Saturday, November 29, 2008

The global halal market is estimated to be worth $580bn.

From Egypt to Indonesia, there is one, cohesive market defined by Islam. Yet in these tight times, companies targeting the world's 1.4 billion Muslims need to move beyond the traditional dichotomy of consumers being either ‘conservative' or ‘Westernised'.
It is during the Holy Month of Ramadan that most international companies tend to notice their Muslim consumers. Spending patterns change and consumption of some products, including everything from date bars to Vimto, the purple fruit cordial, skyrocket.
However, according to a new study by global advertising firm JWT and market research agency AMRB, there are certain themes that resonate across the Muslim world throughout the year.
"Communication and marketing works much better across socio-cultural lines rather than geographic lines," Roy Haddad, chairman of JWT MENA, said at a press conference earlier this month. "What puts people together is the culture they share, the values they share and the beliefs they share."
The research was conducted in 10 predominantly Muslim countries: Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Malaysia, Pakistan, Indonesia, Jordan, Algeria, Egypt, Iran and Turkey.
The result, entitled The Life and Times of the Modern Muslims: Understanding the Islamic Consumer, probes the attitudes and values of 7500 consumers, most of whom are in the upper, urban socio-economic class of consumers usually targeted by advertisers. Earlier research had mainly looked at Muslims in Western markets such as the US and the UK.
The new survey found that in most markets, less than a third of respondents felt that their national identity is more important than their religious identity. Only Turkey (54 percent) and Iran (49 percent) bucked the trend. Common themes that emerged included high importance placed on family life and a belief that education needs to play a stronger role in shaping society.
"More and more products have to have a brand value, they have to have a role in society," Haddad says, citing the booming Islamic banking sector as an example.
In all but two countries, more than half of those surveyed said they would prefer to deal with Islamic banks rather than a non-Islamic bank, even if they have to pay more.
Saudi Arabia and the UAE were among the top scorers: 76 percent of Saudis and 71 percent of Emiratis said they would opt for an Islamic bank when given a choice.
In the hospitality sector, UAE-based Landmark Hotels has announced plans to open 10 Islamic hotels in UAE and Saudi Arabia over the next two years. The hotels will be free of alcohol, serve halal meals and have pledged to donate part of their earnings to charity.
But large chunks of the Islamic market remain underserved.
"Take the 250 million Muslim women who dress in a compliant way," Haddad says. "That should open a huge market for clothing, cosmetics, and all that comes with that."
In the US, Muslims are the biggest consumers of kosher products, spending $16bn a year. In the UK, the halal market is growing at 15 percent annually, compared to an average market growth of around 1 percent.
The global halal market is estimated to be worth $580bn.
"If any company gets 10 percent of that you have a global company the size of Nestlé," Haddad says.
But it is perhaps in the Muslim world's burgeoning young population that the largest opportunity exists.
"I think the most significant aspect of this is that it's a very young population," Haddad says. "Europe, Japan and China are getting older. The only real demographic growth that is happening is in the Islamic world."
That youth has a strong hunger for self-expression, which seems to be borne out by the results. With the exception of respondents from Jordan, 80 to 90 percent of all interviewees agreed with the statements: "Today's generation does not just accept things - they try to understand the reasoning behind it", and: "It is good that today's generation voices opinions that they strongly believe in".
In the past, companies have sometimes split Muslims into two groups: conservatives and those who are ‘Westernised'.
"No Muslim that I know wants to be more ‘Westernised'. Yes, they want to be modern, but not ‘Westernised'," Haddad says.
He hopes the study will prompt more advertisers to take notice of the Islamic market, whilst realising that not all Muslims are the same.
"We're saying: ‘There are so many nuances in the Islamic world, and understanding those nuances helps you market to them better.' We are not a monolithic body of 1.4 billion people, but there are values that we share.
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If You Want To Work In or Migrate to New Zealand - Malaysiakini

During this turmoil, opportunities are ample for those who seek to see things in different perspectives or those who would like venture out for new challenges.

