Soldier Field

As a die hard Bears fan and watching some the most amazing games in New Orleans and Minnesota the fact I have not even watched a game at Soldier Field is a cardinal sin.

Before getting to the game, you have to stop of at the best burger in the world – Epic Burger, you will not get a better beef patty burger anywhere in the world!  And if you get a chance it is always nice to check at the Bean and Millennium Fountain at Millennium Park.

Soldiers Field is the oldest stadium in the NFL, built to honours our soldiers, as an open air stadium, it rich history combined with its coliseum design and with one of the smallest fan capacity of under 70k is prefect for all lovers of the game.

The seats have plenty of leg room, and the all important cup hold for those important beverages!  The food was the best I have ever had at any stadium. Kosher Grill not only had great kosher hot dogs but amazing hot pastrami sandwich with fried bread – just what you need for a cold and foggy open stadium.

Do make sure you dress to keep yourself warm as the game goes on the weather gets colder!

While I loved visiting the home of football, the result wasn’t the best, and the less I talk about the actually game the better!

Soldier Field, looking forward to my next visit!


Yosemite has always been a dream park to visit for me.  Driving in you are transformed into a land you read about in Lord of Rings, huge trees line your path to welcome you into a land to breathtaking scenery.

Mariposa Grove welcomes you to see the massive sequoia trees.  There is short 10 mins walk or a more adventurous one hour walk, depending on your mood.  You have to leave your car at the arrival and shuttle bus takes you to the walks.  The shuttle leaves every 10 min so don’t worry if you miss the first one!

For me, the best part of Yosemite is the stunning glacier point.  The drive is not pleasant if you are the driver – with constant winding roads and driving on the cliff edge, but amazing for passengers!  

Yosemite is stunning and it you are all patient you will spot wild bears and stags just don’t go anywhere near them it and remember don’t leave any food in your car, the bears will literally pull off the car door to get to the food inside!

Now after visiting Yosemite do try to visit Kings Canyon and definitely drive through sequoiapark and check out the tallest tree in General Sherman!

American’s natural beauty is in its national parks, and once you visit one of them, you want to visit them all!

San Fran to Big Sur

There is one trip in the US I have always enjoyed – driving along the coastal line from San Francisco to Big Sur and back.

Now landing in San Francisco proudly wearing my Bear gear is not a good idea after just losing to Oakland on the weekend and the calls of “who is Mack” where ever you walk!  

Cable car ride is must, check out the sea lions on pier 39, ice cream from Ghirardelli is compulsory and the sea food is the best.  

Next stop Carmel!  But before you get there don’t forget to watch the sunset in Monterey at Lovers Point – preferable with someone you love!  Sea food is again a must there and you have the lobster roll at The Grotto Fish Market at Fishermans Wharf. Easily the best I’ve had on this trip. 

Carmel is a charming small town with streets lined with interesting independent shops. Once you’ve wondered around the shops, stop for pecan ice cream from Carmel Bakery you have to hit the stunning beach. If you’re lucky you can even get a chance to swim with the local wild dolphins who tend to swim close to the shore. 

Before you hit the costal line make sure you drive around pebble beach and then take the spectacular drive to Big Sur.  The views are out of this world. Do stop as many times as you can to take pictures and soak in the beauty of this unique drive.

We must fight all forms of hate to defeat Islamophobia

Harris Bokhari

Article originally published on 30th September 2019 in the Evening Standard

Having “f***ing terrorists, we voted Leave so leave our country” shouted at my six-year-old nephew after Eid prayers. Members of my family being abused for wearing the headscarf. A neighbour opposite my house putting a Tommy Robinson poster in their front window on the anniversary of the terror attack near Finsbury Park mosque. These are just a few examples of the abuse my family has faced over the past four years. How much of this is just pure racism, and how much is directed at my family and me because we visibly “look Muslim” is debatable.  

