh cuisine was held in Colombo, Sri Lanka, at the initiative of the Bangladesh High Commission in Colombo from April 2 to 12.

The event was organised in association with the prestigious Hotel Taj Samudra, Colombo, and Hotel Pan Pacific Sonargaon, Dhaka, said a handout here today. The festival introduced strengths and uniqueness of Bangladeshi cuisine to the local and expatriate connoisseurs.

The Festival continued for 11 days from at ‘Latitude’- the main Restaurant of the Taj Samudra. A team of hospitality expert and chefs from Pan Pacific Sonargaon Hotel was flown in to present an array of genuine Bangladeshi foods and desserts.

The Restaurant assumed a different appearance with table flags of the two countries and table clothes and place mats (depicting traditional embroidery of rural Bangladesh), it said.

Senior Minister for Human Resources D.E.W Gunasekara inaugurated the festival as the chief guest while ministers, high level officials, ambassadors and local elites were present, it added.

28 # Bangladesh to build natural historical museum

DHAKA, April 15, 2014 (BSS) – Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina today said a natural historical museum and another most modern museum will be built in the country.

The Prime Minister said this when a four-member delegation of Bangladesh National Museum led by Cultural Affairs Minister Asaduzzaman Noor called on her at her office here this morning.

PM’s Special Assistant Mahbubul Hoque Shakil said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina also gave directives to the ministry of cultural affairs to take quick steps to this end.

At the function, Director General of Bangladesh National Museum Qamrun Nahar Khanom handed over the annual report of the National Museum for 2012-13 and other publications to the Prime Minister.

Secretary to the Prime Minister’s Office Md Abul Kalam Azad, Cultural Affairs Secretary Dr Ranjit Kumar Biswas, Chairman of Board of Trustees of National Museum M Azizur Rahman and PM’s Special Assistant Mahbubul Hoque Shakil were present.

Earlier, Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of Bangladesh Masud Ahmed submitted their 17 audit reports to the Prime Minister at her office.

PM’s Special Assistant Mahbubul Hoque Shakil said the CAG handed over one performance-based audit report, two issue-based audit reports, six special audit reports, six annual audit reports and two adjustment reports to the Prime Minister.

Secretary to the Prime Minister’s Office Md Abul Kalam Azad and PM’s Special Assistant Mahbubul Hoque Shakil were present on the occasion.

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RCC Mayor for infrastructural development of hats, bazaars

RANGPUR, April 17, 2014 (BSS) – Mayor of Rangpur City Corporation (RCC) and valiant freedom fighter Alhaj Sharfuddin Ahmed Jhantu has stressed for infrastructural development of the hats and bazars for enhancing trade and business activities.

He said this on Wednesday afternoon while visiting Lalbag Hat, one of the biggest hats in the city as well as in the district, to see the infrastructural and other facilities with a view to further improve the trade and business environment there.

The RCC Mayor also directed the concerned authorities for conducting necessary infrastructural development works at Lalbag Hatand providing necessary modern facilities to create congenial atmosphere for trade and commerce there.

RCC Councilors Mahbubar Rahman Manjur (Ward No-21), Hafiz Ahmed Chchuttu (Ward No-24) and Akram Hossain (Ward No-27), Awami League leader Joynal Abedin, Lessee of Lalbag Hat Abdullah Hel Kafi, Jubo League leader Mahmudul Hassan Ron and business man Montuzur Rahman Apel were present.

Later, the RCC Mayor also visited the newly built Mahiganj Whole Sale Market in the city, talked to the local businessmen and handed over keys to the leaseholders of the shops there.

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Brunei to Attend 11th China-Asean Expo in Sept

Saturday, 19 April 2014 BruDirect.com – BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN: The 11th China-Asean Expo (CAEXPO) will soon convened in Nanning of China on September 19-22 this year. It will be a particularly important event, for it coincides with the first year of the Diamond Decade of Asean-China Cooperation, the start of bilateral efforts to build the Maritime Silk Road of the 21st Century and the Asean-China Cultural Exchange Year. It will bring a new round of opportunities for the Brunei enterprises to explore the global market.

Brunei Halal products enjoy huge market potential in China. Among the 1.6 billion Muslims in the world, more than 30 million are Chinese, who live in northwest China including provinces of Xingjiang, Gansu, Niangxia and Xining. Here is a market with huge potential for Brunei Halal food. Besides, with the rapid economic development, China’s purchasing power is increasing tremendously. Non-Muslim consumers begin to show keen interests in Halal food. Thanks to the China-Asean Expo (CAEXPO), an event that has been concluded successfully for 10 straight sessions, Brunei Halal food is known by more and more Chinese enterprises especially those Muslim enterprises based in northwest China.

Products accredited with Brunei Halal brand, a project initiated and supported by the Brunei government, have stepped into the Chinese market and are growing in popularity.

Brunei eco-tourism resources are very attractive to the Chinese people. Since 2005, Bandar Seri Begawan has comprehensively showcased its business opportunities in tourism, culture, education, science & technology and other fields as the City of Charm of Brunei at the CAEXPO for nine straight sessions.

