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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Growing market in Islamic tourism

HALAL lifestyle, Syariah-compliant businesses, developing standards, accreditation and investment for Islamic tourism — these were some of the key topics discussed at the Joint Seminar On Islamic Tourism 2014.

Held at PNB Darby Park Executive Suite in Kuala Lumpur recently, its aim was to provide an ideal platform for industry players to identify, analyse and discuss issues, opportunities and challenges in
Islamic tourism.

Tourism And Culture Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz said the seminar was a great opportunity for industry players to brainstorm on how to cater to Muslim tourists.
“Islamic tourism is an emerging market and on the global scale, Muslims make up 23 per cent of the world population, which is a big market to tap from,” he said at the opening ceremony.
He added that in 2012, the global revenue from Islamic tourism was estimated at RM411 billion excluding travel for umrah and haj.

“In fact, the expenditure is expected to grow to RM543 billion in 2018 and this proves that Islamic tourism is a huge business that’s growing tremendously,” Nazri said, adding that many Muslim minority countries such as Japan and Australia are starting to look at the market and have developed creative strategies such as providing halal food, prayer facilities and other necessities.

Malaysia, being one of the most Muslim-friendly holiday destination in the world, is also targetting more Muslim travellers, which will add vibrancy to Visit Malaysia Year 2014.

Also present at the opening ceremony were Ministry Of Tourism And Culture secretary-general Datuk Dr Ong Hong Peng, Islamic Tourism Centre director-general Zulkifly Md Said and Indonesian Tourism And Creative Industry deputy minister Dr Sapta Nirwandar.

Organised by Islamic Tourism Centre (an agency under the Ministry of Tourism And Culture), in collaboration with Indonesia’s Ministry of Tourism And Creative Economy, the seminar was deemed a great accomplishment with 18 speakers from various backgrounds sharing their knowledge and thoughts to improve the industry.

Monday, February 24, 2014

A big push to Islamic banking and finance in Malaysia

This year’s GIFR predicts that by 2020 there will be at least six countries in the world where Islamic banking and finance (IBF) will attain a market share of no less than 50% of the total financial sector in their respective countries.
islamBased on the data available on the growth and development of Islamic banking in different parts of the world and with the help of an extensive research undertaking to construct Islamic Finance Country Index (IFCI), this year’s GIFR predicts that by 2020 there will be at least six countries in the world where Islamic banking and finance (IBF) will attain a market share of no less than 50% of the total financial sector in their respective countries.
These six countries, in addition to the Islamic Republic of Iran and Sudan, claims to have fullyfledged Islamic financial systems already in place. It is almost certain that Brunei Darussalam, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will have their financial sectors dominated by IBF by 2020.
Brunei Darussalam will be the first country to witness the share of IBF in the domestic financial sector exceeding 50% by 2020.
Almost 45% of retail banking in the country already fulfills basic Shariah requirements. More impetus is needed for the capital
markets, which requires a little guidance and support from the Ministry of Finance.
Given its small and overwhelmingly religious population, it will not be surprising to see Brunei Darussalam emerge as a nation
where the IBF share is greater than conventional ones.
Similarly, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will have its financial sector predominantly Shariah compliant by 2020 since it
currently has over 55% of its retail banking as Shari’a compliant. It will have to streamline Islamic banking and finance with
official recognition, by the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency and the Capital Market Authority. If Brunei Darussalam has not
already achieved the milestone, Saudi Arabia could be the first country to boast of having Islamised the bulk of banking and
finance practice in the country.
Since the establishment of Kuwait Finance House (KFH) in 1977, Kuwait has been at the forefront of IBF. It is expected that it
will still be ahead of Qatar in achie-ving the threshold of 50% share.
With the current market share at 35%, Kuwait’s IBF industry will have to grow by 7.14% annually for the next six years to
achieve the milestone of 50% market share. Furthermore, its existing Islamic financial institutions will have to take over
3.15% market share from the conventional financial institutions during the same time period.
Qatar is another country with huge potential for growth in IBF. Unfortunately, the likelihood of IBF reaching the 50% threshold
was adversely affected by the government’s decision to disallow conventional banks offering Islamic banking through window
Malaysia is another country that has made tremendous progress in IBF. With strong support from the government and the central
bank, Malaysia has certainly taught other countries how government patronage actually brings wider economic benefits to the
The weakest link, however, in this list of six countries is the UAE. Despite the government of UAE’s strong support for IBF,
the country will be able to just make the 50% mark by the end of 2020.
This brings us to the million-dollar question: How would Malaysia achieve the 50% mark, given that its financial sector
currently has only one-fourth of it as Shariah compliant?
According to GIFR research, IBF in Malaysia will have to grow by 16.67% on an annual basis in the next six years (green field
growth) in addition to cannibalising 5.56% of the conventional business annually (brown field growth) in order for it to have
an equal share of IBF in its financial sector. Is it something achievable?
The table suggests that this is not only achievable but possible as well. Most of the conventional financial institutions
involved in IBF have a lot of capacity to further grow their Islamic business. If the likes of Malayan Banking Bhd and CIMB
group Holding Bhd give a big (yet gradual) push to IBF as part of their expansion strategy, it will contribute significantly
towards achieving the target of 50% market share for IBF in Malaysia.
Furthermore, this is perhaps the time for the government to consider converting Cagamas into a fully-fledged Islamic financial
institution, as almost 50% of its business is already Shariahcompliant.
Agro Bank is already scheduled to convert fully to Islamic. It is worth considering to fully Islamise other banks like SME
Bank, MIDF Amanah Investment Bank and similar government-linked financial businesses? Given the track record of the Malaysian government, it will not be surprising to see such a development in the next six years.

