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Famous Muslims On What Their Religion Means To Them

"I’m all about unity. I’m all about love. And I want my people to be good.”

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Kumail Nanjiani, Silicon Valley actor and comedian

Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

"People don't really have the image of a lax Muslim," he told Fresh Air. "When people think of Islam they see certain images in their head, they see fanaticism... You can think of a non-religious Jewish person, you can think of a lapsed Christian person, but there's really no image of a non-strict Muslim person."

Dr. Mehmet Öz

Stephen Lovekin

"I’ve struggled a lot with my muslim identity," Dr. Oz told PBS. "As a Turk, growing up in America with one parent from one side of the religious wall and one parent from the other side, and of course America clearly supporting the secular background, I found myself tugged more and more towards the spiritual side of the religion, rather than the legal side of the religion."

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Aasif Mandvi, comedian and Daily Show correspondent

Janette Pellegrini

"If you can get people afraid of Muslims, you don’t have to talk about real issues," he told The Hollywood Reporter. "70% of Americans are killed by other Americans with guns, not by foreign terrorists. And we’re not keeping white men with guns out of the country. We’re keeping Syrian refugees out of the country. It’s easy to say, well, it’s the Muslims, it’s their religion and we don’t understand it. Whenever violence occurs and it’s a brown guy or a Muslim guy, it becomes about terrorism, but when it’s a white guy, it’s just a crazy guy who had bad parenting."

Zayn Malik, musician

Kevin Winter / Getty Images

"There may be a time where I feel like I have something to say about a certain topic and I’m educated enough and armed with the exact information I need before I make a statement that doesn’t offend anybody," he told Complex magazine of his faith. "But in today’s day and age, it’s very hard to make any sort of statement that doesn’t offend somebody. I don’t want to throw stones out of a river that’s already raging. You know what I’m saying? It’s doing its thing by itself. I don’t need to put any input in there. I’ll just leave everything to itself."

Mahershala Ali, Critics' Choice Award-winner of Moonlight, Luke Cage, and House of Cards

Mike Coppola / Getty Images

"I just had this really strong response where this prayer is resonating in my body, and I’m, like, crying,” he said of an experience he had after visiting a mosque. “I woke up a week later, and I get up and I go, ‘I gotta go to the mosque.’ Long story short, I converted that day.”

Shaquille O’Neal, former Los Angeles Lakers and Orlando Magic (among other teams) basketball player

Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

"Of course I believe in God. Only God could have given me what I have," O'Neal said. "Hopefully, people won't judge me by what they think my beliefs are...The world we live in, there's trials and tribulations. We move on. What I believe right now doesn't matter. My views are my views."

Dave Chappelle, actor, comedian, and producer

Frank Micelotta / Getty Images

"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 a beautiful religion if you learn it the right way," he told Time magazine. And he later said, "I’m a Muslim. I don’t necessarily practice the way a good Muslim is supposed to practice, but I believe in these tenets."

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Hakeem Olajuwon, former Houston Rockets and Toronto Raptors basketball player

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"The difference must be distinguished between worship and respect," he told the New York Times. "Islam orders you to obey and respect, as long as you are not worshiping anything other than God... Islam is a religion of peace. You don't attack. You explain."

Ice Cube, rapper, producer, and actor

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"What I call myself is a natural Muslim, because it's just me and God," he told The Guardian. "You know, going to the mosque, the ritual and the tradition, it's just not in me to do. So I don't do it."

Lupe Fiasco, rapper and entrepreneur

Brendon Thorne / Getty Images

"At the end of the day, we're human," he told Katie Couric. "We have faults. We make mistakes. You know, that's what the religion is for, to help you correct your mistakes."

Busta Rhymes, rapper

Kevin Winter

"I live my life by Islam," he said. "At the end of the day, I think that's pretty much what grounds me in the way that I think most people should be grounded. That's just enjoying who you are as a human life, as opposed to trying to add all these other additive and preservatives to your perspective on life."

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Reza Aslan, author, activist, and TV host

Frederick M. Brown / Getty Images

"I'm a person of faith, and the language that I use to define my faith — the symbols and metaphors that I rely upon to express my faith — are those provided by Islam because they make the most sense to me," he told Time.

Akon, rapper, producer, and actor

Sergio Dionisio / Getty Images

"I was born a Muslim," Akon told The National. "Now I am not in a position to judge any man and I don’t expect them to judge me as well, but no matter what decision you decide to make just do right by it. Because, at the end of the day, Allah is watching and he knows what is in your heart."

Yasiin Bey (formerly known as Mos Def), hip hop artist, activist, and actor

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"I got my first exposure to Islam when I was 13," he said. "You're not gonna get through life without being worshipful or devoted to something. You're either devoted to your job, or to your desires. So the best way to spend your life is to try to be devoted to prayer, to Allah."

Khaled Hosseini, author of The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, among others

Giuseppe Cacace / AFP / Getty Images

"I consider myself a secular Muslim," he told Beliefnet. "I myself come from a fairly liberal and secular background. Both my parents were practicing Muslims, but they never enforced religion on us. I have a particular disdain for Islamic extremism, and of course, in both The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns that's obvious."

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, former Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers basketball player

Slaven Vlasic

"I don't have any misgiving about my faith," he told NPR. "I'm very concerned about the people who claim to be Muslims that are murdering people and creating all this mayhem in the world. That is not what Islam is about, and that should not be what people think of when they think about Muslims. But it's up to all of us to do something about all of it."

Malala Yousafzai, activist and youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate

Odd Andersen / AFP / Getty Images

"I can just highlight one thing," she said. "The more you speak about Islam and against all Muslims, the more terrorists we create. So it’s important that whatever politicians say, whatever the media say, they should be really, really careful about it. If your intention is to stop terrorism, do not try to blame the whole population of Muslims for it because it cannot stop terrorism. It will radicalize more terrorists."

Los Angeles Bureau Chief, Cat Wrangler

Contact Erin La Rosa at erin.larosa@buzzfeed.com.

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