Forbes lists ten Muslims among world’s most influential 70 people


Recently released ranking by Forbes magazine lists ten Muslims among the most influential 70 people in the  world.  Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah, was again selected the most influential person among Muslims and the sixth person in all 70 people, due to the location of Islam’s holiest site in KSA and his impressive social reform in Saudi Arabia. Ali Hoseini-Khamenei, the second most influential Muslim, ranked at the 26th position due to his influential character in the Iran affairs. Ali Al-Naimi, the oil minister of the Kingdom that contains 20% of the world’s known oil reserves, is another person ranked at the 31st position. Most of the Muslim influential persons are the head of states or have governmental administration backgrounds.

Azim Premji and Alisher Usmanov are among business leaders featured in the most influential people’s list and they are also listed among the world’s richest people ranking by Forbes. Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and India each have two Muslim influential persons listed in the ranking, while Iran, Turkey and Russia have a single person each. A list of the top ten people is shown in the table below:

World’s Rank Name Title Country Age
6 Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz al Saud King, Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabia 87
26 Ali Hoseini-Khamenei Grand Ayatollah Iran 72
31 Ali Al-Naimi Oil Minister, KSA Saudi Arabia 76
34 Ashfaq Parvez Kayani Chief of Army Staff Pakistan 59
48 Recep Erdogan Prime Minister Turkey 57
53 Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan President, UAE UAE 63
56 Ahmed Shuja Pasha Director-General of ISI Pakistan 59
57 Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar Leader, D-Company India 55
61 Azim Premji Chairman, Wipro India 66
70 Alisher Usmanov Oligarch Russia 58


US president Barack Obama regained his position at the top, followed by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, taking the second position, while Chinese President Hu Jintao has slipped from the No. 1 spot on the magazine’s annual rankings to the third place. Sonia Gandhi (11th), Manmohan Singh (19th), Mukesh Ambani (35th) and Lakshmi Mittal (47th) are other Indians who are ranked as most influential persons, besides the two Indian Muslims, Dawood and Azim Prem Ji.

Shafeeq Rahman is a professional researcher on India-centric socio-economic and political databases and can be reached at


MO’MEN: Egyptian Revolution “Freedom Fries”


I came across this ad today; the Arabic copy reads, “A revolutionary taste”.  Mo’men, a  fast food restaurant in Egypt,  is a truly Egyptian brand, having started as a modest food cart on the streets of Cairo. Now 57 restaurants strong, and serving over ten million customers a year, Mo’men is quick to show its patriotism with this ad.

(By the way, my post title intends no reference to the American  “Freedom Fries” euphemism which was seen on the menus of restaurants displeased with France’s opposition to the war in Iraq.)

It’s interesting to juxtapose how Mo’men wants to position itself with KFC’s perceived positioning throughout the revolution. State television accused protestors of being foreign agents, seduced by free KFC meals that were being handed out at the square. Later in the revolution, KFC became a symbol of oppression; as it was believed the old regime’s hired thugs were given 100 Egyptian pounds and a KFC meal to terrorize protestors.

I wonder what other consumer brands will jump on the bandwagon of Egyptian Revolution values. Do you know of any other brands that already have?


Islamic designs in the modern world

In April, I was lucky enough to be invited to speak at the 2012 World Halal Forum, in Kuala Lumpur. One of the other speakers was designer Peter Gould. For those of you that haven’t heard of him, check out:

Peter’s session went down really well, so I asked him to share some of those things here.

Me: “Peter, can you tell us some of the things that you’ve been up to recently – I want to put them in my blog”

Peter: “Yes it’s been a busy few weeks since we met in Malaysia and it was great to come back and launch two major projects.

The first was a special project for the forthcoming Islamic Museum of Australia, which is an impressive $10 million initiative partially supported by the Australian Government. My involvement actually dates back to mid-last year when I joined three fellow Australian Muslims travelling 13,000km across the Australian outback to explore and document historical Muslim connections in our country (which are surprisingly rich and deep). Indonesian traders visited regularly long before British colonization, and our oldest mosque dates from the 1860’s.

My role specifically was to photograph the journey, and then design and feature the images into a coffee table style book and exhibition, which we launched with Yusuf (Cat Stevens). When developing the branding and identity, I wanted to feature a strong ‘desert’ red & brown outback feel highlighted by some contemporary typography and geometric patterns. Our documentary will feature soon on national TV; and personally, it was one of the most rewarding projects I’ve been involved with – both creatively and spiritually.


The second project involved developing the visual identity system, exhibition graphics, publication, children’s activity and promotional material for the Faith, fashion, fusion: Muslim women’s style in Australia exhibition by the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney

Working for one of Australia’s most iconic design institutions was initially a little nerve-wracking, as they attract over 600,000 visitors a year and expectations were high.


My intention was to re-imagine some familiar Islamic design elements such as calligraphy and geometric tiling (the likes of which I’d studied in Morocco and Syria) with a contemporary, edgy street style. I enlisted the help of a dear friend, calligraphy master Haji Noor Deen with whom I often collaborate. The results were very well received and the Museum curator actually just sent me a glowing testimonial, which was wonderful after completing such an inspiring and rewarding project. Even though the exhibition has just opened, it’s been a hit with plenty of press and positive reviews, alhumdulilah.

What’s next?  Well my new iPad app, ‘Kids of the Ummah’ is out on iTunes It showcases global Muslim cultures around the world, with fun and educational activities – for our emerging generation of app-hungry parents & kids.”


UNHATE – edgy marketing, stirring up hate, trying to grab headlines, or a viral stunt?

