Foreign Policy: The World’s Top 20 Public Intellectuals and Prospect Magazine’s Top 100 came my way through The World’s Top Public Intellectuals Are… posted on Nah, Nope, Not Quite, who commented:
Perhaps I am horribly uninformed, or perhaps not. I will confess that my five votes were biased towards the West (they’re either American or English), though there were many more that I wished I could have voted for…
The results are also interesting because you know the people on the list care about where they rank. Salman Rushdie beat Christopher Hitchens (Amis wasn’t even on the list). Poor Ian Buruma finished dead last. Thomas Friedman was in the middle of the pack. And still other names shouldn’t have been there at all (I’ll leave you to judge who).
In any case, the results merit consideration…
What is drawing most attention is that the top 10 were all Muslims. What hasn’t so much been noted is the variety of thought within Islam the list indicates.
Religious leader • Turkey
An Islamic scholar with a global network of millions of followers, Gülen is both revered and reviled in his native Turkey. To members of the Gülen movement, he is an inspirational leader who encourages a life guided by moderate Islamic principles. To his detractors, he represents a threat to Turkey’s secular order. He has kept a relatively low profile since settling in the United States in 1999, having fled Turkey after being accused of undermining secularism.
Microfinancier, activist • Bangladesh
More than 30 years ago, Yunus loaned several dozen poor entrepreneurs in his native Bangladesh a total of $27. It was the beginning of a lifetime devoted to fighting poverty through microfinance, efforts that earned him a Nobel Peace Prize in 2006. Over the years, his Grameen Bank, now operating in more than 100 countries, has loaned nearly $7 billion in small sums to more than 7 million borrowers—97 percent of them women. Ninety-eight percent of the loans have been repaid.
Cleric • Egypt/Qatar
The host of the popular Sharia and Life TV program on Al Jazeera, Qaradawi issues w .eekly fatwas on everything from whether Islam forbids all consumption of alcohol (no) to whether fighting U.S. troops in Iraq is a legitimate form of resistance (yes). Considered the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Qaradawi condemned the September 11 attacks, but his pronouncements since, like his justification of suicide attacks, ensure his divisive reputation.
Novelist • Turkey
Part political pundit, part literary celebrity, Pamuk is the foremost chronicler of Turkey’s difficult dance between East and West. His skillfully crafted works lay bare his native country’s thorny relationship with religion, democracy, and modernity, earning him a Nobel Prize in literature in 2006. Three years ago, Pamuk was put on trial for “insulting Turkish identity” after mentioning the Armenian genocide and the plight of Turkey’s Kurds in an interview. The charges were later dropped. Today, Pamuk teaches literature at Columbia University.
Lawyer, politician • Pakistan
President of Pakistan’s Supreme Court Bar Association, Ahsan has been a vocal opponent of President Pervez Musharraf’s rule. When Musharraf dismissed the head of the Supreme Court in March 2007, it was Ahsan who led the legal challenge to reinstate the chief justice and rallied thousands of lawyers who took to the streets in protest. He was arrested several times during the period of emergency rule last year. Today, he is a senior member of the Pakistan Peoples Party, formerly led by Benazir Bhutto, and one of the country’s most recognizable politicians.
Muslim televangelist • Egypt
A former accountant turned rock-star evangelist, Khaled preaches a folksy interpretation of modern Islam to millions of loyal viewers around the world. With a charismatic oratory and casual style, Khaled blends messages of cultural integration and hard work with lessons on how to live a purpose-driven Islamic life. Although Khaled got his start in Egypt, he recently moved to Britain to counsel young, second-generation European Muslims.
Religious theorist • Iran
Soroush, a former university professor in Tehran and specialist in chemistry, Sufi poetry, and history, is widely considered one of the world’s premier Islamic philosophers. Having fallen afoul of the mullahs thanks to his work with Iran’s democratic activists, he has lately decamped to Europe and the United States, where his essays and lectures on religious philosophy and human rights are followed closely by Iran’s reformist movement.
Philosopher, scholar of Islam • Switzerland
One of the most well-known and controversial Muslim scholars today, Ramadan embodies the cultural and religious clash he claims to be trying to bridge. His supporters consider him a passionate advocate for Muslim integration in Europe. His critics accuse him of anti-Semitism and having links to terrorists. In 2004, Ramadan was denied a U.S. visa to teach at Notre Dame, after the State Department accused him of donating to Islamic charities linked to Hamas.
Cultural anthropologist • Uganda
Born in Uganda to South Asian parents, Mamdani was expelled from the country by Idi Amin in 1972, eventually settling in the United States. His work explores the role of citizenship, identity, and the creation of historical narratives in postcolonial Africa. More recently, he has focused his attention on political Islam and U.S. foreign policy, arguing that modern Islamist terrorism is a byproduct of the privatization of violence in the final years of the Cold War. He teaches at Columbia University.
Lawyer, human rights activist • Iran
Iran’s first female judge under the shah, Ebadi founded a pioneering law practice after she was thrown off the bench by Iran’s clerical rulers. Having initially supported the Islamic Revolution, she cut her teeth defending political dissidents and campaigning for the rights of women and children. A fierce nationalist who sees no incompatibility between Islam and democracy, Ebadi became the first Iranian to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003.
— from Foreign Policy
You will see I have linked #1 — to some posts of my own in January 2007!