BR1M in line with Islamic teachings

KUANTAN: THE government initiatives introduced to help  people in the low- and medium-income brackets are in line with the  teachings of Islam, which encourage Muslims to be kind and assist those in need.Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said the 1Malaysia People's Aid (BR1M) for example, would ease the burden of seven million recipients nationwide, including 36,000 people in his parliamentary constituency of Pekan.
Quoting a hadith, Najib said Prophet Muhammad had told his followers that those whom Allah loved most were those who helped others, including in providing aid to the poor, easing their burden, helping them settle their debts and giving food to the hungry.
"I have learnt that some BR1M recipients had used the money to settle their debts.
"It shows what we are doing is in accordance with Islamic teachings and will get blessings from Allah," he said at an event where he distributed BR1M 3.0 payouts to 1,000 recipients at the International College of Automotive in Pekan yesterday.
In Pekan, about 12,000 recipients will receive BR1M cash vouchers, while the rest will have the money credited into their bank accounts.
Despite the opposition's attacks against such initiatives, Najib said the government would continue assisting the people through various measures, including BR1M.
"God willing, we can increase the BR1M payout every year.
"If we can further strengthen our economy and maintain peace, the amount will reach RM1,200 in five years' time."
A total of RM4.5 billion in aid will be distributed to BR1M recipients nationwide this year.
The payout to households with a monthly income of below RM3,000 has been increased from RM500 to RM700, including a RM50 contribution to the 1Malaysia People's Takaful Insurance (i-BR1M) scheme that provides protection of up to RM30,000 in the event of death or permanent disability.
For single individuals, aged 21 and above with a monthly income of less than RM2,000, the amount of aid has been increased from RM250 to RM300.
BR1M's recipient base was widened this year to include households with a monthly income of between RM3,000 and RM4,000. They will receive RM450 each. Additional reporting by Eddy Osman
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak presenting BR1M aid to a recipient at the International College of Automotive in Pekan yesterday. Pic by Luqman Hakim Zubir

Read more: 'BR1M in line with Islamic teachings' - General - New Straits Times

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Caprice Gold Maldives - First Islamic Resort In Maldives

ADK Company of the Maldives signed Joint Venture agreement with Turkish hotel giant Caprice Gold to develop the Maldives’ first Islamic resort.

Caprice Gold Maldives island resort is five-star, 673-room resort in Shaviyani Atoll Gaakoshibee. Caprice Gold will invest $170 million on the resort. The resort is expected to become operational in October 2014. Similar to the Caprice Gold’s hotel in Turkey, the resort in Gaakoshibee will have a separate beach, villas and swimming pools for male and female tourists. The resort will not serve alcohol and pork, and its four restaurants will have halal certified buffets.

ADK Company Chairman Mr. Nashid said the resort being developed in two phases will be the largest resort in the Maldives and the first Islamic resort. Although the concept of Islamic tourism is new to the Maldives, the model will be a success, he added. ”We saw the hotel being operated by Caprice Gold in Turkey. They operate the place under this concept, but the occupancy is really good. That’s why I’m extremely confident that the company can make this concept a success ,” Nashid said.