When Sajid Javid talked about the racism his family faced, describing his mother “time and time again scrubbing the P-word off from the front of our shop”, can we see similar examples of the Islamophobia he faced? Was his exclusion from the Trump state banquet because of his Muslim background? What is clear is the Islamophobic abuse and death threats our Muslim politicians face every hour online. The comments posted under tweets by Sadiq Khan show the extent of the problems today.

Analysis from the Office for National Statistics shows the ethnic pay gap is still at worrying levels. Workers from ethnic minority communities, particularly from Muslim communities, are paid less on average than their British colleagues from other faiths and none.  Previous social mobility reports have shown one in five Muslim adults is in full-time work compared with 35 per cent of the overall population. Muslim women wearing headscarves can face particular discrimination in the workplace, and a BBC test showed job seekers were three times more likely to be offered an interview if they did not have a Muslim-sounding name.

The Home Office reports that religious hate crimes rose by 40 per cent — with 52 per cent of such offences aimed at Muslims. When we look at the murder of Mohammed Saleem by a Neo-Nazi in Birmingham, and Finsbury Park being the only terrorist attack in recent history on a place of worship in the UK that resulted in a death, it begs the question why we as a society are not doing more to address this.  

Finsbury Park attack: The scene at Seven Sisters Road near the attack near the mosque (Jeremy Selwyn)

However, we can only tackle one form of hate by tacking all forms of hate. That means that within our own faith and wider communities we have a responsibility to call out hate wherever we see it — and that includes Muslims who shout hate at Pride marchers, promote anti-Semitic myths online or peddle hatred against religious minority sects such as the Ahmadiyya community. We all have a responsibility to fight back against hate and prejudice, whether conscious or unconscious. 

So, while the establishment debates the definition of Islamophobia, the question British Muslims facing discrimination every day are asking is: what more needs to happen to British Muslim communities before this issue is taken seriously and addressed once and for all?

How to tackle teacher stress? Voluntary groups

Educational voluntary groups can teach pupils vital lessons that teachers no longer have time for, says Harris Bokhari

Article originally published on 19th August 2019

Voluntary groups are essential in order to reduce teachers’ stress levels.

For a number of years, teachers have been facing an increasing level of job-related stress. Early this year, a report by the National Foundation for Educational Research found that 20 per cent of teachers felt tense about their jobs most or all of the time, compared with 13 per cent of those in similar occupations.

With funding cuts, rising pupil numbers and an increasing proportion of teachers leaving the profession, schools have never needed to have more support in and out of the classroom. These levels of stress only increase in schools in the most deprived areas, many serving communities with large numbers of ethnic-minority pupils, and in teaching children with special educational needs and disabilities.

Protecting teacher wellbeing

With more time taken up with in-class planning, because of higher scrutiny and requirements, and many classroom assistants taking more of a teaching role, there is less time for teachers to organise trips and sessions to raise the aspirations of their students, or to expose them to things that may be outside the curriculum but of immense personal value to them. Having the support of voluntary educational groups, therefore, has never been more important. 

These groups work to take the load from our already over-burdened teachers by providing valuable contact time with children from various backgrounds. Either through dance or music classes, or with extra help in core subjects, voluntary groups provide a supplement to children’s education that many simply cannot do without. 

These groups also intrinsically impart lessons about the important role of charity and the ethos of giving back to society. The excellent work these volunteer groups do outside the classroom cannot be underestimated, and is often cited by teachers as a reason for children’s progress in the classroom.

One such group is the inspirational Soroptimist International of Bournemouth. Founded 80 years ago, this women’s volunteer-led group supports schools in the classroom through its Stem Challenge, inspiring hundreds of girls to take up science, technology, engineering and mathssubjects. It helps them to think about future careers in these industries, as well as educate them on issues and challenges internationally, with the emphasis on advancing the cause of women across the globe. 

Swansea-based group Egypt Centre Volunteers demonstrates the important role that voluntary groups play to enhance the educational needs of our students outside the classroom. Through its Saturday workshops, targeted at socially and economically disadvantaged local children, it has helped to improve literacy and numeracy, raise confidence and foster a love of learning.

