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9 Mar, 2015

Japan’s Muslim-Friendly Environment Pulls Malaysian, Indonesian Tourists

A compilation of progressive, positive, inspiring and motivating events and developments in the world of Islam for the week ending 09 March 2015 (18 Jumaada al-Awwal 1436). Pls click on any of the headlines below to go to the story.




malaysia logo

Click on the image to get a full list of all the great festivals and events right across Malaysia this year.

The fabulous Malaysia Year of Festivals 2015, or MyFEST 2015, as will witness an endless celebration of festivals, events and happenings. MyFEST 2015 is set to make Malaysia the top-of-the-mind tourist destination, encouraging tourists to stay longer in order to enjoy the festival offerings nationwide. Themed “Endless Celebrations”, the year-long calender is packed with festivities of every genre; for instance cultural festivals, shopping extravanganzas, international acclaimed events, eco-tourism events, arts, music showcases, food promotion and other themed events. The Malaysia Year of Festivals 2015 campaign leverages on smart partnerships in line with the National Blue Ocean Strategy that nurtures stakeholders engagement, support and participation. The symbiosis enables Malaysia’s tourism efforts to be competitive and to remain one of the prime contributors to the socio-economic development of the nation. As Malaysia is blessed with various cultures, the new campaign seeks to showcase and celebrate Malaysia’s bountiful, diverse cultures and various festivities. The design for Malaysia Year of Festivals 2015 logo depicts a traditional musical instrument known as the Rebana Ubi. The drum is a musical instrument which can be associated with Malaysia’s multicultural society, in line with the spirit of 1Malaysia. Therefore, the logo design reflects an important part of the country’s heritage, traditions and culture.

For a full listing of all the great festivals, activities and events this year, pls click on this link


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.



Foreign friendship groups to attend Fajr Int’l Fashion Festival

Tehran, March 2. IRNA — Several foreign friendship groups are to participate in the 4th Fajr International Fashion and Clothing Festival in Tehran, an official said on Sunday. Secretary of the international section of the festival Mahbobeh Tavakoli said the friendship groups are from Brazil, Azerbaijan, UAE, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan and India.

Tavakoli added the friendship groups are invited to become acquainted with Iranian culture and life style.

The fourth edition of Fajr International Fashion and Clothing Festival will open at Tehran International Permanent Fairground on Mach 2. The event will end on March 7.

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Saudi Arabia donates one million dollars to Islamic Museum in Australia

01 Mar 2015, Melbourne, (IINA) – Saudi Ambassador to Australia and New Zealand Nabil bin Mohammed Al Saleh has announced that the Kingdom donated $ 1 million in financial support to the Islamic Museum in Australia.

The Saudi Ambassador handed over a check for the amount to the President of the museum Ahmed Alphahor in the presence of Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop during a ceremony to mark the first anniversary of the founding of the museum in Melbourne on Sunday.

For its part, Julie Bishop thanked the Saudi government for its contribution in support of the Islamic Museum in Australia, and praised the positive relations between the two countries.

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Int’l Award for Best Research about Imam Hussein (AS)

Tehran, March 2, IRNA – An international forum titled “The Best Research about Imam Hussein (AS)” is planned to be organized by the Astans (custodianships) of the holy shrines of Imam Hussein (AS) and Hazrat Abbas (AS) in Karbala, Iraq.

According to the website of the Husseini Astan, the scholarly program will take place in the lunar month of Sha’ban (May-June). It will be held on the sidelines of the 11th edition of “Rabi’ Al-Shahadah” international-cultural festival.

“Imam Hussein (AS), A Divine Mercy and Human Call” is the motto of this edition of the festival to be organized by the two Astans. The organizing committee of the festival announced the objectives and the themes of the international forum.

The academic event aims to introduce the greatness of Imam Hussein’s (AS) heritage for human beings as well as the universality of the heritage, cooperate in the publication of scholarly works about Husseini culture, develop research and boost relations among researchers and the Astans, and highlight the influence of Husseini culture in today’s life and the Muslim world.

Some of the themes of the forum include: jurisprudence of Husseini movement, causes of the continuation of Husseini movement, morality of war in view of Imam Hussein (AS), characteristics of Imam Hussein’s (AS) companions, features of a righteous leader, and universality of Imam Hussein (AS) in other religions.

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Joint Action On Sports By Gulf GCC Countries

DOHA, Qatar, Mar 5 (NNN-QNA) – Ministers of sports and youth in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states approved several proposals for joint action in sports and youth-related events, in their 29th meeting, held here.

They ratified the youth committee’s five-year plan of action (2015-2020), the training committee’s plan for 2015 and the GCC youth houses plan for 2016.

The ministers also expressed full support to Qatar’s hosting of the World Cup 2022.

During the meeting, the ministers gave the thumbs up to a Kuwaiti proposal for organising a cultural festival for GCC youth and assigned Kuwait to make necessary arrangements and set a date for the first edition.

They also agreed on a Saudi proposal to integrate some of the people with slight handicaps into the GCC youth events.

The conferees chose Italy to be the host of an event, to enhance interaction between Gulf youth and other world youth.

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Malaysia To Have Significant Presence At Spain Halal Congress

SINGAPORE, March 6 (NNN-Bernama) — Malaysia will have a significant presence at the inaugural Halal Congress in Cardoba, Spain, from March 24-26 with the participation of at least five high-profile speakers.

The event is to promote the Halal lifestyle as a global concept and a positive value that Muslims provide to society.

Isabel Romero, President of the Spanish Islam Authority (Junta Islámica) and chief executive officer of Instituto Halal (Spanish Halal Institute), the Congress promoter, said Malaysia had over the last decade, stood out as a country with the largest investments in human resources, training and marketing on the Halal concept.

“Several experts from the university and specialised professional schools will be present at the conferences, which is an unique opportunity to achieve agreements between the Instituto Halal, the University of Córdoba and local institutions regarding the training of professional experts in production, food and Islamic finance”, she added, in a statement here.

Through different panels such as International Standardisation of Halal Market, Halal Tourism and Preferred Destination, Halal Food or Banking and Islamic Finance, speakers from all around the world will analyse the current situation in the Halal industry.

The Malaysian speakers are Saim Kayadibi, deputy director of the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM), Sharifudin Md. Shaarani of the School of Food Science and Nutrition-UMS and his colleague Assoc Prof Mariam Abdul Latif, Daud Vicary Abdullah, Global University of Islamic Finance (INCEIF) president, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Rushdi Siddiqui, co-founder and CEO of Zilzar.com.

The choice of Cordoba as the Congress headquarters is not a coincidence as the Andalucian city has become the food, tourism and finance capital thanks to several initiatives carried out by the City Council and the Halal Institute,among others.

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Iran Medical universities to host foreign students

Tehran, March 6, IRNA — Around 1000 foreign students will be accepted to Iranian universities of medical sciences from next year (starts March 21) as per the policy of the ministry of health and medical education to attract foreign students.

“So far 100 Lebanese students have been admitted to medical specialties and subspecialties in Tehran University, Shahid Beheshti University and the University of Shiraz,” Amir Mohsen Ziaei, deputy health minister said.

The education expenses of the students are estimated at 200 billion rials ($5.8 million), he said and “a part of the expenses will be paid by the ministry, while the remaining by the students or the pertinent ministry in their home country.”

According to Ziaei, the ministry has granted certain authority to universities to harness foreign students besides simplifying various regulations. Additionally, the universities are ranked based on the number of foreign students, visiting professors, and collaborative research programs with foreign countries.

Tehran University of Medical Sciences is the leading university with 160 foreign students and programs in a number of specialties and subspecialties. In addition, 167 students have been granted scholarships; and many more are studying at other universities.

Also, among 14 students from Syria, 10 have been accepted with financial support from the ministry.

Pointing to the number of empty seats in universities, Ziaei stressed that higher education centers must create incentives for enthusiastic foreign students “as this will prevent closing education centers and at the same time generate revenue.” Currently there are 100 empty seats in medical subspecialties for foreign admissions, separate from the share of local students, he said.

An award will be granted to universities which implement the policy to admit foreign students in “an efficient and systematic manner.”

There have been many eager medical applicants from neighboring countries. “Students from neighboring countries will get priority over Islamic and other countries in receiving scholarships,” Ziaei added.

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Top 2014 films’ crew to be honored

Tehran, March 6, IRNA — The crew of top Iranian films screened between March 21, 2014 and March 20, 2015 will be honored in a ceremony on Monday.

Tributes will be paid to the film directors, producers and distributors. The event will also honor a number of directors and organizers of festivals such as Isfahan Children and Young Adults Festival and Fajr International Film Festival.

The event will be held at Ivan Shams Hall during which five films selected for screening this Nowruz (Iranian New Year), to begin March 21, will be shown.

The five films are: ‘Mad Face’, directed by Abolhassan Davoudi, ‘Iran Burger’ by Massoud Jafari-Jozani, ‘The Sweet Taste of Imagination’ by Kamal Tabrizi, ‘Rest’ by Abolreza Kahani and ‘Fox’ by Behrouz Afkhami.

The main cast and crew of the films will also attend the event. Three films pertaining to the Art and Experience Cinema Group will be unveiled the same day.

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Indonesia to build 10 maritime polytechnics

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta, March 06 2015 – The government is to build 10 maritime polytechnics in the next five years to support President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s vision of making Indonesia a world maritime axis, according to Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Indroyono Soesilo.

Speaking in Banyuwangi, East Java, on Friday, Indroyono said that the 10 maritime polytechnics would adopt international standards so that graduates could compete globally.

Regional administrations could also propose establishing maritime polytechnics, as long as they were able to provide a 10-hectare plot of land, he added.

Meanwhile, the head of the human-resource development agency at the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry, Suseno Sukoyono, said the government was ready to disburse Rp 1.5 trillion for the 10 maritime polytechnics.

This year three polytechnics will be established in Bone, South Sulawesi; Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara; and Karawang, West Java. Banyuwangi will see a polytechnic built in 2016.

Indriyono said that the government would also prepare 20 out of 150 maritime vocational high schools (SMKs) to meet international standards.

“We will pick the SMKs from Sabang to Merauke,” he said as quoted by tempo.co. “Human resources are the most important component.”

Indroyono added that the government would cooperate with the Financial Services Authority (OJK) so that diplomas from maritime SMKs could be used as collateral for bank loans. That way, he said, maritime-SMK graduates could get capital to start businesses. (nvn)(++++)

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Iran will host 7th Think-Tank Forum of Islamic Countries

Islamabad, March 7, IRNA – Iran will host the 7th Think-Tank Forum of Islamic Countries next year based on a decision made during the sixth round of the event held in Islamabad on Saturday. The event dealt with major security challenges faced by Muslim nations as well as ways to counter them.

Foreign Ministry Institute for Political and International Studies is to host the upcoming forum in cooperation with the Turkish Institute for Asian Strategic Studies.

Iranian secretary-general of Developing Countries D8, Mohammad Ali Mousavi, representative of Foreign Ministry IPIS Mostafa Dolatyar and faculty member of Ismam Sadeq (AS) University Mohammad Hassan Khani delivered lectures to the event in Islamabad.

Pakistan lawmakers, representatives from Turkey, Iraq, Afghanistan and ambassadors of some countries attended the forum in Islamabad.

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KAICAL stresses on projects to promote use of Arabic language

RIYADH: Sunday 8 March 2015, Riyadh — The King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz International Center for Arabic Language (KAICAL) is committed to stimulating scientific research and creating public awareness about the impact of language on all aspects of society.

To this end, KAICAL has designed a scientific work plan to create quality reading material on various topics that draw attention to them. “For the first phase of this project, the center has attracted 200 researchers, and has expanded their participation in the project at the international level,” said KAICAL Secretary-General Dr. Abdullah Al-Washmi.

