Statement by the President on Hajj and Eid al-Adha

November 10, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

White House Press Release

Michelle and I extend our greetings for a happy Eid al-Adha to Muslims worldwide and congratulate those performing Hajj. Thousands of Muslim Americans are among those who have joined one of the world’s largest and most diverse gatherings in making the pilgrimage to Mecca and nearby sites.

As Muslims celebrate this Eid, they will also commemorate Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son by distributing food to those less fortunate around the world.  They join the United States and the international community in relief efforts to assist those struggling to survive in the Horn of Africa and those recovering from the devastating earthquake in Turkey. 

The Eid and Hajj rituals are a reminder of the shared roots of the world’s Abrahamic faiths and the powerful role that faith plays in motivating communities to serve and stand with those in need.  On behalf of the American people, we extend our best wishes during this Hajj season.  Eid Mubarak and Hajj Mabrour.

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Emerging Fast-Food Nation Indonesia Props Up Wheat Market

July 7, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Michael Taylor

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A woman holding a baby walks past menus displayed in front of a fast food outlet in Jakarta June 28, 2011. Indonesia will be crowned top Asian wheat importer this year, as higher incomes turn Southeast Asia’s largest economy into a fast-food nation and help to keep global prices on the boil.

JAKARTA, June 28 (Reuters) – Indonesia will be crowned top Asian wheat importer this year, as higher incomes turn Southeast Asia’s largest economy into a fast-food nation and help to keep global prices on the boil.

As affluent Indonesians turn away from rice, their country is vying with Japan to be Asia’s leading wheat buyer, while the latter battles economic crisis in the wake of a devastating earthquake and an ageing population boosts protein in its diet.

“We are coming up on a par with, or even more than, Japan,” said Franciscus Welirang, chairman of the Indonesian Wheat Flour Mills Association, known as Aptindo. “It could be this year that we overtake.”

With Indonesia’s imports of the staple set to rise more than 10 percent this year and 3 percent a year in the period to 2015, the trend could even carry Indonesia to second place among the ranks of the world’s largest importers this year.

Listed firms that could gain from any rise in Indonesian wheat consumption include Indofood Sukses Makmur , Singapore’s Wilmar International and Malaysia’s PPB Group.

Indonesia, which relies entirely on imports for its wheat, gets around 60 percent of supplies from Australia, with Canada and the United States accounting for about 30 percent.

Western Australian wheat suppliers will benefit from the trend and continue to dominate Indonesian demand, analysts say, as geographic proximity and consumers’ preference for premium and standard white wheat head off competition from mainly soft white and hard red wheat producers in the U.S. and Canada.

Premium wheat from Western Australia, used to make bread and noodles, is also a favourite of East Asian countries, such as Vietnam and Taiwan.

Small Global Deficit

Global wheat output is set to show a small deficit this year, with stocks meeting any shortfall as output hits around 663 million to 673 million tonnes, analysts say.

The surge in Indonesian imports for the rest of this year coincides with a recent plunge in global wheat prices on improving crop weather in the West while Australian exports could jump nearly 9 percent to a record in 2011-12.

“In such a finely balanced market, any change in supply or demand will have an outsized impact on prices,” said Deepak Gopinath, director at Trusted Sources Research. “The continued rapid growth of Southeast Asian wheat imports will be bullish for wheat prices over the medium term.”

That growth will help moderate the price drop seen for the coming months, after wheat prices hit 2-1/2 year peaks near $9.00 a bushel in February on tight supplies and robust demand from Middle East and North African importers.

By 0628 GMT, the front-month July contract wheat futures on the Chicago Board of Trade was flat at $6.24 a bushel, after posting its fourth-straight week of losses last week to around the lowest in a year. A Reuters technical analysis showed CBOT wheat would fall to $4.02-1/4 per bushel over the next three months.

Southeast Asia now accounts for about 12 percent of global wheat imports, up from 9 percent in 2009. While wheat imports by neighbouring Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia have held under 3 million tonnes over the past decade, Indonesian intake has almost doubled.

