In recent years, Islam has been thrust into world spotlight for a number of reasons – starting with 9/11 and ISIS to anti-refugee sentiments in Europe and a certain US Presidential candidate’s anti-Muslim campaigns. In this hullabaloo, we have forgotten that some of the coolest famous people we look up to – from Muhammad Ali to Zayn Malik and Aziz Ansari – are all Muslims. Would you believe it if we told you there were many more Muslims in the celeb world?
1. Mike Tyson
Boxing legend Mike Tyson converted to Islam during his three-year stint in prison for rape. He has said that his faith is an important part of his life. Though he may not be strictly devout in every sense of the word, Mike has been to Mecca and wedded the daughter of a Muslim cleric. He had a tough and rather lonely childhood, which may have influenced his tempestuous behavior as an adult. Looks like his religion has made the boxer and occasional actor calmer and less aggressive.
2. Shaquille O’Neal
The 7 ft 1 inch basketball icon is a devout Muslim whose first name hints at his religion but doesn’t make it crystal clear. Shaq has revealed his desired to travel to Mecca for Hajj, but beyond this intention, he seems to live a quiet life as a practitioner of his faith. In fact, he has called himself a ‘people person’ who is respectful and welcoming of other faiths such as Buddhism and Judaism.
3. Aasif Mandvi
Previously a contributing correspondent on The Daily Show, Aasif more recently acted, wrote and produced in the now-canceled HBO show The Brink, also starring veteran actor Tim Robbins and funny man Jack Black. The show dealt with geopolitical crises, including a military coup in Pakistan. He is also the author of No Land’s Man, which is a light-hearted yet poignant look at his life as an Indo-Muslim-British-American actor. He has admitted to having a complicated relationship with his faith, but that it will always remain a part of him.
4. Cat Stevens
British singer-songwriter and humanitarian Cat Stevens had a largely Christian upbringing but began questioning his religion early on. After exploring other religions, he settled on Islam and has never looked back since. A devout Muslim, Cat – or Yusuf Islam post his conversion – is Islamist in his political views and believes Islam to be the true religion.
5. Dave Chappelle
No seriously, the comedic genius is a Muslim, but not a strict practitioner from the looks of it. Chapelle smokes, drinks and eats bacon, which are all forbidden in Islam. We know that he converted to the religion in 1998 but he hasn’t been very vocal about his faith except calling it a ‘beautiful thing’ and confessing that he is too flawed to be a poster boy for Islam. We love his talent and classy attitude, regardless.
Akon is one of the richest hip hop entertainers in the world. Akon is also a Muslim who has mentioned Allah in his lyrics. But he considers himself more spiritual than religious, which is easy to believe given the un-Islamic nature of his sexually explicit videos. Taking a cue from wealthy sheikhs, Akon is also believed to have fathered six children with three different women.
7. Craig Hodges
Retired basketball player Craig Hodges, who has won two NBA championships with the Chicago Bulls, is a Muslim who made news for dressing in a dakishi and speaking against the Gulf War during a visit to the White House following a championship victory. He has actively advocated for the rights of minorities in the United States, and called out Michael Jordan for not using his fame to bring attention to social issues.
Q-Tip started his career as one-third of the trio of the critically-acclaimed hip-hop group A Tribe Called Quest. In the 90s, he converted to Islam after reading the Qur’an, and has maintained that it made him a more spiritual man after his negative experience with agnosticism. The Grammy Award nominated rapper is known for his creative approach to words and considered one of the best lyricists of all time.
Born Faheed Rashad Najm, rapper-producer T-Pain was raised in a Muslim household, but has firmly stated that he believes in ‘everything’, and says that religion curbs free will, a reason why he will never associate himself with a single faith. In any case, it doesn’t appear as if he had an orthodox upbringing given his lifestyle and song lyrics. T-Pain is married to a Christian woman with whom he has an open relationship, and has referenced alcohol and drugs in quite a few of his songs.
10. Ellen Burstyn
This one may come as a surprise to you : Emmy-award winning and Academy-award nominated actress Ellen Burstyn – known for roles in Requiem for a Dream, The Last Picture Show, The Exorcist, Resurrection and Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore,practices a moderate form of Sufi Islam (that’s why you won’t find her wearing a burqa). She has said that she also lives by some tenets of Hinduism, Buddhism and Christianity.
11. Mos Def
Now known as Yasiin Bey but more recognized by his previous stage name Mos Def, the hip hop artist, activist and comedian was introduced to Islam by his father Abdul Rahman. He is said to recite the Shahadah, one of the Five Pillars of Islam bearing witness that Allah is the only true god. Mos Def has spoken about the discrimination of Muslims in the United States and believes that there’s more to the 9/11 terror attack than meets the eye.
12. Busta Rhymes
Rapper-producer Busta Rhymes announced in 2007 that he was a Muslim. Interestingly, he has been also been rumored to be part of a member of the Nation of Gods and Earths, a branch of the Nation of Islam. Busta has stated that he lives his life ‘by Islam’, but how strict a follower he may be is up for debate. The recording artist has written verses with the word ‘Qur’an’ in them, which is not allowed in Islam.
13. Dr. Oz
Mehmet Oz, a household name in the United States, has admitted that he struggled with his Muslim identity in a household where his mother was secular in her beliefs while his father was traditional. Dr. Oz emphasizes the spiritual aspect of his religion, and has also stated as being influenced by the mystical element of his wife’s religion – Swedenborgian Christianity.
14. Janet Jackson
The Jackson Five were raised as Jehovah’s Witnesses, but we know for sure that Michael quit the Christian domination in 1987 after he was criticized for his materialistic leanings, given his choice of career as a popstar. His sister Janet, however, is married to Qatar-based business magnate Wissam Al Mana, and is believed to have converted to Islam for him. She is expecting her first child this year with Al Mana. Janet follows in the footsteps of brother Jermaine Jackson who embraced Islam in 1989 after a music tour in the Middle East.
15. Lupe Fiasco
Born Wasalu Muhammad Jaco, the rapper and entrepreneur was raised Muslim in a New York Project. While devout, Lupe has questioned some of the irrational beliefs in Islam as well as other religions. He doesn’t like to wear his religion like a badge and has expressed his concerns about militant Islamic terrorism – as the media like to paint it – while also speaking against atrocious practices such as female genocide in the name of Islam.