According to Al-Washmi, KAICAL is still working on the completion of the first phase of this project, which includes thirty research projects in total. He said that specialist editors and a group of writers were chosen following a thorough recruitment process, in order to perform linguistic and scientific research for the endeavor. He said that the research tracks have been divided into several categories: Computing linguistics, media, education, child language learning, and more.

KAICAL has recently launched a plethora of learning materials in the form of books, such as Arabic language learning tools for kindergarten schools, Arabic language teaching directives in Asia, Arabic computer skills for research purposes, and the introduction of Arabic language curricula in leading Arab universities.

These books were released at the headquarters of the center in conjunction with the ongoing Riyadh International Book Fair. KAICAL also highlighted their efforts to launch these scientific publications for access by individuals and organizations who have worked in partnership with the center.

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Over 60,000 trees planted during Jeddah campaign

JEDDAH, 8 March 2015, Arab News — The people of Jeddah joined hands with the Jeddah Municipality in planting more than 60,000 plants and trees as part of the “Tree Planting Week” campaign. Friends of Jeddah, students and residents and several organizations — both government and private — volunteered to participate in the initiative to make Jeddah beautiful and keep it green.

Jeddah Mayor Hani bin Mohammed Abu Ras inaugurated the 24th Jeddah tree planting week with the plantation of trees and plants on Jeddah streets and neighborhood. The aim, he said, was to spread awareness about environment as also to increasing the amount of green spaces.

Mohammed Kattan, the general manager of the gardens and landscaping, told Arab News that the goal of the municipality is to maintain ecological balance and to increase the beauty of the city with fresh plants and flowers.

The municipality, he said, will use latest equipment in agriculture and landscaping, as well as shrubs and trees. All government agencies were involved in the second day of the campaign. Education Ministry officials and other staff members besides over 1,000 students joined the campaign the following day in the presence of Abdullah Al-Thaqafi, the director-general of education.

The municipality will distribute flowers and small plants in public hospitals, charitable organizations, and societies, as well as to the Autism Society of Jeddah at the conclusion of the campaign, he said.

Last year, 74 gardens were established totalling almost 370,000 square meters. This contributed to taking the total green area in Jeddah to 17.7 million square meters, indicating that the total number of parks in Jeddah Province reached up to 540, said the municipality in its latest report.

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Muslim Eid On New York Public Holiday Calendar

NEW YORK, Mar 5 (NNN-KUNA) – New York City has added the Muslim celebrations of Eid Al-Fitr and Eid Al-Adha, as public and school holidays.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor, Carmen Farina, announced yesterday (Wednesday) that, the nation’s largest school system will close for Eid Al-Adha next Sept. Summer school will also close for Eid-Al-Fitr in 2016.

“I am proud to say that, this now makes New York City the largest school district in the nation to take this action, so this is a historic moment for our country as well,” de Blasio expressed, at the PS/IS 30 Mary White Ovington School in Bay Ridge.

“The Muslim faith,” he added, “is one of the fastest growing in this nation and in this city, and many, many city students celebrate Eid Al-Fitr at the end of Ramadan and Eid Al-Adha at the end of the annual pilgrimage to Mecca. This is about respect for one of the great faiths of this earth.”

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LEAD STORY: Japan’s Muslim-Friendly Environment Pulls Malaysian, Indonesian Tourists

TOKYO, March 2 (NNN-Bernama) — Coupled with the weakening Japanese yen that gives visitors from ASEAN countries more purchasing power, Japan’s Muslim friendly environment has seen a substantial growth in inbound tourists, especially from Indonesia and Malaysia.

malaysia logo

Click on the image to get a full list of all the great festivals and events right across Malaysia this year.

Japan is currently among the top five main destinations of most member states of ASEAN, which is moving towards establishing the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), a regional economic integration by 2015.

ASEAN-Japan Centre’s (AJC) Tourism and Exchange Division director Dananjaya Axioma said the new trend was attributed to a growing interest from Asean countries partly due to the big progress for the Japanese side to host Muslim tourists.

He said educating Japanese tourism stakeholders on how to welcome Muslim tourists from Asean by having more awareness to provide better facilities had paid dividends.

“Malaysia has done such sessions… For example it is now easier to find Muslim facilities like prayer room which is available at Narita Airport here and restaurants providing halal food,” he told a group of Asean journalists on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) of Japan media programme here recently.

All 10 ASEAN member states and Japan are members of the Tokyo-based AJC, which was established in May 1981 aimed at enhancing economic partnership as well as vitalising tourist traffic between Asean and Japan among others.

He said Asean as an entity, comprising the six member states of Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, the Philippines and Vietnam, recorded 1,602,200 out of the total 13,414,000 tourist arrivals to Japan last year – an increase of 39.4 percent from 2013.

The figures did not include those from the four remaining ASEAN countries of Brunei, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar. Dananjaya, who is from Indonesia, said Muslims accounted for about 60 percent of Indonesian visitors and 40 percent for those from Malaysia, who had been granted free visas of up to 90 days’ stay.

Besides Malaysia, Japan has relaxed visa requirements for citizens from Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines and Indonesia since last July.

In addition to organising tourism and investment-related seminars in various localities in Japan in cooperation with local governments, he said AJC also distributed Japanese promotion materials in Thai, Malay and Indonesian languages that gave information on Muslim practices.

During the seminars, he said expert speakers would discuss how ASEAN tourism snf aviation would change after the AEC is created.

Meanwhile touching on Japan’s Muslim friendly stance, MOFA Foreign Policy Bureau National Security Policy Division deputy director Akiyama Kohei said the government and people understood the circumstances leading to the slaying of two Japanese hostages by the terrorist group, Islamic State (IS) in January.

He was asked if the incident, which also involved the beheading of a journalist, had caused a negative impression on Muslim countries in Japan. On the contrary, he said Japan would continue to enhance humanitarian assistance in the Middle East and support countries in the region to fight IS.

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Uganda To Promote Domestic Tourism Through Discounted Tours

KAMPALA, March 4 (NNN-NEW VISION) — In its commitment to promote domestic tourism this year, the Uganda Tourism Board, in partnership with the Uganda Safari Guides Association and Uganda Wildlife Authority, has started providing highly discounted domestic adventures around the country.

Edwin Muzahura, the head of marketing at UTB, said here Tuesday that the move is fueled by an overwhelming public demand and the positive reception of similar offers which defined Uganda’s tourism in 2014 such as Big Birding Day, circumcision festival in Mbale, Bishop Hanington Day and others.

Compared with a trip arranged on a private basis, Muzahura said the distinctive beauty of such offers was that they would be very pocket-friendly yet rewarding. Better still, the big advantage is that there will be professional tour guides to attend to participants and spice up their experiences.

In an interview with New Vision, Herbert Byaruhanga, the President of the Uganda Tourism Association, and also president of the Uganda Safari Guides Association, expressed optimism about the approach being an eye opener to many Ugandans thus demystifying the thought that exploring Uganda’s attractions is strictly an affair for foreign travellers.

In a move aimed at walking the talk, the initiative was flagged off last week with a four-day adventure around Karamoja region covering plenty of tourism experiences and attractions, including the Kidepo Valley National Park, the Karamoja trail in Kabong District and culinary experiences of the Luo people in Gulu, among others.

The event which was attended by conservationists, travel enthusiasts and tour guides was also used to give tour operators a first-hand experience of the park which is a multi-award winning destination across the continent.

Johnson Masereka, the area conservation manager of the Kidepo National Park, said the visit helped to broaden the knowledge of the tour operators thus giving them opportunities to market the tour from an informed point of view.

Kidepo is famed for its remoteness and huge concentration of wildlife, an explosive landscape of astonishing contrasts and plenty of endemic species. Kidepo is the only park in Uganda where you’ll find both the Rothschild giraffes and zebras.

During the experience, participants were also treated excellent chances of viewing species that crossover from Sudan such as the white eared cob, and birds like the black breasted barbet among plenty. The unexpected bonuses were the cheetah and leopard among other cats.

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Malaysia Retains Top Spot In Global Muslim Travel Index For 5th Consecutive Year

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia March 4 (NNN-Bernama) — Malaysia has retained the top spot in the MasterCard-CrescentRating Global Muslim Travel Index 2015 (GMTI) for the fifth consecutive year.

The index, published by electronic payment services provider MasterCard and CrescentRating Pte Ltd, took into account various criteria, including Muslim-friendly travel facilities and halal awareness and initiatives.

CrescentRating chief executive officer, Fazal Bahardeen, said the results reflected Malaysia’s aggressiveness in promoting Muslim travel worldwide.

“Last year 5.9 million Muslim travellers arrived in Malaysia from 5.7 million in 2014. This year we expect a five per cent growth,” he told reporters after the launch of the index here today.

Tourism Malaysia deputy director-general (promotion), Azizan Noordin, launched the index.

Bahardeen said the number of Muslim arrivals to Malaysia was expected to reach between 6.5 million and seven million visitors by 2020.

He said apart from the country’s active role in promoting Muslim travel, Malaysia was also a family-friendly destination and provided easy access to halal food.

“Muslim travellers are generally family travellers,” he said.

Azizan said based on 2013 statistics, West Asia travellers were recognised as the highest spenders with the longest span of stay and spent an average of RM7,724.70 throughout 8.3 nights.

He said tourist arrivals from West Asia into Malaysia surged to 353,955 last year from less than 20,000 in the late 90s. Azizan said the top three sources of visitors were Saudi Arabia (113,921), Iran (72,264) and Iraq (27,124).

Meanwhile, Bahardeen said, globally, Muslim travellers were expected to grow to 150 million visitors by 2020, accounting for about 11 per cent of the entire travel economy, with a market value of US$200 billion. Last year, he said, this segment was worth US$145 billion with 108 million Muslim travellers representing 10 per cent of the entire travel economy.

“There is a huge room for growth in the Muslim travel segment as the Muslim population made up 26 per cent of the global population,” he said.

GMTI, which covers 100 destinations worldwide, will provide travellers, governments, travel services and investors comprehensive benchmarks to enablethem to track the health and growth of the Muslim travel segment.

Among top five destinations on the index are Turkey, United Arab Emirates Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

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Bahrain Noor El Ain Festival: A Success Story

MANAMA, Bahrain, Mar 2 (NNN-BNA) – The Bahrain Noor El Ain Festival has achieved dazzling success in its first year. The festival included the novel souk “Amwaj Bazaar” in Amwaj Lagoon. The event attracted thousands of visitors and shoppers.

The invitation to participate in the bazaar received massive response. All available spaces have been booked by vendors and artists. The bazaar includes a multitude of events arrayed for the festival’s first, which proved to be a great success.

The activities include local products being sold by more than 40 vendors, free of charge physical fitness programmes on March 6-7 between 9:00 and 4:00 pm, arts and handicraft, design and business workshops, open cinema and live entertainment, the works of more than 30 participating artists.

The festival also includes local, Gulf, Arab international musicians, in addition to local musicians who play music throughout the weekend. The souk will see for the first time “tasting” tours upon request of shoppers and visitors.

The visitors will experience foods at more than 20 restaurants, coffee shops and cafeterias in the Lagoon area of Amwaj Island.

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UNESCO Welcomes Re-Opening Of Iraq’s National Museum In Baghdad

PARIS, March 3 (NNN-UNNS) — The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has congratulated Iraqi authorities for the 12-year effort to re-open the Baghdad Museum.

The museum, UNESCO noted, contains artefacts dating back 7,000 years as having “tremendous significance as a response to the deliberate destruction of the country’s other priceless pieces conserved in the Mosul Museum and those in the region of Nineveh.”

