Help at hand for Bangladeshi workers in Middle East

Bangladesh Ambassador to Jordan Nahida Sobhan distributes food to migrants in Amman. There are around 150,000 Bangladeshi migrants in Jordan. (Supplied)
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Updated 11 April 2020

Help at hand for Bangladeshi workers in Middle East

  • Missions provide food aid to those struggling during coronavirus outbreak

DHAKA: Bangladeshi missions across the Middle East have launched a special food assistance program to help thousands of migrant workers impacted by the anti-coronavirus lockdown, officials told Arab News on Saturday.

Nearly 4 million Bangladeshi workers live in Arab countries, with many facing difficulties due to reduced work opportunities and limited funds.
“Due to the ongoing curfew, we cannot move much. We have applied to the Saudi Foreign Ministry for vehicle movement permission, which would be provided shortly. Once we receive it, our mission’s officials will hand over the food packages to the workers,” Golam Moshi, Bangladesh’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia, told Arab News on Saturday.
It follows an announcement last week by Bangladesh’s Expatriates’ Welfare Minister Imran Ahmad allocating $560,000 towards the initiative.
In addition to providing food packs, the mission has launched a 24-hour toll-free helpline for its workers in the Kingdom and posted a notice on its Facebook page asking for contact, location and visa details so that they can be reached.
Moshi said that Bangladeshi officials had already received nearly 3,000 requests from different locations in the Kingdom and were getting deliverables ready to support the workers for at least 20 days.
He thanked the Kingdom for lifting restrictions on undocumented workers — who make up part of the nearly 2.2 million Bangladeshis living in the Kingdom — so that they could receive assistance during the pandemic.  
“Gradually we will expand the food assistance program to other major cities of the Kingdom, too,” said Moshi, who is also Bangladesh’s permanent representative to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
The Bangladeshi Embassy in the UAE has also distributed about 1,000 food packages to overseas workers in the emirates.
“It’s very challenging to reach the migrants amid this lockdown. In some areas, the Bangladeshi community is also helping the migrants with food and other emergency stuff. Our mission officials are trying their level best to assist the migrants who are in extreme need,” Mohammed Iqbal Hosain Khan, Bangladeshi consul general in the UAE, told Arab News.  
He added that from among the 700,000 Bangladeshi migrants living in the UAE, about 200,000 were facing “extreme hardship” due to the lockdown.  
Meanwhile, the Bangladesh mission in Jordan has received 2,500 requests for assistance from expatriates in the country.  
“On Thursday, we have distributed food packages to several hundred Bangladeshi migrants in two locations of Amman — Mahatta and Jebel Hussein — which will help them for two weeks. With the current funding, we can support around 3,000 migrants,” Nahida Sobhan, Bangladeshi ambassador to Jordan, told Arab News, adding that 150,000 Bangladeshi migrants were currently living in Jordan.
“I think we will be required to support more than 4,000 migrants eventually. So, I am trying to have some more funding to help the migrants as much we can,” Sobhan said.  
Similar initiatives have been taken by Kuwait, Bahrain and other Bangladeshi missions in the region, foreign ministry sources said.

Malaysia welcomes its first halal TV streaming service

Updated 22 September 2020

Malaysia welcomes its first halal TV streaming service

  • Service attracts more than 10,000 subscribers since July

KUALA LUMPUR: Netflix could soon have competition from a homegrown entertainment platform in Malaysia which, its makers say, will cater to Muslims’ “halal TV” needs based on Islamic values.

Dubbed “Nurflix,” the platform is Malaysia’s first Shariah-compliant streaming service and has attracted more than 10,000 subscribers since July.

Nurflix is the creation of Syah Rizal Mohamed, who wants to produce and release original content for the platform before its official launch in January.

“We spent $9.7 million for the startup, but the company will produce 1,000 (items of) original content in multiple categories like mainstream, educational, spiritual and motivational and kids, with about 12,000 episodes in the first five years of operating,” the 43-year-old CEO told Arab News.

He also plans for Nurflix to acquire content from local and international producers, as long as they align with the service’s production guidelines, with a focus on markets in Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore before setting up internationally.

“We see ourselves covering the Southeast Asian region in the next five years with our readiness to establish hubs in the Middle East and Europe to gain traction in the international market.”

He said the decision to tap into the streaming service market was driven by the rapid growth of video-on-demand media and consumers choosing this, as well as over-the-top subscription services, as their main form of entertainment. 

Consumers agreed that there was a market for a halal content platform.

“The Islamic streaming service just enriches the Islamic entertainment ecosystem because there is a niche for it,” 25-year-old public relations executive Puteri N. Balqis told Arab News.

Media consultant Amir Hadi Azmi said a Shariah-compliant streaming service was an interesting niche, particularly for more conservative users, but that the concept was not unique to Islam or Muslims.

“In America, for example, there is a service called Pure Flix which caters to more conservative Christian viewers,” he told Arab News.

Amir Muhammad, managing director of Kuman Pictures, said that as a producer, the more outlets that were made available to content producers and filmmakers, the better. Kuman Pictures, which is known for releasing horror and thriller content, could create appropriate content if need be.

“I have not seen their actual guidelines, but if they want halal horror, we will give them halal horror,” he told Arab News.

The Nurflix CEO said there would be a Content Advisory Council and that it would be headed and supervised by Habib Ali Zaenal Abidin Al Hamid and the Honorable Ustaz Raja Ahmad Mukhlis.

“Productions, including third-party content providers, will be monitored by the council to ensure the end product abides by the set guidelines. Nurflix is unique in the market because it is not just offering Islamic-guided content. The production will be monitored by the council to ensure all aspects of work are conducted in a Shariah-compliant manner.”

Although there is no formal collaboration with the Islamic Affairs Department, he said that Nurflix’s ideas and concepts had already been shared with Islamic Affairs Minister Dr. Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri.

When contacted by Arab News, the director-general of Malaysia’s Department of Islamic Development Paimuzi Yahya said his department was still working on “collaborating with the streaming service” and declined to comment further.