“This resort will become a holiday destination for Muslims throughout the world.”

ADK company started developing the resort, which is a 50-minute seaplane ride from the airport, in 2007. Nashid said funds and equipment have already been received from his new Turkish partner. ”After a lot of work, it’s finally coming to an end. This has been my dream,” he added.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Malaysia on top of talent pile, closest Islamic finance competitor is UAE

IBFIM chief executive officer (CEO), Datuk Dr Adnan Alias, said the Malaysia's closest competitor is UAE.  “Unlike UAE, which only has one private body governing talent development in Islamic finance, Malaysia has the right landscape and regulatory framework to further spur the development of talent in Islamic finance,” he told StarBiz.
KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia has a niche to develop talent in Islamic finance compared with other Islamic nations amid shortage of such talent as a whole, according to Islamic Banking and Finance Institute Malaysia (IBFIM).
Its chief executive officer (CEO), Datuk Dr Adnan Alias, said the country’s closest competitor at the moment was United Arab Emirates (UAE).
“Unlike UAE, which only has one private body governing talent development in Islamic finance, Malaysia has the right landscape and regulatory framework to further spur the development of talent in Islamic finance,” he told StarBiz.
He said the contribution of Islamic financial sector to nominal gross domestic product (GDP) was expected to be in the region of 10% to 12% in 2020 compared with the latest figure of 8.6% in 2010.
In terms of workforce in the Islamic financial sector, he added it was expected to rise from 144,000 currently to 200,000 in the next seven to eight years.
Adnan said total employment in Islamic finance as against total financial sector was 11% or 16,000 and he expected it to rise moving forward. In the takaful sector alone, he said there were now more than 131,000 agents.
According to Adnan, there are four components that Malaysia has that has facilitated in making talent development complete.
They are the availability of training providers (like IBFIM, among others), industry qualifications and industry accreditation, and the upcoming establishment of a professional body for Islamic finance.
The completeness of talent development in Islamic finance could also be gauged by the sub-sectors it covered – banking, takaful, capital markets and wealth management, he noted.
For Islamic wealth management, which was an area of focus in the financial sector blueprint (2011-2020), he said there was growing demand for this service.
“The number of high net-worth individuals is expected to rise to 68,000 in 2015 from the present 32,000.
“There are now 50 firms offering the service and we expect higher demand for the service in 2015 due to the surge of this group of people,’’ he added.
Adnan said one of the ways to attract talent in Islamic finance was through shared resources within the operating sphere of financial institutions, among others.
As for developing, attracting and retaining talent, Malaysia was ranked 36 and this figure is expected to slide to 39 among 60 countries in 2015 based on the Global Talent Index.
He felt the idea for Asian Institute of Finance (AIF) to look into the development and operationalisation of an Asia Financial Services Talent Index could spur talent development further in Islamic finance.
IBFIM is one of AIF’s four affiliate institutions.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Islamic studies on the rise

Arab and Islamic studies have flourished at universities over the past decade as revolutions and turmoil rock the Middle East and young Muslims in Australia seek to know more about their cultural heritage.
Educators say they have experienced solid growth in their Arab and Islamic programs with some reporting a more than 200 per cent increase in numbers since 2008.

Charles Sturt University's Mehmet Ozalp, who teaches religious and Islamic studies, says his students have even included war veterans who served in Middle East countries.

''Some of them are ex-soldiers who have been to Afghanistan or somewhere and now want to study Islam properly,'' he says.

''It's productive. They really give a different perspective. Students in the class need to hear [that perspective] and non-Muslims need to hear what Muslims are saying.''

Three years ago Charles Sturt began offering a Bachelor of Islamic studies and next year will add a Master of Classical Arabic to its curriculum. The university has about 340 students enrolled in the subject, most of whom come from a Muslim background.

Ozalp says his course has given Muslims growing up in Australia a chance to better understand their own culture and background.

''The younger generation of Muslims seriously want to study but don't want to go overseas for various reasons. They might not know the language, or maybe it's risky growing up in those countries. Not everyone can make that step so the convenience of studying Islam in Australia has flourished,'' he says.