After so many years showcase, Brunei’s diversified eco-tourism resources like pleasant weather, beautiful beach scenery, tropical rainforest and distinctive ethnic culture are so attractive to the Chinese people that China has become Brunei’s second largest source of tourists. Brunei enjoys ample room in expanding the tourism cooperation with China via the platform of the CAEXPO. Besides, Brunei will continue to showcase foodstuffs, garments, handicrafts, aquatic products, ICT products and services at its commodity trade pavilion of the upcoming 11th CAEXPO.

The 11th CAEXPO will intensify its efforts to promote investment cooperation and mobilise more leading Chinese and international enterprises to invest in Brunei and to strengthen Brunei-China reciprocal cooperation in tourism developing, infrastructure construction, agricultural science & technology and R&D of Halal products, etc.

The 11th CAEXPO will arrange a host of investment promotion programmes to help Brunei bring in more international capitals. Those programmes will include Roundtable Meeting on Investment Cooperation under the theme of ‘Cross-border Economic Cooperation & Promotion Conference on Asean Industrial Parks’, promotion conference on Brunei’s investment climate, networking activity with Chinese economic and commercial counselors in Asean, China-Asean Infrastructures Cooperation Forum, meeting between banks and Chinese Go Global enterprises on increasing financial supports for the latter, and seminars on investment and fund raising of various scales and others.

China is becoming a major force to drive the world economic development. The Chinese government is committed to encouraging and supporting the Chinese enterprises to invest abroad, which will foster more possible partnerships between the Brunei and Chinese businesses.

It is known that Sinopec Engineering Incorporation and Zhejiang Hengyi Group Co Ltd have developed large-scaled oil refineries and Guangxi province is actively advancing projects on, tropical fruits, vegetable plantation, offshore aquaculture and eco-tourism in Brunei. Besides, a rice plantation project jointly carried out by Brunei and Yulin city of Guangxi is under full implementation.

More quality products from China and other Asean countries will be housed. Brunei buyers and buying missions will have a rewarding trip to the 11th CAEXPO, for it will bring together made-in-China electric power equipments, food packaging machinery, engineering machinery, electrical appliances and electronics and building materials and distinctive products from other Asean members.

Sideline forums, conferences and activities will release more updated intelligence. The 21st Century Maritime Silk Road Economic Cooperation Forum will become the key focus of the 11th CAEXPO, and will explore major topics like cooperation among port cities, maritime connectivity, maritime economy and tourism in coastal areas, etc.

More economies will participate and new business opportunities will be fostered. Starting from this session, the CAEXPO will launch the Special Guest Country mechanism, inviting one of the RCEP Asean FTA Partners (AFP) to be the Special Guest Country of the year. Australia has confirmed for its participation as the first Special Guest Country. A high-profile business delegation will visit the 11th CAEXPO and take part in the business promotion programmes arranged concurrently to meet and talk with enterprises from Brunei, China and other Asean member states.

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Syariah Mobile App Now Available for Free Download

Thursday, 17 April 2014 BruDirect.com – BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN: A dedicated hotline for the public to lodge complaints on Syariah-based offences has been set up, an official said during a Syariah Law briefing yesterday, while another official announced the availability of mobile applications of the Syariah Penal Code Order 2013 that can be downloaded to smartphones for free.

Police stations across the Sultanate will also be another channel for the public to lodge their complaints, the official added during the briefing held at University Brunei Darussalam (UBD), as the country draws closer to the enforcement of the Syariah Penal Code Order’s first phase.

The hotline number 8984422, 8774566 and 8744566 are linked directly to the Religious Enforcement Unit.

The official, who was part of a panel of Syariah Law officials and experts during the briefing, was responding to a question raised by an individual. The official went on to explain that the hotline has been established solely for the purpose of receiving complaints and not meant for queries pertaining to the Syariah Law.

Those who come across any suspicious acts or activities that they deem fall under the Syariah Penal Code Order 2013 may contact the hotline or lodge a report to their nearest police station.

Meanwhile, according to an official, the public can access the full copy of the Syariah Penal Code Order 2013 by downloading for free the mobile app “Undang-Undang Syariah Brunei” through Google App Store for Android users while for iPhone users it is available from the Apple App Store.

The full copy of the Syariah Penal Code Order 2013 can also be downloaded from the Attorney General’s Chamber’s website at www.agc.gov.bn

This was in response to a question raised by an audience on the distribution of the Syariah Penal Code Order 2013 publication which is currently available for BND$5 each. He made a suggestion for the publication to be distributed for free to the public, especially to heads of family to provide more awareness on the Order.

Currently other initiatives such as the printing of posters, brochures and television adverts are being used to instill awareness to the public as the first phase takes effect April 22.

The draft of the code which is currently being finalized by the Brunei Islamic Religious Council will come into full force twenty four months after that, allowing death penalties such as stoning to death for adultery.

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Brunei Tour Guides to Advise Tourists on Dress Codes, Guidelines

Saturday, 19 April 2014 BruDirect.com – BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN: Local tour operators have been advised to brief tourists on the proper dress code whilst in Brunei Darussalam as the first phase of the Syariah Penal Code Order 2013 will be implemented come Tuesday, April 22, according to tourism officer.