The impact of voluntary groups

Both these groups have previously been awarded the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, which sits within the honours system, recognising volunteer groups and their exceptional service to local communities. The recognition of such groups is no more than they deserve.

There are hundreds of other – equally vital – educational voluntary groups across the country, which should also rightly be lauded for their work. Yet, in 2019, there was not a single educational voluntary group among the awardees. Considering the role these groups play in providing support to increasingly stressed and overstretched teachers, this has to change in 2020. 

Three of the seven biggest causes of teacher stress, as noted in this very publication, are workload, behaviour management and league tables. Supplementary voluntary groups add value by helping teachers manage their workload by covering topics that teachers simply cannot get round to during class time, in a more relaxed setting. They also help teachers to manage behaviour in class, by providing an outlet outside the classroom for children who struggle within it. And they provide support to those kids who need that extra help to get the grades they want. 

Educational voluntary groups do a great deal to directly and indirectly reduce teacher stress.

Harris Bokhari is a national board member of Mosaic – The Prince’s Trust mentoring programme, and founder of the Naz Legacy Foundation

Eileen’s cheesecake – kosher as well

There is only real one home of New York Cheese cake and it’s Eileen’s Cheesecake. Eileen has been baking for over 40 years and is the Queen of cheesecakes. The shop from both inside and outside is nothing special. The location is not great Cleveland Place, while downtown has been more popular it still isn’t the easiest to get to, but that is what makes Eileen’s Cheesecake so special.

Despite location and lack of marketing – wow – the Cheesecake does all the talking. You will not get a crust better and filling is just mouth watering. What makes Eileen’s even more one step ahead of the rest is all their cheesecakes are Tablet-K Certified Kosher!

If you are coming to visit NYC, and even if only for 24 hours – if you don’t try their Classic Plain Cheesecake – you haven’t really been to NYC!

Sarahbeth’s – best breakfast in NYC

Breakfast is always an experience and event in NYC. There so many places to choose. But for my family, no matter how short the stay, we have to at least do breakfast once at Sarabeth’s during our trip.

In 1981 Sarabeth Levine sold her preserves and baked goods from tiny bakery-kitchen store. As her popularity grew, the store began to serve breakfast and lunch, and that gave birth to NYC “hot spot” to have breakfast.

Sarabeth’s has now five locations in the borough of Manhattan, but I would highly recommend Central Park South. It is a great way to start your morning, with a great breakfast and then walking it off by taking a stroll through the amazing Central Park.

Make sure you try any of their “extraordinary eggs and omelettes” and without fail you have to try their “fat and fluffy French toast;” the best French toast you will ever eat and their signature mouth watering Lemon and Ricotta pancakes.

Now you may feel I have told you to over order, and remember NYC portions are big; but remember they have doggy bags and a great way to have a break while walking through Central Park afterwards is to munch on the left over French toast!

You have not experienced NYC if you haven’t experienced Sarabeth’s.

A diverse cabinet is great, but can Boris Johnson’s team actually deliver policies which reflect our diversity?

In 2019 it should be a given, not only for our government but also for the opposition and other political parties, that they seek to build a leadership that represents all of us.

Original article published on 3rd August 2019

Boris Johnson has brought together the most diverse cabinet in our political history, to match the most diverse parliament that has ever been elected, but the big question is whether his new top team can actually tackle some of the most pressing challenges facing our diverse communities.

There have only previously been 12 bearers of the great offices of state – prime minister, chancellor, foreign secretary and home secretary – who have been a woman, or from an ethnic minority, in our history. Nine of them have been members forming part of Conservative cabinets.

From watching his mother scrubbing the “P-word” off the front of his parents’ shop, to becoming the new chancellor, Sajid Javid’s appointment makes history as the first occupant of No11 from an Asian-Muslim heritage. This is not the first time Javid has broken new ground. At every department he led – culture, business, communities and the Home Office – he has made history. 

