First Year Marriage Survival Kit – Happy Anniversary Boo!

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One year ago today I said the infamous words “I DO” – well the six kalmay!

Today I’m sat here with a broken foot (I do fully believe he was behind part of the planning to my fall), rash on my face because he got my moisturisers mixed up and ever so slight constipation because he keeps feeding me Cocodamol to shut me up!

Welcome to married life!

You thought it was going to be all romantic wining and dining, dancing in the rain with him grinding on a rose between his teeth (yes only between his teeth) – well I’ve got a newsflash for you and it’s called the MIL… hey I’m only joking guys even I’m not that crazy enough to go there (yet!)

The most popular phrase newlyweds will hear is: “the first year of marriage is always the hardest” – of course after 12 months the mighty bells will ring and the fairies will sprinkle their magic dust and fix that broken man… I didn’t have time for that shiz plus last time I faked a broken tooth so I could get some £kerching£ off the tooth fairy and it didn’t work out too well, so seeing that they all belong to the same family I thought word may have got round and I’d be doomed so I took matters into my own hands…

Here are just a couple of the tips and tricks I’ve picked up over the past year:

1. You know the old rule your mum used to say – “don’t go to sleep angry”, listen to you mum. Let him go to sleep and just watch his vulnerable defenseless face give you that moment of peace, that’s when you attack his ego sack and start tearing at those season tickets… his brain will soon tell him whose right and whose wrong.

2. “Pairs are made in heaven” – so when he throws that line into the argument because he thinks there’s no possible way you can argue with that, you just tell him that you also believe in pairs and most importantly keeping pairs together – so that designer bag comes with a designer pair of shoes, that diamond necklace also has some diamond earrings that just can’t be parted.

3. Okay there are times in your relationship where you may need reminding of why you married each other. In such instances, boys do not underestimate the power of fried chicken wings at 1am just to say “you are the most amazing and beautiful woman in the world and I love you dearly.”

I think I’ve got you kind of covered for the first 12 months or so. Of course there will be those irritating Dr wannabe Aunts who constantly want to examine, feel and probe the womb area because nothing’s popped out yet so some serious family meetings need to take place and apparently a bowl of ghee, sugar, flour and almonds will give you the strength to bring that baby into the world. Oh and don’t forget the work to married lifestyle digs yet to hear because fish finger buttys may not cut it as an evening meal for two (goodbye childhood).

But at the end of it all you live happily ever after…

You know why… because all those crazy moments in married life is part of this new adventure of two best friends which you wouldn’t change for the world.
Yes he snores, yes he has morning breath, yes he farts and doesn’t always flush but ladies lets not pretend that only pixie dust leaves our butt cheeks.

The biggest thing I’ve learnt in my year of marriage is that you marry the whole person…not only his cheeky grin that gave you butterflies when you met or his charm that gave those goosebumps but he is also the same man who farts, snores has temper issues and a whole lot of other drama to deal with. But he’s your man and you can’t ignore half and love the other half you need to bring the best out of each other, you’re one unit and you represent each other.

From snorkeling, to swimming with dolphins, gondola rides and wearing Christmas socks in mid summer we’ve done a whole load of crazy stuff together that I wouldn’t have done otherwise .

Thank you for always being the Cray in my Crazy.

Here’s to a lifetime and hereafter together…

P.s. Whilst writing this blog I thought it’d be a good idea to get some marriage advice from other married couples and here are the tools they recommended for the marriage survival kit:

• Don’t over-complicate issues
• Communication
• Patience
• Compromise
• Tent making skills for those lonely nights
• Make him believe he is the decision maker (advice from the lady who got married last week – she’s a smart one!)

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You choose…Sun or Rain?

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The most beautiful of souls are those who have been timelessly burdened before scars can even heal, yet still guard the flame of light with their forlorn hands.

candle-in-hands-400x400But forget not my friend that even guarding the light for too long can only burn those hands that once reassured into nothing more than skin and bone.

Remember that darkness, that once leaked through like a raindrop on a summer’s day, then there was thunder, maybe some lightning and why not add a dash of hail stoning. Until we were left with nothing but believing our summers were full of rain and thunder that even when a scarce beam of sunlight flickered through that summer’s morning we just waited for the inevitable rain and thunder. Even if on that day the beam was strong enough to carry through til the night we still awaited the next morning or the next week or for the next year for rain and thunder – oh and hail stone.

