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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Turkish Economy is fundamentally strong


  • Source SABAH English Published:31 December 2013, Tuesday
  • Updated:31 December 2013, Tuesday

Turkey's financial markets showed first signs of recovery yesterday as political tensions eased.

By Ali Unal 

The Istanbul-based anti-graft operation that was launched on December 17 and ongoing crisis between the government and the judiciary had a negative impact on markets. Last week, the Lira dipped to 2.17 against to the US dollar and 3.03 against the euro. The Borsa Istanbul 100 Index (XU100) fell to 63,885, reaching its lowest level since 2012, while the two-year bond yields rose above 10 percent.
The Turkish Lira rallied to 2.1315 against the U.S. dollar in yesterday's trading, while the Istanbul stock exchange jumped over 6 percent to reach 65,944.10.

The worst scenarios already in priced

With the worst scenarios already in priced, recent turbulence will not cause financial panic, according to market players. Some FX and stock market traders also expect recovery at Borsa Istanbul as well as in the value of Lira. Asaf Savaş Akat, a respected economist from Bilgi University, said "this political fight will not cause financial panic and its effects on exchange rate and stock market will be limited." Finance Minister Mehmet Şimşek commented on the situation in a Twitter message and noted that Turkey's strong macroeconomic fundamentals, combined with a healthy banking system and public finances would provide the country with significant room to respond to shocks. "We face a challenging domestic and external backdrop. However, a pretty negative scenario is largely priced in," Şimşek added.

At a public address in Manisa province last weekend, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called the anti-graft operation "a smear and slander campaign" and said, "Turkey's national income would not have increased from $236 bln. to $800 bln. if there was indeed corruption."

Turkish Economy is fundamentally strong

The country surpassed expectations to record 4.4 percent growth in Q3 2013 and 4 percent over the first nine months. Market analysts predict that Turkey will exceed the middle term program goal of reaching approximately 4 percent annual growth in 2013. Similarly, Turkey's debt to GDP ratio will likely reach 36.5 percent at year-end, an area where Turkey outperforms 25 European Union member states and continues to meet the Maastricht Criteria that requires countries to keep the debt/GDP ratio below 60 percent. The government budget deficit to GDP ratio is also expected to be 1.5 percent at the end of 2013, one of the lowest in the EU.

''AK Party emerges with a clear victory in the March local elections, despite the current shenanigans''
Jan Dehn, Head of Research at Ashmore, says that "Since he has no serious challenger he should win the presidency handsomely and holding the parliamentary elections at the same time would allow AK Party parliamentarians to ride to victory on his coat tails." In his interview at Morningstar UK Jan Dehn said that "Still, our base case is the AK Party emerges with a clear victory in the March local elections, despite the current shenanigans. This means that the parliamentary elections take place in 2015 as per the original schedule and there will be no material reform and no change in monetary policy before then."

Last week the world's biggest money manager BlackRock Inc said its seizing an opportunity to buy Turkish stocks after political turmoil rattled other investors and drove down prices. "We have been adding to positions in Turkey, especially in the financial sector, over the last few days, as valuations are now compelling," said Sam Vecht, head of the emerging markets specialist team at BlackRock in London, reported Bloomberg on December 24.

Monday, December 30, 2013



The government is preparing to take significant strides that will advance Turkey’s  to an echelon of high technology. Amongst the moves to be made in the name of advanced technology will be the opening of a technology stock-exchange similar to Nasdaq in the U.S. as well as including training on robots and artificial intelligence which will begin from primary school onwards.

The government is preparing to take significant strides that will provide the groundwork for a transition to advance technology that will carry the Turkish  in 2023. Included in the plans will be the establishment of a Nasdaq-like technology stock exchange in Turkey as well as the inclusion of training in robotics and artificial intelligence from primary school onwards. Special incentives will be on offer for fourth generation automation, while industry-experienced researchers will be given support to "return home".
Speaking at the 3rd Industry Council, which was also attended by Prime Minister ; Industry Minister  announced that the government has decided to support and promote sectors that stand out for making Turkey strong contenders in the international arena.
"Within the next ten years we need to successfully transition to advanced technology in our industrial production. The state is no longer distanced from the industrialist. We need to develop the business and investment environment in a way that benefits our industrialists, while also facilitating statutes for incentives and support," stated Ergün.
Industry Minister Ergün announced the following steps the government aims to take to bring the industry up to highly competitive international standards:
A TURKISH NASDAQ: Turkey plans to set up a technology stock exchange, which will have Turkey's technology firms trading similar to the U.S. NASDAQ. Careers across Turkey will be mapped out on a map of Turkey, which will be used to determine employment policies.
FULL SUPPORT FOR ENTREPRENEURS: Entrepreneurial studies will begin from primary school onwards. Entrepreneurial candidates will be provided with counseling services and network groups will be established to transfer experience.
ROBOTIC TRAINING BEGINS: Topics such as informatics, biotechnology, nanotechnology, advanced materials, genetics, robotics, artificial intelligence, organic agriculture, nuclear technology and aerial, space and defense technologies, which are future opportunity areas, will be made compatible with the education system.
EMPOWERING SME'S: Minister Ergün reiterated that Turkey's strongest sectors, which are high-level competitors in the international arena, will be offered state support. The innovation capacity of SME's will be increased. High priority will be placed on the application of key technology such as biotechnology and nanotechnology in the industry sector.
It's time for doctorates in the industry…
According to the information shared by Minister Ergün, researchers who have received doctorates abroad and have experience in certain industrial areas designated by Turkey will be eligible for support for their "return home." Academics will be able to offer industrial advising. In order for state support to be tracked on a single platform, a coordination model, which will include the public and private sectors and NGO's, will be established. Eco-industrial parks and industrial symbiosis will become more widespread with incentives being provided for industrial zones that are able to create the open space necessary for the implementation of these projects.
This is a translation of an article originally written by Hazal Ateş

Saturday, December 28, 2013


Turkey to be 12th largest global economy by 2028: CEBR

The same report predicts Turkey will rank 17th among the world’s largest economies at the end of 2013 with a GDP of $822 billion. REUTERS photo
The same report predicts Turkey will rank 17th among the world’s largest economies at the end of 2013 with a GDP of $822 billion. REUTERS photo
Turkey will be the 12th largest economy of the world by 2028, while Britain will surpass France and Germany to become Europe’s biggest, according to a study released by a British research group on Dec. 26.

