In 2012 the list of influential Muslims from around the world was compiled by theRoyal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre, a Jordanian think tank. This is the fifth year such a list has been published, but this years interesting tie bit was that it included 40 American Muslims, including two in the top 50.
This was not a fact that was missed by the HuffPost which reported that Sheikh Hamza Yusuf Hanson, a California-born convert who founded Zaytuna College, an Islamic college in Berkeley, Calif., and is a leading Islamic authority in America, ranked No. 42, two places ahead of Seyyed Hossein Nasr, an Islamic studies professor at George Washington University known for his work in Islamic philosophy.
Any list that has King of Saudi at the top, consecutively for five years is extremely questionable. His relevancy is quite problematic especially given that as the custodian of Mecca and Medina he’s transformed those two sacred places into cheap Las Vegas imitations with the only unifying theme of bigger, bigger and still bigger. But going back to the idea that 40 out of the 500 listed were American Muslims means quite a bit given that no other nation dominated the list like citizens from the United States did.
Right after the list was published a conversation ensued on twitter after this tweet by @bornshaikh:
While most of the conversation was in jest, I kept wondering what the implication of this question had on American Muslim community life, especially as I drove across the Southern United States. Why can’t we get things done?
U.S. dominates list of world’s “500 Most Influential Muslims’- Why can't we get anything done? http://t.co/Zo4id12o— Ahmed Shaikh (@bornshaikh) November 29, 2012
Thats the thing, so many “illustrious leaders” from the West, yet we seem to keep mucking things up here. But I think Dawud Wharnsby probably had the most salient point:
Tonight I am rather bewildered to be included, once again, in this year’s edition of “The Muslim 500: The World’s 500 Most Influential Muslims” compiled by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre in Amman Jordan. It is an honour to have my work recognized in the “Arts and Culture” section alongside incredible artists who share my faith ~ such as Yusuf Islam, Zain Bhikha, Sami Yusuf and A.R.Rahman (among others)… but very strange that the list is so selective… excluding living legends of music such as Abdullah Ibrahim, Kenny Gamble, Ahmed Jamal and Richard Thompson (to name only a few). Though I am humbled to even see my name in the same book as the likes of individuals such as Dr. Seyyed Hossein Nasr and Prof. Timothy Winter I wonder why mention of an individual such as young Malala Yousafzai [read here] was absent? It is also very odd for me ~ in fact very painful ~ to be listed in a book of “influential muslims” alongside the names of many decadent, discriminatory, and even dastardly political dictators, leaders, kings and public figures who shamelessly claim to speak on behalf of God Almighty in our world today. It is my belief that the TRULY INFLUENTIAL muslims in the world are not the corrupt, capitalistic leaders, self-righteous imams, famous-faith-charged TV sheikhs or even the ego-struggling singers such as myself who claim to follow the Qur’an…. the TRULY influential muslims in our world are the ones who quietly teach their children by positive example ~ even during these trying and twisted times ~ to be people of love, honesty, integrity, justice, humility, frugality, wisdom, non-violence, truth and Creator Consciousness. They are a silent majority not always found in palaces, lavish mosques, expensive conferences, elite lecture halls, TV talk shows, devotional music concerts or radical rallies. But I can assure you: there are many more than just 500 and THEY are the types of muslims I treasure being with and influenced by.
My friends daughter was named Malala in honor of Ms. Yousafzai. But this little tender girl isn’t the only one, I have heard of numerous young parents honoring Malala by naming their little girls her name. Why? Simply because Malala championed girls education in a nation that has delcared itself a Muslim Republic, yet in a Muslim Republic a little girl should not have to protest in order to have access to education, nor should a person of her tender age be shot in the head simply because she wanted to be educated. Malala should be recognized in the top 50 because she is the future of Islam and young Muslims. My generation of American Muslim activists recognizes this, yet she has not even appeared on this illustrious list. Why? Malala will continue to do amazing things and she deserves the support and backing of the entire Muslim world community so that those who find it convenient to silence her know that they are marginalized, against universal Islamic values and of no consequence to the greater Ummah.