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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Promote Islamic human rights, says Malaysia's DPM

BANGI: Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin today urged Muslim NGOs to promote the Islamic perspective of human rights in the wake of an onslaught by a brand of human rights from the West that promotes secularism and liberalism.
“The human rights values of the West with secularand liberal agenda is clearly different from human rights within the Islamic perspective,” he said while delivering the closing address at the Muslim NGO Congress in UKM this evening.
“They are promoting human rights values that deviate from our faith. This includes the belief towards limitless individual rights that goes against the tenets and values of Islam,” he added.
Muhyiddin also stressed that Islam had never denied the importance of human rights which forms the basis for the freedom of an individual.
“It is a responsibility of every individual to ensure that the rights are not abused,” he said.
He quoted Quranic verses that stressed the right to life, right to justice and freedom of speech and thought to illustrate that Islam is human rights friendly.
He also pointed out that Muslims were against human rights that goes against the tenets of Islam.
“This includes the right to leave Islam in the name of freedom of faith.  The same can be said of the right to have inter-faith marriage and the practice of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender lifestyle,” he said.
He also urged Muslim NGOs to refer to the 1990 Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam as a guideline to promote human rights within the Islamic context.
“I believe the content of the Cairo Declaration can be used as a guideline for Muslim countries to promote an understanding of human rights according to Islamic perspective,” he said to 2,105 participants who represented 198 Muslim NGOs.
No BN campaigning in Teluk Intan
Earlier Muhyiddin accepted the congress’ six point resolution.
The congress called for the government to protect the status of Islam.  It also called for Muslim unity that would strengthen Islam and Muslim’s political will.
In the economic sphere, the congress called for the eradication of economic literacy among Muslims and the transformation of government linked corporations into strategic access points to allow the development of Muslim entrepreneurs.
The congress called all parties to defend the status of Islam in the country and is supporting the formation of an Islamic-based human rights centre called Centre for Human Rights Research and Advocacy (CENTHRA).
It has also called upon the government to provide full support towards the enhancement of Islamic education institutions at all levels.
Meanwhile in a separate issue, Muhyiddin announced that Umno would replace its programmes in Teluk Intan with prayer sessions as a mark of respect to the late Perak Ruler, Sultan Azlan Shah who passed away this afternoon at the National Heart Institute.
The prayer sessions would be held until the late sultan’s burial ceremony is completed.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Tourism to Iran exploding

New five-star hotels, new air links, 4 million visitors

Tourism to Iran exploding: New five-star hotels, new air links, 4 million visitors
Saudi Arabia's Rotana Group plans to open five-star hotels in Tehran and the Shiite pilgrimage city of Mashhad.
Austrian Airlines AG resumed direct flights to Tehran from Vienna in March. Iranian officials have been in talks with the Italian government and Alitalia SpA to increase the frequency on routes, the Fars News Agency reported on April 30, citing the deputy head of Iran's Civil Aviation Organization.
Representatives from Italy, Germany, the Netherlands and several Arab countries, including Oman and Kuwait, have also visited Iran on "fact-finding" trips aimed at seeking future opportunities to invest in Iranian tourism, he said.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has promised a rapprochement with the western powers over the country's nuclear program. Among his first pledges after taking office in August last year, Rouhani said he planned to improve the quality of the tourism industry and draw more foreign travelers.
Travel and tourism accounted for 6.3 percent of Iran's $482 billion economy in 2012, according to an estimate by the World Economic Forum in a report last year.
Most tourists arrive as part of package tours, according to officials. They visit during two peak seasons: April to early June, and September to October.
When taking into account Shia pilgrims and visitors from neighboring countries, more than 4 million foreigners toured Iran from March 2013 to March 2014, each accounting for an estimated $1,200 of revenue, he said, according to the IRNA news agency.
Foreign visitors to Iran are the most visible effect of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's drive to mend relations with the West, an influx that generated as much as $5 billion for the country's sanction-hit economy over the past year. For the first time since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, international hotel chains are now plotting a return, while European airlines are adding or restoring links with Tehran.
Now, tour operators are hoping the thawing of political relations with the west following the election of Rouhani as president will give travelers the reassurance they need to return.
Rouhani's administration has announced plans to ease visa requirements to increase visitor numbers and increase annual income from tourism from $2 billion today to $10 billion.
Between March 21 and April 20, the first month of the Iranian year, 4,594 foreign tour groups visited Iran, more than double the number that arrived in same period last year, Bloomberg quoted Morteza Rahmani-Movahed, the deputy director of the CHTHO, as saying.
Iran may be set to return to the top of "must-visit" lists for 2014, the Financial Times said in a report in January.
Its attractions have never been in doubt -- from ski resorts to beaches, stunning Islamic architecture, ancient archaeological sites, and superb food.