Turkey will climb to the 12th rank with a total gross domestic product (GDP) of $3.46 trillion in 2028, a Center for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) report on “World Economic League Table (WELT) for 2013,” has said.

The same report predicts Turkey will rank 17th among the world’s largest economies at the end of 2013 with a GDP of $822 billion, 15th alongside other emerging markets in 2018 with $1.28 trillion, and 15th again in 2023 with $2.13 billion.

“However, the Turkish outlook does depend on political stability and continued disturbances of the kind seen in 2013 could discourage investment and hence growth,” CEBR notes.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan speaks during a conference in the Western province of Sakarya, Dec. 27. AA photo

Assessing the latest CEBR report, Ekinci Economics Consulting Founder Sevin Ekinci told Anadolu Agency; “CEBR previously predicted that Turkey would take the 16th place by 2022. The revision might have come after seeing the slowdown in emerging markets, especially Indonesia, and the weak recovery in the European Union. They used to be much more positive about the Indonesian economy and did see it in 10th place.”

Strikingly, the study also predicts Britain’s output will outstrip France’s by 2018 before displacing Germany by around 2030.

“Germany is forecast to lose its position as the largest Western European economy to the UK around 2030 because of the UK’s faster population growth and lesser dependence on the other European economies,” the report said.

“If the euro were to break up, Germany’s outlook would be much better,” it added. “A Deutsche Mark-based Germany certainly would not be overtaken by the UK for many years if ever.” 

The think tank’s chief executive claimed that Britain’s economy would grow even faster if it left the European Union.

Thursday, December 26, 2013



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Prime Minister  is currently ranked in second place for TIME magazine’s 2013 ‘’ poll with 15.9 percent of the votes thus far. Reader voting comes to a close on December 6 and the final winner will be announced on December 11.

Once again, Prime Minister  is in the top running for the United States' popular TIME magazine's 2013 '' poll. Erdoğan currently stands in second place with 15.9 percent of poll votes. In first place, is American pop star Miley Cyrus with 23.8 percent of the vote. Erdoğan is followed by Chief Minister of the state of Gujara Narendra Modi and in fourth place is Egyptian Defense Minister Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
Prime Minister Erdoğan is regularly at the top of TIME magazine's prestigious poll, which asks readers to cast their vote for the person they feel most influenced the news, good or bad. In 2011, Erdoğan was the readers' number one choice. However, TIME magazine's editors make the final decision and selected The Protester as the 'Person of the Year' for 2011. Last year Barack Obama was given the honors.
TIME's 'Person of the Year' is ultimately decided on by the magazine's editors, however readers have a chance to cast their votes up until December 6 and the results will be influential in the final decision. On December 11, editors will announce whom they have selected amongst the 44 candidates running which also include Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, U.S. President Obama, former US National Security Agency (NSA) employee Edward Snowden Nobel literature prize winner Alice Munro.


Democracy and Islam

By Mohammad Hashim Kamali

RELIGIOUS VIEWPOINT: A democratic system of rule is on the whole acceptable to Islam
MUSLIM scholars have differed in their assessment of democracy and constitutionalism from the viewpoint of Islamic principles. The view has gained ground, however, that a democratic system of rule is on the whole acceptable to Islam.

This is because democracy is about fundamental rights and liberties, the rule of law, a representative and participatory government, separation of powers, and equality before the law.
Rights and liberties are a manifestation of human dignity which must be protected against the coercive power of the state. Constitution is also an instrument of limitation, organisation, and division of power among the various organs of state.

Kuala Lumpur City is a Symbol of Democratic System of Rules in Muslim World.

Broadly, Islam approves of most of these and takes affirmative positions on the protection and realisation of people's welfare and maslahah, a consultative government committed to accountability (muhasabah) and justice.

Islam advocates a limited government, which is committed to the advancement of the goals and purposes (maqasid) of syariah.
Islam and democracy both seek to realise people's welfare and basic rights of life, personal security, privacy and ownership.

The syariah recognises these as also the rights to education and employment, and the individual's entitlement to the essentials of life.

There is much evidence to suggest that Islam envisages a civilian system of rule, not a theocracy. This is because the head of state is elected by the people through consultation, nomination and pledge of allegiance (bay'ah), which translate into the modern day equivalent of a popularly elected government where the locus of authority rests with the people.

The head of state is accountable to the people, triable before the court of justice, and the people have the authority ultimately to depose him in the event of flagrant violation and miscarriage of duty.
The head of state has no papal authority to exonerate sin nor to interfere with the religion of a person.
The civilian character of his office is thus manifested in the legal maxim of fiqh that "The affairs of the head of state is judged by reference to public interest (amr al-imama manut bi'l-maslahah)". The essence of stewardship in Islam is proclaimed in the hadith that "the leader of the people is their
servant (sayyid al-qawmi khadimuhum)".

The Rapid Economic Growth of Turkey resulted o from Democratic System of Rule. 

Yusuf al-Qaradawi approves of democracy and the electoral process, which he resembles to testimony (shahadah) in which the people testify to the suitability and trustworthiness of the candidates they vote for -- and giving shahadah is a collective obligation (fard kifa'i) of the Muslim community.

Party politics, according to al-Qaradawi, is a means of organised participation in government affairs. This too is resembled to the fiqh schools, or madhhabs, which the learned scholar has characterised as juridical parties, manifesting partisan positions in jurisprudence.

As for the question that democracy is a western rather than an Islamic doctrine and that it carries western values and viewpoints, al-Qaradawi responds that the Islamic tradition and scholarship have maintained a relatively open profile of receptivity from and contribution to other civilisations. It has taken from other traditions that which is of merit and acceptable to its own values.

Electoral democracy does not authorise the people or government to change the beliefs of Islam ('aqa'id) nor any of its devotional principles ('ibadat), the halal and haram, and the essentials of morality.

