On top 500 list, US Muslim presence continues to dominate

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The Muslim 500: The World's 500 Most Influential Muslims. Photo courtesy of the Muslim500

Photo courtesy of The Muslim 500

The Muslim 500: The World's 500 Most Influential Muslims. Photo courtesy of the Muslim500

(RNS) As in past years, there continue to be more Muslims from the United States than any other country on this year’s “The Muslim 500: The World’s 500 Most Influential Muslims.”

Since at least 2012, the U.S. has outpaced nations with a far larger Muslim population, netting at least 40 notable people of influence, with Pakistan (33), Saudi Arabia (32), Egypt (27) and the U.K (27) not too far behind.

But only Muslim convert Sheikh Hamza Yusuf Hanson, co-founder of Zaytuna College in Berkeley, Calif., and Seyyed Hossein Nasr, a professor of Islamic studies at George Washington University, made the Top 50 in recent years.

The Top 50 tend to be dominated by religious scholars and heads of state. The top five, in order, are King Abdullah of Jordan; Ahmed el-Tayeb, the grand sheikh of Egypt’s Al-Azhar University; King Salman of Saudi Arabia; Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei; and King Mohammed VI of Morocco.


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Turkish President Recept Tayyip Erdogan comes in at No. 8, but surprisingly Syrian President Bashar al-Assad didn’t make the Top 50 this year or last, though he is still listed in the 500. The prime minister of Iraq didn’t make the list, but Iraq’s Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Hussein Sistani did, coming in at No. 9.

The seventh annual list, which is compiled by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center, a respected Jordanian think tank, lists 32 newcomers to the 2016 list — seven with American ties.

The center defines influence as any person with the power to make “a significant impact on the Muslim world.”

“This list acts as an opportunity to shed some light on the many challenges and pioneering triumphs that are present at the very crux of shaping the Muslim community,” says the publication’s foreword.


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Ebrahim Moosa, professor of Islamic studies at the University of Notre Dame. Photo by Matt Cashore/University of Notre Dame

Ebrahim Moosa, professor of Islamic studies at the University of Notre Dame. Photo by Matt Cashore/University of Notre Dame

The list is organized into 13 categories, including religious affairs, arts and culture, business, media, philanthropy and politics.

University of Notre Dame Islamic studies professor Ebrahim Moosa, a scholar of contemporary Muslim thought, said he’s back on the list after a five-year absence.

“I don’t think Muslim Americans are becoming more influential, but some people are taking note of the achievements of Muslim Americans,” he said.

While there are a number of women on the “Muslim 500” list, it still skews heavily male. Two U.S. women were notable:

  • Linda Sarsour, executive director of the Arab American Association of New York, is described as “an American-Palestinian award-winning human rights and social justice activist.”
  • Farhana Khera is president of Muslim Advocates, a legal advocacy organization.
Linda Sarsour protests during a rally in Ferguson, Mo. Photo courtesy of Linda Sarsour

Linda Sarsour protests during a rally in Ferguson, Mo. Photo courtesy of Linda Sarsour

There are also two U.S. Muslim authors new to the list this year:

  • Moroccan-American Laila Lalami whose novel “The Moor’s Account” was a finalist for the 2015 Pulitzer Prize in fiction.
  • Afghan-born American physician and novelist Khaled Hosseini, author of best-selling “The Kite Runner,” and “A Thousand Splendid Suns.”

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Others U.S. Muslims (not new this year) include Council on American-Islamic Relations co-founder and executive director Nihad Awad; CNN “GPS” host Fareed Zakaria; legendary boxer Muhammad Ali; U.S. Reps. Andre Carson and Keith Ellison; and Imam Mohamed Magid, the president emeritus of the Islamic Society of North America.

YS/AMB END HARBIN

  • BartholomewB

    Your hyperlink in the first paragraph isn’t working. It links to a different news story, not the 500 list.

  • Bernardo,

    There is nothing rational about your prejudice and your bigotry. Bin Laden does not = all Muslims.
    Lumping Muslims together as if they are all the same would be like saying all people named ‘Bernardo’ are rapists and murderers. It is foolish and untrue.

    There is nothing bigoted about arguing against the idea of Islam – it is as untrue and as wrong as all other religions. But to claim all Muslims are the same is bigotry.

  • Bernardo

    Max you fail to realize that all Muslims follow the literal word of the koran. If they did not, they would be considered infidels and subject to torture and/or death.

    A sampling of passages all good Muslims to include Bin Laden, ISIS and the 500 “elite” Muslims follow:

    Quran (8:12) – “I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them”

    Quran (9:5) – “So when the sacred months have passed away, then slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them captive and besiege them and lie in wait for them in every ambush, then if they repent and keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate, leave their way free to them.”