It comes as no surprise that with around 1.8 billion Muslims in the world, a large number of prominent athletes, musicians, and icons today follow Islam. However, when we think of famous Muslims around the globe, we tend to forget about those in the West. Here are five big names that many don’t know are Muslim.
1- Janet Jackson
Being the younger sister of world-renowned King of Pop, Michael Jackson, never deterred Janet Jackson from standing out and creating her own well-deserved success. The youngest member of the Jackson family, Janet Jackson has sold over 160 million records and won five Grammys. In 2015, she converted to Islam a few years after marrying Muslim billionaire Wissam Al Mana. Her brother, Jermaine Jackson, converted years before her, in 1989 after a trip to Bahrain.
2- Shaquille O’Neal
This 15-time NBA All-Star is known for having played for six different teams over the course of his 19-year NBA career, including the Orland Magic, the L.A. Lakers, and the Miami Heat, leading his teams to four NBA Championships. Shaq revealed his faith in a 2010 interview when he explained that he felt the best center of all time was “[a]nother Muslim brother, Hakeem Olajuwon.” In that same interview, Shaq confirmed his plans to visit Turkey and one day undertake the Muslim pilgrimage, called Hajj.
3- Dave Chappelle
If there is one comedian everyone knows, it’s Dave Chappelle. Considered one of the funniest men in America, Chappelle is known for his standup, as well for his sketch-comedy TV series. “Chappelle’s Show.” Raised by a minister, Chappelle converted to Islam in 1998. Seven years later, he told TIME magazine, “I don’t normally talk about my religion publicly because I don’t want people to associate me and my flaws with this beautiful thing. And I believe it is beautiful if you learn it the right way.”
World-renowned singer Akon, whose real name is Aliaume Damala Badara Akon Thiam, was brought up Muslim in Senegal. In an interview with The National, the singer revealed that entering the music industry was considered problematic by a number of people in his hometown. “I was born a Muslim and depending on what part of Senegal you came from, music was considered haram [forbidden] and there has always been a debate about Islam and music.”