Concerned members of the public have urged the authorities to erect signboards on the ‘Dos and Don’ts’ when it comes to dress codes, and also to distribute leaflets on proper attire at various entry points, to avoid any unnecessary misunderstanding.

On the issues of indecent dressing and behavior, it was disclosed at a briefing earlier this month that officials would only act if the person is dressed very indecently and received complaints from members of the public. Unfortunately, authorities are still working on the dress code guidelines. These guidelines will be drawn to include stipulation on indecent behavior that apply to both Muslims and non-Muslims, including hugging and kissing. If the act tarnishes the image of Islam, depraves a person, brings bad influence or causes anger to the person who is likely to have witnessed the act, the fine imposed will be not more than BND$2,000 and or imprisonment of not more than six months.

While indecent dressing is punishable under the 2013 Syariah Penal Code Order, lawmakers who lobbied for the implementation have yet to come up with clear cut guidelines over what constitutes indecent dressing. It is certainly inappropriate for any government in the world to come up with punishments for offences that have not been carefully studied for not only the discrepancies will put the lawmakers in negative light, but it will possibly exasperate anyone involved in the process.

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Brunei Showcases Local Talents at UBD Film Festival

Saturday, 19 April 2014 BruDirect.com – BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN: A team of students from Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD) is gearing up to host the first ever film festival that aims to showcase young local talents who have the potential to venture further in the industry. The festival is held on April 19 and 20 at The Core, UBD, from 9am to 5pm.

Members of the public are invited to the two-day event which includes the screenings of locally made short-films created and produced by UBD students, local production houses and winner of UBD Film Festival 2014 competition.

Aimed at supporting Brunei’s Vision 2035 Human Resource Development Agenda, the event features programmes and activities lined up to entertain as well as educate members of the public on the art behind-the making of films.

Among those who are set to attend the event include local production houses who have expressed eagerness on being part of an initiative that supports local talents and industry.

Encouraged and supported by local financial backers, the UBD Film Festival 2014 hopes to provide a platform that will transform the media environment in Brunei.

For more information, members of the public can visit www.filmfestivalubd2014.com.

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Indonesian short film nominated in Bulgarian film festival

Mon, April 14 2014 London (ANTARA News) – An Indonesian film titled Wonderful Indonesia was nominated for the best film category at the International Tour Film festival (ITFF) held in Veliko Tarnovo city, Bulgaria, from April 10 to April 13, an official said.

“Wonderful Indonesia was one among 35 films nominated to receive an award during the film festival,” the minister counselor for Economic and Political Affairs at the Indonesian embassy in Sofia, Pranowo, said on Monday.

With the theme of The Whole World in One City, the Bulgarian film festival saw the participation of 77 films from 33 countries.

Meanwhile, the manager of the ITFF, Vessela Christova, said Wonderful Indonesia had attracted not only the judge of the festival but also the visitors.

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Jakarta potential to grow to become a global city

Wed, April 16 2014 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – A survey by an international consultant firm said Jakarta is full of challenges and dynamics but it has changed into a global city in many aspects.

“The new city leadership has brought about credibility and optimism. Very clear in our survey that Jakarta could top the category of Emerging Cities Outlook 2014,” President Director of AT Kearney John Kurtz said.

Kurtz said based on the survey, New York, London, Paris, Tokyo and Hong Kong are five top global cities and Jakarta, Manila, Addis Ababa, Sao Paulo and New Delhi are five potential rivals to break into the ranks of global cities in the next 10 to 20 years.

Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo or Jokowi as he is popularly known, said he was pleased with the result of the survey which said Jakarta has expanded and is potential to grow to become a global city.

The study has been carried out by AT Kearney, a global management consultant, beginning 18 months earlier.

“We could use the results of the study for our evaluation to make correction of anything need to be corrected,” Jokowi said here on Tuesday.

The surveys, held every two years, covered many aspects including city transport, education, health and flooding, problems that the city has yet to seriously deal with.

The study by AT Kearney, titled Global Cities Index 2014, contains category of Emerging Cities Outlook 2014, which maps out potentials of emerging cities to catch up with global cities and improve their global position in the coming decades.

In the category, Jakarta tops the ranks of 35 emerging cities in the world with potential to grow to become global cities.

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Egypt: ‘Route of Holy Family’ New Step to Restore Tourism

18 April 2014 – Egypt State Information Service – Egypt’s Tourism Minister Hisham Za’zou met on Wednesday with Russian Ambassador in Cairo Sergei Bachenko.

The meeting comes as part of Za’zou’s endeavors to promote the tourism business.

During their meeting, the minister hailed the Egyptian-Russian relations in all fields as well as the Russian supportive stance for Egypt during this critical stage.

He said that the tourism sector is constantly working on improving the services provided for the Russian tourists, noting that 2.4 million Russian tourists visited Egypt during the past year.

“The ministries of foreign affairs and tourism are exerting strenuous efforts to travel warnings issued by some countries against Egypt,” he said.

He added that the sector is currently working on creating a new tourist destination that will attract the Russian tourist as well as the Eastern Christians which is the “Route of Holy Family” that represents the journey of Christ and his mother Virgin Mary in Egypt.