These are firmly grounded in the Quran and Sunnah and no one may in the name of democracy interfere with them.

As for the management of community affairs and realisation of people's welfare, democracy is more likely to facilitate rather than obstruct and undermine them.

Hence democracy is not contrary to Islam. The Islamic public law doctrine of syariah-oriented policy (siyasah shar'iyyah) also enables the ruling authorities to address urgent issues and problems that affect people's lives through syariah-compliant ordinances and initiatives, even at the expense of some unavoidable departure from the rulings of the existing schools and scholars.

On the subject of sovereignty, which belongs to the people, the constitution, or Parliament (France, the United States, and the United Kingdom respectively), it is not an Islamic doctrine but an aspect of political democracy over which Islamic scholars have expressed reservations.

Yet many have also drawn a distinction between what they term as absolute sovereignty (siyadat al-kukm), which can make or unmake any law, and executive sovereignty (al-sultan al-tanfidhi).
Only the latter obtains in an Islamic polity, simply because it is not vested with the authority to change the essentials of Islam and syariah.

Hence what remains is a kind of executive sovereignty in which political authority is vested in the people and government exercises it on their behalf.

3. The challenge facing Islamic scholars in Malaysia and elsewhere is perhaps to highlight aspects of harmony between Islam and democracy, and for the government authorities to set in place rules and procedures that ascertain unity and integration of values, of both Islam and democracy, into its legislative processes, with the purpose ultimately to eliminate or minimise the duality of laws in favour of substantive integration and unity.

Another aspect of this challenge is to enhance and integrate the human rights principles into the applied laws and procedures of both the civil law and syariah.

Democracy in this digital age presents new challenges for the people's right of privacy, which demands enhanced vigilance from the viewpoints of both the syariah and civil law.
There is also a need to specify with greater clarity what roles the media and education should play in the advancement of both democracy and Islam.

It must be added, however much in passing, that Malaysia is not new to most of these -- and some work is also underway on the harmonisation of syariah and civil laws into the legal system of Malaysia, which has taken a fresh momentum with the milestones of progress Malaysia has made in Islamic banking and finance.

Published in: New Straits Times, Tuesday 23 April 2013

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Turks will be exempted from visa regulations to visit EU nations


Foreign Minister Davutoğlu announced on Wednesday that Turks will be exempt from visa regulations to visit  nations by 2017 at the latest and stated, “If Turkey tells the European Union ‘I am ready’ before the timeline established, than the process will have an even earlier head start.

The torture of attempting to obtain visas for travel to ropean Nations by Turkish nationals will be coming to an end within the next three-and-a-half years as Turkey and the EU have agreed to sign the highly anticipated on December 16 in Ankara in return for the start of visa liberalization dialogue to exempt Turkish nationals from EU visa regulations within the next three-and-a-half years.
Foreign Minister  who attended a NATO foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on Wednesday and also met with Cecilia Malmström, member of the European Commission in charge of home affairs, and Stefan Füle, the EU commissioner for enlargement. Davutoğlu shared the good news with SABAH about the impending visa liberalization for Turks and delved into the finer details of the historical agreement.
Explaining that the past four years of arduous diplomacy by Turkey has altered EU literature, Davutoğlu stated, "The Readmission Agreement will be signed within a month. Afterwards, Turkish citizens will be exempt from visa regulations within three-and-a-half-years time."
NOT A FACILITATING OF VISAS, AN EXEMPTION: Explaining that a consensus was reached during Wednesday' NATO foreign ministers meeting in Brussels, Davutoğlu stated, "Up until now, they figured that  would not be granted prior to the signing of the Readmission Agreement. However, I directly requested visa exemption. The EU was quite surprised by this and were in fact shocked when we made the request." Relaying that the EU requests Turkey transition to a biometric passport system, integrated border management and the signing of the Readmission Agreement, Davutoğlu stated, "Throughout this process, we have realized all of these demands.
NO DIFFICULTIES FOR THREE YEARS: With the Readmission Agreement, Turkey has agreed to accept migrants who illegally entered into the EU via Turkey. However, according to the agreement reached with the EU, Turkey citizens will be granted a three-year transition period to visa liberalization parallel to the signing of the Readmission Agreement. At the end of this period, a pilot procedure will commence and in line with the agreement, visa exemption is foreseen for Turkish nationals visiting EU nations.

TURKEY HAS A RIGHT OF RESCISSION: Foreign Minister Davutoğlu also pointed out that Turkey will maintain the right to rescind the agreement throughout this process. "This is a condition we established. Turkey may announce a cancellation of the agreement within six months time. Although they made us a promise, should they not comply with initiating the visa liberalization process, we will rescind from the agreement," stated Davutoğlu.
WE WILL ALSO PREPARE OURSELVES: Davutoğlu noted that Turkey will not be accepting the return of any migrants within the framework of the Readmission Agreement in the next three-year transition process and stated, "We have expressed our concerns regarding a flow of migrants. There will be no burden of the agreement in the next three years. During this timeframe, we will prepare ourselves. EU funds will also assist in bearing the burden."
THREE-AND-A-HALF YEARS AT THE LATEST: Davutoğlu explained that the visa liberalization will begin immediately following a three-year transition period and a six-month pilot program and stated, "Three-and-a-half years will be the latest timeframe. In other words, 2017 will be the latest date visa exemption will begin. For example, if in a year or a-year-and-a-half from now, Turkey tells the EU it is ready to implement the Readmission Agreement, then visa exemption will begin six months after this notification is made."
THE TURKEY MODEL: Davutoğlu also explained that he delivered the message during negotiations that a verbal promise would not be acceptable and stated, "The EU initially stated, 'Let's give you a personal guarantee.' We, in turn, responded by stating, 'A personal guarantee will not do. If it is a verbal promise, then it should be verbal, if it is a written promise, then it needs to be written out, if there is a process, it will be returned with another process and everything will be equal.' They also added Turkey's concerns to the road map prepared, which as a result means we have gained the EU a new decision making format."
IT WILL NOT BE REMINISCENT OF THE CUSTOMS UNION: Davutoğlu recalled that during his time as an academic he opposed the Customs Union agreement and stated, "When I was an academic, the Customs Union was signed and I opposed, stating, 'Turkey should not open up to a Customs Union before Turkish citizens are allowed to freely travel.' I do not want to be subjected to the same criticism by going down in history as the first minister to sign a Readmission agreement without obtaining visa exemption."
This is a translation of an article originally written by Mehmet Nayır.
    Source :  Sabah Newspaper Turkey 

Islam is a religion that has played a tremendous role in building a great civilisation

The Dynamic ties between Religion and Civilisation

Civilisation, from its definition, aims at developing more of the social, cultural and material aspects of human life, while religion aims at emphasising the importance of the spiritual dimension and the final destination of man in the hereafter.