Established in 1926, the Baghdad Museum dedicated to documenting and interpreting the history of Iraq and its environs, through its collections comprising objects covering the past 7,000 years, according to the UNESCO.

“It has a tremendous significance as a response to the deliberate destruction of the country’s other priceless pieces conserved in the Mosul Museum and those in the region of Nineveh, by confirming the will of the Iraqi Government and support of the international community to highlight this iconic Museum as a defense against intolerance, ignorance and violence perpetrated on the testaments of a nation’s historical past, intercultural exchange and cultural diversity,” UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova said.

The opening of the museum in Baghdad came as the UN Security Council over the weekend denounced the “deliberate destruction of irreplaceable religious and cultural artefacts” housed in Mosul Museum in a statement that strongly condemned the “ongoing barbaric terrorist acts” committed by militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (IS).

Objects in the collection of the National Museum represent Sumerian, Akkadian, Assyrian, Babylonian and Islamic cultures, including in various media – including glass, pottery, metal, ivory, and parchment, according to UNESCO.

Having sustained extensive damage during the Gulf War of 1990- 1991, the museum was closed until April 2000, UNESCO said in a press release. The armed conflict in March 2003 and the subsequent looting of the National Museum in April led to the loss of many of its objects from its collections.

UNESCO said the Museum management staff has estimated the number of looted items to be at approximately 15,000, including 5,000 valuable cylinder seals. According to the National Museum, 4,300 objects out of the 15,000 looted from the Museum have been returned.

Since its closing, the Iraqi authorities and UNESCO have endeavoured to coordinate international assistance to revive the National Museum, with Member States, expert communities and partners.

“Thanks to funding from Japan, the museum laboratory was restored and specialized training for staff provided,” UNESCO said.

Among the major artefacts are the Sumerian sacred vase and the masque of Warka (4th millennium BCE), the head of an Akkadian ruler from Nineveh (ca.2250-2200 BCE), an Assyrian cuneiform slab from Nimrud (first half of 1st millennium BCE), a Babylonian terracotta lion (19-18th century BCE), and a stucco panel from Samarra (9th century CE).

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Oman Air To Launch Services To Goa

DUBAI, March 2 (NNN-PTI) — Oman’s national carrier will launch flight services to Goa and two other global destinations this month as part of its “ambitious programme of expansion”. Oman Air’s flight services to Goa from Muscat will be available four days a week while daily for Singapore starting March 29. Services to Dhaka will begin in August.

“The launch of these new services continues our ambitious programme of expansion and follows the highly successful December 2014 introduction to our network of services to Manila and Jakarta,” Chief Executive of Oman Air Paul Gregorowitsch said Sunday.

“We know there is strong demand for flights to each of these destinations. We are therefore very confident that the new services will prove extremely popular and I would encourage customers to book as early as possible,” he said.

Overlooking the Arabian Sea on the western coast of India, Goa’s unspoiled beaches, temples, mosques and wildlife sanctuaries, together with its Portugese-influenced Indian culture entwine to offer travellers a unique experience.

The airline’s new service to Goa will use Boeing 737 aircraft – a short to medium range twinjet narrow body airliner – between Muscat International Airport and Goa International Airport four flights per week.

Long recognised as one of the great global financial and commercial hubs, Singapore offers leisure travellers a wealth of attractions and activities. These range from some of world’s finest hotels and a vast array of restaurants, to nature reserves, historical buildings and Buddhist temples.

Oman Air’s new Airbus A330 service between Muscat to Singapore will operate daily.

The new service, operated using its flagship A330 aircraft, will offer four flights per week between Muscat International Airport and Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka.

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Malaysia To Host ASEAN Entrepreneurship Summit In Nov

KUALA LUMPUR, March 3 (NNN-Bernama) — About 5,000 Asean entrepreneurs are expected to attend the 1Asean Entrepreneurship Summit 2015 (1AES) here from Nov 20 to 22, 2015. Treasury Secretary-General, Dr Mohd Irwan Serigar Abdullah, said 1AES would provide the platform needed to build a better Asean.

“The 1AES, themed ‘Futuring Asean Entrepreneurs,’ will gather young entrepreneurs from across the region who will discuss how to venture into markets beyond their own countries and be world-class entrepreneurs,” Mohd Irwan Serigar said at a 1AES media briefing at the Finance Ministry.

A two-day programme, called Cradle Buzz, would also be held from March 20-21 in conjunction with the Asean Finance Ministers Meeting from March 19-21, he said. “Cradle Buzz aims to inspire Malaysian start-up companies on how they can take advantage of the abundant business opportunities in the region,” he said, adding the 27th Asean Summit would be held in Kuala Lumpur from Nov 19-21.

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Bahrain Has Over USD22 Bln Development Projects

MANAMA, March 3 (NNN-KUNA) — Bahrain will be carrying out giant development projects with a value exceeding USD 22 billion, Minister of Information Isa Al-Hamadi said Monday. Bahrain is continuing with its policy to lure and encourage investments, which Al-Hamadi said was a top government priority. The minister, in a statement following a cabinet meeting, said the projects would be developing sectors of real estate, industry, services, tourism and infrastructure. He said the private sector should be the main force of development in Bahrain.

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Traffic Boosted By Dubai Shopping Festival, Holiday Season

DUBAI,March 3 (NNN-WAM) — Dubai International has begun the new year with another record monthly traffic by welcoming more than 6.8 million passengers in January. According to the traffic report issued by operator Dubai Airports today, passenger traffic rose 7.7 per cent to 6,895,668 in January 2015, up from 6,400,706 in the same month in 2014.

This follows Dubai International’s performance in 2014 during which the airport welcomed 70.4 million passengers to claim the title of the world’s number one airport for international passenger traffic. “Considering that Dubai International is projected to welcome over 79 million passengers in 2015, there is no better way to begin a year than with a record month,” said Paul Griffiths, CEO of Dubai Airports.

Regionally, Eastern Europe remained the fastest-expanding market in terms of percentage growth* ( 71.9 per cent), followed by North America ( 16.9 per cent), the Indian subcontinent ( 12.2 per cent) and Asia (10.5 per cent).

Russia & CIS recorded fewer visitors with traffic dropping -22.7 per cent due to the political and economic instability in the region, while traffic on Australasian routes also registered a marginal dip of -1.6 per cent.

Routes to the Indian subcontinent (171,552 passengers), AGCC (115,317 passengers), and Western Europe ( 105,409) topped in terms of growth in passenger numbers.

Most markets were boosted in January by holiday traffic as well as visitors to the annual Dubai Shopping Festival. Aircraft movements totalled 34,643 in January 2015, up 6.2 per cent compared to the 32,625 movements recorded in January 2014.

Freight volumes at Dubai International continued the downward trend in January, contracting 5.5 per cent to 186,230 tonnes, from 197,021 recorded in January 2014.

The contraction is the result of a total of shift of cargo operations to Al Maktoum International at Dubai World Central since May 2014.

“The opening of Concourse D later this year will increase our annual capacity to 90 million passengers and make sure we can continue to accommodate the increasing number of travellers who choose to fly through DXB. It is also a strong endorsement for our $7.8bn SP2020 expansion plan which will allow us to remain one step ahead of our expected growth by increasing our capacity both on the ground as well as in the air,” Griffiths said.

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New Fish Drying Technology Boosts Livelihoods In Ivory Coast

ROME, March 3 (NNN-FAO) — – A new and easy-to-assemble fish drying technology pioneered by FAO is helping to reduce health hazards, improve food safety and quality, improve working conditions and cut down food losses in West African fishing villages.

Smoked fish is a vital source of food and income for many African coastal communities. In Côte d’Ivoire, for example, an estimated 20-30 percent of local marine and freshwater catch is consumed in smoked form, according to FAO.

A popular protein alternative, smoked fish is preferred by locals because of its taste, its nutritional benefits, its competitive prices compared to other protein sources such as milk, meat and eggs, and its long shelf-life which ranges from 3-6 months.

However, traditional kilns widely used to prepare this popular food item do pose some concerns.

“Traditional smoking techniques often involve a massive burning of wood which leads to a variety of problems. For one, an exorbitant amount of CO2 is produced, so the kilns produce more greenhouse gas pollution than they should. Also, traditional smoking releases contaminants known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are carcinogenic and hazardous to the human respiratory system,” says Yvette Diei-Ouadi, a fishery industry expert at FAO.

Traditional techniques also leave higher amounts of tar particles on the final product, affecting taste and quality – making it much more difficult to sell.

The new FTT (FAO-Thiaroye Processing Technique) technology – consisting of a dual functioning oven and mechanical drier, which also can act as storage unit – is especially designed to help small-scale fish processors like those in Abobodoumé prepare and market safe, high-quality food.

A result of five years of design improvements, FTT makes it easy to upgrade traditional ovens and is capable of significantly slashing the carcinogenic contaminants produced during smoking. At the same time, the technology reduces the amount of fuel needed and provides a load capacity five times greater than traditional barrel ovens or twice the Chorkor kiln.

“This is a system developed to address many aspects of fish smoking operations,” says Ndiaye Oumoulkhaïry, who worked on the FTT design. “In the first place stands the safety aspect – to secure consumers’ health and meet international food standards. Then there’s reducing post-harvest losses, and also curbing the drudgery of fish processors who are now least exposed to the heat and smoke.”

In Abobodoumé, for example, a village in Côte d’Ivoire, female fish processors took immediate liking to the new FTT additions. Among their favorites, a collection plate which traps dripping fish oils they can re-use for manufacturing soap or as cooking oil.

They are also glad to be breathing in far less contaminant-containing smoke. Different varieties of vegetable materials can also be burned, instead of just wood or coal. Coconut shells and husks, maize or even millet cob are just as effective in smoking fish and place far less pressure on the environment.

“We are extremely happy, because as of today, with the FTT, our conditions for smoking fish have changed,” says Deborah Oulou, an Ivorian woman fish processor.

“We are now working under hygienic conditions,” confirms Micheline Dion Somplehi, another woman fish processor in Abobodoumé. “The FTT-Thiaroye ensures less heat, burn and smoke exposure. Smoking operations do not pose risk anymore to the health of our eyes and of our respiratory system”.

Shorter processing times and reduced risk of burns or smoke-inhalation also mean these women can focus more time on their roles as mothers and caretakers.

Dion Somplehi says: “We have seen the advantage of saving time in fish smoking, and this is really important because in our communities, women are at the same time engaged in household chores – taking care of the children, working in the kitchen – while carrying out fish processing activities. We are even able to smoke in bad weather conditions.”

The new technology is proving popular in other African fishing nations as well, and its use is starting to spread in Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire, Tanzania and Ghana.

Development organizations like the Netherlands-based SNV is encouraging the use of FTT technology in Ghana as a way for small-scale producers to gain access to such lucrative international markets.

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Algeria passes law criminalizing domestic violence against women

Saturday 07 Mar 2015 – Algiers, (IINA) – Algeria’s parliament passed a law on Thursday criminalizing domestic violence against women, according to media reports. More than half of Algeria’s 462 members of parliament attended the vote in the capital city of Algiers yesterday.

The law also safeguards the financial interests of married women and introduces the concept of harassment. Under the law, any husband injuring his wife can be punished by up to 20 years in prison, depending on the extent of injuries, and allows a judge to hand down life sentences for attacks resulting in death.

It also provides for imprisonment of up to two years for any husband acting to “dispose of the assets or financial resources” of his wife. Between 100 and 200 women die each year in instances of domestic violence in Algeria, according to statistics published by local media.