This is due in part to a wheat consumption push by the Indonesian government, an effort to avoid an over-reliance on the staple diet rice of which it is not a major exporter like many of its neighbours.
“Asia is a new market and one of the big issues in terms of food security,” said Jonathan Barratt, managing director of Commodity Broking Services in Sydney.

“We’re looking for increased production but it is not meeting the new demand from emerging economies — that’s the problem because it’s moving outside traditional food sources.”

Fast Food Chains

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Customers queue to buy food at a KFC outlet in Jakarta June 28, 2011. Indonesia will be crowned top Asian wheat importer this year, as higher incomes turn Southeast Asia’s largest economy into a fast-food nation and help to keep global prices on the boil.

Behind Indonesia’s rapidly rising wheat imports stands a booming economy, set to rise about 6.5 percent this year, boosted by domestic consumption and mineral exports.

Appetites are changing, with bread-based breakfast favoured by the upper middle classes and noodles preferred by the middle classes, a shift away from the previous breakfast staple, rice.

Such changes are easy to spot on a walk through the smog-filled streets of Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta, where new fast food outlets and billboards for the likes of McDonalds , Dunkin’ Donuts, Pizza Hut and KFC , have mushroomed.

McDonalds’ Indonesian licensee says the hamburger chain now has 117 restaurants in the country versus 98 at the end of 2009.

“The increasing westernisation of diets throughout Southeast Asia over the past couple of years, has certainly driven feed wheat demand,” said Michael Creed, an agribusiness economist for National Australia Bank.

About 60 percent of Indonesian wheat imports are now used to make noodles, with 20 percent consumed by bakeries.

Aptindo Indonesia recently forecast wheat imports would grow 10 percent this year to 5.1 million tonnes.

According to forecasts by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Indonesia is already ahead in Asia in the trade year July 2010 to June 2011, with wheat and flour imports at 6.1 million tonnes compared to 5.5 million tonnes in Japan.

USDA data showed 2009/2010 imports for Indonesia and Japan at 5.36 million tonnes and 5.5 million tonnes respectively. It adds that Indonesian wheat consumption is estimated to rise to 5.8 million tonnes in 2010/2011, versus 5.25 million in 2009/10.      A combination of ageing population, rising incomes leading to consumers favouring less starch and more high protein foods, are all helping to push Japan’s wheat consumption lower, analysts say.

Analysts say Indonesian wheat imports are seen rising about 3 percent annually in three to five years , with huge scope for further growth, given that its annual consumption of wheat per capita of 18 kg puts the country among the world’s lowest.

“There is a potential market to grow,” said a consultant at U.S. Wheat Associates.

Indonesia will import 700,000 tonnes of wheat flour this year, said Aptindo, 60 percent from Turkey.

The USDA forecast that Indonesia will rank third among global importers in 2010/2011, behind Egypt and Brazil.

“Indonesia are a fairly large importer,” said Creed, who sees Indonesia overtaking Brazil. “There is not exactly a huge amount of arable land in Indonesia… Brazil does have a capacity to increase productivity.”

But as tastes widen beyond rice, any negative impact on the traditional staple grain is limited due to Indonesia’s ambitious aims to be self-sufficient in rice production.

“The Indonesian government’s goal is to maintain rice self-sufficiency at all costs,” said Gopinath. “That means encouraging Indonesians to substitute wheat for rice as much as possible to slow the growth in rice consumption.” (Editing by Ramthan Hussain and Clarence Fernandez)

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Tough to Leave the Devastated Place

March 25, 2010 by · 3 Comments 

By Ilyas Hasan Choudry, MMNS

TMO Editor’s note:  Houston editor Ilyas Choudry spent a week helping earthquake victims in Haiti.  This is his report.

Haiti Downtown - See Buildings Leaning Lets’ say for seven days in a row, you wake up to see dire situation around you. When you woke up the eighth day, you are going to take an airplane to a place, almost like paradise on this earth, as compared to the everyday anguish of the past seven days. But instead of feeling happy to leave the devastated place, you have this extreme lingering sadness inside; telling that you should not leave. May be there is a way to delay your departure and that you can stay for few more weeks or may be months or even years, to see this torturous place come out of the ruins.

