Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Southern Thailand’s other revolution

There is a revolution going on in Southern Thailand and I’m not talking about the insurgency. Cities like the notorious Hat Yai, a sexual playground for Malaysian tourists are being transformed into vibrant Islamic business centres. This rapid transformation has been spurred on by the migration of Muslims from the three troubled provinces of Pettani, Yala, and Narathiwat to Songkhla Province, in order to get away from the trouble. One of the results of this is a growing cluster of young Thai Malay entrepreneurs who are finding innovative ways to develop new business models based upon Islamic principles.
This avant-garde young business group has seen the potential of integrating their beliefs into what they do businesswise. And this is paying off as the Thailand Muslim population is in excess of 6 million people, many cashed up from bumper rubber prices over the last few years. In addition the appeal of these products and services produced by these businesses are not just restricted to the Muslim population.
If one travels around the South of Thailand today there are Halal restaurants, boutiques, travel agents, tour companies, insurance, and consumer products all produced and operated by companies that aspire to comply with Islamic principles. Some larger projects like Halal hotels and condominiums for Muslim retirees from Malaysia and Singapore are being currently constructed. What one can feel talking to these entrepreneurs and seeing the results of their work is an aire of excitement, innovation and expectation that this strategy will lead to growth and success.
This is in stark contrast to south of the border in Malaysia where over the last 50 years an institutionalized mindset of dependence upon government contracts, favours, and grants has severely inhibited innovation. Symbolically, this can be seen through the individualized Islamic fashion worn by Southern Thai Muslim women verses the stereotyped fashion worn by Malaysian Malay women. Even the night markets in Southern Thailand are full of innovative Halal foods like dim sum and sushi with stalls decorated in colourful banners in contrast to the drab night markets across the border.
This “tale of two cities” along the border of Malaysia and Thailand probably reflects the vastly different approaches to development by the two countries. Thai development has been much more ad hoc than Malaysia, where ideas tend to be generated by individuals who do something about them using their own resources. If and when they are successful, others follow and build upon this base with complementary rather than competitive businesses. Soon after government agencies provide channels and assistance through their community industry and marketing programs. Later universities like Chulalongkorn set up fully accredited Halal testing labs to support the growing business cluster. These clusters start and grow almost naturally and this is occurring along the Islamic business front now.
In contrast, Malaysian development comes from top down planning. Much fanfare is given to new infrastructure projects with grand objectives. The participants attending launches and involved in implementation are bureaucrats and agency officials with very little participation by the private sector. Where opportunities are identified, an agency may set up a government linked company as a vehicle to exploit it, actually stifling out private enterprise growth rather than promoting it. The end result is an attempt to build a cluster with little private enterprise support, that doesn’t have any natural growth or momentum, continually requiring funds to prop it up.
This story tends to support what the creativity pundits say. Creativity and innovation comes from adversity and hardship rather than a comfortable and complacent environment. The Muslim entrepreneurs in Southern Thailand have had to make it on their own and not rely upon favors from a structure of cronies who can dish out contracts and funds. In addition this trend toward Islamic principled business shows that future wealth will come from innovation rather than connections, which is very important if substantiated and real economic development is going to occur. It’s not brick and mortar that will bring development, but new ideas and practices connecting hinterland, culture and entrepreneur to new market possibilities.
The Malay entrepreneurs of Southern Thailand as well aware that almost 25% of the world population are Muslims and that an Islamic approach to the market is sure to provide a regional source of competitive advantage in the international market arena within the not too distant future. Culture and religion can be a strong and powerful economic resource.
Their gung-ho attitude is to develop the market in Southern Thailand today and extend out to the region tomorrow. One can see through the Halal supply chain system developed by the Halal Research Centre at Chulalongkorn University that this is not just a dream. Some of the world’s major food manufacturers like NestlĂ© have already adopted it.
And finally what could this mean for the restless south of Thailand. Will growing economic prosperity and wealth be the best long term weapon against any insurgency? Can the people solve this themselves without any outside assistance? If this hypothesis is true, then the growing Islamic business cluster in Southern Thailand may marginalize the insurgency movement. However this doesn’t mean that the violence would end. When a movement is being marginalized it may seek attention thought further ‘high profile’ acts of violence. That’s the sad part of the story.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Health Benefits of Coconut Oil

The health benefits of coconut oil include hair care, skin care, stress relief, maintaining cholesterol levels, weight loss, increased immunity, proper digestion and metabolism, relief from kidney problems, heart diseases, high blood pressure, diabetes, HIV and cancer, dental care, and bone strength. These benefits of oil can be attributed to the presence of lauric acid, capric acid and caprylic acid, and its properties such as antimicrobial, antioxidant, antifungal, antibacterial and soothing properties.