Benetton launched a new campaign, which I am sure will test the adage, ‘there’s no such things as bad publicity’.Benetton1

On their website they state that:

The UNHATE Foundation, desired and founded by the Benetton Group, seeks to contribute to the creation of a new culture of tolerance, to combat hatred, building on Benetton’s underpinning values. It is another important step in the group’s social responsibility strategy: not a cosmetic exercise, but a contribution that will have a real impact on the international community, especially through the vehicle of communication, which can reach social players in different areas.

Here are screen grabs from the video, which grabbed my attention when I saw it for the first time blazoned across one of their video screen window displays, whilst walking past the Benetton Knightsbridge store, in London.


Now, for those of you that haven’t been to that part of town before, it’s a stomping ground for tourists and especially those from the Middle East. Harrods is down the road and they have previously expressed to me how important high-spending Muslim tourists are. So much so that they have adjusted opening hours to accommodate the culture of shopping much later in the day, which is central to many countries in the Muslim world.

So from the first image, I thought ‘Wow’ a hijabi in a marketing campaign. However, as the video continued I have to say I was shocked!  I am not allowed to show those pictures on this site, but you can see some similar ones from the Benetton UNHATE campaign site here.

Now Benetton have cut their cloth on creating memorable and at times controversial advertising copy, I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on what effects, if any this will have on Muslims, Muslim consumers and their consumption? For example, will this creative offend a significant number of Muslims and how will they express their offence, if at all? Will such expressions translate into harming the brand and drops in sales in the short and/or long term? And, could it stretch as far as Muslim countries requesting the closure of Benetton stores?

Beyond this, was there an opportunity to deliver less contentious creative, which would be equally as memorable – but perhaps with more of a positive ‘Muslim’ effect? For example, there appears to be little mainstream creative from many brands, which shows Muslims as passionate, loving and deep members of an integrated society – beyond a token housewife buying tea and cheese.

With these in mind, here are some creatives from Malaysia, which take a different tack:

Also, are they appropriate for non-Muslim countries? In my opinion, I would say yes. With fragmented markets requiring the application of more intricate segmentation criteria, my feeling is that the brands that are willing to take calculated risks in moving away from neutral and idyllic actors stripped of their cultural identities, will triumph. A case in practice of this can be seen with HSBC:

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Mobile with Muslim friendly features launched in India

To cater the needs of more than 160 Indian Muslim consumers, first of its kind Islamic mobileI-Tel i786 has been launched in India by I – Tel Group.  The I – Tel Group is already an experienced player managing and distributing the best mobile brands in Africa, Dubai, UK and India over 10 years.


This dual SIM mobile handset with necessary feature of conventional mobile is integrated withspecial software for Muslims like Azan Alarms, Prayer Timings, Wallpapers, Ring Tones, Hijri and Gregorian Calendars, and Zakat calculator. It also provides the Qibla direction by five different methods and has the special software to give automatic direction to Makkah.  Switch on and switch off followed the sound of Islamic music BismiAllah and ShukranAllah respectively. It supports English, Arabic, Hindi, Urdu, Persian, Turkish, Bengali, Burmese, Indonesian, Vietnamese and Thai language.

I-Tel also introduced 2GB Preloaded Micro SD Cards for running Muslim friendly application on Mobile like Full Quran for Mobile, 99 Names Of Allah, Halal Meat Guide, Zakat Software, Pre Loaded Ramadan Songs, Islamic Wallpapers & Islamic Screen Savers.

I- Tel group is also committed to give 2.5% Zakat on every sale of the handset to needy and poor Muslim Children NGO for education purposes. According to statement by company, reason behind the name of Islamic mobile model I-Tel i786 is very special as 786 number is highly auspicious for Muslim in Indian subcontinent as it means “we start in the name of Allah“

India is an emerging destination for Halal and Muslim friendly products and has the largest market size of consumers after Indonesia and Pakistan. Most of Indian Muslim population group is young and looking to fashionable products in accord to their religion. Such products with the provision of Muslim ethics would definitely be chunked the loyal Muslim consumer. Further, India is major trade partner of almost all OIC countries and Muslim friendly products would increase the volume of overseas exports. I-Tel i786 is a valuable start but the lot of lucrative sector and industries are highly untapped for Muslim friendly products in India.


Indian Hajj and Umrah Market

Recently released information by Ministry of External Affairs shows the number of applications received for Hajj 2011 is more than three times of its allocated quota.  Hajj services in India are mainly performed through a government organization, the “Central Hajj Committee of India” which allocates its quota of pilgrims to all thirty five states as per their share of Muslim population. Excess applications are put through the method of Qurrah (Randomly selection).IndiaHjj

Government of India does provide subsidy in airfare and offers other services at cheaper rates compared to private tour operators.   A small share of pilgrims also offer Hajj through private tour operators to whom the Government allocates a select number of seats.  Since the living standard in India is improving greatly, given higher economic and per capita income growth, the number of affluent Muslims has also increased causing an increase those pursuing Hajj.

For the Hajj 2011, Indian government had been initially allotted 104,000 seats by the Ministry of Hajj, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, but overwhelming response with 302,616 numbers of applications for Hajj forced the government to request the revision of quota from Hajj Ministry (KSA) and finally it is approved 108,240 seats for Indians.

As on 12.08.2011, numbers of excess applications are 194,376.  All these figures and Indian Muslim trend lead to a potential market of Umrah which is not bound to any quota.  Rejected person of Hajj in Qurrah system may be encouraged to register for Umrah.