This is what I felt on Sunday, March 15th, 2010, when I went through a long queue for more than two hours to aboard American Airlines Flight 1908 from Port-au-Prince to Miami International Airport. I did not want to leave my fellow Haitian human-beings in desperate situation, while I had to begin my journey back to luxurious life in USA. For the past seven days, I had to take cold showers early in the morning (first time after 1987); sharing one bathroom with six other persons, when on few days suddenly realizing that I was the last of the six and that there is very little water left for me; got to eat rice & beans and for a change of menu, I used to eat beans & rice the next day; fridge not laden with food and Coke / Pepsi as electricity was unpredictable and not strong enough for the fridge to work. If it was not for immediate responsibility of my own family in Houston and to earn a living for them, I would have preferred to stay back in Haiti, as so much is needed to be done there, while we live in heaven on earth called USA.

Leogane Haiti - Temporary Wooden Shelter Homes By HHRD Hopefully To Fare Well As Compared To Tarp Tents World came out in a big way to respond to Haitian crisis after the devastating earthquake of January 12th, 2010. Everyone has tried their best in the manner they know to assist. But to be really honest, the world has failed the Haitian people. I feel the hype created about safety and security situation was not appropriate. I drove & walked on the streets of Haiti during these seven days, the Haitians that I have seen on the whole are very nice hardworking people and not threatening (especially after what they had gone through). Provision of safety and security are important things, but the way this fear of insecurity was created and blown out of proportion, it hampered the overall response and made several agencies and NGOs to confine their services to few thousands, the lucky ones who could reach the so-called safe compounds, while real masses were neglected.

Still there have been individuals and non-governmental organizations, working independently or together with the resources of international agencies like UNO, UNICEF, etc. who have tried their best to provide food and health services at grassroots levels in an amicable manner. I am part of one of them called “Helping Hand For Relief & Development (HHRD)”. Visit www.HHRD.Org for more details.

With the help of donors from USA, Canada, United Kingdom, Pakistan and elsewhere, HHRD has provided food and healthcare services at rotational clinics in various communities within Port-au-Prince (like Nazon, Leogane, Ave Lamartinier, Masjid Taweed, Masjid Ya-Sin, etc). Between January 26 and March 19, 2010, HHRD in all have organized 55 clinics, taking care of more than 11,000 Haitians, with the voluntary help of doctors from USA, Turkey, Bangladesh and of course Haiti (paid and volunteer). After March 19, 2010, HHRD will work on establishing some permanent clinics.

I was in Haiti from March 7 till 14, 2010 and was appalled to see that two months have passed, but no real effort has been done by the world community. Near me, what was expected of the Governments of the world was to bring necessary heavy machinery and equipment into Port-au-Prince to remove the rubble. Two months have passed and despite traveling east-&-west and north-&south of Port-au-Prince, the number of heavy machinery that I could see was about six (6). One can go to Centerville (Downtown) Port-au-Prince and see several five to eight story buildings leaning on one side and can fall down onto the pubic anytime. There is rubble all over the place. All the work that one can see on the rubble is that people cutting the steel and securing it for any future reconstruction work.
When Tsunami 2004-2005 & later on last year Earthquake 2009 came in Indonesia and Earthquake 2005 came in Pakistan, the action was swifter in removing debris and rebuilding efforts started within one month or so. But not in Haiti, where more than two months have passed and genuine work to remove the rubble is far from sight. Question is not why work was swiftly done in Indonesia and Pakistan: Query is why not in Haiti: I have no idea why??

I was most impressed to see the resilience of common Haitians, who despite the world almost ignoring them, are coming out every day in the morning, to earn their living. Marketplace is full of people, doing small little businesses to survive and few seen begging. Their high spirits need to be saluted.

Many small NGOs like HHRD are doing their little roles at grassroots level as per their capacities, but they usually get no or little attention of the media, and as such are unable to reach out to larger audiences and people to bring more and more assistance to the common masses.