How is Lauric Acid Used by our body?

The human body converts lauric acid into monolaurin which is claimed to help in dealing with viruses and bacteria causing diseases such as herpes, influenza, cytomegalovirus, and even HIV. It helps in fighting harmful bacteria such as listeria monocytogenes and helicobacter pylori, and harmful protozoa such as giardia lamblia. As a result of these various healthbenefits of coconut oil, though its exact mechanism of action was unknown, it has been extensively used in Ayurveda, the traditional Indian medicinal system. The Coconut Research Center has compiled various benefits in both traditional and modern medicine.
Before we move on to the benefits of coconut oil in detail, let us understand its composition.

Composition of Coconut Oil:

Coconut oil consists of more than ninety percent of saturated fats (Don’t panic! First read to the last word. Your opinion may change), with traces of few unsaturated fatty acids, such as monounsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids. Virgin coconut oil is no different from this. Let us have a bit detailed study of this..
  • Saturated fatty acids: Most of them are medium chain triglycerides, which are supposed to assimilate well. Lauric acid is the chief contributor, with more than forty percent of the share, followed by capric acid, caprylic acid, myristic acid and palmitic.
  • Polyunsaturated fatty acids: Linoleic acid.
  • Monounsaturated fatty acids: Oleic acid.
  • Poly-phenols: Coconut contains gallic acid, which is phenolic acid. These poly-phenols are supposed to be responsible for the fragrance and the taste of coconut oil and Virgin Coconut Oil is rich in these poly-phenols.
  • Certain derivatives of fatty acid like betaines, ethanolamide, ethoxylates, fatty esters, fatty polysorbates, monoglycerides and polyol esters.
  • Fatty chlorides, fatty alcohol sulphate and fatty alcohol ether sulphate, all of which are derivatives of fatty alcohols.
  • Vitamin-E and Vitamin K and minerals such as Iron.

Health Benefits of Coconut Oil

Let us now explore the benefits of coconut oil in detail:

Hair Care:

Coconut oil is one of the best natural nutrition for hair. It helps in healthy growth of hair providing them a shiny complexion. It is effective in reducing the protein loss for damaged and undamaged hair.
Coconut oil is extensively used in the Indian sub-continent for hair care. Most of the people in these countries apply coconut oil on their hair daily after bath. It is an excellent conditioner and helps in the re-growth of damaged hair. It also provides the essential proteins required for nourishing damaged hair. Research study indicates that coconut oil provides better protection to hair from damage caused by hygral fatigue.
Regular head massage with coconut oil ensures that your scalp is free of dandruff, even if your scalp is dry. It also helps in keeping hair and scalp free from lice and lice eggs.
It is therefore used as hair care oil and used in manufacturing various conditioners, and dandruff relief creams. Coconut oil is normally applied topically for hair care.

Skin Care:

Coconut oil is excellent massage oil for the skin as well. It acts as an effective moisturizer on all types of skins including dry skin. The benefit of coconut oil on the skin is comparable to that of mineral oil. Further, unlike mineral oil, there is no chance of having any adverse side effects on the skin with the application of coconut oil. Coconut oil therefore is a safe solution for preventing dryness and flaking of skin. It also delays wrinkles, and sagging of skin which normally become prominent with age. Coconut oil also helps in treating various skin problems including psoriasis, dermatitiseczema and other skin infections. Therefore coconut oil forms the basic ingredient of various body care products such as soaps, lotions, creams, etc., used for skin care. Coconut oil also helps in preventing premature aging and degenerative diseases due to its antioxidant properties.

Heart Diseases:

There is a misconception spread among many people that coconut oil is not good for the heart. This is because it contains a large quantity of saturated fats. However, coconut oil is beneficial for the heart. It contains about 50% lauric acid, which helps in preventing various heart problems including high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure. The saturated fats present in coconut oil are not harmful as it happens in case of othervegetables oils. It does not lead to increase in LDL levels. It also reduces the incidence of injury in arteries and therefore helps in preventing atherosclerosis.