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Direct Aid opens $1.5 million worth of projects in eastern Sudan

Thursday 05 Mar 2015 – Khartoum (IINA) – The Direct Aid Society inaugurated here on Wednesday a number of developmental projects in eastern Sudan in the framework of honoring pledges that were offered during the International Donors and Investors’ Conference on eastern Sudan hosted by Kuwait in December 2010.

In a statement to KUNA, Chairman of the Kuwait-based Direct Aid Society Dr. Abdul Rahman Al-Muhailan said that the projects, estimated to cost up to $ 1.54 million, include building dispensaries, schools, as well as water stations in two areas in eastern Sudan.

These projects constitute the first phase of the society’s aid, with a total cost of $ 5 million for developing eastern Sudan, Al-Muhailan noted. The opening ceremony was attended by a number of senior officials of the two areas, in addition to several leaders of voluntary Arab and Islamic organizations working in Sudan.

The conference on eastern Sudan, hosted by Kuwait on 1-2 December 2010, resulted in funding pledges of around $ 3.5 billion to the post-conflict reconstruction of the region, including $ 500 million from Kuwait.

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UAE’s new ‘Museum of the Future’ project launched in Dubai

Thursday 05 Mar 2015 – Dubai (IINA) – UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum on Wednesday launched the new “Museum of the Future” project that will actively produce futuristic inventions and support the UAE’s mission to be a global innovation engine, Emirates News Agency (WAM) reported.

As well as providing a permanent home for the world’s greatest innovations, the Museum will work to stimulate and incubate imaginative solutions to the challenges of future cities. It will bring together the brightest researchers, designers, inventors and financiers under one roof. This integrated environment will empower these creative minds to test, fund and market their ideas for futuristic prototypes and services.

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Italian city plans an Islamic university

Thursday 05 Mar 2015 – Lecce, Italy (IINA) – Plans are underway to build a large Islamic university in southern Italian town of Lecce.

Giampiero Khaled Palladini, a Muslim convert and the president of Confime, a confederation for Mediterranean businesses, is behind the project. Palladini believes that this project could become “an instrument for peace” in the town of Lecce which is proud of its openness, Russia Today reported.

“This project is aimed at removing prejudice against Muslims and become “an instrument for peace” in the town. We need something that could help change people’s attitudes towards being Muslim,” he told The Local newspaper.

On Saturday, Palladini announced that the project has been registered and land was obtained on the outskirts of Lecce to build the campus, which will include accommodation, sports facilities and a mosque.

Regarding the funding of the project, Palladini has not yet revealed any exact sources but says they are mostly private donors from Arab nations, including Qatar and Kuwait. He said he already had secured a number of pledges for the needed €45 million to launch the university.

The university with a capacity for 5,000 students would teach philosophy, literature and theology.

The university will be created on similar model to that of the Catholic University of Milan and will be open to students from both Italy and abroad. Though it still needs accreditation from the Ministry of Education, the first 50 applicants have already enrolled in Arabic language and Islamic theology courses.

The founders of the project are going ahead with the plan despite some disagreements among the local residents about establishing such a university.

Speaking at the launch ceremony, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid said President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan has declared 2015 to be the year of innovation in the UAE. “Today we show how serious and committed we are to that mission by turning the UAE into a major international destination for innovators,” he added.

The motto of the Museum, which will be opened in 2017 in the Emirates Towers area near Sheikh Zayed Road in Dubai, is “See the future, create the future” that reflects a new approach to government innovation.

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Kuwait to host women empowerment summit

Thursday 05 Mar 2015 – Kuwait City (IINA) – Kuwait will host the “International Women Day .. towards Empowerment” Summit on Sunday, with the participation of around 600 personalities from across the globe, KUNA reported.

Bashayer Al-Awadi, head of the steering committee, said at a news conference held here on Thursday that the participants would tackle diverse issues, namely impact of mounting extremism and “Arab spring” events on women status in the Arab countries. She noted that the summit will be wrapped up with the issuance of some recommendations to be included in Kuwait’s development strategy.

The summit aims to make women’s voices heard around the world, Al-Awadi said, as well as rendering Kuwait City “the capital for women in 2015. She added that efforts will be made to “attain this title officially”. A statue will be erected at the conference venue to symbolize the summit logo, which will be adorned with the signatures of the participants to express the sentiments of admiration toward the Kuwait’s Emir, the “Humanitarian Leader,” she added.

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Turkish students on mission to counter negative image of Islam

Saturday 07 Mar 2015 – Istanbul, (IINA) – As many as 30 Turkish students have come together to shoot a video in 16 languages to challenge what they say is a “wrong” perception of Islam, Journal of Turkish Weekly reported. The initiative is in the wake of anti-Muslim backlash in the West following January’s attack on Charlie Hebdo and anti-Semitic murders in France,

Using verses from the Holy Qur’an and Hadith (the Sayings of Prophet Mohammad), students from the Faculty of Theology at the Istanbul-based Marmara University traveled to countries across Europe and North America, during a 15-day trip and talked about Islam in 16 languages in front of the camera.

The video starts as saying: “Muslims will not respond to attacks made against the Prophet with methods not approved by him or his teachings.”

“‘Mercy’ and ‘Compassion’ start off 113 of 114 chapters of the Quran with praise to Allah as ‘the most gracious and ‘the most merciful’. The Quran does not encourage terror,” it adds. It was also stressed that Islam forbids tyranny, oppression and aggression and defends the rights of everyone including non-Muslims.

“Some people in the West do not know anything about Islam. They do not know our Prophet and do not have any idea about our lives. They suppose that women are living under pressure because of our beliefs,” says Suheyla Oruc, 21, a first-year student from Marmara University. “That’s why we conducted this project,” she adds.

“The most effective way to say there is no connection between Islam and terrorism was to talk about mercy and our Prophet’s sayings,” says Rumeysa Hatice Uludogan, a second-year student who edited the video. “We have actually done nothing extra. We’ve just showed whatever Islam is.”

The students are hopeful about their project: “We hope people will hear our voice through this video and change their wrong views about Islam,” Oruc says.

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Japan approves $ 3 million grant for Afghan road project

Tuesday 03 Mar 2015 – Kabul (IINA) – Japan has approved a $ 3 million grant to Afghanistan for a project which will improve the country’s main north-south road corridor transport route, a diplomatic source at the Embassy of Japan in Afghanistan said.

The agreement for the preparatory facility for the Salang Tunnel Project was signed recently between Hiroshi Takahashi, Ambassador of Japan to Afghanistan and Thomas Panella, Asian Development Bank’s (ADB’s) Country Director for Afghanistan.

The funds will be used to carry out a geotechnical survey, feasibility study, and detailed design for a new alignment, including a tunnel, along the Salang road corridor. The 70-kilometer section of the corridor to be developed connects Jabul Seraj to Khinjan, north of Kabul, and is part of a key north-south road route.

ADB will carry out the project preparation work in close cooperation with the government of Afghanistan. Japan has been providing development support to Afghanistan in many areas including security, health, culture, humanitarian assistance, education, agriculture, infrastructure and capacity development. Cumulative Japanese assistance to Afghanistan since 2001 totals $ 5.78 billion.

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Pact to promote Moroccan tourism in France

Tuesday 03 Mar 2015 – Paris, (IINA) – The Moroccan tourism office (ONMT), the national tourism confederation (CNT) and the French Union for tour operating companies (SETO) signed, on Monday in Paris, a partnership agreement to promote Morocco’s destination in France, Moroccan World News reported.

The agreement, signed by ONMT head Abderrafie Zouiten, CNT President Abdellatif Kabbaj and SETO President René-Marc Chikli, touches on fostering communication with French tour operators on Morocco’s rich and diversified tourist offer.

Zouiten noted that the ONMT will invest, under this partnership, over 20 million dirhams starting this month in communication campaigns on TV and radio channels to highlight Morocco’s assets.

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Abu Dhabi to highlight halal tourism at ITB Berlin

Tuesday 03 Mar 2015 – Abu Dhabi, (IINA) – Abu Dhabi is poised to become a leading destination for Halal tourism and is heading to ITB Berlin (Internationale Tourismus-Börse Berlin) in Germany to highlight its credentials and opportunities to leading tour operators at the event, according to media reports.

A trade mission, led by Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi), will be at the German trade show from March 4 to 8 with a 90-strong portfolio of the emirate’s leading hotels, destination management companies, resorts and tour operators.

The agency noted that Abu Dhabi is poised to become a leading destination for Halal tourism, a fast emerging concept in the tourism industry that offers a range of holiday packages adhering to Islamic beliefs and practices, with TCA Abu Dhabi already adopting a Halal travel strategy.

“Abu Dhabi is firmly rooted in Arabia’s Islamic traditions and we believe our culture, heritage and product base has great appeal with the Muslim traveller,” said Mubarak Al Nuaimi, director promotions and overseas offices, TCA Abu Dhabi.

In total 18 itineraries are being marketed under three sections: Family Friendly Fun, Cultural Enlightenment, and Resorts, Restaurants and Relaxation. The itineraries are outlined in a brochure, which will be launched at ITB Berlin and will be distributed worldwide across TCA Abu Dhabi regional offices.

The global market is estimated to be worth US$140 billion, rising to US$192 billion by 2020, according to the CrescentRating agency.

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Lufthansa starting flights to the Maldives in December

Sun.mv – March 6, 2015 – CEO of Lufthansa Airlines, Carl Ulrich Garnadt says that Lufthansa will have direct flights to the Maldives from Germany starting this December. Speaking at a Lufthansa press conference at the IBT fair in Berlin, the airline’s CEO said they will have two flights a week to the Maldives.

Mr. Garnadt says that Lufthansa would be using a plane of 1200 capacity in these flights. Lufthansa is the biggest airline in Germany. An official from MMPRS said the number of German tourists to the Maldives would increase with the Lufthansa flights. Germany is the biggest market for European tourists to the Maldives. Last year alone, over 5000 German tourists visited the Maldives.

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Temples of Side in Turkey proven to be a prophecy center

ISPARTA – Doğan News Agency – An Omphalos stone, which has been found in Manavgat, a town in the southern province of Antalya, has proven the region was a prophecy center. Isparta Süleyman Demirel University Professor Mehmet Özhanlı said his further examinations of the stone have confirmed this fact.

The Omphalos stone was found during excavations in 2001 in the ancient site of Side in Manavgat’s Side neighborhood. The original of the stone is made of meteor and it has many marble copies. The stone found in Side, which is one of these copies, is on display at the Side Museum.

Özhanlı, who has been working on the stone since 2007, also made studies in Germany about the stone. He said that as a result of his work, it was documented that Side was the center of prophecy. “This stone was found in prophecy centers only and was considered holy,” he said.

The professor noted the Omphalos stone was built in the center or top of a temple and the prognosticator of a temple took their power from this stone. The nearly 40-centimeter high stone has a snake description on it, as well as other ornamentations.

“Since the 7th century B.C., Side has been the only gate opening to the Mediterranean. There is another temple right next to the temples of the Goddess Athena and the God Apollo. The stone, which was found in the excavation carried out in Side Büyükhamam, showed us that the temples of Side had other functions; people did not go there to worship only, as it was also the center of prophecy. Our studies revealed that Side had a female prognosticator and this woman made prognostications in the Temple of Apollo. Side was a significant source of income in the ancient era. The existence of such a holy stone in Side, which is one of the most popular tourism spots in Turkey, and the making of prognostications in the temples will contribute to tourism,” said Özhanlı.

The professor said Omphalos was a Greek word, and continued: “Om means center and ‘phalos’ means navel, which is the center. If we compare it to humans, the navel is the center of a human. Humans are tied to life with the navel. Omphalos symbolizes this. It symbolizes that it is the center of the world. It is one of the things that many cities want to have. The most recognized ancient city in the world is the ancient city of Delphi in Greece. Anatolia is home to various places such as Didim, Claros, Patara and of course we can mention Side among them. We see that these stones were considered holy until late periods. In the ancient age, the place of this stone was considered the center of the world.”