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Tunisia Strives for Successful Tourist Season

By Monia Ghanmi

17 April 2014 – Magharebia – Tunis — Tunisia is seeking to benefit from the achieved political success by promoting a new image for its tourism through social media.

Since coming to office, Tourism Minister Amel Karboul said she would exploit the political calm and the security improvements achieved by Tunisia in a bid to promote tourism recovery by attracting visitors from various countries.

Experts note that authorising low-cost airlines to operate in Tunisia might be one way to help revive Tunisian tourism, Kapitalis reported Wednesday (April 16th).

An open skies agreement under discussion between Tunisia and the EU is expected to be finalised in May. Some speculate it could make travel to the North African jewel more affordable.

“I tell western tourists come to Tunisia, the first democracy in the Arab world! Live historic moments and support the democratic transition in Tunisia. Come also enjoy the beauty of Tunisia’s sun, its beaches and desert,” Karboul told Western media in a February 26th interview.

The ministry posted several promotional videos of touristic areas on the internet with calls for all to visit free and democratic Tunisia.

Karboul said traditional propaganda campaigns to promote Tunisian tourism “are costly and their impact is long-term, while Tunisia has limited financial resources”.

“If everything continues to be fine, our expectations suggest that we may receive 7 million tourists in 2014,” she noted.

Travel agent Wael Hamraoui said the marketing provided by the new constitution of Tunisia and the subsequent agreements offered the best promotional image of the country abroad.

This season began registering positive signals by recording a slight increase for bookings for the coming months, especially by French customers, he said.

The number of tourists coming to Tunisia was up 12% in the first three months of 2014 compared to the same period last year, according to figures released by the tourism ministry.

From January 1 to March 20, 2014, an estimated 858,870 tourists visited Tunisia. Tourism revenues rose by 2.4 percent compared to last year, reaching 476.6 million dinars.

In its March 24th report, the World Travel and Tourism Council anticipated the creation of 232,500 direct jobs in the tourism field in Tunisia this year, up 1.9% compared to 2013.

According to the same report, the sector as a whole is expected to contribute 5 billion dollars (3.6 billion euros), or 15.2 % of the Tunisian economic activity for 2014.

But tourism industry employees are not all convinced.

Those responsible for tourism in Tunisia always talk about improvement, but it’s not concrete, Fathi al-Cherif, a traditional products vendor in the old Medina of Tunis, told Magharebia.

“It is true there are tourists coming to our country, especially through cruise trips but we only receive few of them. They prefer to stay aboard the ship or wander not far from the port… Our trade is still suffering a recession,” he said.

“I think that the tourism sector began to recover in the recent period and we felt that through our work, but not enough,” echoed tourist bus driver Samir al-Balawi.

He added, “We must work to overcome the negative effects left by some security events because the security is the thing that concerns tourists the most if we want to regain their confidence.”

For that, the government is geared to rely on social networks in its promotion of the new Tunisia.

Many Facebook pages started posting pictures of the most beautiful tourist areas in Tunisia. Fakher Ayed oversees one of these promotional tourist pages, Je vais en Tunisie.

He encouraged tourism professionals to strengthen their presence on these pages in order to reach the largest number of visitors. “Through this page we try to shed light on Tunisian destinations with pictures and videos in order to encourage viewers to come visit,” he said.

Ikeji Festival to Promote Industry, Tourism in Eastern Nigeria

By Crusoe Osagie

15 April 2014 – This Day – The famous Ikeji festival coming up this week in Abia State is expected to boost trade, commerce and tourism to Eastern Nigeria, given the huge interest being expressed by the international community in the festival THISDAY has learnt. Promoters of the event said great number of Nigerians in diaspora and foreign visitors are already arriving for the big festival which is now gaining international attention. According to the promoters, ” the Ikeji festival is a long held tradition passed down through the ancestry of the Arondizougu clan emanating from Arochukwu in Abia state.”

“It is an annual festival of the entire Aro kingdom spread alongside the South-eastern part of Nigeria. The festival is an annual home coming ceremony and gathering of the Aron descendants from home and abroad to give thanks to God for making them see the New Year,” the group said.

They explained that the event is an eight day festival of merriment and spectacular display of masquerades coming out in their glamour to thrill the ever teeming crowd that converge on the village to witness the occasion, adding that of high interest amongst the masquerades is the pericoma, a masquerade known for its acrobatic displays.

“The first four days of the festival, the eke, oye, afor and nkwo are also named after the four native market days of Igbo culture. On the eke, everybody turns up in the market to buy and stock up their homes in preparation for the next day, oye in which all the livestock bought on the eke are killed and made ready for merriment and feasting on the afor and nkwo respectively. This merriment and feasting spans the remaining four days as visitors and dwellers alike go about from home to home participating in the feast,” the group said.

Addressing journalists on the forth coming event, organisers said it is multi-cultural, multi-racial festival and cuts across all gender. “Ikeji festival literally transforms the serene scene of village life to a commercial hub driving a swamp of tourists, researchers, fun seekers, businesses and brands to one location for eight days. “With adequate security in place for lives and properties, and the highly hospitable nature of the Aron people, Ikeji festival has become a festival of international repute and has inherent potentials to create further interest in Nigeria,” the organisers said.