Weight Loss

Coconut oil is very useful in reducing weight. It contains short and medium-chain fatty acids that help in taking off excessive weight. It is also easy to digest and it helps in healthy functioning of the thyroid and enzymes systems. Further, it increases the body metabolism by removing stress on pancreases, thereby burning out more energy and helping obese and overweight people reduce their weight. Hence, people living in tropical coastal areas, who eat coconut oil daily as their primary cooking oil, are normally not fat, obese or overweight.


Internal use of coconut oil occurs primarily as cooking oil. Coconut oil helps in improving the digestive system and thus prevents various stomach and digestion related problems including irritable bowel syndrome. The saturated fats present in coconut oil have anti microbial properties and help in dealing with various bacteria, fungi, parasites, etc., that cause indigestion. Coconut oil also helps in absorption of other nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and amino acids.


Coconut oil is also good for the immune system. It strengthens the immune system as it contains antimicrobial lipids, lauric acid, capric acid and caprylic acid which have antifungal, antibacterial and antiviral properties. The human body converts lauric acid into monolaurin which is claimed to help in dealing with viruses and bacteria causing diseases such as herpes, influenza, cytomegalovirus, and even HIV. It helps in fighting harmful bacteria such as listeria monocytogenes and heliobacter pylori, and harmful protozoa such as giardia lamblia.

Healing and Infections

When applied on infections, it forms a chemical layer which protects the infected body part from externaldust, air, fungi, bacteria and virus. Coconut oil is most effective on bruises as it speeds up the healing process by repairing damaged tissues.
Infections: Coconut oil is very effective against a variety of infections due to its antifungal, antiviral, and antibacterial properties. According to the Coconut Research Center, coconut oil kills viruses that cause influenza, measles, hepatitis, herpes, SARS, etc. It also kills bacteria that cause ulcers, throat infections, urinary tract infections, pneumonia, and gonorrhea, etc. Coconut oil is also effective on fungi and yeast that cause candidiasis, ringworm, athlete's foot, thrush, diaper rash, etc.


Coconut oil is strongly recommended for other benefits which are given below. Usage of coconut oils mildly helps for the following:
Liver: The presence of medium chain triglycerides and fatty acids helps in preventing liver diseases as they substances are easily converted into energy when they reach the liver, thus reducing work load on the liver and also preventing accumulation of fat.
Kidney: Coconut oil helps in preventing kidney and gall bladder diseases. It also helps in dissolving kidney stones.
Pancreatitis: Coconut oil is also believed to be useful in treating pancreatitis.
Stress Relief: Coconut oil is very soothing and hence it helps in removing stress. Applying coconut oil to the head followed with a gentle massage helps in removing mental fatigue.
Diabetes: Coconut oil helps in controlling blood sugar, and improves the secretion of insulin. It also helps in effective utilization of blood glucose, thereby preventing and treating diabetes.
Bones: As mentioned earlier, coconut oil improves the ability of our body to absorb important minerals. These include calcium andmagnesium which are necessary for development of bones. Thus coconut oil is very useful to women who are prone to osteoporosis after middle age.
Dental Care: Calcium is an important element present in teeth. Since coconut oil facilitates absorption of calcium by the body, it helps in getting strong teeth. Coconut oil also stops tooth decay.
HIV and Cancer: It is believed that coconut oil plays an instrumental role in reducing viral susceptibility of HIV and cancerpatients. Preliminary research has shown indications of the effect of coconut oil on reducing the viral load of HIV patients (Reference).
Finally, coconut oil is often preferred by athletes and body builders and by those who are dieting. The reason behind this being that coconut oil contains lesser calories than other oils, its fat content is easily converted into energy and it does not lead to accumulation of fat in the heart and arteries. Coconut oil helps in boosting energy and endurance, and enhances the performance of athletes.
Coconut Oil and Alzheimer's Disease: There are reports of  research conducted by Dr. Newport stating that coconut oil is useful for treating Alzheimer's disease. Apart from this there is no scientific evidence or traditional knowledge or coconut oil being used for treating Alzheimer's. It was also not known traditionally that coconut oil helps in the brain function. 
Why is Coconut Oil Solid?: Unlike most other oils, coconut oil has a high melting point - about 24 to 25 degress Celcius or 76-78 Farenheit. Therefore it is solid at room temperature and melts only when the temperatures go high. Hence, if you buy a bottle of coconut oil and find it solid, don't think that there is some problem with it. Coconut oil is like this only. And of course, don't keep it in your refrigerator.
How to Use Coconut Oil?: If you are using coconut oil for topical purposes, especially hair care, just melt the oil (if it is solid) by keeping the bottle in the sun or warm water. You can also take some coconut oil out and put it in a small bowl and heat the bowl over a flame (do not use microwave). Then take the oil on your palm and apply it to your hair. If you want to use it for internal consumption, simply replace butter or vegetable oils with coconut oil in your recipes. Remember, you need not switch to coconut oil completely, as you will miss the benefits of other oils and dairy products.
Can I Use Coconut Oil for Cooking?: Yes, in most of the tropical coastal regions, people use coconut oil for coooking.  
I Don't Like the Taste of Coconut Oil. What Should I do?: Try using coconut oil in some different recipe. That may help. If you get nauseated after eating coconut oil, don't force yourself. As it happens with any otherfood item, your body may be allergic to coconut oil and it is best not to consume it.
This article is written by Kiran Patil
Visit the website of Coconut Research Center to get a list of the scientific literature on coconut oil
Sources of photos: Coconut oil: SXC.hu; woman combing hair, measuring waist, healthy kid, middle aged woman: PhotoXpress