Sharjah to become centre of $3 trillion halal market

KARACHI: Sharjah, United Arab Emirates ios going to become centre of World Halal Food (WHF) very soon, Chairman Sharjah AWQAF Sheikh Sagar bin Mohammad Al Qasmi announced on establishment of Gulf Halal Centre (GHC).

The setting up of WHF was a step in fulfilling the vision of Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid al Maktoum to make UAE the centre of world Halal food trade.

GHC is the pioneering Halal Certification body in the United Arab Emirates offering Halal audit and certification services to Emirati companies to help them convert to Halal Management System.

Sheikh Sagar al Qasmi declared it as part of the jubilation celebrating Sharjah as the Islamic cultural capital of the world 2014.

Halal market does not only include food products and ingredients but also food service establishments, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, personal care products, animal and poultry feed, apparel and leather products, hospitality and tourism, banking, finance, Takaful and logistics which will all be covered by the Gulf Halal Centre.

Asad Sajjad Chief Executive Officer GHC emphasised on the importance of Halal Certification as the demand of 1.7 billion Muslim consumers as well as a lot of non-Muslims, who prefer Halal food as its healthy and wholesome. 

He said GHC team consists of qualified professionals including Halal technical auditor, Shariah experts and food technologist, experienced in Halal audit and certification work as per Halal standards for food safety.

China goes all out to host Najib

KUALA LUMPUR: MALAYSIA'S standing as a loyal "family friend" will be further accentuated when China does away with its protocol norms as its leaders host Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak's six-day visit from today.
That president Xi Jinping has agreed to hold celebrations at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on May 31 (a public holiday there), to mark the 40th anniversary of Malaysia-China bilateral ties, reaffirms Malaysia's status in China.
It was the same day 40 years ago that both countries issued a joint communique signed by former prime minister Tun Abdul Razak Hussein and his then counterpart, Zhou En-lai, on the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries.
A government spokesman said Xi would also break convention when he hosts a private dinner for Najib and his wife, Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor.
"The norm is for the president to just hold bilateral talks while the prime minister would hold the private dinner. This time around, the president will welcome Najib as well as hold a private dinner. It is a very significant gesture as the relationship between the two countries is more of that of a family."
This point was diligently emphasised by China's ambassador to Malaysia, Dr Huang Huikang, who had described the ties as "true friends" in a recent interview
"The history of our relationship for the last 40 years has proved that a friend in need is a friend indeed. China and Malaysia are such friends. So, we are going to promote a better understanding and build a more  comprehensive strategic partnership. We will share common goals and interests. Politically, we have mutual trust. We are going to exchange high-level visits frequently, like relatives and family," he had said.
The official said the significance of Najib's visit to China, coming 40 years after Razak's bold stance to link up Malaysia and China, would be further demonstrated by the decision by its top three leaders, namely Xi, Premier Li Keqiang and Chairman of the National People's Congress Standing Committee, Zhang Dejiang, to meet Najib.
China and Malaysia, he said, would explore every opportunity to enhance their comprehensive strategic partnership, covering all sectors.
"Bilateral relations have grown across the whole spectrum. It is a very strong, very solid, promising relationship that is all encompassing," said the official, adding that the two countries would further enhance cooperation in trade and investment, education, financial services, infrastructure, tourism, education, security, defence, agriculture and people to people contact during Najib's visit.
 Indeed, the relationship has proven to be fruitful with China having been Malaysia’s largest trading partner since 2009. Malaysia, on the other hand, has been China’s eight largest business partner globally.
  Both countries had set a target of annual trade of US$160 billion by 2017. “Malaysia is confident that this can be achieved,” said the official.
  Najib’s visit will also be on a mission to attract a larger portion of China’s projected outbound investments worth US$500 billion over the next five years. As at 2012, Malaysia’s accummulated foreign direct investment (FDI) in China was US$6.3 billion while China’s FDI in Malaysia in the first half of 2013 was US$72 million.
  Islamic finance will also feature prominently during Najib’s visit. “We are already trading in remminbi and ringgit but have yet to establish a clearing bank. We are trying to persuade China (for this purpose).
 “In his last visit, the Chinese president was also keen on establishing an Asian investment bank, and on Malaysia being a partner in establishing one.”
  The official said two projects that epitomised the strategic partnership of the two countries were the China-Malaysia Qinzhou Industrial Park and Malaysia-China Kuantan Industrial Park.
  Five entreprises have signed with a total investment of RMB4.426 billion to set up factories in the former, while the latter has received the commitment of Alliance Steel Sdn Bhd for a steel mill project with an estimated investment of US$3.5 billion.
  Education will also be in Najib’s list of discussions, with the Xiamen University set to have its first overseas campus inb Malaysia. “They have requested for the launch to take place in June or July.”
  Cooperation in agriculture, namely following the Chinese government’s decision to allow the export of raw edible bird nests since early this year. Malaysia, he said, would also continue to promote the use of palm oil.
  On tourism, the official said Malaysia was hopeful that Najib’s visit would induce a turn around in Chinese tourist numbers that had taken a dip after the MH370 incident.
  “We want to put the incident behind us as we have so much more to benefit from in terms of the bigger picture. This, however, doesn’t mean we are forgetting the next-of-kin, The search will continue with participation from China and Australia.”
  The official said Malaysia was hopeful for an improvement “one or two months” from now.
  He said both countries would also work on enhancing defence and military cooperation.
  On the overlapping disputes with China in the South China Sea, Malaysia, which will chair ASEAN next year, the official said while this was a delicate issue, Malaysia would proceed with its commitment to expand relations with China “across the board”.
  On China’s request for an upgrade of the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement pact with China, the spokesman said Malaysia was open to such a proposal.
  “The deeper the economic intergration with China, the better it will be in finding political solutions. When the stakes are higher in protecting business, trade and investment, then there is every reason to ensure that peace and stability are continued.”