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Baku hosts Fashion Festival

16 April 2014 – AzerNews – Baku Fashion Festival was held in Baku on April 13. Organized with the financial support of the Youth Foundation under the Azerbaijani President, the festival showcased the collections of 15 fashion designers (15-29 years old) in Excelsior Hotel.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, project manager Ismail Ismayilov expressed his appreciation for the support of the Youth Foundation, noting that the festival has contributed to the history of Azerbaijan’s fashion.

Every designer presented at least three dresses, which were appreciated by the jury that included staff of the Fashion Design faculty of the Azerbaijani State Academy of Fine Arts Sevil Aliyeva, Azer Aliyev, Svetlana Jafarova, and Fidan Suleymanova, and model Kamala Guliyeva.

All the participants received certificates, and those who took the first three places were awarded diplomas. Five people (designers and models among them) will be brought in to work at a film studio and fashion agencies on the basis of the agreement.

The project was aimed at developing fashion design in Azerbaijan, identifying and promoting young and talented artists and designers, and creating and strengthening links between them and well-known artists and professional designers.

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Azerbaijani movie joins Cannes Film Festival

17 April 2014 – TODAY.AZ – Azerbaijani film “Sonuncu” (The Last One) was for the first time included in the short film corner of the 67th Cannes International Film Festival.

The Ministry of Culture and Tourism told APA that the film, the co-production of “Azerbaycanfilm” studio named after Jafar Jabbarli and “Buta Films” company, was directed by Sergei Pikalov. The script writers of the film are Sergei Pikalov and Alexander Krasavin, photography director – Denis Madishev, art director – Aziz Mammadov, film producers – Mariya Ivanova, Nasib Piriyev and Mushfig Hatamov.

Idris Rustamov and George Gafarov starred the film, which tells the philosophical and edifying story about a veteran of the Great Patriotic War. The jury is headed by the Iranian director and screenwriter, winner of the “Palme d’Or” at the Cannes Film Festival in 1997, Abbas Kiarostami.

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Baku to host business forums with Czech Republic and Spain

19 April 2014 – TODAY.AZ – Baku will host Azerbaijani-Spanish business forum on April 24, according to a message from Azerbaijan Export and Investment Promotion Fund (AZPROMO).

The event will be held during a visit of a delegation led by Spanish Foreign Affairs and Cooperation Minister, Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo.

Spanish delegation will include representatives of business structures operating in various industries.

Aside from that Azerbaijani-Czech Business Forum will be held on April 25 during the visit of a delegation led by the Czech Republic’s Deputy Industry and Trade Minister, Jiri Havlicek.

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WB provides $ 50 mln to Yemen

Yemen News Agency – 19 April, 2014 – The World Bank and Yemen have signed an agreement to grant US$ 50 million to the Social Fund for Development’s project in Yemen.

The agreement was signed at the conclusion of official talks in Washington between Yemen and the WB over the Social Fund for Development (SFD IV) Project.

The agreement includes activating the infrastructure projects for the poorest societies in the fields of health ,water ,roads ,education and agriculture sectors.

The project aims to improve access to basic services, enhance economic opportunities and reduce the vulnerability of the poor.

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Travel industry forges new links at Riyadh fair

Arab News – 17 April, 2014 – Riyadh Travel Fair (RTF), a significant annual event where the leading travel and tourism companies from around the world gathers with exhibitors representing tourist promotion authorities at various levels under one roof for four consecutive days, opened to the public on Wednesday after its inauguration on Tuesday amid a colorful ceremony.

The travel fair, which is in its sixth year, is being organized by ASAS exhibitions.

Speaking to Arab News on the first visiting day Bander Al-Gryni, ASAS exhibitions general manager said: “We proudly announce RTF 2014 from Apr 15 to April 18 as the biggest travel and tourism trade show in the Kingdom specialized in B2C and B2B dealings after continuous successes since its inception in 2009.”

Representatives from different countries are participating in the mega fair to showcase and share their valuable inputs.

Participating with great enthusiasm in RTF 2014, Matthias Albrecht, director GCC for Switzerland Tourism told Arab News, said: “RTF convened in the Saudi capital, is considered as a significant annual event for the travel and tourism industry as the leading companies from the sector from the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) countries and around the world gathers here share their expertise as we reach some very good and quality customers as the fair offer direct opportunity for us to interact, to meet and share the experience without mediation from the travel and tour operators.”

He said as Switzerland is the most visited tourist attraction with tourists being drawn to its Alpine climate and landscapes, in particular for skiing and mountaineering. “We have decorated separate divisions to illustrate distinctive features for tourists and visitors.”

Sharing his experience Ahmed bin Al-Shaikh, overseas promotion manager, Sharjah commerce and tourism development authority said: “On the very second day of the four-day event, we have got very encouraging response from the visitors, customers as well as other exhibitors representing tourist promotion authorities and tourist companies at the GCC and international levels.”

He exuded confidence that the experience will be gaining moment for us with the overwhelming response over the next two days.