AS long and complex as human history is, an interesting aspect is the dynamic relationship between religion and civilisation and how they impact each other.

No doubt historically, both religion and civilisation have contributed to a great extent in enhancing human life. Islam, in particular, is an example of a religion that has played a tremendous role in building a great civilisation as history can attest.

How do we look at similarities and differences between religion and civilisation?

Religion, as commonly known, emphasises the belief system – especially that which is connected with God and spiritual realities.

It projects the true world view of life which guides the value system and ethical conduct of human beings. In Islam, religion also provides detailed practical injunctions in every dimension of human life.

On the other hand, civilisation reflects the advanced and finest stage human beings have reached in their social, intellectual and cultural life in this world.

The Oxford Dictionary defines civilisation as “the stage of human social development and organisation which is considered most advanced”, while Merriam-Webster defines it as “the condition that exists when people have developed effective ways of organising a society and care about art, science, etc”.

Those more concerned about the difference between the two may find that both are incongruent and, at times, problematic. The reason is simply that they seem to have different emphases.

Civilisation, from its definition, aims at developing more of the social, cultural and material aspects of human life, while religion aims at emphasising the importance of the spiritual dimension and the final destination of man in the hereafter. Sometimes, religion is even viewed as an obstacle to civilisation.

Such a contentious opinion is maintained by several intellectuals and thinkers who had contributed to the development of modern civilisation.

Karl Marx, for example, alluded to this point through his oft-quoted “religion is the opium of the masses”.

Earlier, Friedrich Nietzsche, the German philosopher, might have had the same inclination when he declared that “God is dead”.

Similarly, Michel Foucault, the French philosopher and historian, who echoed Nietzsche on the nature of religion, expressed rather unfavourably that “morality (religion) is the creation of the weak to deter and limit the strong”.

While the thinkers’ views may be valid, on the one hand, if they were referring to certain deviated practices among religious followers, on the other, it is obviously misleading to pass such judgments on religion as a whole, given the contributions religion has made to the well-being of human beings throughout time.

One obvious fallacy of such a view is its oversight of the fundamental similarity between the two.

A prominent characteristic that unites both religion and civilisation is that both share the same end, mainly in bringing the state of human life to the highest and finest level, with religion aiming at a broader and higher objective of encompassing the betterment of human life not only in this world, but also the world to come.

Having said that, it should be noted that for those who believe in the truth of religion, its understanding is not only confined to mere belief and rituals, but also geared towards building a civilisation.

For that to take place, the understanding of religion must fulfil the following criteria:

First, religion should neither be too rigid nor exclusive to embrace and practise. While religious principles are constant and unchanging, its details should be open to adaptations.

There must be flexibilities in the application of its principles in different contexts, particularly the ever-changing environment.

Oftentimes, people get confused between religious principles and details which consequently lead to conflicts over unnecessary matters.

However, not being exclusive does not mean compromising the truth of the religion. We can still uphold religious truth while appropriating its manifestation in line with the contexts surrounding its practices.

Secondly, religion has to provide ample room for reasoning necessary in scientific and intellectual pursuits, that, in the latter, is not contradictory to or non-parallel with the values and principles that religion espouses.

Otherwise, disharmony will set in, particularly between religious and scientific-intellectual truths. In the case of Islam, religious values remain instrumental in colouring the dimensions of life.

Thirdly, the understanding of religion should not be separated from the higher perspectives which relate to its raison d’etre. In Islam, the bigger picture, called maqasid syar’iyyah (higher objectives of syariah), is the ultimate reason why religion is revealed to human beings.

Based on Quranic descriptions, the reason behind all religious injunctions is to preserve the well being of human beings which can be summarised as the five basic human needs of religion, life, intelligence, progeny and property. A proper understanding of these aspects will enable consistency between belief and practices among religious followers.

Thus, with the given guidelines, we are probably able to appreciate more the meeting points between religion and civilisation.

> Dr Mohd Farid Mohd Shahran is Senior Fellow at Ikim’s Centre for Economics and Social Studies. The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.

Malaysia's Telecommunication Maxis eyes MYR10bil sukuk

Malaysia's Telecommunication Maxis eyes RM10bil sukuk

A total 4.875 billion Maxis shares traded off-market.
PETALING JAYA: Maxis Bhd is said to be planning to issue up to RM10bil worth of Islamic bonds over the next two years to refinance the group’s current borrowings and for working capital purposes.
The sukuk will be issued by the telco’s wholly owned unit BGSM Management Sdn Bhd.
CIMB Investment Bank Bhd is the adviser for the deal, according to a Reuters report.
Meanwhile, 4.875 billion Maxis shares were traded off-market on Monday at RM7 apiece. The shares represent a 65% stake in the company and equals the number of shares owned by tycoon T Ananda Krishnan.
Bankers said the transaction could be linked to the planned sukuk sale.
Maxis last sold Islamic bonds six years ago with maturities of five to 50 years.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Kyoto Is Studying How to Be a More Muslim-Friendly Tourism Destination

