Sonny Bill Williams: Kiwi rugby-star a 'hardout' influential Muslim
A rugby star from New Zealand has been named among 2017's most influential Muslims around the world, according to a leading Islamic research centre.
Sonny Bill Williams was listed in the annually released list of the 500 most influential Muslims, produced by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre in Jordan, reserving his name among the likes of the King of Saudi Arabia and the Grand Imam of the al-Azhar Mosque .
The judges of "The Muslim 500" noted that Williams, who converted to Islam in 2008, was the first Muslim to play for the legendary All Blacks.
They also praised him for giving away his Rugby World Cup medal to a young fan, who had been tackled by security guards while trying to congratulate Williams, after New Zealand beat Australia in 2015.
"I've become a true Muslim," Williams told CNN in 2013 in an interview that delved into conversion to Islam.
"It's giving me happiness. It's made me become content as a man, and helped me to grow. I've just got faith in it and it has definitely helped me become the man I am today," Williams added.
Rugby's 'wild child' explained that meeting a Tunisian family who lived with their five children in a one-bedroom flat in the south of France proved pivotal to his conversion to Islam.
Last month, German car maker BMW almost withdrew a sponsorship arrangement with Williams, after it was revealed he was associating with controversial clerics, Mufti Ismael Menk and Ebrahim Bham.
"The Muslim 500" highlights people of the Islamic faith whose influence is derived from their practice of the religion or from the fact that they are Muslim.