Jihad Hussain, managing director of the Gateway Malabar Holidays Pvt. Ltd. (India) said: “We are getting good response here as Kerala is a perfect destination for tourism, holidays, honeymoon, art, culture, tradition,health care, Ayurveda and meditation. We are getting very encouraging responses from the visitors and hopeful to attract more at such an important podium, where companies from around the globe participate.”

Sam Ratnayake, assistant destination manager, Sunway holidays, a destination management company for Sri Lanka and Maldives, expressed his delight and gratitude to be the part of the biggest travel and tourism trade show in the Kingdom specialized in B2C and B2B dealings. “Saudi Arabia is an emerging market that we are eagerly looking forward to develop a good customer base here,” he said.

Representatives from Turkey, Malaysia, other European and American countries are also participating in the RTF 2014.

Prince Turki bin Abdullah, deputy governor of Riyadh, opened the RTF 2014 on Tuesday.

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Etihad Airways increases flights to Mediterranean countries

Saudi Gazette – 17 April, 2014 – Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, announced on Wednesday it will boost frequency and capacity to Athens and Larnaca, adding depth to its expanding network, while enhancing connectivity over its Abu Dhabi hub.

“These increases in frequency and capacity demonstrate our commitment to build a global, connected network,” said Peter Baumgartner, Etihad Airways Chief Commercial Officer, after the announcement.

“In the case of Athens, our new flights will offer guests the choice of two different departure times to and from Abu Dhabi, and in the case of Larnaca, the additional flights will provide more choice and flexibility, as well as better connectivity over Abu Dhabi.

“The additional services will also support the growth of business and leisure traffic over Abu Dhabi, and offer travelers greater choice of destinations across the Gulf region, Indian subcontinent, Asia and Australia.

“It also means that by July 2014, nearly 90 per cent of Etihad Airways’ global passenger network will be served by a daily flight,” he said.

From July 2, Etihad Airways will increase frequency on the Abu Dhabi-Athens route from seven to 10 flights per week with the introduction of three new flights, which will provide passengers travelling to and from Athens with more choice and greater flexibility.

The new flights will also provide additional connecting opportunities with codeshare partner Aegean Airlines, which has separately announced that it will be commencing a direct service between Athens and Abu Dhabi from 28 May 2014.

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Flynas opens two flights a week from Riyadh to Luxor

Saudi Gazette – 17 April, 2014 – IN response to the growing demand for international travel from Saudi Arabia, flynas is continuing its comprehensive expansion program announcing two weekly flights between Riyadh and Luxor starting from April 4.

Currently flynas is operating flights between Jeddah and Luxor and the new route expansion covers two weekly flights from Riyadh to Luxor in response to high customer demand. Most recently flynas has expanded its operations to key Egyptian cities which reflects the importance of Egypt as a key market, in addition to the strong economic ties between Egypt and Saudi Arabia which has created this demand to provide new air travel solutions between both cities.

Raja Azmi, flynas CEO, said that adding the Riyadh-Luxor route to the flynas flight schedule comes as a response to customer requirements and the high appeal expected from this new route. This comes in line with its ambitious expansion plans in the Egyptian air travel market. Azmi also confirmed that flynas is continuing its expansion program by eyeing high demand destinations and converting them into new routes from and to Saudi Arabia.

flynas operates flights to six Egyptian destinations including Alexandria, Assiut, Sohag, Sharm El Sheikh, Luxor and Aswan. New flights between Riyadh and Luxor will allow Egyptian residents in Saudi Arabia more travel convenience via direct flights to the South of Egypt in addition to facilitating visits to the Holy Places by visitors from that region.

Raja Azmi added: “The continuous expansion of flynas network to serve more countries is an integral part the airline’s 20X20 strategy targeting 20 million passengers by 2020. This means expanding our customer base and providing flights that are comfortable, affordable and the highest standards of service.”

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Iran, UAE to establish joint business council

Tehran Times – 17 April, 2014 – Iran and the United Arab Emirates have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to establish a joint business council.

The MOU was signed on Tuesday at the presence of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and his UAE counterpart Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan at the end of the 2nd Iran-UAE High Joint Economic Committee meeting in Abu Dhabi.

The meeting was attended by representatives of public and private sectors of the two countries.

Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan said relations between the UAE and Iran are rooted in history and founded on a solid foundation based on mutual respect and cooperation and this has provided the opportunity to maintain the security and stability of the region under the leadership of the two friendly nations, according to a statement published by the UAE state news agency WAM.

“No doubt that there is a chance for the private sector of both sides for mutual investment once obstacles put into force by the commitment of international decisions are removed, providing frameworks and agreements upon which the commission shall start work immediately, and this will not be only limited to the fields of energy, food and pharmaceutical industries, as there are wider fields we can utilize, for example, financial services and energy. There are many ways for interchanging experiences between our countries, such as in the manufacturing, infrastructure, health-care and other fields.”

“The task before us is a significant one. It requires the coordination of financial, economic and legal legislations to facilitate cooperation and further develop mutual relations, especially in the private sector.”

For his part, Foreign Minister Zarif stressed the importance of using all the capacities to cement bilateral ties.

He called for further increase in trade between the two countries.

Referring to some 200 flights each week between Iran and the UAE, Zarif said this signifies the importance of relations between the two nations.

