Zulfi Karim – High Sheriff ceremony

In an historic appointment, Mr Zulfi Karim DL, made his Oath of Declaration as High Sheriff of West Yorkshire, continuing a tradition which stretches back over 1,000 years.

Mr Karim is among the first to be chosen by King Charles III, and begins his year in office at a formal Declaration Ceremony, where he promised to uphold justice and the King’s Peace at the historic ceremony.

A renowned and much-respected community leader from Bradford, Mr Karim has dedicated his life to promoting diversity and fighting inequalities, and has now broken new ground after being selected to serve as High Sheriff of West Yorkshire.

The lifelong Bradford resident, who now lives in Saltaire, is the first member of the Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) community to take up the Royal appointment in the county. He took up the ceremonial chains of office for 2023/24 on the 3rd April, after being successfully nominated for the year-long role, which is non-political and unpaid.

The Office of High Sheriff is the oldest secular Office in the United Kingdom after the Crown, and dates from Saxon times. The exact date of origin is unknown but it has certainly existed for over 1,000 years since the Shires were formed. Then, the “Shire Reeve” was responsible to the King for the maintenance of law and order within the shire, or county, and for the collection and return of taxes due to the Crown.

Whilst the duties of the role have evolved over time, supporting the Crown and the judiciary remain core elements of the role today. There are 55 High Sheriffs serving the counties of England and Wales each year.

“An honour to serve my home county”

“It will be an honour to serve my home county, as well as writing a new chapter as the first BME High Sheriff in West Yorkshire in a role steeped in so much history,” said Mr Karim.

“I am particularly looking forward to being active in lending my support and encouragement to crime prevention agencies, the emergency services, church and faith groups, and to the voluntary sector throughout West Yorkshire.

“It will be a tremendous honour to build on the platform created by previous High Sheriffs and contribute to a raft of crime reduction and social cohesion initiatives, especially amongst young people.”

He added: “Assisting Community Foundations and local charities, especially those working with vulnerable people and those most in-need, will be another key strand to the role.”

“I look forward to bringing together many like-minded people from the community to achieve this, especially as the work of many community groups and good causes have been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

As High Sheriff, Mr Karim’s more formal duties will include attendance at royal visits throughout West Yorkshire, and providing support to His Majesty’s High Court Judges.

Mr Karim, who also serves as a Deputy Lieutenant of West Yorkshire, was previously Programme Director of NHS Well Bradford, a partnership between Public Health England, the local NHS and Bradford Council.

The initiative involves improving health inequality across the district by creating access to green spaces and promoting cleaner air, as well as generating improved skills and job prospects in the most deprived areas of Bradford.

He is listed as one of the 100 Most Influential People in Yorkshire by Insider Magazine. He is winner of The Muslim News Award for Excellence in Community Service as well as receiving the Telegraph & Argus Community Awards for his work to save Bradford’s last remaining Jewish synagogue from closure.

Last year he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the University of Bradford for his dedication to promoting diversity and inclusion.

“Zulfi is such an impressive, able and modest person”

The outgoing High Sherrif, Susan Baker, who also made history last year as the first Jewish female High Sherrif, said on Zulfi’s new appointment: “I would like to be amongst the first to congratulate you on taking up this ancient and honourable office. You should feel justly proud that you also stand here as the first Muslim to do so in West Yorkshire. 

“I have been warmly welcomed wherever I have been and I have made many contacts and amazing new friends along the way. One such very special person is Zulfi Karim who stands here today as the new High Sheriff of West Yorkshire. I know the friendship built with him and his wife Saira is going to last long into the future.

“It has been an absolute honour and privilege to serve this County and I am delighted to have handed over to Zulfi who is such an impressive, able and modest person. I wish you and Saira the very best for a wonderful year ahead, in good health.”

Bishop of Bradford, The Rt Revd Dr Toby Howarth, commented: “The event at the Combined Courts in Leeds made history as Zulfi Karim DL became the first Muslim High Sheriff of West Yorkshire.

“The ceremony was an extraordinary mix of formality – the reading and signing of declarations, and the ceremonial robes. But there was also an underlying depth of meaning and emotion in the speeches and the symbolism of both a Muslim and Christian leading prayers and asking for God’s blessing on Zulfi’s year in office.

“The agenda was clear: this ceremony was about affirming one of the most ancient civic offices in England as a support for the exercise of justice and equity, and in bringing communities together across differences of geography, culture, wealth and religion. With his background, experience and gifts, Zulfi is uniquely placed to take this work forward, and I, for one, look forward very much to participating.”