Like the next immediate need for Haitians is proper shelter with rainy season coming in April 2010. HHRD has come up with an unique idea of taking Youth during their Spring Break from USA, to work on a Shelter Home Village project, where 100 wooden small homes are being constructed in another devastated area called Leogane, Haiti (35 miles west of Downtown Port-au-Prince along Leogane Highway). These Shelter homes will hopefully sustain the rainy season and provide safe haven for three to five years. HHRD contacts in the field for this and other projects are Shahid Hayat 1-347-400-1899 and Saqib Ateeque 1-609-575-7474. For general public to participate in this project, details can be found at www.HHRD.Org

As I write these lines, after a long time, we can see a reassuring response from the world, when our very own former US Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton are seen standing with President Rene Preval in front of the earthquake damaged Haitian Presidential Palace. They are reassuring the shattered Haitians that world has not forgotten them 10 weeks after the deadliest earthquake of modern times. The still crushed Haitian Presidential Palace with no work being done on it in the past ten weeks, clearly show that world has not done the real work of rebuilding the Haitians’. Hopefully these words of the former Presidents will bring a different response in the right direction towards true recuperation & reconstruction efforts and not merely handouts.

Otherwise the human spirit is very strong. Long-term micro financing initiatives, physical rehabilitation, and reconstruction of infrastructure work is needed: Not merely a box of food here and there. Haitian people together with the non-governmental entities, including HHRD will continue to exert efforts and rebuild a new Haiti soon, providing common human beings worldwide with an opportunity to serve their fellow Haitians and indeed all this will be possible through the Grace of God.

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Community News (V11-I49)

November 25, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Pakistani American doctors urged to develop homeland

NEW YORK, NY–Pakistan’s UN Ambassador Abdullah Hussain Haroon Saturday urged medical doctors of Pakistani descent to make their full contribution to American economic and political life as well as play their part in the development of their motherland, the Associated Press of Pakistan reported.

Speaking at the annual dinner of the Association of Physicians of Pakistani descent of North America (APPNA), he lauded the services rendered by Pakistani-American doctors, and hoped that their fast-growing organization would emerge as a major force in the country.

The dinner, held in Uniondale on the Long Island, a New York suburb, was largely attended by APPNA members from all over the United States. Also present were U.S. Congressman Ed Town and Nassau County executive Tom Suozzi.

The newly-elected President of APPNA’s New York Chapter Dr. Asif  Rehman welcomed the guests and enumerated the association’s support- activities in Pakistan, especially during the 2005 devastating earthquake in northern Pakistan and in easing the suffering of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) from Swat.

In his remarks, Ambassador Haroon traced the development of U.S.-Pak relations from their inception, saying Pakistan had always given diplomatic, political and strategic support to the the United States without any quid pro quo.

He especially referred to the support provided by Pakistan following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. But he regretted that Pakistan was forgotton when the Soviets were forced to pullout of Afghanistan.

“Still, we have remained good friends of the United States,” the ambassador added.

Lilburn mosque plan denied

GWINNETT, GA–The Lilburn City Council voted down a plan last Wednesday night that would have allowed for a major expansion of a local mosque.

The mosque is on Lawrenceville Highway at Hood Road.

Residents argued the development would go against zoning laws designed to protect neighborhoods.

“It doesn’t matter what it was going to be, it didn’t belong in that area. It wasn’t zoned for that,” said Ilene Stongin-Garry, who’s against the expansion.
Attorney for the mosque said denying the project is a violation of the congregation’s first amendment right.

“They want to expand as other churches, as other religious institutions have been able to expand in your community. To deny them this right in unlawful,” said Doug Dillard, the mosque’s attorney.

Dillard vows to fight on, he’s going to take the case to federal court.

Arabic classes in more high schools in Chicago

CHICAGO, IL–The Chicago public schools will expand its Arabic-language program to three more high schools, thanks to a three-year federal grant of 888,000 U.S. dollars announced earlier this month.   Already, Arabic is offered at three Chicago high schools and is also offered at seven Chicago elementary schools and about 2,000 students take Arabic in Chicago’s schools, according to official sources.

The new federal grant will fund the expansion to three additional high schools in Chicago that have yet to be identified, the sources said.

The expansion will be enhanced by the use of technology-based instruction using the safari-blackboard virtual technology that will allow a teacher at one school to simultaneously offer a virtual class at another school as well. The teacher will change schools every two weeks so students will have personal interaction with a teacher.

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