This year’s New Years Honours lists in the UK and Canada featured four Ismailis who were awarded titles and orders of chivalry for their generosity and services to others.

In the UK and some Commonwealth countries, service and achievements are often recognised by the reigning monarch in the form of honours, decorations, and medals. Individuals are acknowledged for being role models in various fields, including sport, the arts, health, business, mentorship, and more.

This year’s list of UK honourees, published by the London Gazette, featured Naguib Kheraj and Salim Janmohamed, who were appointed to the Order of the British Empire, as Commander (CBE) and Officer (OBE) respectively. New Year Honours have been awarded by the British monarch since Queen Victoria’s reign in the 1890s.

The Canada list meanwhile featured Nurjehan Aziz Vassanji and Zainub Verjee, who were both appointed as Members of the Order of Canada. The Order of Canada is the highest civilian distinction in the country. Officers and Members are appointed to it by the Governor General of Canada. 

Nurjehan Aziz Vassanji, a prominent figure in the Canadian literary world, was honoured for her outstanding contributions to advancing diversity and inclusion in Canadian literature. With a career as a leading publisher and editor, she has played an important role in reshaping the landscape of Canadian literary culture. Her commitment to promoting voices from diverse backgrounds and perspectives has fostered a more inclusive and representative literary community. This recognition underscores her significant impact on Canada's literary heritage.

Currently, Nurjehan is a publisher and editor at Mawenzi House, which champions the voices of underrepresented authors, helping to break down barriers and create opportunities for marginalised voices to be heard.

“It has been a privilege to serve the public and the country in my capacity as a publisher and editor,” she said. “To be recognised for it by the Governor General of Canada is truly a great honour.”

Zainub Verjee, an accomplished Canadian artist, curator, writer, and public intellectual, was honoured “for advancing representation and equitable policy legislation within Canada’s arts and culture sectors as a leading artist, administrator and critic.” Over four decades, she has played a pivotal role in shaping cultural policy at all levels of government and has been a driving force behind the development of cultural institutions and organisations in Canada and internationally. 

Her illustrious career has encompassed not only her role as a multidisciplinary artist but also as a programmer, curator, critic, and activist. Her artworks have been showcased  at prestigious venues like the Venice Biennale and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, emphasising her significant influence on the global art scene. Her efforts have garnered her numerous accolades, including the 2020 Governor General’s Visual and Media Arts Award for Outstanding Contribution and honorary doctorates from numerous institutions. She also currently serves on the board of the Aga Khan Museum.

“I am absolutely delighted by this honour and equally, I hope this will help to shine a light on the needs of the arts and culture and recognise the centrality of arts in our society. More pertinently to acknowledge that art is a public good! Art has a huge power to make us think and question the world that we live in, and to take action and to find our agency.” said Zainub.

Naguib Kheraj, an influential figure in the British financial sector, was honoured for services to Business and to the Economy. He is currently Chairman of Rothesay, the largest specialist pension insurer in the UK and Chairman of Petershill Partners, an alternative asset management business. His background is in banking – starting at Salomon Brothers and the serving in a variety of leadership roles including as Group Finance Director of Barclays. In recent years Naguib was Deputy Chairman of Standard Chartered. Alongside his business activities, Naguib has been very active in the not-for-profit sector and has had board level roles at GAVI: the Vaccine Alliance, the Wellcome Trust, Oxford University Press, the University of Cambridge, and NHS England.  

He has been extensively involved in AKDN and Jamati institutions as an adviser as well as serving on the boards of The Institute of Ismaili Studies, the Aga Khan University, and the University of Central Asia; and as Chairman of the AKF UK National Committee. Naguib was also a member of the oversight committee for the Ismaili Centre and Aga Khan Museum in Toronto, chaired the steering committee for the development of the Aga Khan Centre in London and is currently co-chair of the steering committee for the Aga Hall Estate redevelopment in Mumbai.

“I feel very fortunate to have had a very multi-dimensional career with many opportunities for learning and growth,” he said. “The experiences I have had in not-for-profit work – especially through the roles in Jamati and AKDN institutions – have resulted in tangible benefits to my professional career in finance, and the same has been true in the other direction. The UK honours system looks at business people not just in terms of commercial impact but also in terms of their broader contribution to society.” 

Salim Janmohamed, a business owner, was honoured for charitable and voluntary services to Faith Communities. He is the Chairman and Founder of Karali, a global hospitality business, with over four decades of experience in the fast-food, casual dining and hospitality industry. He has been a senior volunteer in the Ismaili community for many years—serving in various roles on the Ismaili Council for the UK—and plays an active part in the local communities where his businesses operate. Salim is a keen philanthropist and has been listed as one of the Kindness and Leadership 50 Leading Lights for his contributions to Business, The Economy and Society.

“I am sincerely humbled and profoundly honoured to receive an OBE in the New Year's Honours List,” said Salim. “This recognition only strengthens my commitment to making a positive impact, and I extend my gratitude for this recognition, which is a testament to everyone who has been part of this meaningful journey. I am grateful beyond words.”