What is an Omphalos stone?

Since the ancient ages, human beings have always been curious about the shape of the world, where its center is, and where they live. In order to understand it, they have created myths. In one of the ancient sources about the center of the world, the world is in the shape of a tray surrounded by oceans and Omphalos is the navel, the center of this tray. To understand the center of the world, Zeus sent two eagles across the two sides of the tray and they met at the Omphalos stone. And the area of this stone was considered the center of the world.

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Turkish OKs bank to launch Islamic unit

ANKARA – Hurriyet Daily News – Turkey’s third-largest state-run bank Vakıfbank received regulatory approval yesterday from banking watchdog BDDK to establish an Islamic banking division, the Official Gazette has announced. The bank will need to own a capital of $300 million. With the approval, the bank has nine months to establish its banking unit according to Turkish law.

Turkey has four non-state Islamic banks including Albaraka Türk, Bank Asya, Turkiye Finans and Kuveyt Türk. State-run Ziraat Bank and Halkbank also received regulatory approval to establish an Islamic unit a couple of months ago. Islamic banks are also called participation banks in Turkey, as they do not collect interest, but share the profit or loss of their borrowers.

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Antalya top convention tourism destination in Turkey

ISTANBUL – Hurriyet Daily News – Turkey’s Mediterranean province of Antalya, an international tourism destination with numerous facilities, has become the country’s leading convention tourism city, according to a sector representative. Some 24.3 percent of convention and event managing companies pick Antalya, said Volkan Ataman, the general manager of Turizm Medya Grubu, at the ACE of M.I.C.E. Exhibition in Istanbul last week.

Istanbul follows behind with 22.9 percent, while Ankara and İzmir are the other two most-preferred destinations in the country with 14.2 percent and 12.9 percent respectively. Antalya, one of the top sun-and-sea tourism destinations in Turkey, is aiming at diversifying its tourism revenues.

Turizm Medya was the host of the ACE of M.I.C.E. Exhibition, a major event for the meeting, incentive, congress and exhibition sector, backed by the Association of Turkish Travel Agencies (TÜRSAB).

Some 262 participants from 25 countries participated in the exhibition this year, which points at a 41 percent growth from a year earlier, Ataman said. The number of professional visitors is estimated at around 13,000.

The sector’s companies agree their largest problem is unearned revenues, according to Ataman.

May is the busiest month for event planners in Turkey, while July is the weakest link, he said. According to study presented by Ataman, costs are the leading criteria in revenue decisions of companies with 54.3 percent, while capacity and quality of the facilities rank second with 18.6 percent.

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Ottoman-era opera on Ankara stage

ANKARA – Anadolu Agency – The State Opera and Ballet (DOB) has brought the opera “I Puritani” (Love and Pride), which made its premiere in 1846 during the Ottoman era, to the stage once again. Gürçil Çeliktaş, the producer of the opera, said that “I Puritani” made its world premiere in Paris and its Ottoman premiere in Istanbul. “The Republic-era premiere of the opera was held on Feb. 21 in Ankara this year,” he said.

Çeliktaş said that the opera’s libretto was written by Carlo Pepolli and it was originally a three-act opera. “We have removed some parts and made it more flowing. It was reduced to two acts,” he said. He said that as well as love and pride, the opera features historical events, adding that the preparations took four months.

“I Puritani” boosted the fame of Vincenzo Bellini, one of the most important representatives of romantic Italian opera, especially in the Bel Canto style, Çelikaş said. “The opera tells the love story between Arturo Talbo, a supporter of the Stuart monarchy during the English civil war, and Elvira, the daughter of Puritan Governor Lord Gualtiero Valton,” he said.

He said the four main characters in the work, soprano Elvira, tenor Arturo, baritone Riccardo and bass Giorgio, were called the “Puritani Quartet” by the world’s opera companies.

Çeliktaş said that because of its music, “I Puritani” was hard work.

“The opera is being staged by the DOB for the first time. Its Ottoman-era premiere was made in 1846 at the Istanbul Naum Theater by an Italian opera company. The music of the opera is in the Ben Canto style, which is entertaining but difficult. Bel canto means beautiful singing in a certain style. The soloist’s culture, personality, breath and virtuosity should be added to this style,” he said.

The opera will be performed by ADOB in March and April.

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Selçuk hopes to lure tourists with historic churches

İZMİR – Anadolu Agency – The town of Selçuk, in the western Turkish province of İzmir, which hosts around 2.5 million tourists visiting the nearby ancient site of Ephesus every year, is hoping to improve its faith tourism potential and draw more tourists.

Selçuk Mayor Zeynel Bakıcı said Ephesus was one of the most important centers for the Christian world after Jerusalem, and the nearby Virgin Mary House and four churches currently drew the most tourists to the town.

However, despite the large number of holy places in the town and its Biblical resonance, Selçuk currently does not see a high enough share from faith tourism, Bakıcı added.

“Even the village of Fatima in Portugal, where the Virgin Mary was seen by three shepherd children, hosts more tourists than Selçuk. Fatima has a population of 10,000 people and hosts 5 million tourists a year. Selçuk, which is home to the world famous Ephesus, hosts only 2.5 million tourists. We are therefore working to promote the town better, and we have initiated works in collaboration with the municipality,” he said.

Bakıcı said their goal was to open all churches in the town to worship, and the first step was taken by opening the Dimitrios Church in the nearby Şirince Municipality.

A “Virgin Mary Feast” is held at the Virgin Mary House in Selçuk every year on Aug. 15 by the Catholic society living in the town, while a Saint John Feast was held at the Saint John Basilica last year on May 8.

Bakıcı said annual festivals were held at the historic Sümela Monastery in Trabzon and Cappadocia in Central Anatolia every year, and organizing such events might also increase interest in Selçuk.

“Last year, May 8 was the day of the Prophet Muhammad’s ascent to heaven (Miraç Kandili). On May 8 last year, a feast was held at the Saint John Basilica in the daytime and the kandil was celebrated in the İsabey Mosque, 50 meters away from the basilica, on the same night. After this special day, we thought the basilica should host such feasts all the time. We want to organize traditional feasts at the Saint John Church, just like in Sümela and Cappadocia,” he said.

“We invited Greek Patriarch Bartholomew for the first feast and he was positive about it. We would expect many tourists from many countries, especially Greece and Russia, to come for such feasts. This would make a great contribution to the town,” Bakıcı said, adding that discussions were ongoing.

The Saint John Church, one of the seven churches mentioned in the Bible, is in Selçuk’s ancient city of Ephesus. Two apostles of Jesus, St. Paul and St. John lived in this region for some time. St. John, who was one of the four writers of the Bible, spent his final years in Ephesus. He is also known as the only apostle who died a natural death among the 12 apostles.

It is believed that the tomb of St. John is in the Saint John Basilica, located in the Ayasuluk Castle. A six-dome basilica, which was built on this tomb in 575 A.D., and is one of the largest structures at the time, is thought to have collapsed during an earthquake between 1365 and 1370.

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Indonesian Museum to create virtual tour with Google

3 March 2015 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – The National Museum of Indonesia is collaborating with internet giant Google to enable internet users and digital visitors to explore Southeast Asias foremost largest museum through Street View technology using 360-degree images.

Promotion Staff of the National Museum of Indonesia Ferlian Putra stated here on Tuesday that a field team from Google Street View has been collecting data and images at the museum complex for several days.

The data capture process was part of the collaboration between the National Museum of Indonesia and Google for the Google Art Project, an online platform through which the public can access high-resolution images of artworks and cultural and historical artifacts in galleries and museums around the globe.

“A museum could no longer be viewed as a national heritage, but it also belongs to the international society. People can view things globally. It is also a means to reach out to the world that the international society can enjoy and laud our heritage,” Putra noted.

Using Google Street View, the National Museum can provide the users a “different experience” in exploring the museum through a program called virtual touring that can be accessed through its official website “www.museumnasional.or.id.”

“Using the Street View, we might alter the peoples perspective and stigma about museums. Now, museums are places that have aesthetic values and are attractive,” he said.

Since 2011, the National Museum of Indonesia has joined the Googles Art Project and has now become the Google Cultural Institute.

Of the around 140 thousand items in the collections at the National Museum, only 100 have been uploaded in the Art Project.

To gather data and images at the museum complex, the Google Street View team did not use its Google Street View Car, but instead deployed a cart equipped with data-capturing equipment such as a sophisticated computer, laser scanner, and a 360-angle camera. “We call this cart the special collect,” remarked a field officer of Google Street View.

The images and data collected at the National Museum of Indonesia will also be incorporated in the Google Maps feature. Google Street View is a technology featured in Google Maps and Google Earth that provides panoramic views from positions along several streets in the world.

It was launched in 2007 in several cities in the United States and has since expanded to include cities and rural areas worldwide.

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Somaliland’s New Airport Terminal completed

Addis Fortune (Addis Ababa) – 2 March 2015 – TACON completed the airport as well as the fence while turning a mere three million Br profit for a year’s work.

Tekleberhan Ambaye Construction Plc (TACON) has completed the construction of its first out-of-country contract of Berbera International Airport terminal and 12Km perimeter fence at a cost of 80 million Birr in Somaliland gaining a profit of only three million Br.

The construction, which began a year ago, was finalized in a joint venture between the Ethiopian construction company, TACON, and a Somaliland construction company known as Afro-sino constracting & Investment Company.

Tekleberhan, which has more than twenty years of experience in the construction sector, is a Grade 1 contractor. It has done the construction projects of Jimma University, Mekele University, Oromia Region president’s office, Gambella Region Technical and Vocational Training College, and now the civil works of the Yayu fertilizer factory, which is the first in the country located in the Oromia region Illubabor Zone.

The contract was awarded to the Ethiopian company in 2012 and the construction took one year, which had lagged back because of construction materials supply shortage in the area and the lack of trained human resource in the vicinity, explained Habtamu Mengiste (Eng.), TACON’s deputy CEO of engineering and construction, on a phone interview with Fortune.

“This is our first project out of Ethiopia and it has given us a lesson on how to handle projects with other countries’ companies,” he said.

The company, which won the tender for 83 million Br, completed the construction of the terminal and the fence, spending 80 million Br for the whole construction.

The terminal has different facilities within it. Checkpoints for baggage, security checks, public address equipment, communication equipment, baggage transfer, scales that can measure up to 200Kg, water tanker, and asphalt road to the runway.

There were a total of five companies that were in the bid with TACON for the construction. The first is another company from Ethiopia called Akir Construction Plc while the rest are foreign companies. The design of the project was done by two companies from India and Kuwait called International Consultants Technocrats and Marco construction.

The terminal that was built rests on a 3,200sqm land while the length of the fence constructed was 12Km. The Berbera airport has a 4.1Km runway. The runway was built by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR) in the mid-1970s in order to counter the United States’ military presence in the region.

“The major challenges of the construction were the temperature in the area, which gets harsher in the period between June and September and the absence of human resource in the country, forcing us to take people from Ethiopia,” Habtamu said. “We were also working during the night because of the temperature.”

TACON gets its name from its founder and General Manager, Tekleberhan Ambaye (ENG.).

In addition to the Berbera airport, there are other additional airports in Somaliland at Hargessa and Baroma, the latter being an international airport.

Somaliland’s Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) offered the contract for the construction. The inauguration of the terminal was officially attended by Somaliland’s President, Ahmed Mohamed Mohamoud Siilaanyo and officials from Ethiopia, Djibouti and Yemen, according to media sources in Somaliland.