But then again even if it was just for a short moment why did we not dance in that light

Why did we not forget the rain and just for a moment humour ourselves on what it feels like when the sunlight touches our unwitting skin.

How did we start believing in the rain and thunder and forget that ever longing summer where we were reminded of tranquillity, peace, joyous times in the parks and BBQ’s on the weekend.

Was it because if the rain wasn’t enough to make us believe in our lost summer, then the thunder was, and if the thunder wasn’t enough then the hail stoning was and if the hail stoning was still questioned by those wise few then there was something else waiting until it was Us Vs Summer…is that all it takes for such a grave crime against humanity to take place?

Push those barriers, break through those locks that exist only in our minds – take an umbrella to the park or a raincoat to the BBQ but never let something else convince you that, that beam of sunlight will never return.

And to those that decided to go against the weather forecast, never lower yourself to such a state where you have to justify why today you decided to wear a summers dress.

If the light doesn’t shine today, don’t trap your soul in memories of those long days or bare the burden of guarding the light alone for too long because too much of anything is destructive.

Instead sunbathe on that cloudy grim porch and keep sunbathing even if the biggest storm hits you, it can’t hurt more than believing that there is nothing you can do… You ALWAYS have a choice

P.S Black Friday has some amazing deals on sunscreen and swim suits!

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Afterall, who said only sunshine brings happiness…

ISIS: The Verdict

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ISIS – the criminals responsible for the brutal killings of American journalists Jim Foley and Steven Sotloff, the beheading of British aid workers David Haines and most recently Alan Henning – let’s not forget the thousands of unnamed Syrians and Iraqis slaughtered at the hands of this evil.

No words can describe the brutality of this barbaric group…and Muslim is definitely not one of them.
Just as saying ABRACADABRA does not make someone a magician, exclaiming ALLAH HU’AKHBAR before a beheading does not make ISIS Muslims. #notinmyname

If by adopting one word you represent Muslims worldwide. Then I’m sure the Ku Klux Klan who killed thousands of African Americans represent white Christians worldwide.
Doesn’t quite add up does it?

ISIS are the definition of evil but there is more to them than meets the eye.
What I find quite interesting is that ISIS control a generous amount of oil fields in Syria that would comfortably supply them with a few million a day. So why the need of government ransom money?

And the people they’ve murdered… Let’s take Alan Henning for example… taxi driver, married, two kids, lives in a red brick house, charity volunteer, middle aged…seems to be someone everyone could relate to. Someone who you’d naturally feel for and defend.
A bloke you’d meet at the pub or see at a football match.
The kind of guy that every person from Britain would feel as if they lost or be reminded of a friend, father, son or neighbour. “He was one of us”…”ordinary man”
Are specific people being targeted? Do the killers have their own type of “prey” that would be strong enough to divide a nation and condemn a religion?

Commander in Chief Obama stated the United States military would take on ISIS in Iraq/Syria by attacking them from the air.
Yes ISIS is evil
Yes ISIS needs to be stopped
Yes there is no excuse for their barbarism

But… does military action resolve anything?
Will dropping bombs on innocent civilians destroy a hate filled ideology or will it fuel revenge attacks? Will it give reason to draw the innocent closer to ISIS – upset, angry people who have lost their families due to no fault of their own are the most vulnerable people to recruit..it’s an ISIS wonderland… what will be stopping ISIS from recruiting angry fighters from inside Iraq’s Sunni communities?

How will cruise missiles help build a national civic identity…to unite Iraq…one where there is no divisions between different sects or tribes?

And of course dispatching drones has always been the answer to producing inclusive governments… the cure to heal long standing rifts and ultimately give people confidence to reject ISIS.

But let’s not worry Obama and his entourage (including David Cameron) have got it all under control…let’s not forget Americas got years of experience where military action resolved it all… Vietnam? Afghanistan? Yemen? Libya? I’m sure the peaceful, serene, utopian Middle East says it all.
For over a decade military action has been used to destroy the Taliban. Yet they still seem to exist in Pakistan and Afghanistan, the Al Qadea have found a new home in India.

When will we learn that air power does not make us superior. It is not the solution. It will not eradicate the problem, rather make it worse.
When a husband and wife have a dispute. If a man raises his hand to his wife, has this resolved the situation? Or has the wife turned bitter towards her husband? Called her brothers over, involved her parents in the situation, they’ve gone round in circles over the same issue and then hit a dead end.