Ozalp was one of the first in the Muslim community to teach Islamic courses in English. He believes the course helps combat damaging perceptions about the Islamic world.

''This course is very brave work in addressing extremism and radicalism in Australia,'' he says.
''The Muslims created a brilliant civilisation . . . science, technology, commerce, even legal terms, some of the norms that Europe eventually learned from, used to develop western civilisation – a lot of people don't know that.''
A number of universities around NSW offer Arab and Islamic studies. While not all offer a dedicated degree, many feature specialised course units, often looking at the cultural, historical, religious, social and political dimensions of the Arab and Islamic world.

Speaking Arabic is generally not a prerequisite for beginner courses but might be needed for advanced levels.
Career paths can include teaching, community services, or even a job in law enforcement.
At the University of Western Sydney enrolments have leaped from 60 in 2008 to about 200 in 2013. UWS's senior lecturer in Islamic studies Jan Ali says that his students often go on to work in the community.
''Students have employed their Islamic Studies skills and knowledge in a number of differing areas over the years, however, they mainly seem to focus on utilising these in primary school teaching and secondary school teaching,'' he says.
''A student of mine who took one Islamic Studies unit as an elective some while back is working in social welfare and says that Islamic Studies unit has helped him better interact with people from a non-English speaking background.''
Sonia Diab hopes to use her studies to work for the United Nations. The 21-year-old is studying a combined law and international-studies degree at the University of Sydney, majoring in Arabic and Islamic Studies.

She says she enjoys the subject so much she is considering a PhD in Arabic Studies when she finishes her course. Diab , whose father is Lebanese, says she's held a long interest in the topic.
''I was always interested in the language, culture and the politics so I knew from the start it was something that would be suited to me,'' she says.

She believes world events, including revolutions in the Arab world, have helped to fuel interest in the area.
''Revolutions got a lot of people interested, especially when there was so much happening in Tunisia and Egypt – it's only natural stuff that happens around the world would make people think 'I'd like to learn more about that country, or that place, or that language','' she says.

The University of Sydney began teaching Arabic and Islamic studies in the 1970s, but didn't set up a dedicated department until 2000. Nijmeh Hajjar, associate professor at the university, says the courses continue to be popular.
''The department is flourishing at all levels,'' she says.

''It's not only because of what's happening in the world, it's because . . . we have students who actually want to learn about the Arab world and about Islam and learn the language.''

For Hajjar there's a deeper social contribution being achieved by teaching the subject.
''I'm an Arab-Australian, member of the Australian community and I believe in multiculturalism and the Arab communities in this country and their contribution,'' she says.

''This is part of my contribution as an Arab-Australian citizen and part of my contribution to this great Australian country. This is what I'm doing, it's what I'll continue doing – teaching Arabic and Islamic studies – it's part of me.''

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Monday, February 3, 2014

Islamic Museum of Australia opening in Thornbury next month

AUSTRALIA'S first Islamic museum is attracting huge interest from schools more than a month before opening its doors in Thornbury early next month.
The $10 million Islamic Museum of Australia will open its doors to the public and school groups on March 3.
Education director Sherene Hassan said more than 30 schools from throughout Victoria, as well as Tasmania and South Australia, had contacted the museum to organise a tour.
She said the tours provided an interactive experience for students across five galleries: Islamic faith, Australian Muslim history, Islamic contributions to civilisation, Islamic architecture and art as well as a series of visiting exhibitions.
"Students will be able to try on clothes pilgrims to Mecca would wear," Ms Hassan said.
"They can learn about the Muslim contribution to maths, astronomy, arts and music and play chess on an oversizes chess board and participate in workshops exploring mosaic and calligraphy."
Ms Hassan said the museum would also launch a dedicated, free online resource built around the national curriculum, which she and museum founder Mustafa Fahour, hoped would further promote cross-cultural harmony.
Former corporate banker Moustafa Fahour came up with the concept for the museum in 2010 and won funding support from all levels of government, community and industry to bring the project to fruition.
"One of the most effective ways to promote cultural diversity and social cohesion is via the universal language of the arts and education," Mr Fahour said.
"Victoria has been home to a Chinese, Jewish and Greek museum for many years so the time is right to reflect on Australia's rich cultural diversity with the addition of an Islamic Museum," he said.
The museum - at 15a Anderson Rd, Thornbury - will open it's doors on Monday, March 3, from 10am.