In January, UAE Economy Minister Sultan Al Mansouri said Emirati businesses would invest in hospitality and transport projects in Iran if Western sanctions against the country were lifted.

“Iran is a very important country for us,” he said. “The final outcome for the negotiations that are taking place right now is very important, whether for the UAE, the region, or the world. Iran is an important trading partner, and it has been historically.

“If the issues are resolved, we will be the first country that will benefit. This is very natural. (We will gain) what has been lost over the past few years.”

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First Iranian stock brokerage center opens in London

Tehran Times – 17 April, 2014 – The first Iranian stock brokerage center in London has been inaugurated, ISNA reported on Wednesday. Mehrafarin Brokerage Company has opened a branch in London as the first ever brokerage center in the UK.

Hassan Qalibaf, chief executive of the Tehran Stock Exchange, a number of British and German investors, as well as a group of Iranian entrepreneurs residing London attended the inaugural ceremony.

Iran’s main bourse is in talks to share its trading data with Thomson Reuters Corp. once the main sanctions on the country are lifted, according to the head of the Tehran Stock Exchange.

The discussions between the New York-based financial information company and the Tehran exchange are the latest evidence of how keen foreign companies are to enter the frontier market, if and when Iran is permanently reintegrated into the global economy.

Under a deal agreed late last year between Iran and six global powers, Western countries have already eased economic sanctions on Iran for the first six months of this year.

Hassan Qalibaf, chief executive of the Tehran Stock Exchange, confirmed a meeting had taken place with Thomson Reuters representatives on April 9 during a visit by its officials to London.

“They are interested in disseminating the trading data of the Tehran capital market,” he said, during an interview with The Wall Street Journal in London.

Qalibaf, who was accompanied to London by officials from some Iranian companies, said the group is seeking to attract foreign investment in companies listed on the exchange. Some Iranian petrochemical and copper companies are also considering a dual-listing in Europe, he said.

Dubai to deliver greenest Expo ever

April 15, 2014, Gulf News, Dubai: Dubai will deliver one of the most environmentally sustainable World Expos in history, according to Reem Al Hashemi, UAE Minister of State and managing director of Dubai’s Expo 2020 executive body.

“We are committed to delivering one of the most green expos ever and are looking at how we can design a site and a mechanism that is sustainable,” she said during the opening session of World Green Economy Summit on Tuesday in Dubai.

Shaikh Ahmad Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman of the Dubai Supreme Council of Energy, opened the World Green Economy Summit, which was held during the second day of Water, Energy, Technology and Exhibition 2014 (WETEX).

Under the title “Laying the Foundation for a Green Economy,” the World Green Economy Summit (WGES) is the first event based on improving the profitability of sustainability practices, products and services in the Middle East and North Africa region. It event aims to brings together world leaders who are united in pursuing a sustainable future and forging global partnerships that will lead to a green economy.

“Our aim is to make Dubai Expo 2020 a carbon neutral event by capitalising on available best practices and technologies,” Reem said. She added that sustainability has been central in the design and planning of the Dubai Expo 2020 project since the earliest stages of the bid.

“We have developed detailed targets and strategies for the design of infrastructure and buildings, focusing on demand reduction, use of alternative sources, reuse and recycling of energy, water, waste materials and supplies.”

This will apply before, during and after the staging of Expo 2020, she added. “Expo will be a catalyst for new initiatives and investments in sustainability. It will help advance the UAE’s objective towards a green economy,” she added.

Reem also said that Dubai want to be a centre of energy. “We have a strong hydrocarbon base, but relying on oil reserves has never been our strategy. 30 per cent of our country’s GDP is oil based, with less than five per cent in Dubai.”

The promise of a green, sustainable, and long-term form of energy has guided not just Irena but also the Expo campaign, she said. “To be able to do this, we need to start in advance, and we look to international partners to play their role. The legacy of our Expo site has to live beyond the six months of Dubai Expo 2020,” Reem added.

Saeed Al Tayer added during his keynote speech at the opening of World Green Economy Summit also touched on the UAE’s desire to develop sustainable energy. “According to Dubai 2021 energy strategy, we have to provide sustainable environment with comprehensive infrastructure to respond to the challenges of climate changes.”

He ensured the need to develop initiatives and adopt state-of-the-art technologies in order to use alternative and renewable sources of energy to secure energy requirements for social and economic development to realise the promising future.

“The UAE Vision 2021 aims to achieve balanced growth through a package of renewable sources of energy, including alternative, renewable and nuclear energy,” Al Tayer said.

“The World Green Economy Summit is an extremely important step towards driving the UAE’s development into a green economy, through investment, green partnerships and the creation of a global market for green products, technologies and services. This Summit will help us to achieve economic and social development as we seek to battle climate change, and form a road map towards a greener economy,” Al Tayer said.

Etihad signs interline agreement with Fiji Airways

April 16, 2014, Gulf News, Dubai: Etihad Airways said it is in negotiations with Fiji Airways following the signing of a interline agreement that was announced on Wednesday.

The agreement permits reciprocal sales from and to 12 cities in Europe, 17 cities in the Middle East, five cities in Africa, five cities in North America, 29 cities in Asia and three cities in Australia to and from Fiji. The two airlines will also interline on cargo operations, according to a previous statement.