Kyoto, a city known worldwide as a major center for Buddhism and as the home of some of the country’s most famous Shinto shrines, is stepping up efforts to better welcome one particular group of foreign visitors: Muslims.
With the number of Muslim tourists from Malaysia on the rise, thanks to visa restrictions that were eased last July and the growing number of international conferences in the ancient capital being attended by Muslims from Africa, the Middle East and South and Southeast Asia, the city decided earlier this year to formally research better ways meet their needs.
Of the nearly 845,000 foreign visitors to Kyoto in 2012 who spent at least one night at a hotel, only about 13,000 were from Malaysia and Indonesia. But that was up from the combined 8,000 or so who visited in 2011, and the figure is expected to grow.
In response, Kyoto established a study group to make the city more Muslim-friendly. It consists of hotel managers, convention bureau officials, restaurateurs and others interested in attracting more Muslims. The group receives advice from the Kyoto Muslim Association, which allows Muslims to visit and pray at the mosque inside and which provides information on halal and Muslim-friendly restaurants in Kyoto.
Some hotels, such as Hotel Granvia and Kyoto Century Hotel, already offer Muslim-friendly meals, while the Kyoto Rose Cafe not far from the association’s headquarters, offers halal meals. There are also Japanese- and English-language websites that list halal and Muslim-friendly establishments in Kyoto.
But one idea that the group, under the direction of the Kyoto Muslim Association, is looking at is a more detailed guide to restaurants that are classified as not only “Muslim-friendly” but also “halal,” “Muslim-welcome” and “pork-free.”
A restaurant is designated halal when all of its menu items are halal-certified and contain no pork or pork products, and when no alcohol, including cooking wine or mirin (a sweet cooking wine made from rice), is used during the cooking process. Muslim-friendly means the restaurant has both halal and non-halal menus. Muslim-welcome means no pork or alcohol was used in the cooking, but non-halal meats and alcohol are available. Pork-free means just that, but alcohol may have been used in the cooking and the menu is non-halal.
In addition to offering prayer rooms facing toward Mecca or taking care to ensure the food served meets the requirements of Muslim customers, there are other issues.
Rie Doi, director of tourism promotion at the Kyoto Convention Bureau, notes it is especially important that Kyoto businesses interested in selling their wares to Muslim tourists understand the cultural background of their customers.
“For example, some companies may wish to offer certain kinds of souvenirs in colors that are particularly popular in the Muslim world and different from (those) other foreign customers might want,” she said.
At the same time, Muslim tourists, no matter where they’re from, ask the same kinds of questions any tourist might ask. A recent report presented to the study group noted that Malaysian Muslims asked their travel agents why they were going to a particular Kyoto temple or shrine and what, exactly, they could do while there.
The report said addressing these questions was extremely important to Muslim visitors. But not a few tourists — most with limited time, little or no understanding of Japanese, and a minimal understanding of Kyoto’s history — are likely to want the answers as well.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Malaysia is Confident of Turkey Political Stability and Economic Growth.

Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd [MAHB] to buy stakes in Turkish firms for RM1b [USD300 million]

Published: 2013/12/24

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB) has announced that it will exercise its right of first refusal to acquire a 40 per cent stake each in two Turkish companies worth more than RM1 billion.

The two companies are Istanbul Sabiha Gokcen Uluslararasi Havalimani Yatirim Yapim ve Isletme A.S (ISG) and LGM Havalimani Isletmeleri Ticaret ve Turizm A.S.

MAHB said it will acquire ISG from GMR Infrastructure Ltd and GMR Infrastructure Overseas Ltd (GMRO) for RM705.73 million.

It will also acquire LGM from GMRO and GMR Infrastructure (Global) Ltd for RM302.454 million.

The acquisitions will be made by the airport operator's indirectly wholly-owned subsidiary, Malaysia Airports MSC Sdn Bhd.

ISG's core business is managing the operations of Sabiha Airport.

LGM's operations include establishing and operating hotels as well as establishing, operating, and leasing out food and beverage facilities and trading at the airport.

MAHB said the proposed acquisitions are part of the group's plans to enhance and diversify its assets and earnings base to improve long-term growth prospects.

"The proposed acquisition will allow MAHB to have majority stakes in ISG and LGM and further strengthen its foothold and influence as an airport operator in Turkey," MAHB told Bursa Malaysia yesterday.

It added the acquisition will be financed via proceeds from a proposed private placement and internally generated funds.

"The proposed private placement entails an issuance of new ordinary shares of RM1 each in MAHB, representing up to 10 per cent of the issued and paid-up share capital of MAHB to third-party investor(s) to be identified and at an issue price to be determined later," the company said.

State Guest Status Accorded by the Saudi Arabia Government to the Prime Minister of Malaysia on Private Visit.

Warm Welcome for Mr. Najib [Malaysian PM] in Saudi Arabia

On sacred ground: Najib and Rosmah leaving Nabawi Mosque after visiting the tomb of Prophet Muhammad. — Bernama
On sacred ground: Najib and Rosmah leaving Nabawi Mosque after visiting the tomb of Prophet Muhammad. — Bernama
MADINAH: The state guest status accorded by the Saudi Arabia government to the Prime Minister’s arrival here was a testimony to the close relationship between Malaysia and Saudi Arabia, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said.
“I have been given an exceptional welcome as I did not expect the roads from the airport leading to this place to be closed to traffic. This is unprecedented,” he said.
Najib said he was also fortunate to get an unexpected welcome from many students who were were granted scholarships by the Saudi government due to good ties between Malaysia and Saudi Arabia.
Addressing about 150 students at the University of Madinah here on Saturday night, Najib said he would continue to foster good relations with the Saudi government as they had enabled Malaysia to be given favourable considerations in many aspects including the haj pilgrimage.
During the Egyptian unrest, he said that the Saudi government allowed the Royal Malaysian Air Force’s Charlie aircraft to fly Malaysian students from Cairo to Jeddah before returning to Kuala Lumpur without having to obtain a visa.
Upon arriving earlier at the Prince Mohamed Abdul Aziz International Airport for a four-day working visit, Najib and his wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor were greeted by Madinah deputy governor Abdul Mohsen Al-Munif.
Najib said he would continue to advocate, develop and strengthen Islamic jurispru­dence in Malaysia based on maqasid Syariah (Syari­ah objective), which would become the Government’s platform in championing efforts to develop Islam.
On Saturday, Malaysian Embassy Charge d’ Affaires in Saudi Arabia, ‘Alauddin Mohd Nor, said Najib’s visit to Saudi Arabia would strengthen the relations that had been established over the past 50 years.
’Alauddin said the Saudi government was impressed with Najib’s leadership, which focuses on pragmatic policies suitable for Muslims and non-Muslims in Malaysia, besides his efforts in promoting the concept of moderation in the international arena.
He also said the investment made by both countries as of 2012 was estimated at RM1.7bil with 40% of it by Malaysia.
Malaysian Consul-General in Jeddah Mohd Khalid Abdul Razak said efforts to promote the Malaysia: My Second Home programme would be intensified to lure more Saudi Arabian participants.
Similar efforts would be done to encourage more Saudi Arabian students to pursue their education in Malaysia, he added. — Bernama

