The 2016 edition of “The Muslim 500,” an annual list of the world’s most influential Muslim men and women compiled by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre in Jordan, includes eight figures from the world of sports — a diverse set that includes an Olympic gold medalist, two FIFA World Cup winners and a three-time world heavyweight boxing champion among its most famous names.
While the sports figures are not ranked, most would agree that the headliner of the group is Muhammad Ali. The retired boxer, who turned 74 years old this month, has been slowed down by Parkinson’s disease for years but is still a powerful voice for peace and goodwill around the globe. In recent months he has been back in the news for speaking up against the anti-Muslim hate speech of United States presidential candidate Donald Trump.
Naturally, “The Muslim 500” is top-heavy with royalty and political heads of state, as well as Islamic scholars and sheikhs. The top 50 are actually ranked, and sitting at No. 1 is Jordan’s King Abdullah II ibn Al-Hussein, the brother of FIFA’s Prince Ali ibn Al-Hussein.
The remaining 450 are spread among the following groups related to their area of influence: scholarly; political; administration of religious affairs; preachers and spiritual guides; philanthropy, charity and development; social issues; business; science and technology; arts and culture; Quran reciters; media; celebrities and sports; and top extremists.
It should go without saying that the last group is not being honored or celebrated, however their influence in world affairs — negative as it may be — cannot be denied and should not be ignored. However, the “Muslim 500” list is in that sense a reflection of the entire Muslim community: the good far outweighing the bad.
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