“The agreement comes into place with immediate effect and is the starting point of further negotiations between the two airlines,” the airlines stated.

No further details were provided. However, Etihad has entered into a number of equity stake partnerships in recent years in Europe, India, the Seychelles and Australia. Etihad holds a minority stake in Virgin Australia, which flies to Fiji from Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne.

Etihad is currently holding due diligence talks with troubled Italian carrier Alitalia and is reportedly set to lift its stake and delist German carrier Air Berlin, which has twice postponed releasing its 2013 results due to recapitalisation talks.

Qantas, which has a code and revenue sharing partnership with Emirates, is a key shareholder in Fiji Airways.

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Indonesian E-passports to be implemented next year

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta, April 16 2014 – The Directorate General of Immigration has announced that it will implement the use of electronic passports next year.

The immigration intelligence director of the Directorate General of Immigration, Gatot Subroto, said one of the purposes of electronic passports was to minimize the use of fake passports.

“The Directorate General of Immigration has caught 100 fake passports users in Batam,” he said, adding that the device to detect fake passports was very expensive and could cost up to Rp 1 billion.

Gatot said that every airport in Indonesia had to stay alert because many fake passport users traveled through small airports.

Gatot added that the electronic passports would refer to an electronic identity card [e-KTP] database.

“To expedite the making of electronic passports, citizens have to support the use of the e-KTP,” he said, adding that residents in some areas did not have e-KTPs.

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Indonesia’s Radya Pustaka Museum reopens with better look, security

The Jakarta Post, Surakarta, April 16 2014 – One of Indonesia’s top museums, Radya Pustaka in Surakarta, Central Java, which is home to valuable archaeological artifacts and ancient manuscripts, reopened to the public on Tuesday after undergoing an eight-month facelift to revamp its look and improve security measures.

The head of the Radya Pustaka Museum committee, Purnomo Subagyo, said 16 CCTV cameras had been installed in strategic corners of the museum. However, he said that installing CCTV cameras was not enough as the museum still needed alarms and more security personnel.

“We will propose a budget amendment for security personnel and alarms,” Purnomo said. The existing alarm system has been connected to the local police station.

Security at Radya Pustaka has long been a concern following the alleged theft of rare exhibits over the years. In 2007, the museum was reported to have lost dozens of statues.

In the same year, five stolen statues were found in businessman Hashim Djojohadikusumo’s house in Jakarta. The statues were from the country’s Hindu-Buddhist era, allegedly part of a number of missing valuables taken from Radya Pustaka Museum.

The police detained four suspects, including museum curator KRH Darmodipuro, in connection to the case. The suspects said they had made replicas of the statues and put them in the museum before selling the originals to Hashim for more than Rp 500 million (US$43,754).

Forty-two ancient manuscripts were reported to have been stolen in 2009, while in 2011, a number of Radya Pustaka’s wayang (leather puppets) went missing from the museum after being replaced with replicas.

This was revealed after an inventory was taken by the Radya Pustaka puppet collection identification team, which found six pieces missing, five of which were from the collection of Pakubowono X of Kasunanan Surakarta Palace.

The team also found that eight rare wayang had been replaced with replicas.

Meanwhile, Purnomo said the committee would take regular inventories and authenticate museum pieces to deter theft, adding that in the future, not all of the museum’s collections would be displayed, especially old manuscripts.

Only those considered to have an important story would be on display. This, he went on, would make the museum’s collections easy to monitor.

Separately, Surakarta Tourism and Culture Agency head Eny Tyasni Suzanna said that the renovation of the museum was considered sufficient, although there was a possibility that further renovation work would be done in the future.

She said the Rp 3 billion ($262,524) renovation project was done in two stages. The first stage was renovating the museum’s interior, while the second was rearranging the collections and developing the office building.

Eny also said that her office would promote Radya Pustaka to lure more visitors. This would include distributing leaflets about the museum at hotels and other public areas.

A Canadian tourist, Johnny Adams, said he had listed Radya Pustaka as a must-visit place during his first trip to Surakarta, adding that he was impressed by the collections and the interesting arrangement of the exhibits.

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UNESCO Passes Resolution to Send Expert Mission to Jerusalem

PARIS, April 10, 2014 – (WAFA) – Palestine and Jordan, thanks to support from Arab and Islamic groups, successfully passed Thursday a UNESCO Executive Board resolution to send an expert mission to Jerusalem.

The expert mission is tasked with evaluating the situation of maintenance of the Old City of Jerusalem’s heritage and is required to submit a report along with recommendations to the World Heritage Committee slated to be convened in late June in Doha.

The resolution was overwhelmingly passed in the 194th session of the Executive Borad of the UNESCO that was kicked off Thursday in Paris. Delegations of England, France, Italy, Hungary and Spain voted in favor of the resolution, while only the US delegation voted against it.

Palestine and Jordan successfully issued several resolutions through the Executive Board and World Heritage Committee, calling upon Israeli authorities to cease all its illegal violations and stop accusing those concerned about maintaining the heritage of the Old City of Jerusalem of “politicizing the work of UNESCO and other international organizations.

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