About 40 British Muslims were named in King Charles’ first New Year Honors List, the Muslim Council of Britain reported.
The awards system recognizes those who have made an outstanding achievement in public life or committed themselves to serving and helping Britain.
The MCB congratulated all 1,107 recipients of the honors.
“It is great to see such excellent contributions to our society recognized, a real testament to the vital work faith communities continue to play in shaping our diverse Britain,” MCB Secretary-General Zara Mohammed said.
Mouhssin Ismail, a former lawyer who gave up his legal career to champion social mobility through education, was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire.
OBEs are awarded to those who have played a distinguished role in any field.
Fueled by the “realization that even though the vast majority of the population go to state schools, top professions are still occupied by people that have gone to fee-paying schools and grammar schools,” Ismail decided to pursue a career in teaching in 2007.
“I recognized that state school education wasn’t as rigorous and robust enough,” he said.
He added that the education received by his former colleagues in the legal profession who had attended grammar or fee-paying schools, “was far more vast and comprehensive than I experienced in a state school in inner city London.”
“So my aim was to try and change that and improve the rigor in state schools, as I genuinely believe that young people in deprived areas do not lack ambition. I just think it was the schools themselves not being sufficiently ambitious for the children,” he said.
Ismail went on to become the founding principal of Newham Collegiate Sixth Form Center where he worked for eight years to establish a center of excellence whose aim was to raise the aspirations and opportunities of young people in the community.
He is currently the regional director and executive principal at Star Academies where he oversees six schools in the northwest of England.
The 44-year-old Briton of Moroccan and Indian heritage told Arab News he was thrilled to have been awarded an OBE for his services to education.
“Obviously, it was a shock and a surprise. No one goes into teaching or this profession for accolades or awards. So it was definitely an honor and a privilege to receive it,” Ismail said.
“Even though I received the award, it really is a team effort and it would not have been achieved if I didn’t have fantastic colleagues who showed strong loyalty over the years, who were dedicated and committed to social mobility, and who were tenacious.
“If an OBE could be shared, it would be shared among all of my colleagues at the NCS because none of it was possible without them, and also the students as they were fantastic,” he said.
“It was an absolute joy and privilege to be able to educate them and to be able to have a school like the NCS in Newham, which is the second most deprived borough in London, and to get recognition for it. I just think it’s brilliant for the whole community to have that.
“Young people from disadvantaged backgrounds need aspirational schools with adults who believe in them and don’t lower the standards.”