Relationships between countries are just as delicate. Issues should be confronted and tackled head on. Why don’t we go back to basics and actually speak with our mouths about what needs to be done without dropping the B**B word.

Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey, Qatar, United Emirates, Baghdad…let’s all put our pride and ego to one side and work towards the same goal… peace.
Confront ISIS ideology
Tackle the oil fields that are funding this reign of terror
Give justice to the families who have lost loved ones at the hands of this evil
Ensure Sunni participation in the new Iraq government.

Or will the bombs do all the talking for you?
The same bombs that have failed to show any results in the last decade?

I will leave you with the words of Napoleon Hill:

“The majority of men meet with failure because of their lack of persistence in creating new plans to take the place of those which fail.”

Written by Sameera Rafiq

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PLEDGE FOR THE SREBRENICA GENOCIDE

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The past week marked the first UK memorial service for the Srebrenica genocide where people gathered to offer their thoughts and prayers to the victims and their families.

Before I witter on, let’s put things into context and begin with a short history lesson…

During the Balkans conflict of 1992-1995, the Bosnian town of Srebrenica was declared a UN Safe Area in 1993, under the watch of the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR).

In July 1995, General Ratko Mladić and his Serbian paramilitary units overran and captured the town.
Yeah, not so much of a UN Safe Area afterall…

The following days witnessed the systematic massacre of more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys and the forced removal of 30,000 Muslim women and girls including thousands of them brutally tortured and raped.

It was the greatest atrocity on European soil since World War Two.

Eighteen years on, the legacy of Srebrenica and the conflict of the 1990s still haunts Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Victims remain unidentified despite the work of International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) and the perpetrators of these crimes remain at large.

Since the end of the fighting, only 60 cases of wartime sexual violence have been prosecuted, despite some estimates suggesting that up to 50,000 women were raped in Bosnia and Herzegovina during the violence.

The evil and barbarism of the genocide is rooted deep within Bosnia as every year remains of victims from Srebrenica and other atrocities are discovered. This opens up wounds that do not want to be revisited by families as the painful process of identification begins.

But what adds even more salt to the wound is when President
Milorad Dodik has repeatedly denied that what happened in Srebrenica constituted genocide. Despite the fact it has been established as such at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and the International Criminal Court.

Maybe he needed reminding of the definition of genocide:

“The deliberate killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular nation or ethnic group”
Now tell me how the forceful killing of 8,000 Muslims alone does not fit this definition?

In 1999, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan wrote:

“Through error, misjudgment and an inability to recognise the scope of the evil confronting us, we failed to do our part to help save the people of Srebrenica from the Serb campaign of mass murder.”

We may have marked a memorial service, taken part in a peace march, but Srebrenica is still scarred with the injustice and suffering of its people.

Children are educated separately depending on their ethnicity, politicians cannot put their ethnic agendas aside and work as a nation thus Srebrencia and Herzegovina are still not part of the EU or NATO.

The legacy of Srebrenica is a reminder of the evil, of the inhumanity, of the living definition of ethnic cleansing. How far one can go when motivated by racial hatred.

I hold the victims, families, loved ones, soil and stone, all those who witnessed the barbarism of evil deep in my prayers and call for the justice of Srebrencia… never again will humanity fail…
Have we become that cold that it is only European soil where blood shed is valued?

May we learn the lessons of the past, and not find ourselves reading the same note from the UN, apologising for their incapabilities.
If a note of apology is not good enough to excuse one from a parking ticket, then by no means is it good enough in the face of a raped, tortured, widowed mother who has watched her husband and son killed, lost her family and livelihood.

May we stand tall and pledge:

Never again to my my brothers and sisters in Gaza
Never again to my aunties and uncles in Somalia
Never again to my friends and neighbours in Burma
Never again to my mums and dads wherever they face war, conflict, oppression, famine, torture, deprivation or denial of human rights.

HUMANITY WILL NOT FAIL YOU
We pledge never again.

Written by Sameera Rafiq

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PALESTINE: THE UGLY TRUTH

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The kidnapping and killing of three young Israeli boys (whom Palestinians believed to be settlers) and the death of a Palestinian teenager have caused a national outcry and thought to have endangered any form of Palestinian-Israeli relations.

But what is even more astonishing is the behavior of the world leaders.

The rightful saints who stand for justice and peace aka David Cameron and Barack Obama publicly stated the condemnation of the deaths of three Israelis.