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Nigeria Commits to Make Abuja a Tourist Destination

Leadership (Abuja) – 2 March 2015 – The Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Senator Bala Mohammed, restated the federal government’s determination to make Abuja a tourist destination in Africa. The minister disclosed this when investors in the Abuja City Centre project made an in-depth presentation to the FCT Administration’s team at the Banquet Hall of his residence in Abuja.

He said that President Goodluck Jonathan is working round the clock to earnestly kick-start the development of the Abuja City Centre, which will cost $3.5 billion, about N700 billion, before May 29, 2015. He stressed that the project is one of the milestone achievements of the Transformation Agenda of the president in the FCT.

“The federal government under President Jonathan is determined to make Abuja a tourist destination in Africa and that is why the development of the 17 hectares of this prime land is on the front burner of the government.

“The Abuja City Centre would be a mixed-use development that has the capacity to generate about 10,000 jobs with its multiplier effect on the economy of the entire country,” he said.

He disclosed that the FCTA would enjoy 5 per cent equity shareholding in the project being a special purpose company incorporated to own and operate the Centre, while the Abuja Investment Company Limited would hold such share in trust for the administration.

According to him, “The land premium as well as the development control charges accruable to the FCTA would be used as its equity contribution to the project. In addition, the investors would construct a national mall at the cost of $40million at no cost to the administration.”

Earlier in his presentation, executive director of Africa Eagle Hills, Abu Dhabi, Jaimal Shergill, said the project comprises of four international hotels, residential houses, offices, shops as well as condominium which would further stimulate economic activities not only in Abuja but in the entire West Africa sub region.

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Cultural Tourism Engagement to Unite Nigeria, Cyprus

The Guardian – March 1 2015 – THE inauguration of the Oodua Progressive Union (OPU) in Cyprus may have opened new vistas of opportunity for both Nigeria and Cyprus in the area of culture and tourism.

OPU, an association concerned with the activation of Yoruba socio-cultural renaissance worldwide and the promotion of tourism assets of the Yoruba nation, has embarked on the mission to sensitise the Yoruba in all walks of life of the need to embrace their culture and customs.

In a visit to Cyprus recently, the OPU leader, Otunba Gani Adams inaugurated a branch of the social-cultural organization and drew the attention of the Cyprus authorities to the gains it can share with Nigeria.

OPU leader who was in North Cyprus with a delegate of members of OPU including Zaki of Arigidi-Akoko, HRM Oba Yisa Olanipekun; the Olu of Igbore, HRM Oba Adeogun Ogunbona; CEO, Intl. School of Aviation, Capt. Olatokunbo Adesina and Prince Segun Akanni called the attention of the Mayor of Famagusta, Mr. Ismail Arter to two key areas where Cyprus and Nigeria could engage in mutually beneficial enterprise and relationship.

“I have noticed that North Cyprus is a heaven of tourism and agriculture. There are a lot of engagements which both Nigeria and Cyprus can gain from each other if these two sectors are looked into. Our cooperation in this area will go a long way to quicken the relationship between the two countries.”

In his response, Mr. Arter said the visitation by the OPC leader has opened a new vista in the relationship between Nigeria and |Cyprus. He applauded the leadership role of Otunba Adams, commending him for being the first Nigerian to visit him in office with discussion around economic and cultural cooperation. He said the two countries can share experience on agriculture and tourism being the areas of comparative advantage for the two countries.

“I thank you for your observation on areas of cooperation between Nigeria and Cyprus. Your visit has again rekindled our interest and passion about Nigeria. We appreciate your efforts and commend your altruistic cultural – tourism promotion of your race and your strides to add value to the image of your country. Although Nigerian students have cut short the long distance between Nigeria and Cyprus but your step and acts now has expanded the border of this relationship which we are going to improve upon.”

Mr. Arter revealed that his municipality was ready to share knowledge, expertise and technical knowhow with any Nigerian or state governments wishing to relate with Cyprus on Tourism and Agriculture. “There are a lot for Nigerians to explore here and we are ready to assist and facilitate investment opportunities in a symbiotic situation relationship.”

The mayor told the delegation from Nigeria about a scholarship scheme which the government has inaugurated for the Nigerian students. “We are happy to inform you that we are very close with Nigerian students here and we see them as an integral part of the municipality.”

In closing, Otunba Adams presented a copy of his biography and written documents on vision of OPU and its activities to Mr Arter.

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Buraaq: Muslim Hero Fights Injustice

OnIslam & News Agencies Friday, 06 March 2015 ISLAMABAD – Reflecting the common universal values of Islam, a new animated TV series will be launched to defy misconceptions about Islam, usually portrayed by the mainstream media.

“In the past few years, we began to realize that there were no positive Islamic characters in the world of mainstream entertainment. Be it movies, TV, books or comics,” say the SplitMoonArts team on their website. “Especially after 9/11, Muslims were being portrayed in a negative way by the mainstream media. That’s when we had a strong urge to use our artistic skills and produce something inspirational for the Muslim youth.”

Featuring a superhero that stands up for truth, justice and freedom, the animated series is the new version of Buraaq comic book that was released in January 2011.

Co-founded by two enterprising American Muslims, artist Adil Imtiaz and writer Kamil Imtiaz, the book aimed to highlight the positive Islamic characteristics. The mission of the project is “to reclaim the mainstream narrative on Islam, and to tell our own story in the form of high-quality 3D animation and comic book,” according to the website.

“Our ultimate goal is to see BURAAQ on the big screen, Insha Allah!” The series features that story of Yusuf Abdallah, a regular guy who happens to be practicing Muslim living in fictional Nova City. Mixing mystery, action, and adventure, the Muslim superhero, Abdullah, uses his power to fight injustice.

“We like to stay away from ambiguity and convey a clear, positive and inspirational message,” the founders said. “It’s time to tell our own story. To get started on this journey, we are looking to raise $200K to produce the first episode of BURAAQ in high quality 3D animation! Together we can make this dream a reality.”

Al-Buraq, a beast resembling a horse with two huge wings springing from its back, it the animal Prophet Muhammad used during the Night Journey of Israa and Miraj. The first part of the journey is known as Al-Isra’ – The Night Journey – and this night journey was the journey to Jerusalem.

Over the sands, Prophet Muhammad travelled, with Gabriel by his side. In their plight for Jerusalem, Buraq moved swiftly through the night sky.

At Jerusalem, Buraq descended at Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa where Prophet Muhammad met a congregation of Prophets – all Prophets before his time: Adam, Nuh, Hud, Idris, Salih, Joseph, Shuayab, Zachariah, Yahya, and the other Prophets mentioned in the Quran. He was asked to lead them in prayer in front of their Lord.

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Malawi Story of Muslim Success

OnIslam Malawi Correspondent Tuesday, 03 March 2015 LILONGWE – While growing up in a rural farm in Harare, Zimbabwe, young and ambitious Muslim boy Esa Arab realized that his aspirations and dreams would one day turn him into an accomplished and successful entrepreneur.

“My siblings and I grew up in squalor of poverty. I had very high aspirations and ambitions to achieve something in future, despite the enormous challenges we went through,” Arab told OnIslam.net in Blantyre, Malawi’s commercial city, the location of his trade.

“My eyes were set on accomplishing something as a business venture, which at the same time, would also be of service to humanity. Though the road was very tough, it didn’t distract me from focusing on my dreams and vision,” he added.

Defying all odds, Arab trekked down to neighboring Malawi 15 years ago, armed with his experience in sales and marketing to establish his Superior Halal Group which runs a chain of halal meat to restaurants across the southern African nation.

“I was motivated to enter this business after identifying a void in the Malawian market for quality processed halal meats and lack of a quality shopping experience. The existence of my company has set standards in this direction.”

The void, he says, had presented itself an opportunity to him to come to Malawi and operate his business, making a “huge risk”. “However, I wasn’t discouraged by the risk associate with that decision. It was a huge risk which fortunately has finally paid off. I don’t regret to have made that decision.”

Married to Maryam, with four children, the woman he describes as “wonderful and loving” said his family has been with him on his “journey to success.”

“My wife Maryam and my children have been very supportive of me. They have stood with me in both thick and thin. They have been part of the journey which started 15 years ago. Together, we have worked tirelessly to reach this far.”

“This journey began 15 years ago with just myself, my wife and two employees. I was on a machine cutting meat while my wife was attending to customers. At that time, we were selling only 2 cows per week. Today, 15 years down the line, my business has grown in leaps and bounds. We have 10 branches across the country.”

After fifteen years in the halal business, Arab’s Superior Halal Group used a workforce of 400 employees, from various religious and political backgrounds.

“When employing people, we don’t discriminate. We are doing this deliberately to assist people in every little way possible, so that they should take care of their families and at the same time, to lessen their suffering economically,” he told OnIslam.

“During the time we have been there, we have managed to contribute tremendously to the growth of the country’s economy through among others, the people we are employing.”

Asked about the secret behind this success story, he said, “First and foremost, the fear of God, the Almighty, has been the guiding light towards my success in business. Because of my firm belief in God, I have managed to overcome hurdles which I have met in the process,” says Arab.

“Another factor which has also contributed to this success story is that I have always ensured that I provide a quality product and service. And the selfless dedication of the amazing men and women who work for me is a big part of my success.”

Operating his business in a country ranked by the World Bank as one of the most impoverished nations in the sub-Saharan Africa, the 42 year old entrepreneur has ploughed back to the community part of the proceeds from his profits to service the poor and orphans.

“My childhood experience motivates me to reach out to those in need. I know what it means to be poor and what it means to lack what you need most, because I have gone through that experience. To this end, we are involved in a number of charitable projects. Our passion as a family and company lies in assisting orphans,” he said.

“The nation is registering an ever-growing population of orphans who need our hand for their survival. We are paying schools fees to thousands of them across the country irrespective of their religious beliefs.”

Arab’s philanthropic activities have won him praise across the country’s religious spectrum. Sheikh Muhammad Uthuman described him as a “tender-hearted Muslim.”

“This man is a man with a tender heart. He is living an exemplary life of a Muslim who is fulfilling his obligations to assist those in need beyond boundaries of religion. This is how we need to live as Muslims,” Uthuman told OnIslam.net.

“Because of his heart towards those suffering from the pangs of poverty, God has been able to bless him abundantly in his business. God is able to replace what he gives away. We have to follow this way if we are to be blessed.”

Concurring with Uthuman, Andrew Mtambo, and a devout Catholic described Arab as a “rare Muslim” who has touched many hearts.

“This man is a rare Muslim. He is assisted me in so many ways without any form of discrimination. He has always been there whenever I need his support. I wished all Muslims were like him. He demonstrates a true spirit of humanity,” Mtambo told OnIslam.net.

Upon attaining this feat of success, many would have expected Arab to relax on his laurels and enjoy his fortunes. But this seems far from his plans.

“That time has not yet come. At 42, I still have the energy to work towards the fulfillment of my vision, which is to become a permanent player in the production and supply of quality halal meats within Southern Africa and to be a leading provider of quality shopping experience in Malawi,” he told OnIslam.

“I will achieve this through the basic values of hard work and honesty which I firmly believe in. These values have assisted me to be here today. After accomplishing this vision, then it will be time to sit down and take stock of how much God has done to me,” he said.

In a country where Muslims make up of only 36% of the country’s 16 million population, Arab is counted among very few successful Muslims in the country.

“I thank God for this status and I don’t take this for granted. It has not been easy to reach this far. I therefore encourage fellow Muslims to work hard and make scarifies to realize their dreams. We shouldn’t give up at any cost, even when the going gets tough. We will get there. It is only a matter of time and patience.”