Read more: China goes all out to host Najib - General - New Straits Times

Saudi Arabia bags three regional tourism awards


Several Saudi personalities scooped up awards at the Arab Tourism Media Awards and the Arab Heritage Man Award in Oman on Friday.

Atif bin Mohammed Al-Qadhi, a Saudi writer, won the award for best tourism writer, while Saudi businessman Abdul Mohsen Al-Hakeer won the Tourism Personality Award and Abdul Aziz Al-Tuwaijri, chairman of ISESCO and the Islamic Organization for Culture and Arts, captured the Heritage Personality of the Year Award and the Arab Heritage Man for 2014.

The awards were organized by the Arab Center for Tourism Media under the auspices of Tourism Minister Ahmed bin Nasser Al-Mehrzi.

The Saudi winners were among several Arab contenders for various categories, including Oman, Kuwait, Egypt, Algeria, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates.

Participants discussed several issues related to Arab tourism media and new media. Sultan Al-Yahyaie, chairman of the Oman Center for Tourism Media, said that this event was organized in Oman to highlight the importance of developing tourism in the country and the region at large.
Al-Qadhi also expressed his joy on winning the award.

“I was not expecting to win,” he said. “It came as a complete surprise to me and I feel very proud to have brought this honor to my country.”

Several dignitaries, senior Omani officials and representatives from other countries were present during the ceremony.

Al-Mehrzi expressed his joy on the occasion and said that the Arab Tourism Media Center is a leading nongovernmental organization (NGO) that plays an important role in promoting tourism in the Arab world.

Ali Al-Manaie, chairman of the Arab Center for Tourism Media, said that they launched 15 tourism awards in 2012, which were unveiled during the Arab Media Forum.