Yet these rightful saints remained largely unmoved by the shooting of two unarmed Palestinian boys, the killing of at least six civilians since Israel began searching for the kidnappers and the bombing and destruction of Palestinian homes and livelihoods in a ‘revenge’ attack by Israeli troops.

Palestinian minors accounted for some 25% of the 5,000 Palestinian deaths in the first (1987) and second (2000) intifadas. According to the Israeli Human Rights group B’Tselem, some 84 Palestinian minors and 19 women were killed by Israeli forces in the five years up to May 2014, compared with 10 Israeli civilians. Last year the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child estimated that 7,000 children, mainly aged from 12 to 17 but some as young as nine, have been arrested, interrogated and detained between 2002 and 2012 – an average of two per day.

However, my friends I use these statistics lightly as there are thousands more men women and children who have been brutally tortured, raped, unfairly imprisoned, separated from their families and killed.

Let’s be reminded that it is not only the men on the front line that bare the brunt of this conflict.

The injustice faced cannot be expressed in this blog (from a woman sat comfortably in a country knowing she has food, water, shelter, security, family, rights and limited media coverage) but what I am attempting is to reflect on the recent events in Palestine.

During this reflection what I have found most astonishing was the value of life.

Tariq Abukhdeir a 15 year old Palestinian-American boy who was on a family vacation to Palestine was brutally beaten by Israelis to the point he fell unconscious.

This attack has received national coverage and a call for justice for the young boy.

However, Tariq’s experience occurs on a daily basis in Palestine and on many occasions has resulted in far worse.
Attacks on children have become the norm to the extent that Human Rights groups have reported that Palestinian children detained by Israeli occupation forces are routinely subjected to solitary confinement and other forms of mistreatment including rape threats, amounting to torture and those responsible are never held accountable.

I am not for a moment trying to say what happened to Tariq is trivial and should be ignored and forgotten. Any man to raise a hand on a child, is not a man in my eyes.

BUT I ASK:

How has one attack received generous media attention and the killings and mistreatment of thousands of Palestinians gone unheard.

Is a single American life valued more than the thousands of Palestinians in suffering?

Have the cries of those in despair without adequate means of survival fallen on deaf ears?

The killing and mistreatment of innocent civilians cannot be justified.

The rape of women and torture of children cannot be justified.

To forcefully separate a mother from her child, for her to watch her husband beaten to death, for her to hideaway her daughter so she is not raped and to be left with no home or shelter -Where is the justice in this? This has become the life of many Palestinians.

Wrong is wrong irrespective of race, colour, creed and nationality.

But if it takes one American child to be affected by this for the call to justice to be made, then so be it.

By Sameera Rafiq

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ISTANBUL… WHERE EAST MEETS WEST

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The city that is the literal definition of British Muslims – sitting between East and West…. Istanbul.

Turkey was never on my top ten list of destinations to visit. Or any list for that matter. I always thought of it to be a touristy holiday that enticed people with halal meat… How we love our meat! Yes we travel to the corners of the world, fly with Emirates, and eat big macs at the airport for a 5am flight because…we finally can!

But oh how wrong I was!

It is impossible for me to capture my experience and amazement of such an enlightening trip in one blog… A spiritual journey sums it up beautifully.

I found myself doing the Muslim version of a pub crawl…hopping from mosque to mosque praying alongside my sisters from different countries, ethnicities and cultures… even sitting alongside non Muslims from all corners of the world in awe of the architecture and peaceful atmosphere.
Yet there was one similarity we all shared… the experience.

There was no prejudice, judgmental behavior or any form of rudeness I experienced or witnessed.

Men and women both tourists and locals were kindly given appropriate garments to cover themselves, shown the dedicated areas to carry out ablution (wudu) and not bombarded or pressured with charity boxes.

Yet what I found the most refreshing was the coexistence of Islamic history with modern thought.

Under the Ottoman Empire, each religious community was autonomous in domestic affairs and could apply its own religious law in its own courts.

Sultan Mehmet the Conquerer, increased the population of the city by bringing in immigrants from different regions, and started to reconstruct the deserted and wrecked city. He granted freedom of worship and social rights to the former inhabitants.