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French Universities Double Islam Courses

OnIslam & Newspapers Thursday, 05 March 2015 CAIRO – In a bid to counter the rise of extremist ideas about Islam, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls announced a decision to double the number of university courses teaching Islam, promising not to issue any laws controlling the religion practiced by a large minority.

Education is central to stamping out the ignorance that is allowing “Islamist extremism and the far right feed off each other,” Valls announced in the eastern city of Strasbourg on Tuesday, International Business Times reported on March 4.

Valls said that the new course on Islamic studies and theology would be free, and that French republic values were the best means of combatting extremism.

“The only response to the dangers that we face is the French Republic,” Valls said. “This means the acceptance of the secular state, improving education, universities, understanding and intelligence.”

He added that the government will not push for new laws to define Islam, leaving this freely to the Muslim community. “But there will be no laws, decrees or government directives to define what Islam means,” Valls said. “The French state will never attempt to take control of a religion.”

The new moves followed the terror attacks in Paris in January, in which 17 people were killed, including two Muslims, a journalist and a cop.

Seeing the Charlie Hebdo attack as a betrayal of Islamic faith, leaders from Muslim countries and organizations have joined worldwide condemnation of the attack, saying the attackers should not be associated with Islam.

Later on, French Muslims called for criminalizing insulting religions amid increasing anger around the Muslim world over Charlie Hebdo’s decision to publish new cartoons of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).

“The only response to the dangers that we face is the French Republic,” Valls said.

Using anti-Muslim sentiments, the far-right French Front National moved in recent polls to take the lead in the run-up to the French local elections.

“The rise of far-right populist politics, in Europe as well as in our own country, feeds directly off the rise of jihadism, terrorism and radical extremism,” Valls said in his speech, linking the rise of far-right and extremism. “It is a situation that puts our democracy, our society and our capacity to live together in extreme jeopardy,” he added.

The comments followed an article in the New York Times in which Front National leader Marine Le Pen attacked the French political establishment for “20 years of mistakes on immigration and Europe”.

France has the largest Muslim population in Europe, and Valls said that he wanted more Imams and other Muslim religious figures, such as prison chaplains, who have trained abroad, to receive education in French republican values, and “undergo more training in France, to speak French fluently and to understand the concept of secularism”.

France is home to a Muslim minority of seven millions, Europe’s largest. Following last January’s attacks, the National Observatory Against Islamophobia said over one hundred incidents have been reported to the police since Charlie Hebdo attacks of January 7-9.

The rise in attacks over the last two weeks represents an increase of 110 percent over the whole of January 2014, the organization said. Moreover, a Muslim father was stabbed to death in his own home in southern France this week by a neighbor who claimed to be avenging Charlie Hebdo.

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Perth Muslim TV Defies Misconceptions

OnIslam & News Agencies Friday, 06 March 2015 PERTH – Aiming to give a voice to Australian Muslims, an online channel has been launched by Perth Muslims to correct the image of Islam, filling an important void in the Australian media.

“We’re using the media to dictate our own narratives,” Roots TV creator Abdulrahim Elmi told SBS on Friday, March 6. “To control exactly what we broadcast and we’re so proud of that as a community and we’ve met some amazing people along the way.”

Launched a few months ago, Roots TV aims to offer an alternative to mainstream media that rarely cover Muslim issues. The Muslim online channel tackles various topics ranging from politics to sport, technology, travel and comedy.

“As salamu alaykum, peace be upon you, and welcome to another Roots TV, my name is Alim and I’ll be your host this evening,” host Alim said during one filming session.

“Roots TV is all about empowering and celebrating the lives of ordinary people doing extraordinary things.”

His guest, Sarah Ross, talked about her work helping people to find asylum in Western Australia.

“One that comes to mind is a man I visit from Afghanistan, he’s been refused refugee status,” Ross said. All the programs are uploaded online to Roots TV, which started to gain more viewership. Muslims, who have been in Australia for more than 200 years, make up 1.7 percent of its 20-million population.

Currently, about 5.7 percent of the ADF’s 57,000-strong permanent force identify as coming from a non-English speaking background. About 5.4 percent were born overseas in countries other than New Zealand, Britain, Canada and the US.

Roots TV was praised by Western Australian Muslims who described it a channel for everyone, not only Muslims. “I think these notions of being moderate or not, you’re just a Muslim,” the former director at the WA Office of Multicultural Interests Maria Osman said.

“And I think that it’s critical that mainstream society look at Roots TV and see some of the great interviews, some of the dynamic people, the comedians, some of the political commentary that’s coming out of Roots TV, I think it’s really filling a niche and giving people an opportunity to shine as well, which is great.”

Special presentations like a show by a female Muslims comedian, who is a bold critic for Prime Minister Tony Abbott, are also presented by the channel.

“We have a lot of things in common. Whether you’re an atheist, whether you’re a Muslim, we have a lot of issues that we need to tackle, to address,” Elmi said. “And it’s all about living in harmony and making sure that we are engaging and not being passive about what we do.

“We have to be more countering of all those issues in a very bold position and hopefully Roots TV is a platform for that.”

For Aisha Novakovich, one of the hosts, her work at the channel aims to end false Muslim labeling “as either only moderate or radical”.

“It’s very topical. It’s like it’s the Muslim Nightly News, and we want to provide a counter narrative to what the dominant media is providing,” Novakovich said.

“We want to have a platform where we can voice our own concerns, where we’re empowered, where we’re setting the terms of our narrative and we’re discussing that discourse in a very respectful manner, but it certainly is counter to that dominant narrative being spouted by the media and politicians.”

In post 9/11-era, Australian Muslims have been haunted with suspicion and have had their patriotism questioned. The anti-Muslim sentiments further increased following recent anti-terror raids, deemed the biggest in Australian history, in which 15 people were arrested from north-western Sydney.

The raids were followed by a huge number of anti-Muslim attacks, including a mosque being defaced in Queensland and direct threats issued against the Grand Mufti of Australia.

Last month, dozens of Muslim community leaders and organizations have accused Prime Minister Tony Abbott of bullying the country’s most senior Islamic figure, in his attempts to silence opponents

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Saudi Arabia wants Darb Zubaida on UNESCO heritage list

Arab News – 04 March, 2015 – The historic pilgrimage route from Iraq to the holy city of Makkah — Darb Zubaida — is the new entry from the Kingdom for UNESCO’s world heritage list.

After successful quest last year for historic Jeddah to be listed, the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) began preparations for additional historic and archaeological landmarks in the Kingdom and recommended 10 for registration.

“The government has approved SCTA’s request to register 10 sites on the world heritage list. One of them is Darb Zubaida because of its cultural and historic importance in Islamic history,” SCTA announced on Sunday.

Saad Al-Rashid, an adviser in the heritage department of SCTA, pointed out that Darb Zubaida was well-known in Islamic history among all Muslims — caliphs, sultans and ministers as well as ordinary pilgrims.

“The Kingdom is very interested in sites relating to Islamic history and Darb Zubaida is one of the most important,” he said.

Darb Zubaida, the Haj route from Iraq to Makkah, is named after Zubaida bint Jafar, the wife of Caliph Haroon Al-Rasheed. Her charitable efforts and various preparations on behalf of all Muslims along the route have been appreciated for hundreds of years.

According to SCTA, this unique route’s history dates back to the pre-Islamic era, but its importance increased after the emergence of Islam, in the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and the Caliphs and later during the time of the Umayyads.

The route reached its greatest prosperity during the Abbasid era when the stations and resting places were provided with water wells, lakes, dams and palaces. Many services were available along the route.

Among Zubaida’s most significant charitable works which had great impact on the Muslim nation during her life and after her death is Ain Zubaida, an architectural landmark in Holy Makkah.

Darb Zubaida also has economic importance in its contribution to reviving trade from the earliest days of Islam.

The route was busy with Haj and trade caravans from Al-Kufa in Iraq to Makkah and Madinah. It was a bridge linking Iraq and the eastern Islamic areas with the Two Holy Mosques, passing to other parts of the Arabian Peninsula, including Yemen, besides connecting Arabia’s eastern section with Africa and the far west.

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Bidiya’s tourism potential discussed

Oman Daily Observer – 04 March, 2015 – The seminar on the study of Bidiya’s Tourism Potentials, which was organized by the Office of the Wali of Bidiya, in collaboration with some of the relevant bodies, recommended the importance of preserving the natural, heritage and human factors of the natural environment that must be preserved and to ensure sustainability in terms of the optimal use in order to avoid the unbalanced use by tourists and visitors, especially after the damage of pastures and natural areas as a result of overgrazing, wastes and the use of visitors for cars and bikes in a manner that affected the aesthetics of nature and its components.

The seminar recommended the increase of tourism and environment awareness by the concerned authorities with the activation of tourism by intensifying advertising programs across various available media and the upgrading of provided tourist services through the organisation and management of effective tourism packages that keep pace with the growing demand witnessed by Bidiya during the winter tourist season.

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Tourism website ‘Wijhat’ launched

Oman Daily Observer – 05 March, 2015 – Maitha bint Saif al Mahrooqiya, Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Tourism, yesterday launched the website of ‘Wijhat’, the first newspaper specialising in travel and tourism at www.wejhatt.com. During the launching ceremony, she said that the tourism sector plays an important role in the diversification of income sources and there is a need for a joint effort between all institutions and society to push this sector towards further horizons. She said ‘Wijhat’ website comes as a part of the efforts being exerted by the Omani media to contribute, along with the efforts of the Ministry of Tourism and other institutions, to promote the Sultanate’s tourism potentials.

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Muscat Int’l Airport being expanded

Oman Daily Observer – 05 March, 2015 – Renovation works to the Muscat International Airport passenger and visitors areas is fast progressing and will complete in target time, according to the sources at the OAMC (Oman Airport Management Company). The current project, aimed at expanding the present arrival and departure areas will be able to accommodate more passengers and their relatives who come to bid farewell or receive the travellers, the source further said.

It majorly includes constructing an exterior wall to the terminals, changing the pavement from the old interlock tiles to modern matt-finish floor and the allied works. Al Rawdha LLC has been assigned with the MEP works which has a track record of value-added engineering, construction and service works. “We are taking care of the MEP works which we started a month back and we are confident that the project will be completed in a couple of months as planned”, a source at the Al Rawdha LLC told the Observer.

He further added that the present half wall in front of the departure terminal will be elevated and glassed to give an aesthetic look, without losing on the traditional designs at the airport, upon completion. OAMC has earlier signed an agreement to construct a multi-storey car park at a cost of RO 3 million on an area of 19,000 square meters, which is the largest of its kind in the world, at Muscat International Airport.

Said Zadjali, acting CEO of OAMC, and Anthony El Helou, CEO of United Global Energy Company, signed the agreement for the construction of a one-floor building of 650 parking spaces on the land of the existing airport with a period of 6 months. The company is expected to finalise the designs and maps within the next two months, and work on the project will start immediately thereafter.

“The establishment of this project comes within the company’s efforts to provide various basic services to passengers and other users of Muscat International Airport, most notably car parks which are the one of the company’s concerns in light of the rise in passenger numbers”, Said Zadjali, acting CEO of the company said.

Over 9.5 million passengers used the airport by the end of last year, and the number is likely to increase in the future with the growing economic and tourist movement in the Sultanate.

Zadjali pointed out that OAMC is keen to keep up with the growing movement at Muscat International Airport and is therefore considering all available options to provide various services, from passenger gates and check-in counters to coffee-shops, restaurants and other services that witnessed great expansion and development over the past years.

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Regional airlines post strong growth

Khaleej Times – 05 March, 2015 – Middle East airlines recorded the strongest year-over-year passenger traffic growth while surpassing the global average growth in freight in January, the International Air Transport Association (Iata) said on Wednesday.