Back in 1999 during the then economic crisis, I planned my way (with assistance from a friend) to Saudi Arabia with a dream to find new careers and new life for my young family. Alhamdulillah, my prayers during the hajj in 2000 were answered and I was in Dubai immediately after completing the hajj.

I only knew Dubai through 'Emirates airlines' billboard on Jalan Sultan Ismail. Never knew much about the UAE as well except Dubai was a popular transit airport. It took me for a while to really understand the risks but I told myself, 'what the heck, nothing to lose, if I do not like it, I will return home and start all over again'.

About decade later, I still find Dubai fascinating but things are not as before. And in 2005, I traveled to New Zealand with my family for holidays. Same old country that I left in 1988 and managed to drive all the way from Auckland to my foster family home in Wainuiomata without getting lost. Same roads and same picturesque trip to memory lane.

Now, there are opportunities for those who may have some dreams for some changes in life.

New visa categories proposed by new National government

The newly elected National government has proposed three new visa categories including a “Silver Fern” category, which would allow people with recognised tertiary qualifications to travel to New Zealand and to work in temporary jobs while looking for permanent employment in a highly skilled area.

Which visa catergory suits you best?

The new Essential Skills in Demand List means that it´s now even easier for potential migrants like you to work out which visa entry category is most applicable, based on your experience and skills relevant to particular industries and regions.

New National Government Plans Visa Changes

The newly elected National Party has announced planned changes to the New Zealand migration system. Following on from their election promises to encourage Kiwis working overseas to return home and foreign skilled migrants to move to NZ, Dr Lockwood-Smith, the party’s immigration spokesman, has announced three new visa categories.

The three new categories include a Silver Fern visa, which will be introduced to allow would-be migrants the opportunity to travel to NZ to find employment. They will be allowed to work in temporary jobs whilst they hunt for something permanent and once they have found long term work they will be able to transfer the visa into a two year working visa.
National is also proposing a new 6 month, temporary work visa for anyone who obtains seasonal work and a Retirement visa which will allow wealthy retirees to emigrate to New Zealand with funds to invest.

Perjalanan Haji - Filem Kembara Ibn Batutta

Dalam tahun 2002, sewaktu bersama Yusuf Islam, saya berkesempatan untuk bertemu dengan beberapa produser Barat yang menawarkan Yusuf untuk menjadi sebahagian dari sebuah filem dokumentari mengenai perjalanan haji sekumpulan mualaf dari Eropah.
Ini adalah sebahagian dari langkah memulihkan tanggapan mengenai Muslim sebaik pasca September 11.
Dalam perbincangan itu, Yusuf diperlukan untuk bersama pengambaran dalam 30 hari. Saya teruja juga dengan penglibatan ini kerana sememangnya berminat. Saya juga sepatutnya menjadi sebahagian dari krew.
Walaubagaimanapun, dokumentari itu tidak diteruskan kerana tidak mendapat permit diperlukan dari kerajaan Saudi.