Even today Turkey believe in the freedom to practice all religions: the infamous Topkapi Palace that inhabits the valuables of the Prophets is situated next door to a Church.
The Galata Tower being one of the wonders of Istanbul inhabited the Jewish community and acted as a safe passage for Jews seeking refuge from the horrors of the Bolsheviks and Nazis.
Also the must see Hagia Sophia that was converted from a Church into a Mosque once the Muslims took power, still exhibits Christian artefacts.

Seeing people from all walks of life in awe of the rich pedigree of history, culture and commerce was breathtaking.

However, on my return to Manchester I was welcomed with headlines of: "Woman stabbed 16 times due to wearing a hijab" and "Third Jihadists in Isis."

What happened to the Islam that people travelled across sea and land to experience?
The perception of a peaceful and welcoming religion was shattered with extreme antics.

But it didn't seem to sit quite right with me.
The memories of minarets and domes dominating the skyline, the call to prayer (Azaan) five times a day uniting all, the welcoming and friendly behaviour of locals, not having to worry about pick pocketers, feeling safe traveling even when sat near men with 5ft long beards and women fully veiled that nothing will surprisingly explode.

Why is the world not being exposed to this Islam…the only Islam. Not a manipulated version that strikes fear into people's heart.

Yes, there are different perceptions of Islam across the world. Unfortunately there are prejudices and stereotypes that we all have to suffer with from time to time.

But isn't it refreshing to know that somewhere in the world the very religion that is now associated with terrorism and extremism is showing its true peaceful and pure teachings that even non Muslims visit to indulge in the experience.

The biggest lesson I learnt from Istanbul was the history I had to be proud of… the astonishing architecture of the palaces, the ruling of the Ottomon Empire, how they were welcoming to all even though at a similar time Muslims and Jews were tortured and kicked out from Spain, which was supposedly the intellectually flourishing country at the time. The exhibitions of armour, jewels, religious artefacts and art… the list is endless.

The chance to see this side of Turkish society shed a deep light on religious and spiritual practice.

A priceless experience…

By Sameera Rafiq

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TROJAN HORSE AFFAIR: ROCK, PAPER, SCISSORS

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The Trojan horse affair: with a teaspoon of curiosity, half a pound of politics, one cup of race, a pinch of education and a whole bowl of confusion – freshly served to the British public!
Now that pretty much sums up the British political scene for the past week.

Let’s have a breakdown of the drama to get our heads around the Birmingham bonanza.

It all started one brisky morning in November of last year. A letter was sent from Birmingham Islamist group to counterparts in Bradford. The letter advised them to carry out a similar attack as they had apparently done by hijacking boards of governors in predominant Muslim state schools and forced out the non-Muslim opposition.

HOWEVER, the letter was entangled with errors. Hence, it was widely believed to be a hoax. This flimsy piece of paper was passed around like a high school love note. It travelled to Birmingham city’s administration, then got passed to West Midlands police until it finally arrived at the Home Office who then decided to forward it to the Department of Education, where it gathered dust until February when it was leaked to the media.

What is astonishing is that this hoax of a paper has resulted in shaking the knees of politicians, leading into four separate inquiries, including the Ofsted inspection of 21 schools, in particular Park View Academy which has now been placed in special measures.

A little drama was also stirred in a public spat between Michael Gove and Theresa May regarding the definition of extremism. The DfE’s definition of extremism has also shifted from suicide bombers to religious conservatives. Now that my friends, is a dangerously wide definition.

Thus the confusion and uproar when a word that most associate with a bearded man taking over and throwing bombs left, right and centre is used so lightly.

Rest assured all was resolved with the predictable and sufficient public apology which was followed by the resignation of one of May’s special advisers for revealing too much… revealing too much of what may I ask?

The claims that have sent politicians dizzy include allegations of segregated classes, compulsory prayers and incendiary preachers at school assemblies.

HOWEVER, evidence of such occurrences is yet to be found.
Which explains why the focus for the investigation has slipped from extremism to “an awareness of the risks associated with extremism” is the phrase now used by Ofsted inspectors.

But the final piece of the jigsaw has to be the reputation of Ofsted – those darn reports that Ofsted previously compiled praising several of the schools for their academic results and record for improving community relations are under fire.

The real question now is which Ofsted inspection failed us? The earlier one that praised the schools? Or the one that has put them under special measures?

As a child I never really understood the game rock, paper, scissors…But now I’m coming to understand how paper can win rock… it must be one weak rock that crumbles in the face of one flimsy paper – now that I guess better explains the British political scene.

Written by Sameera Rafiq

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