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Future Hajj

Issue 74 November 2010

Millions of Muslims perform Hajj every year, and whilst the experience may leave footprints on their hearts, environmentalists are concerned with the carbon footprint of the pilgrimage.

As the fifth pillar of Islam, Hajj can have a massive impact on the lives of Muslims, and many save up their whole lives to go on the trip.
Many pilgrims are unaware of the environmental effects of their trip, and this is emphasised by the numerous buses churning out carbon emissions and the 100 million plastic bottles left around the holy sites.
The Qur’an tells us, “Greater indeed than the creation of man is the creation of the heavens and the earth,” (40:57) and we must respect and revere the world we live in.
The underlying concept of the Hajj is to make a sacrifice and purify the self; many people see it as a chance to turn a new leaf. What better environment to start a sustainable, eco-friendly lifestyle than a ‘green Hajj’?
Initiatives to help combat the environmental effects include banning plastic bottles, printing copies of the Qur’an on recycled paper, and promoting awareness of environmentalism in Islamic teachings.
The Ministry of Hajj is also looking to the future and has drawn up plans to make mosques eco-friendly and powered by solar energy.
In addition, the Haramain High Speed Rail Project will run between Makkah, Madinah and Jeddah, and is expected to be completed by 2012. There is also the Mashair Railway, known as the ‘Makkah Metro’, which will link Mina, Arafat, and Muzdalifa with Makkah, and is undergoing test runs before opening for this Hajj.
These plans make up a wider shift in the Muslim mentality towards eco-friendly projects. The Muslim Seven Year Action Plan on Climate Change was drawn up in November 2009 to serve as the foundation for environmental campaigns based on Islamic teachings. Madinah will serve as a ‘model green city’, and there are plans to launch the Muslim Association for Climate Change Action (MACCA).
These policies are a step forward towards the fully-fledged ‘green Hajj’, and we hope that the eco-friendly thinking can spill over into all spheres of Muslim lives. However, we must acknowledge that responsibility falls on the individual as well as the institutions.

Hajj through the Screen

Hajj is a journey known for its physical demands, but there have been attempts to portray it through other interactive channels.

Journey to Mecca 
This award-winning IMAX documentary, narrated by Sir Ben Kingsley, tells the tale of Ibn Battuta’s travels from Tangier to Makkah for his first Hajj.
By portraying the peaceful values and extraordinary history of the Hajj, the producers wanted to promote a better understanding of Islam and foster a sense of pride amongst the Muslim community.
“The footage we filmed of the tawaf in which we can see a million people on the screen at one time – these are shots that are worth spending a lifetime working to document, let alone two years,” says Taran Davies, producer.
It took the crew two years to acquire the filming permits, and over 2000 people from 24 countries worked on
the film.

Second Life 
A ‘Virtual Hajj’ has been developed in Second Life, the popular online platform, where users can ‘walk’
their avatars around Makkah and surrounding sites.
The purpose of the programme is to educate Muslims about the procedures of the pilgrimage, and it also allows wider society to have a virtual presence.
“If the Virtual Hajj acts as an inspiration for someone to make the pilgrimage, or to learn about Islam, or if it simply teaches a virtual pilgrim about the Hajj, then it has been worth the effort,” states Ruuh Cassini, developer of Virtual Hajj.
Users can pick up a virtual garment, bag and tent, and can even find pebbles to throw at virtual devils.  In the past, the creators have offered virtual tours to inform visitors of the significance of each site and the related rituals.

Photo Credits - Abdullah Almaosharji, Cosmic Picture


The Past

The Present