The region’s passenger traffic rose 11.4 per cent while freight tonne kilometres (FTKs) expanded by 9.2 per cent in January.

The growth in both passenger and cargo underscored the fact that economies in the region continue to show improvement, and are comparatively well-placed to withstand the plunge in oil revenues, Iata said in a statement.

Capacity rose 13.3 per cent and load factor dipped 1.3 percentage points to 79.7 per cent in the region while globally revenue passenger kilometres (RPKs) rose 4.6 per cent compared to January 2014.

“January traffic did not maintain the rate of growth attained in 2014; nevertheless, we are seeing healthy albeit slightly slower growth in the demand for air services. While January was a relatively positive start for the year, we cannot look ahead without seeing some significant risk factors in the macro-economic and political environment,” said Tony Tyler, Iata’s director general and CEO.

January international passenger traffic rose 5.4 per cent compared to the year-ago period. Capacity rose six per cent and load factor slipped 0.5 percentage points to 78 per cent. All regions recorded year-over increases in demand except Africa.

The global air freight markets recorded a 3.2 per cent expansion in FTKs in January 2015 compared to the same month last year. The growth is slower than the average of 4.5 per cent recorded for 2014.

“Air travel drives business. The economic impact of travel during the Lunar New Year period is a tremendous example of how powerful a force travel can be. This is our message to governments: a successful air transport industry strengthens economies with broad economic and social benefits. The industry is committed to sustainable growth. But it is critical that governments do their part in ensuring cost-efficient infrastructure to accommodate demand and not constraining growth with excessive taxation or onerous regulation,” said Tyler.

There was much regional variation in the January performance. Asia-Pacific, African and Middle Eastern airlines expanded strongly, but airlines in Europe and North and Latin America reported demand contractions. Although it is too early to be certain of a trend towards weaker air freight, there are at least two emerging factors which could negatively impact demand for air cargo in the coming months, he said.

“January was a disappointing start to the year for air cargo. And it is difficult to be too optimistic about the rest of the year given the economic headwinds in Europe and growing concerns over the Chinese economy. Add to that the continuing trends of on-shoring production and trade protectionism and 2015 is shaping up to be another tough year for air cargo,” said Tyler.

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BIBF set to launch pioneering course

Gulf Daily News – 05 March, 2015 – The world’s first training course on the convergence of Islamic capital and halal food and Muslim lifestyle sectors will be available in Bahrain from May.

Being offered by BIBF through a partnership with New York-based growth strategy research and advisory firm Dinar Standard, it has been developed as part of the Waqf Fund’s initiatives to enhance Islamic finance training in the region.

This was annnounced during a Press conference at the BIBF campus in Juffair.

Central Bank of Bahrain executive director for banking supervision and Waqf Fund chairman Khalid Hamad said the kingdom was uniquely positioned to leverage its standing as a regional financial hub to support the halal food and lifestyle sectors, given their significant potential size. Dinar Standard chief executive and managing director Rafi-Uddin Shikoh, who also addressed the Press, said even as Islamic capital continued to seek new growth opportunities, there was very limited engagement with the related halal economy sectors.

“There is a growing need to develop Islamic finance professionals’ understanding of the opportunity and how to best leverage it in terms of investment, operating capital, takaful, trade financing and other needs,” he added.

‘Strategic investments on the part of Sharia-compliant private equity firms in halal food and lifestyle related businesses, trade financing, working capital financing, mergers and acquisitions, takaful, etc are just some of the ways Islamic finance can capitalise on these sectors.’

The halal food and Muslim lifestyle sectors is estimated to reach $ 2.47 trillion by 2018, based on the ‘State of the Global Islamic Economy 2014’ report, produced by Thomson Reuters in collaboration with Dinar Standard.

BIBF head of the centre for academics and acting head of the centre for Islamic finance Ahmed Al Rayes said the managerial level course is tailored for Islamic finance and takaful executives and managers.

‘It will give participants a summary of the halal market opportunity and focus on specific areas of financing/takaful needs and gaps by the key halal economy sectors of food, pharma, personal care, media/recreation, travel and fashion,’ he said.

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Investor-friendly Bahrain ‘ideal for big businesses’

Gulf Daily News – 05 March, 2015 – Bahrain enjoys an investor-friendly environment for big global businesses and it welcomes projects that add value to the national economy, Industry and Commerce Minister Zayed Al Zayani said yesterday.

He said this as he visited Singapore firm MTQ Oilfield Services Corporation in Bahrain and met its chairman Kuah Kok Kim.

He said the government appreciates the corporation’s contribution to the national economy and will spare no effort in providing all necessary facilities that would raise its productivity and its expansion effort in foreign markets. He added that this goal is a top priority for the government and its Economic Vision 2030.

MTQ Bahrain was established in Salman Industrial City, Bahrain International Investment Park in 2009 and is a wholly-owned subsidiary of MTQ Corporation Limited, which is listed on Singapore Stock Exchange. MTQ Corporation Limited is a premier integrated engineering solutions provider that specialises in two major business segments ‘“ oilfield engineering and engine systems.

Mr Al Zayani hailed the company’s ambitious future plans and contributions which serve the kingdom’s economy.

Mr Kim thanked the government for its constant support, highlighting MTQ’s future plans aimed at boosting its investment in Bahrain and making it MTQ headquarters.

He said MTQ branch in the kingdom was established to serve the existing oil companies in the region, and highlighted his company’s efforts to increase Bahrainisation at all levels.

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Sharjah’s achievements bring honour of Arab Tourism Capital Award

Gulf Today – 06 March, 2015 – As part of its participation in ITB Berlin, Sharjah has been regularly hosting special press conferences and presentations to brief European and international media about the latest developments and upcoming projects in Sharjah’s tourism sector.

Sharjah hosted a number of meetings and special activities being held at the Sharjah stand on the sidelines of the premier travel and tourism exhibition, being held from March 4-8 in the German capital.

“As we celebrate the achievement of our Emirate and its rich heritage, I am proud of our success over the years. I take this opportunity to express our commitment to the values based on Islamic principles and our culture. These are the values that our forefathers held on to, and have been embraced by Dr Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, as the foundation for the progress and prosperity of our Emirate,” Al Noman said.

Khalid Jasim Al Midfa, Director General, Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority, said, “Sharjah has emerged as the leading cultural and family tourism destination in the Middle East and its distinct achievements in the tourism sector have brought the emirate accolades and awards such as the Arab Tourism Capital Award for 2015, a recognition from the Arab Tourism Organisation strengthening the emirate’s position on the regional and international tourism map.

“This is an honour that underlines Sharjah’s success in attracting nearly 2 million visitors in 2014,” Al Midfa added.

Al Midfa pointed out that in order to celebrate the honour of the Arab Tourism Capital for 2015; the emirate has lined up year-round activities and festivals to showcase the best of its Arab culture and heritage that will certainly appeal to the interest of visitors from Germany and the wider European market.

As part of its participation in ITB Berlin, Sharjah has been regularly hosting special press conferences and presentations to brief European and international media about the latest developments and upcoming projects in Sharjah’s tourism sector.

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Saudi Arabia to honor owners of private museums

Arab News – 07 March, 2015 – Upon directives from Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman, the Saudi Commission for Tourism & Antiquities (SCTA) has decided to honor ten private museum owners. The awards will be given at the Riyadh International Book Fair for 2015 which is being held at the Riyadh International Convention and Exhibition Center.

Hussain Abu Al-Hassan, SCTA vice president for antiquities and museums, said that honoring the owners is geared towards supporting and encouraging them for their efforts to maintain cultural facilities.

He added that the honoring criteria is based on the excellent role that private museums are expected to play, particularly in museum showcase techniques, as well as for the way that they constantly receive visitors and introduce them to Saudi heritage. Through this, the authenticity, history and identity of the Kingdom’s provinces are clearly reflected for the world to see.

Awad Al-Zahrani, director general of the National Museum, said that the private museums to be honored are located across the ten provinces of the Kingdom.

These private museums, he noted, are ready to receive visitors and tourists at all times, and the owners are keen to establish them inside heritage buildings.

Saad Al-Ghatani, SCTA director of private museums, added, “All of the owners are sparing no efforts in developing their museums in collaboration with the SCTA. This will contribute greatly to generating job opportunities.”

The museum owners to be honoured include Hamad bin Sulaiman Al-Salim (Al-Salim Museum, Eshaigir district, Riyadh), Ali bin Khalaf Al-Shareef (Al-Shareef Museum, Taif), Mohammad Hamad Khelais Al-Harbi (Mohammad Al-Harbi Museum, Al-Ula, Makkah), Saleh bin Abdul Lateef Al-Zafr (Saleh Al-Zafr Museum, Al-Ahsa), Saleh Mohammad Al-Amri (Al-Elyan Village Museum, Al-Nammas municipality), Khalid bin Mohammad Al-Jadai (Gala’t Jadea Museum, Al-Rass municipality), Awada Mansi Al-Zahrani (Al-Kenani Heritage Museum, Tabuk), Saud bin Naif Al-Shamri (Al-Naifi Qusr Museum, Jiba municipality, Hail), Dr. Nawaf Zewaiban Al-Rashid (Nawaf Al-Rashid Museum, Al-Jouf), and Mansur bin Mohammad bin Mosbah (Mohammad bin Mosbah Museum, Buljersi municipality).

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New translation of 40 Hadiths published in Thailand

Tehran, March 2, IRNA — A new translation of the book “40 Hadiths” in Thai language has been published in Thailand. The Iranian Cultural Center in Thailand has sponsored the book’s publication, IQNA’s South East Asia branch reported.

The first rendering of the book in Thai was released in 1991 in three volumes and its second edition came out in 2008. This new translation has been published in 705 pages and includes annotations by Manajiat, the translator.

It will be presented in the 13th International Book Fair in Bangkok, Thailand’s capital.

“40 Hadiths” is a detailed commentary on 40 selected traditions narrated from the Holy Prophet (PBUH) and his Ahl-ul-Bayt (AS) on topics of ethics and spirituality, including jihad al-nafs.

The original work was written in Persian by Imam al-Khomeini (RA), the late founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

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Indian tea in Iran market safe to use

Tehran, Feb 28, IRNA – Head of the National Standard Organization said the Indian tea in the market is under the supervision of her organization, adding that all the imported goods, including tea, which are imported officially, have no problem for consumption.

Speaking to IRNA, Nayyereh Pirouzbakht stressed that there could be no guarantee concerning such commodities as rice and tea which are illegally imported into the country and noted that stress on the legal importation of the goods is merely in line with sound supervision over conformity of the goods with national standards.

She announced formation of a joint working group composed of Iranian and Indian experts and said the working group is assigned to remove technical obstacles and facilitate trade with an aim of boosting quality of products for export.

Pointing to the fact that the group has evaluation of the standard and relevant issues on the import of rice, tea and soya on its agenda, she said during the past month an Indian group visited Iran and was familiarized with the standard conditions of Iran with regard to import of rice.

She said the Indian tea imported to Iran so far has been in accordance with the international Codex and ISO standards but, she said, these standards are the base and each country has its own conditions for its imports.

The official noted that in Iran after water, tea is the most important drink therefore for the import of this commodity specific sensitivity should be considered.

As for Iran’s concern over existence of heavy metals in the Indian rice, she said import of the commodity takes place in accordance with the regulations of the National Standards Organization and since the product is cultivated in arsenic-free soil, there is no reason for concern about quality of the imported Indian rice.

However, she further remarked, any trade transaction on the basis of standard regulations between Iran and India can be effective in strengthening bilateral trade.

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