Islamic Finance has taken stage in 2013

The tone was set early on, in January, when Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, set out the emirate’s aim to become the hub of global Sharia-compliant business within five years.
It was an ambitious plan. Dubai is already a leading financial centre for the issue of sukuk (Sharia-compliant bonds) but Sheikh Mohammed’s vision went far wider than just the sukuk market.
Sami Al Qamzi, the director general of the Dubai Department of Economic Development and one of the lieutenants entrusted with implementing the Ruler’s strategy, said the aim of the initiative was to create a global capital of Islamic industry, economy and finance.

“The plans to create an Islamic economic centre will provide access to a global market for Islamic products valued at more than US$2 trillion.”

Halal food production, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics, tourism and travel, and all other aspects of Islamic lifestyle were included in the plan, as well as the essential infrastructure of standardisation and certification of halal products.
Although nobody doubts the potential market provided by the world’s 1.3 billion Muslims, it is widely spread both geographically and sectorally. Dubai’s strategy was the first time one country had set out to be the world capital of the Islamic economy.

Dubai faces serious competition. Kuala Lumpar has been the driving force in Sharia-compliant financial business, having built up its resources in sukuk and other forms of Islamic finance over the past two decades.

London, too, was keen to augment its position as the leading financial market in the European time zone by becoming the global centre for sukuk listing and trading, a lucrative part of the Islamic financial market.

Other centres, like Dublin, Luxembourg, Indonesia and Bahrain also had plans to develop their Islamic economic capabilities. To make Dubai the centre of the Islamic business world would be a challenging task. The plan was immediately backed by leaders of the Dubai business and policymaking elite. In the Dubai International Financial Centre, the Nasdaq Dubai stock market announced it was considering a trading platform for sukuk, hoping to take away some of London’s lucrative trade.

Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, the chairman of Dubai World, applauded the move. “Dubai is pioneering; this is another example of how it does things before anyone else in the world,” he said.

The Dubai Multi Commodites Centre advanced plans to extend Sharia-compliant business in commodities and metals trading.

Banks beefed up their Islamic financial capabilities by hiring more experts on Sharia-compliant business, making it a growth market in the emirate’s financial scene and one of the forces behind Dubai’s recovery.

For most of the summer, the task force set up by Sheikh Mohammed was working hard behind the scenes to produce a practical strategy for the implementation of the grand plan.

By October, a master plan was in place. Seven separate strategic goals, each aiming to make Dubai a global leader in one aspect of the Islamic economy, had been identified: finance; the halal food industry; family-friendly tourism; the digital economy; fashion, arts and design; economic education; and standards and certification.

“The continued developments and changes in the global economy increase the need to constantly diversify the structure of our national economy,” said Sheikh Mohammed. “Our aim from all economic initiatives we launch is to improve the quality of life and provide opportunities that ensure a prosperous future for coming generations.”

And in a typical show of confidence that the emirate could achieve its ambition, he said that the time scale would be reduced. The aim was to make Dubai the capital of Islamic economy in three, not five years.

Early steps to be taken in 2014 include the establishment of an Islamic governance centre in Dubai, and an international laboratory for the certification and accreditation of halal products is also planned for early next year. Halal food and other products form an estimated US$3.5 billion global market.

Two other initiatives are also scheduled for the first part of next year: legislation to regulate the production of halal products locally and globally, and an international endowment authority to spread the culture of waqf, or Islamic charitable endowment.

At October’s World Islamic Economic Forum (WIEF) in London, held for the first time outside the Islamic world, the competitive pace was stepped up when Britain announced its plan to be the first non-Muslim country to issue a sovereign sukuk. But Dubai managed to steal London’s thunder when, after months of careful negotiations with the Malaysia-based WIEF, it was announced that the 2014 forum would be held in Dubai.

The final showpiece of the year was the Global Islamic Economy Summit held in Dubai in November, organised by the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and the information group Thomson-Reuters. Some 3,000 leaders of global Islamic business gathered to hear Dubai’s plans, and to give their general endorsement of the strategy.

The prize for Dubai had got bigger. A new study put the overall potential value of Islamic business at $6.7 trillion by 2018, more than the value of any national economy in the world except the United States and China.

Read more: 

Sunday, December 22, 2013


Khazanah Americas Incorporated is established in San Francisco

by Shahril Ibrahim
Director, Khazanah Americas Incorporated


Last month, Khazanah Nasional Berhad opened its third regional office after Beijing and Mumbai with the aim of facilitating investments in the Americas which has great strategic significance to Khazanah, our investee companies and Malaysia overall. Located in San Francisco, Khazanah Americas Incorporated or KAI will greatly assist Khazanah to better evaluate investment opportunities particularly in the innovation and technology sectors. San Francisco is home to Silicon Valley where some of the largest technology companies, leading universities as well as thousands of exciting new start-up companies are located.

It is an established fact that San Francisco and its surrounding environs have established a vibrant ecosystem for supporting entrepreneurs and innovation. Khazanah is confident that KAI will be able to build a pipeline of talent and collaboration between Malaysia and the United States, which will help accelerate Malaysia’s own innovation and technology capabilities in the long-run. The move by Khazanah to venture into the US will benefit the country’s thrust into new value-generating economic sectors as outlined in the country’s New Economy Model (NEM) launched in 2010. KAI, as an extension of Khazanah, will also tap on opportunities to showcase the country as a premier investment hub in Asia as well as promote investment opportunities in Iskandar Malaysia as well as in our various investee companies.

