With ISIS being plastered across the pages of every major news outlet you can find, the Islamic faith has been getting a very bad rap as of late. What the mainstream media fails to portray whatsoever, however, are any of the positive aspects that the religion delivers. Over and over, the Western world is informed about another suicide bombing, beheading or war relative to the apparent beliefs of Islam. There’s far more to it than that though. Not every Muslim is anti-American and out to cause others bodily injury – in fact, it’s kind of nuts that the sentiment has even gotten to that level. The faith constitutes the world’s second largest religious group, with 62% of practicing Muslims living in South-East Asia. Interestingly enough, a recent study by Pew Research Center found there to be more Muslims living in the United Kingdom than Lebanon, and more in China than Syria. Bet the news didn’t tell you that.
The Islamic faith is heavy on morality and teaches its followers how to be pious, humble and accountable for their actions. Family values and respect towards others are heavily emphasized, as is the exercise of control in regards to one’s passions and desires. Muslims are warned against vanity and excessive material pleasures in the world, which distract from a person’s spirit. Sounds pretty good right? The ten celebrities we’ve rounded up below thought so too. While many were born into the Muslim faith, others converted to Islam later on in life after crediting it for having changed them into a better person.
10. Janet Jackson
Janet Jackson decided to convert to Islam in order to marry her husband, billionaire Wissam Al-Mana. While the R&B songstress is known for her racy lyrics and sensual videos, she has since moved to Qatar and spends the majority of her time in the Middle East. While Al-Mana is co-owner of the largest luxury fashion company in Qatar, Jackson has been spotted by paparazzi covered in traditional Muslim dress including a black jilbab (loose-fitting garment) and a hijab (headscarf).
9. Mike Tyson
In 1992, Mike Tyson was convicted of rape and spent three years in prison. It was there that he began to explore his spiritual side and took a great interest in Islam, converting at the end of his term. Since then, he’s tweeted about and taken a trip to Mecca – which is considered to be the Jerusalem of the religion. He’s also married to a Muslim woman and says that the spirit of the religion has changed his life. He doesn’t pray five times a day as is required by devout followers, but claims that the principles of Islam keep him on track.
8. Shaquille O’Neal
Shaquille O’Neal was born into the Muslim faith. His first name means “Little One” (ironic given his height) and middle name, Rashaun, means “Warrior” in Arabic. The retired basketball star has always vocalized that he supports every religion and that it doesn’t matter which one you abide by, as long as you are following a certain set of principles in life. He has expressed his interest in someday participating in the sacred Muslim ritual of Hajj in Mecca. The Islamic ritual is a pilgrimage to the holy city that all Muslims are expected to take once in their lifetime.
Akon was born Aliaune Damala Badara Akon Thiam and was raised by a Muslim family in Senegal and then the United States. He claims to be a devout practitioner of the religion, yet his hyper sexualized videos and lyrics have caused outrage among the Islamic faith internationally. The rapper believes that all Muslim men should have four wives and uses the religion to justify his polygamous beliefs. Yes, you read that right – Akon has three wives. He’s also been the subject of much controversy after allegations were made that he had engaged in sexual acts with underage girls. We wonder what his fellow Muslims would think about that.
6. Ice Cube
Ice Cube, real name O’Shea Jackson, was raised in California and converted to Islam in the 1990s. He’s quite a bit murkier about his religious beliefs than the rest of the Muslims on this list. On the sleeve of his album, Death Certificate, he once wrote “The best place for a young black male or female is the Nation of Islam”. Nowadays, he claims he was never part of the Nation of Islam but rather treated his faith as a relationship between him and God and didn’t pray or go to mosques. Perhaps his beliefs have dwindled due to the controversy surrounding the religion in recent years.
5. Dr. Oz
Dr. Oz was born in the United States to Turkish parents. His mother was extremely devoted to Islamic rituals while his father didn’t believe that praying five times a day and attending mosques fit into their new American lives. To this day, the famous surgeon and talk show host says that he still feels confused about his religious beliefs due to his parents’ divided views. He abides by a “mystical form of Islam” – whatever that means.
4. Dave Chappelle
Dave Chappelle has publicly dealt with many forms of race, religion and political views in his standup comedy act, but chooses not to discuss his own religious views very often. The comedian and actor converted to Islam in the 1990s, but feels as though talking about the faith in his work would take away from it and lead people to associate his flaws to being a Muslim. Chappelle’s older brother first converted to the religion, which lead him to do the same after seeing how much it had guided his brother and made him a better person.
3. Ellen Burstyn
Talented actress Ellen Burstyn was raised Catholic but converted to Islam in her thirties after leading a troubled life. She lived through an abusive childhood, three failed marriages and many career struggles before getting in touch with her spiritual side and meeting her mentor, a Sufi teacher. The religion is a dimension of Islam and she credits it for helping her get her life back on track, focus on her career and bring dimension to her Academy Award-winning roles.
The famous model was born in Somalia and her name, in Arabic, means “Faith”. The term “Iman” is also a widely recognized Islamic concept, detailing the six articles of faith within the religion. In her biography I am Iman, the beauty details how she struggled with her career in the fashion industry as it went against all principles of her beliefs. She discusses how Islamic women are taught to treat their bodies as temples, yet by modelling she was letting people all around the world have access to hers. She has since become a motivational speaker and counsels youth who have body image and self esteem issues.
1. Snoop Dogg
Snoop Dogg is probably the least likely candidate to become a Muslim, which is why we’ve capped off our list with him. The rapper confessed to being a Mormon in 2008, before rapidly converting to Islam in 2009 following an appearance at the Nation of Islam’s convention in Chicago. After numerous arrests, an accomplice to murder charge and a love for drugs in his career’s earlier days, Snoop Dogg proclaimed himself a changed, spiritual man. His jaunt with Islam didn’t last long – he changed his name to Snoop Lion and converted to Rastafarianism shortly after.