NZ urged to embrace Islamic tourists

Mohammad Alam
New Zealand has been urged to move beyond fearing Islam and make the most of a rapidly growing Muslim tourist market.
That was the message at New Zealand's first Halal Tourism and Hospitality Symposium at the Novotel in Hamilton.
Halal, an important part of the Islamic faith, denotes an action or object that is permissible by Islamic laws.
A recent Dinar Standard report called The State of the Global Islamic Economy estimated Muslims spent $137 billion a year tourism. That figure is expected to reach $181b by 2018.
Waikato University's Dr Chris Ryan said that outbound tourists from New Zealand's nearest Muslim neighbour, Indonesia, were at 7.5 million in 2012. New Zealand scooped up 13,600 of those.
In total, Indonesian visitors spend just over 84,800 days in the country per year.
Malaysia, another Muslim country, adds a total of 321,700 visitor days per year to New Zealand's tourism industry.
By comparison, Australian visitor days totalled 5.4 million, with Chinese racking up 1.2 million days.
"The figures are, in real terms, still quite low," Ryan said.
"We are currently but scratching the surface."
Part of the solution was to offer more "reassurance factors" to Muslim tourists, like halal food, placing markers in hotel rooms pointing to Mecca (the direction in which Muslims must pray) and advertising nearby mosques where they could worship or connect with other Muslims.
Advertising also needed to centre on Muslim-friendly activities. Muslim tourists tended to avoid beach holidays, and looked for family-oriented holidays.
Walking, visiting heritage sites, lookouts and geothermal or volcanic attractions rated highly on the list of popular activities for Muslims.
Islam encouraged travel "to visit friends and family" and that Muslims were instructed by the Koran to see the beauty of God's world, which New Zealand had plenty of, Ryan said.
Halal tourism operator Mohammad Alam, owner of MK Tours, said New Zealand's current halal offering surprised many visitors, but it was not well marketed.
"We are fully prepared to receive and entertain Muslim travellers," Alam said.
"We have enough halal available and enough prayer places ... for anyone who is Muslim to feel comfortable."
South Korea and Japan were marketing their tourist offering aggressively in Muslim countries, and were better known because of it, he said.
Tourist operators interested in learning more about halal should contact the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand, and take steps like employing a Muslim staff member who would be halal-conscious, or offering a prayer room.
"The presence of these things do make a difference."
The symposium was organised by New Zealand universities, government departments, tourism organisations and Fianz.

Jakarta will be the centre of Islamic tourism on June 2 and 3

JAKARTA - Indonesia is the largest Muslim nation of the world with 90% of its 245 million inhabitants declaring to be Muslim. It then only makes sense that Indonesia and its capital Jakarta welcomes the first international forum of Islamic Tourism of the Organization of the Islmaic Cooperation (OIC). The event will take place on June 2 and 3. "This is concrete action from the tourism ministers of OIC members meeting in Banjul, Gambia, on Dec. 6, 2013, as we want to further develop sharia tourism in OIC countries," Tourism and Creative Economy Deputy Minister Sapta Nirwandar said in Jakarta on Monday as quoted by Antara news agency.
Sapta said sharia tourism was projected to continue to grow as Muslim populations were predicted to reach 2.2 billion - equal to 26.4 percent of the global population - by the end of 2030.
Sharia tourism –also named sometimes “halal tourism” include specific facilities and services. For example, hotels following sharia rules do not serve alcohol and have separate swimming pools and spa facilities for men and women. Indonesia, Malaysia and Turkey for example are now trying to attract Muslim tourists from all over the world by offering such facilities. Other countries such as Singapore, Thailand but also Hong Kong, Japan and Australia are looking at attracting more Muslim travellers thanks to sharia related tourism programs.
The Muslim population stood at 1.6 billion of a global population of 6.9 billion in 2012. "Through this forum, we want to strengthen sharia tourism’s position as one of keys to help support the global economy. We also want to promote sharia tourism destinations and products such as hotels, restaurants and spas," he said.
According to the State of the Global Islamic Economy 2012 research conducted by Thomson Reuters, Muslims spent US$1.088 billion on halal food, equal to 16.6 percent of worldwide food spending. The figure is projected to increase to $1.626 billion in 2018.
Meanwhile, in the tour and travel sector, Muslims around the world spent $137 billion on travel, excluding haj and minor haj, throughout 2012, or 12.5 percent of travel spending across the globe. This figure is predicted to rise to $181 billion by the end of 2018.
Director General of Multilateral Affairs at the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Hasan Kleib, fully supported the forum and stated that the forum will be able to promote global Shariah tourism.
A historical move was taken in 2012 by the government when the Ministry of Tourism and creative economy signed a Memorandum of understanding with Indonesia's Ulema Council on a program that is steered towards making sharia tourism a success. The Ministry estimates that some 20% of travellers coming from Muslim countries would be interested to follow sharia rules when taking a vacation in Indonesia.
(Source: ANTARA news)

Wednesday, May 21, 2014


ISTANBUL — Financial experts and executives of Islamic banks held a meeting in Istanbul to discuss Islamic finance in Turkey and around the world.

"Transforming Islamic Finance in Turkey: Promise of Growth" is the eighth such conference organized by the World Islamic Economic Forum (WIEF) and Independent Industrialists' and Businessmen' Association (MUSIAD). 

It brought together financiers and executives from Muslim-majority countries around the world to share ideas about the opportunities for Islamic finance, and implementation of those opportunities.

Deputy Governor Murat Çetinkaya of the Turkish Central Bank said Islamic finance is on a growth track, both globally and in the Turkish market.

Çetinkaya noted Turkey has huge potential for Islamic financial expansion, although the conventional financial system may pose an obstacle for it.