Khazanah’s latest overseas venture is also wholly consistent with the mandate given to us by the government in 2004 to generate sustainable value and raise national competitiveness. One of our key deliverables was to expand into New Economy Investments (NEI) and new geographical areas, as explained in Pillar 3 of our mandate. What this means is that Khazanah will invest in new sectors and geographies which can help catalyse growth and have a transformative impact on Malaysia’s economy. Thus, cross-border linkages are necessary for the country’s long-term competitiveness. The primary investment focus of KAI will be in the areas of healthcare, life sciences, sustainable development, telecommunications and media.

The US is the largest economy in the world and continues to produce nimble and exciting new technological developments which continue to be brought to the world stage and consumers by entrepreneurs, visionaries and dreamers. This is a wonderful opportunity for Khazanah to deepen business linkages and strong relationships in the Americas in order to continue building true value. A physical presence via KAI is thus vital in order to build bridges between two business cultures and foster trust within the innovation and technology hubs in San Francisco and Silicon Valley. KAI will also serve as a base for Khazanah’s investee companies seeking to expand into the Americas as well as promote Malaysia as a base for American technology operations in Asia.

The office space, at 600m2 is located in downtown San Francisco and is designed to accommodate a small US-based team with sufficient space for teams from our investee companies. Khazanah already has investments in the US, and the office will also help monitor and manage its investment portfolio. The US office will ease geographical, cultural and time difference between Malaysia and the US and help provide a beach head for further opportunities.

KAI also allows Khazanah to build relationships with potential business partners not unlike what technology and investment firms do all around the world; the personal touch and physical presence cannot be underestimated. This is why global giants like Google and venture capital businesses have permanent offices in many parts of the world in order to cement relationships and ultimately grow value.
Khazanah’s expansion in the Americas is part of our larger strategy to become more global in scope. Since 2005, Khazanah, in line with our strategy, has grown our presence beyond Malaysian shores. As of 29 May 2013, Khazanah’s overseas investments represent approximately nine percent of its total investment portfolio of RM135.9 billion1. On a see-through basis2 however, the percentage is larger and represents approximately 35 percent of Khazanah’s investments portfolio1.

1. Source: Khazanah analysis
2. Note: See-through basis is an estimation of attributable value by exposure

Islam Changed THe World for Betterement

How Islamic inventors changed the world

From coffee to cheques and the three-course meal, the Muslim world has given us many innovations that we take for granted in daily life. As a new exhibition opens, Paul Vallely nominates 20 of the most influential- and identifies the men of genius behind them

 1 The story goes that an Arab named Khalid was tending his goats in the Kaffa region of southern Ethiopia, when he noticed his animals became livelier after eating a certain berry. He boiled the berries to make the first coffee. Certainly the first record of the drink is of beans exported from Ethiopia to Yemen where Sufis drank it to stay awake all night to pray on special occasions. By the late 15th century it had arrived in Mecca and Turkey from where it made its way to Venice in 1645. It was brought to England in 1650 by a Turk named Pasqua Rosee who opened the first coffee house in Lombard Street in the City of London. The Arabic qahwa became the Turkish kahve then the Italian caffé and then English coffee.

2 The ancient Greeks thought our eyes emitted rays, like a laser, which enabled us to see. The first person to realise that light enters the eye, rather than leaving it, was the 10th-century Muslim mathematician, astronomer and physicist Ibn al-Haitham. He invented the first pin-hole camera after noticing the way light came through a hole in window shutters. The smaller the hole, the better the picture, he worked out, and set up the first Camera Obscura (from the Arab word qamara for a dark or private room). He is also credited with being the first man to shift physics from a philosophical activity to an experimental one.

3 A form of chess was played in ancient India but the game was developed into the form we know it today in Persia. From there it spread westward to Europe - where it was introduced by the Moors in Spain in the 10th century - and eastward as far as Japan. The word rook comes from the Persian rukh, which means chariot.

4 A thousand years before the Wright brothers a Muslim poet, astronomer, musician and engineer named Abbas ibn Firnas made several attempts to construct a flying machine. In 852 he jumped from the minaret of the Grand Mosque in Cordoba using a loose cloak stiffened with wooden struts. He hoped to glide like a bird. He didn't. But the cloak slowed his fall, creating what is thought to be the first parachute, and leaving him with only minor injuries. In 875, aged 70, having perfected a machine of silk and eagles' feathers he tried again, jumping from a mountain. He flew to a significant height and stayed aloft for ten minutes but crashed on landing - concluding, correctly, that it was because he had not given his device a tail so it would stall on landing. Baghdad international airport and a crater on the Moon are named after him.

5 Washing and bathing are religious requirements for Muslims, which is perhaps why they perfected the recipe for soap which we still use today. The ancient Egyptians had soap of a kind, as did the Romans who used it more as a pomade. But it was the Arabs who combined vegetable oils with sodium hydroxide and aromatics such as thyme oil. One of the Crusaders' most striking characteristics, to Arab nostrils, was that they did not wash. Shampoo was introduced to England by a Muslim who opened Mahomed's Indian Vapour Baths on Brighton seafront in 1759 and was appointed Shampooing Surgeon to Kings George IV and William IV.

6 Distillation, the means of separating liquids through differences in their boiling points, was invented around the year 800 by Islam's foremost scientist, Jabir ibn Hayyan, who transformed alchemy into chemistry, inventing many of the basic processes and apparatus still in use today - liquefaction, crystallisation, distillation, purification, oxidation, evaporation and filtration. As well as discovering sulphuric and nitric acid, he invented the alembic still, giving the world intense rosewater and other perfumes and alcoholic spirits (although drinking them is haram, or forbidden, in Islam). Ibn Hayyan emphasised systematic experimentation and was the founder of modern chemistry.

