Timothy Winter: Britain’s most influential Muslim

20 August 2010
In the 500 Most Influential Muslims 2010, Mr Winter is below the King of Saudi Arabia — who comes in at number one — but ahead of many more chronicled figures. Winter, who is Shaykh Zayed Lecturer of Islamic Studies at Cambridge University’s Divinity Faculty, is ranked in an unspecified position between 51st and 60th: considerably higher than the three other British people who make the list — the Conservative Party chairman Baroness Warsi; the UK’s first Muslim life peer, Lord Nazir Ahmed, who was briefly jailed last year for dangerous driving; and Dr Anas Al Shaikh Ali, director of the International Institute of Islamic Thought — making him, at least in the eyes of the RISSC, Britain’s most influential Muslim.
After graduating from Cambridge with a double first in Arabic in 1983, Winter studied at the University of al-Azhar in Egypt and worked in Jeddahat before returned to England in the late eighties to study Turkish and Persian. He says he has no difficulty reconciling the world he grew up in with the one he now inhabits. “Despite all the stereotypes of Islam being the paradigmatic opposite to life in the west, the feeling of conversion is not that one has migrated but that one has come home.”
Last year Winter helped set up the Cambridge Muslim College, which offers trained imams a one year diploma in Islamic studies and leadership, designed to help trained imams to better implement their knowledge and training in 21st-century Britain. This year’s first graduating class have recently returned from a trip to Rome where they had an open audience with the Pope.