Film follows sacred journey

The first film to capture the experience of being among millions of haji circling the Ka’aba, Islam’s holiest shrine in Mecca, will get its official premiere in Abu Dhabi.
Journey to Mecca has been filmed in the ultra-high resolution Imax format and will be shown on a giant screen at the Emirates Palace hotel in January.
Tragically its lead actor, 28-year-old Chems Eddine Zinoun, whose performance anchors the film, will not be present. He died earlier this month in a car accident in his native Morocco.
Jonathan Barker, the chief executive of SK Films, said everyone was “heart-broken” that the young actor, who initially auditioned for a bit part but went on to become the lead, will not be there to see his accomplishment.
“I recently had a wonderful dinner with him and asked how he felt about being in a film that would be actively shown for many decades around the world,” he said.
“He said he felt grateful and honoured to be in this film – especially if it meant more understanding of the richness of his culture and more respect between the West and the East, and between Muslims and non-Muslims.”
Imagenation Abu Dhabi, a subsidiary of Abu Dhabi Media Company (ADMC), will host screenings of the 45-minute film, three times a day over three days from Jan 7. ADMC also publishes The National.
Edward Borgerding, the chief executive of ADMC, said it was “tragic” that Zinoun died just as his film career was blooming but the movie in which he starred was “fantastic”.
“It’s a quality movie about a subject we love and care deeply about, which is Mecca,” he said.“As a local Abu Dhabi film company, we’re proud to sponsor this movie. We wanted to show it because it’s a beautiful theme and a beautiful message.”
Zinoun’s character is Ibn Battuta, the 14th century traveller who made five pilgrimages to Mecca during a 30-year journey that took him across the Muslim world. He covered 115,000km, three times as far as the distance covered by the Western explorer, Marco Polo.
Ibn Battuta’s original journey from Tangiers to Mecca for the 1326 haj took him 18 months. It took filmmakers twice as long to receive permission to shoot Imax footage in Mecca for use in the film.
Dominic Cunningham-Reid, the film’s producer, moved to Saudi Arabia and lived there for the two-and-a-half years it took to secure the 85 permits needed to film what became 10 minutes of screen time in Journey to Mecca. He described the process of overcoming suspicion, resistance and inactivity as conciliation via “a million cups of tea”.
The film is the first time cameras using an Imax format have been allowed inside Mecca. Imax, short for Image Maximum, is used for large-format, special venue film presentations on huge screens, measuring 22 metres wide and 16.1 metres high or larger.
Jonathan Barker, another producer on the project, said the difficulties of filming in Mecca during the haj were more demanding than the organising Imax footage shot on the space shuttle.
“It is certainly the most challenging film I’ve ever been involved in,” he said. “This was extraordinarily difficult because we had to have an all-Muslim crew and, to date, there had been very few Muslims with experience in the Imax medium, so we had to train them. “
We were fortunate to find three really wonderful Muslim cinematographers.
”One of them, Afshin Javadi, took the only footage ever shot by one of the faithful circling the Ka’aba, which he said captured the essence and the beauty of the haj. “
The footage was mesmerising and monumental,” he said.
Other scenes were filmed by helicopter from just above, another cinematic first.
Even after completing the footage in Mecca, the filming moved to locations in Morocco, where 4,500 extras were used to depict the Damascus caravan of pilgrims. A team of 15 expert advisers ensured accuracy, from the religious aspects of the 14th century haj, to the clothing of the hajis and the calligraphy used in the credits.
Cunningham-Reid said the genesis of the film had been to promote a better understanding of Islam and go beyond the typical depictions in the western media.
“After September 11, there was a great hunger and a real need for information about Islam in the West,” he said.
Tahir Shah, the screenwriter, went through more than 55 drafts to reach the final script. Of Anglo-Afghan heritage, he said the attacks made him feel responsible, as someone who had a presence in both East and West, to bridge the gap between them by introducing each to the other’s culture.
The stereotyping of Arab actors in western films was underscored by the previous roles of the film’s actors. Hassam Ghancy, who plays the second lead, an ultimately benevolent bandit, in Journey to Mecca, had recently appeared in Traitor, a Hollywood film starring Don Cheadle, as a member of a terrorist group targeted by the CIA.
Nabil Elouahabi, who played Battuta’s best friend, most recently was also in a film about the September 11 attacks.
It is hoped up to 5,000 people will see Journey to Mecca when it is shown at the Emirates Palace hotel. Screenings will alternate between versions in English with Arabic subtitles and in Arabic with English subtitles.If it proves to be well received, Bruce Neibaur, its director, thinks most of the credit should go to Zinoun.
“I knew he was our Ibn Battuta from the moment he first walked in to audition for a different and smaller role,” he said. “If the film is a success, it will be because Chems was our Ibn Battuta.”