Priti Patel’s appointment as Home Secretary means she has become the first ethnic minority woman to hold one of the great offices of state. Her parents fled from Uganda and established a chain of newsagents. 

The impact of this cannot be underestimated. My work with the Prince’s Trust charity Mosaic has shown me that having role models for young people, who look like them and come from the same background can be transformative – developing an “if they can do it, so can we” attitude. 

The appointment of Munira Mirza as one of Boris’s top advisers also puts into sharp focus the absence of any meaningful diversity in Theresa May’s senior advisory team. While initiatives such as the Race Disparity Audit are important steps towards publicising racial inequalities across the public sector, without diversity in representation among the people who actually have the power to make policy decisions, the changes we need to see happen won’t be forthcoming. 

In 2019 we shouldn’t simply be hoping for a diverse cabinet – it should be a given, not only for our government, but also for the opposition and the other political parties that seek to represent us. At a time when our country is more divided than ever, the need for our political leaders to unite our different patchwork of communities has never been more important. Our politics and policy-making can only be as good as the diverse range of voices within it.

Analysis from the Office for National Statistics shows the ethnic pay gap is still at worrying levels. Our workers from ethnic minority communities are paid less on average than their white British colleagues and, for the first time, there more ethnic minority youths in young offender institutions than white British youngsters.

Will our new prime minister appoint the most diverse Cabinet to match the most diverse parliament that has ever been elected?

Original article published on 19th July 2019

Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt (Photo by Louis Wood – WPA Pool/Getty Images)

By Harris Bokhari

With only days before our country ushers in a new prime minister, the question many of our diverse communities are asking is: how representative will the future Cabinet be?

Despite Theresa May being the second female prime minister in our history, the fact that we still have never had a gender equal Cabinet is shocking. Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau when asked, four years ago, why he had gender parity in his Cabinet, said, “Because it’s 2015.”

Theresa May is only the UK’s second ever female prime minister

In 2019, our government’s lack of gender balance was put into sharp focus with the absence of any meaningful diversity in May’s top team of special advisors.

While initiatives like the Race Disparity Audit are important steps towards publicising racial inequalities across the public sector, without diversity in representation among the people who actually have the power to make policy decisions, the changes we need to see happen won’t be forthcoming.

This is 2019, we shouldn’t be hoping for a diverse cabinet – it should be a given. And this should not only be a given for government, but also for the official opposition and the other political parties that seek to represent us.

At a time when our country is more divided than ever, the need for our political leaders to unite our different patchwork of communities has never been more important.

Our politics and policymaking can only be as good as the diverse range of voices within it, voices that need not to be reflected only in our elected officials, but also in the civil service. The role of civil servants at this moment of political upheaval is as crucial as that of ministers they work for.

Looking at the permanent secretaries who sit across Whitehall; we can see that we have made great strides in the fight for gender equality.

Under Sir Mark Sedwill’s leadership, more female permanent secretaries have continued to be appointed. The current cadre of permanent secretaries is the most gender diverse, yet there is much still to do on a wider breadth of diversity. The fact there has not been any ethnic minority heading one of our Government departments since Sharon White left the Treasury in 2015 shows the civil service, while being one of our better equality employers, needs to urgently move the dial faster on representation of ethnic minorities at senior levels.

Sir Mark Sedwill

This is made all the more relevant as the UK Civil Service was assessed to be at the top of a worldwide ranking comparing “Civil Service Effectiveness” against their international counterparts. Bearing in mind the current demands on the public sector this is a great feat, not least for Sir Mark as Cabinet Secretary. There has also, more recently, been a push from the upper echelons of the civil service to not only engage on inclusion issues internally, but to bring about a civil service that is reflective of society as a whole and the communities it serves. This is being done through a range of initiatives and efforts: from the “fast stream” diverse recruitment drive; reverse mentoring; and dedicated talent schemes to name a few.