7 The crank-shaft is a device which translates rotary into linear motion and is central to much of the machinery in the modern world, not least the internal combustion engine. One of the most important mechanical inventions in the history of humankind, it was created by an ingenious Muslim engineer called al-Jazari to raise water for irrigation. His 1206 Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices shows he also invented or refined the use of valves and pistons, devised some of the first mechanical clocks driven by water and weights, and was the father of robotics. Among his 50 other inventions was the combination lock.

8 Quilting is a method of sewing or tying two layers of cloth with a layer of insulating material in between. It is not clear whether it was invented in the Muslim world or whether it was imported there from India or China. But it certainly came to the West via the Crusaders. They saw it used by Saracen warriors, who wore straw-filled quilted canvas shirts instead of armour. As well as a form of protection, it proved an effective guard against the chafing of the Crusaders' metal armour and was an effective form of insulation - so much so that it became a cottage industry back home in colder climates such as Britain and Holland.

9 The pointed arch so characteristic of Europe's Gothic cathedrals was an invention borrowed from Islamic architecture. It was much stronger than the rounded arch used by the Romans and Normans, thus allowing the building of bigger, higher, more complex and grander buildings. Other borrowings from Muslim genius included ribbed vaulting, rose windows and dome-building techniques. Europe's castles were also adapted to copy the Islamic world's - with arrow slits, battlements, a barbican and parapets. Square towers and keeps gave way to more easily defended round ones. Henry V's castle architect was a Muslim.

10 Many modern surgical instruments are of exactly the same design as those devised in the 10th century by a Muslim surgeon called al-Zahrawi. His scalpels, bone saws, forceps, fine scissors for eye surgery and many of the 200 instruments he devised are recognisable to a modern surgeon. It was he who discovered that catgut used for internal stitches dissolves away naturally (a discovery he made when his monkey ate his lute strings) and that it can be also used to make medicine capsules. In the 13th century, another Muslim medic named Ibn Nafis described the circulation of the blood, 300 years before William Harvey discovered it. Muslims doctors also invented anaesthetics of opium and alcohol mixes and developed hollow needles to suck cataracts from eyes in a technique still used today.

11 The windmill was invented in 634 for a Persian caliph and was used to grind corn and draw up water for irrigation. In the vast deserts of Arabia, when the seasonal streams ran dry, the only source of power was the wind which blew steadily from one direction for months. Mills had six or 12 sails covered in fabric or palm leaves. It was 500 years before the first windmill was seen in Europe.

12 The technique of inoculation was not invented by Jenner and Pasteur but was devised in the Muslim world and brought to Europe from Turkey by the wife of the English ambassador to Istanbul in 1724. Children in Turkey were vaccinated with cowpox to fight the deadly smallpox at least 50 years before the West discovered it.

13 The fountain pen was invented for the Sultan of Egypt in 953 after he demanded a pen which would not stain his hands or clothes. It held ink in a reservoir and, as with modern pens, fed ink to the nib by a combination of gravity and capillary action.

14 The system of numbering in use all round the world is probably Indian in origin but the style of the numerals is Arabic and first appears in print in the work of the Muslim mathematicians al-Khwarizmi and al-Kindi around 825. Algebra was named after al-Khwarizmi's book, Al-Jabr wa-al-Muqabilah, much of whose contents are still in use. The work of Muslim maths scholars was imported into Europe 300 years later by the Italian mathematician Fibonacci. Algorithms and much of the theory of trigonometry came from the Muslim world. And Al-Kindi's discovery of frequency analysis rendered all the codes of the ancient world soluble and created the basis of modern cryptology.

15 Ali ibn Nafi, known by his nickname of Ziryab (Blackbird) came from Iraq to Cordoba in the 9th century and brought with him the concept of the three-course meal - soup, followed by fish or meat, then fruit and nuts. He also introduced crystal glasses (which had been invented after experiments with rock crystal by Abbas ibn Firnas - see No 4).

16 Carpets were regarded as part of Paradise by medieval Muslims, thanks to their advanced weaving techniques, new tinctures from Islamic chemistry and highly developed sense of pattern and arabesque which were the basis of Islam's non-representational art. In contrast, Europe's floors were distinctly earthly, not to say earthy, until Arabian and Persian carpets were introduced. In England, as Erasmus recorded, floors were "covered in rushes, occasionally renewed, but so imperfectly that the bottom layer is left undisturbed, sometimes for 20 years, harbouring expectoration, vomiting, the leakage of dogs and men, ale droppings, scraps of fish, and other abominations not fit to be mentioned". Carpets, unsurprisingly, caught on quickly.

17 The modern cheque comes from the Arabic saqq, a written vow to pay for goods when they were delivered, to avoid money having to be transported across dangerous terrain. In the 9th century, a Muslim businessman could cash a cheque in China drawn on his bank in Baghdad.

18 By the 9th century, many Muslim scholars took it for granted that the Earth was a sphere. The proof, said astronomer Ibn Hazm, "is that the Sun is always vertical to a particular spot on Earth". It was 500 years before that realisation dawned on Galileo. The calculations of Muslim astronomers were so accurate that in the 9th century they reckoned the Earth's circumference to be 40,253.4km - less than 200km out. The scholar al-Idrisi took a globe depicting the world to the court of King Roger of Sicily in 1139.

19 Though the Chinese invented saltpetre gunpowder, and used it in their fireworks, it was the Arabs who worked out that it could be purified using potassium nitrate for military use. Muslim incendiary devices terrified the Crusaders. By the 15th century they had invented both a rocket, which they called a "self-moving and combusting egg", and a torpedo - a self-propelled pear-shaped bomb with a spear at the front which impaled itself in enemy ships and then blew up.

20 Medieval Europe had kitchen and herb gardens, but it was the Arabs who developed the idea of the garden as a place of beauty and meditation. The first royal pleasure gardens in Europe were opened in 11th-century Muslim Spain. Flowers which originated in Muslim gardens include the carnation and the tulip.

"1001 Inventions: Discover the Muslim Heritage in Our World" is a new exhibition which began a nationwide tour this week. It is currently at the Science Museum in Manchester. For more information, go