Humayon Dar, an Islamic economist and president of the London-based EDBIZ Corporation, said Malaysia, Pakistan, Turkey plan to establish a group called the MPT Alliance, which aims to promote Turkey's role in Islamic finance.

Noting that Turkey ranks 12th on the list of world Islamic financial centers, Dar said Iran leads for Islamic finance, followed by Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, Sudan, Pakistan and Qatar.

"By the end of 2020 there will be at least 6 countries in the world with at least 50 percent of market share of Islamic banking and finance," Dar added

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Obama Touched By Malaysia's Hospitality, Warmth And Friendliness

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak (left) and US President Barack Obama during the president's visit to Malaysia. Pic: Astro AwaniPrime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak (left) and US President Barack Obama during the president's visit to Malaysia. Pic: Astro AwaniKUALA LUMPUR: It may have been a short visit for Barack Obama, but the United States (US) president was overwhelmed by Malaysia's hospitality and touched by its people's warmth and friendliness.
This was disclosed by US Ambassador to Malaysia Joseph Y. Yun at a media roundtable in the US Embassy here on Monday, who said Obama left Malaysia with a tinge of memorable and meaningful nostalgia.
"When Obama left, he asked me to convey his thanks to the prime minister (Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak) who was such a gracious host, and to a number of ministers, including (Foreign Minister Datuk Seri) Anifah Aman and (Youth and Sports Minister) Khairy Jamaluddin who was also the minister-in-attendance, for playing a big part of this visit.
"He really asked me to convey (Obama's thanks) to the hosts for their warm welcome and being engaging throughout the whole visit. Obama was very much moved by the welcome shown to him wherever he went, by Malaysians, students at Universiti Malaya, young entrepreneurs at Cyberjaya and civil society leaders," he said.
The three-day visit, beginning April 26, to this Southeast Asian nation of 30 million people - part of Obama's four-nation tour of Asia - is a first by a sitting US president in 48 years since President Lyndon B. Johnson's trip back in 1966.
Yun said Obama was impressed to see crowds lining up to catch a glimpse of the US president at the routes he travelled during his stay in Malaysia.
From his personal point of view, Yun said Obama and Najib shared a very good relationship, familiaritiy with each other, and almost like two old friends meeting after some time.
"They have met many times on both multilateral and bilateral settings and whenever I saw those two interacting together, I am reminded that they know each other so well, that I don't have to brief the president anything at all," he said, adding that Obama's visit was a successful one.
He added that Obama had a personal familiarisation with Malaysia, whereby he remained comfortable in terms of knowledge and relationship, which the president would like to build between the US and the region.
"His personal history matters a lot, for example, during the state banquet, he recollected memories of how his mother collected batik and his half-Indonesian sister's in-laws are Malaysians.
"Even during the small bilateral lunch at Seri Perdana, Obama was telling people how nasi goreng should be cooked, and the best way of cooking it. He also joked about durian, that he (Obama) had tried it several times and (that durian is) not his favourite fruit," he said.
With such a unique friendship shared between Obama and Najib, Yun said they both brought the US and Malaysia relations to a comprehensive partnership, with greater collaboration on the economy, security, education, science, technology and other fields.
"With this new phase of ties, the leaders very much left us with homework such as how do we make progress on visa waiver programme, how to go about expanding education programmes, and lastly, how to cooperate outside Malaysia and within Asean," he said.
Elaborating on the US' Visa Waiver Programme, Yun said Malaysia had to meet a set of qualifications as outlined by US laws and provisions, such as the visa refusal rate had to be about three per cent, Malaysia must report stolen and lost passports to Interpol and exchange data on terrorists and criminals.
"Although Malaysia has met some conditions such as machine-readable passport, allowing Americans in without visas, so, we are making some progress but it will take probably a little time to be qualified for the programme," he explained.
However, he said no date was set for a series of consultations and technical briefings to carry out a proper assessment on the visa waiver programme.
Citizens from countries listed under the visa waiver programme are allowed to travel and stay in the US for a maximum of 90 days without a visa.
Malaysia's visa refusal rate stands at five per cent.
On Malaysia's Chairmanship of Asean 2015, Yun said US was looking forward both diplomatically and economically, and would contribute significantly towards the future direction of Asean and its bid to become the next regional giant.
"US has been supportive of Asean as a grouping of nations, (that) is why we joined the East Asia Summit, by offering technical assistance to Asean on single market, energy issues. It will be an opportunity for US to make progress on so many things," he said.
- Astro Awani