However, diversity for the sake of diversity is not good for our politics, and we have seen how those from minority backgrounds who have been poorly supported, and been promoted despite clearly not being suitable, have had a damaging impact on the generation to follow. But today, we know we have enough quality women and ethnic minorities not only to serve in a new cabinet, but also with external diverse recruitment, to serve at the most senior levels of the civil service.

The question is: will our next prime minister institute positive change in our politics – change that can bring our communities together – by appointing the most diverse Cabinet to match the most diverse Parliament that has ever been elected?

Harris Bokhari attends Countering extremism speech: Politicians part of the problem, says Javid

Home secretary Sajid Javid

Original article published on 19th July 2019

HOME secretary Sajid Javid this morning (19) announced his department would start work on a new Counter Extremism Strategy as he admitted that politicians were part of the problem of rising extremist views.

Javid, who was shunned from the state dinner during US president Donald Trump’ visit to the UK last month, also condemned the American leader’s “go back home” remarks, targeted at four non-white Congresswomen, while stopping short of calling those statements racist.

“I will call out extremism wherever I see it,” Javid said in a speech in south London. “We all have a role to play in stopping any normalisation or legitimisation of these views.”

Britain’s first Asian to hold one of the great offices of state, Javid is the son of immigrant Pakistanis. He recalled changing his school route in order to avoid name calling by National Front members and said his mother frequently scrubbed away the P word scribbled on the exterior walls of their family shop.

“I was told to go back to where I came from” as a child, the home secretary said in his speech on countering extremism.

Politicians, too, were part of the problem, he added.

“Around the world populism, prejudice – and even open racism – have catapulted extremists into power,” he said. “I’m proud to say this has not happened in mainstream politics here.

“Thankfully, our politics has not gone down the same road as much of Europe and the US.

“But we must act now, to avoid sliding into the barely masked racism of nationalism.”

Sajid Javid condemned Donald Trump’s “go back home” remarks.

Noting that everyone was at risk of extremism, the home secretary urged a national conversation about it, and added that “cultural sensitivities must not stop us calling out extremism”.

New findings by the Commission for Countering Extremism have shown that more than half (52 per cent) of respondents surveyed have witnessed extremism. Of these almost half (45 per cent) said they’d seen it online and two-fifths (39 per cent) said they’d seen it in their local area.

Javid also announced amended guidance for companies or organisations that sponsor migrant workers.

“This will allow us to refuse or revoke a sponsor licence where an organisation behaves in a way that is inconsistent with British values, or that’s detrimental to the public good,” he said.

The home secretary stressed the need for a more integrated society and added that he would seek more funds to help those who do not speak English learn the language.

And moving away from the more hardline stance of some in his party, especially that of prime minister Theresa May when she was home secretary, Javid said: “I understand there are some concerns about immigration. Some worry that new arrivals will take over their communities – that our national identity will be diluted. I firmly reject that.

“I’ve seen how immigration can enrich our country and I welcome it.

“But if people from different backgrounds are living separate lives in modern ghettos then it’s no good for anyone.

“We must confront the myths about immigration that extremists use to drive divisions.

“We know that they use immigration as a proxy for race. Sweeping plans to cut immigration as if it’s automatically bad can add to the stigma.”

He added: “Only by talking about this can we show how much integration enriches our communities.

“An integrated society is a strong one.

“This multi-layered approach will help us tackle extremism.

“This is not just a job for the Government alone. But we will lead from the front.

“It takes the whole of society to challenge these vile views.”

Javid, who is supporting Boris Johnson to be the next prime minister has previously said politicians must be more responsible in their choice of language – referring to the Tory frontrunner’s comments likening women in full face veils to letterboxes.

This morning he said: “I have known Boris to be a passionate anti-racist.”

Harris Bokhari, a grassroots expert in Countering Violent Extremism (CVE), welcomed Javid’s speech. He said: “It is important the home secretary highlighted the growth of far-right extremism and how this fuels other forms of hate in our society, only working together, each playing our part, can we root out hate from our communities.”