WELLINGTON - New Zealand's Muslims are pushing to include their rugby superstar Sonny Bill Williams into the list of the world's 500 most influential Muslims to show the diversity of their community in the country.
"Sonny Bill Williams is probably the most famous Muslim in New Zealand and, in a Rugby World Cup year, has brought the faith to prominence," Javed Khan, senior vice-president of the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand, told Agence France-Presse on Sunday, January 1.
Born in 1985, Williams a top-notch rugby star in New Zealand.
He reverted to Islam in 2008 after attending prayer services at a Sydney mosque.
The superstar is the first Muslim to play for the All Blacks rugby team.
Williams' younger sister Niall Williams is a New Zealand international touch football player, and won gold at the Youth World Cup in 2005 and silver at the 2011 Touch Football World Cup.
"I think the only reason he was not included in the list is because these people are not aware of the existence of New Zealand's Muslim superstar and we'll be writing to them to make sure he's there next year," said Khan.
The south-pacific island country of New Zealand is home to more than 40,000 Muslims.
The 500 Most Influential Muslims 2011, the third list in this series, started in 2009 by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre in Amman.
The report is issued annually in cooperation with Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at George Town University in the United States.
The Centre says its annual list provides a window on the "movers and shakers of the Muslim world", gives an insight into the ways Muslims impact on the world, and "shows the diversity of how people are living as Muslims today".
The 2011 report of the 500 Most Influential Muslims was issued in December, with Saudi King Abdullah topping the list.
Morocco's King Mohammed VI came second on the list, while fourth and fifth places went to Jordan's King Abdullah and Iran's Supreme Leader Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei.Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, Sheikh Al-Azhar Dr. Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, and prominent Muslim scholar Dr. Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, who is President of International Union of Muslim Scholars, also made it to the top 10 ranks.