The top 10 intellectuals in the world today are all Muslims, according to a poll conducted by Britain’s Prospect magazine and the US Foreign Policy magazine. Now Prospect has come out with the inside story. Muslims swamped the online poll which attracted more than half a million voters.
Prospect says the Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa and the Russian chess grandmaster Gary Kasparov were the early frontrunners before former US vice-president and Nobel Peace Prize winner Al Gore moved into pole position. But then about a week into the poll in May, Turkish Sufi cleric and religious leader Fethullah Gulen swept into the lead — and stayed there, emerging as the winner.
Prospect says Gulen forged into the lead after Turkey’s highest-selling newspaper Zaman (circulation 700,000 plus) carried a front-page report urging readers to vote for him. Votes also poured in for other Muslim intellectuals. Each voter could pick five names from the 100 intellectuals on the list who included Singapore’s Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew. He ranked 74th in the poll.
What the poll showed, says Prospect, is:
The power of connectivity in the Muslim world, especially its more liberal parts.
Turkey now boasts almost three million Facebook users, more than any country apart from the US, Britain and Canada.
Farsi, the most widely spoken language in Iran, is by some counts the fourth most popular language in the world for blogs.
Press stories featuring specific candidates in Indonesia, Canada, India and Spain had little impact. (Indonesian political scientist Anies Baswedan was 60th.)
The dog that didn’t bark this time was China—the five Chinese names on our list ended up mid-tablers at best.
Here is the list of the top 20 intellectuals, according to the poll. I am publishing the top 20 because they include Indians. (Naturally.) The figures in brackets show how the same intellectuals ranked in the previous poll, in 2005.
1 Fethullah Gülen (*) Scholar, cleric, religious leader, Turkey
2 Muhammad Yunus (*) Economist, Bangladesh
3 Yusuf Al-Qaradawi (56) Scholar, preacher, Egypt
4 Orhan Pamuk (54) Writer, Turkey
5 Aitzaz Ahsan (*) Lawyer, Pakistan
6 Amr Khaled (*) Preacher, Egypt
7 Abdolkarim Soroush (15) Philosopher, Iran
8 Tariq Ramadan (58) Theologian, Switzerland
9 Mahmood Mamdani (*) Anthropologist, political scientist, Uganda
10 Shirin Ebadi (12) Lawyer, human rights activist, Iran
11 Noam Chomsky (1) Linguist, political activist, USA
12 Al Gore (*) Politician, environmentalist, USA
13 Bernard Lewis (34) Historian, Orientalist, political commentator, UK
14 Umberto Eco (2) Writer, Italy
15 Ayaan Hirsi Ali (* ) Feminist, Netherlands
16 Amartya Sen (8) Economist, India
17 Fareed Zakaria (35) Political commentator, USA
18 Garry Kasparov (*) Chess grandmaster, Russia
19 Richard Dawkins (3) Scientist, writer, UK
20 Mario Vargas Llosa (29) Writer, Peru
Prospect has the full list here.
Salman Rushdie was the top writer among those writing in English. He ranked 23rd, down from 10th place in 2005.
Former Czech president and playwright Vaclav Havel was 25th, down from fourth.
British writer Christopher Hitchens was 27th, down from fifth.
American political scientist Samuel Huntington was 28th, same as last time.
American economist and New York Times columnist Paul Paul Krugman was 30th, down from sixth.
American scientist and writer Jared Diamond was 31st, down from ninth.
Pope Benedict XVI ranked 32nd, down from 17th.
Economist Fan Gang was the highest-ranking Chinese at 33rd, up from 82nd.
American political scientist Francis Fukuyama was 43rd, down from 21st.
Indian political commentator Ramachandra Guha was a newcomer at 44th.
American economist Steven Levitt was another newcomer at 46th.
American economist Jeffrey Sachs was 47th, down from 27th.
Indian scientist VS Ramachandran was a newcomer at 50th.
American blogger and law professor Lawrence Lessig was 52nd, down from 40th.
South African writer JM Coetzee was 53rd, down from 44th.
Indian environmentalist Sunita Narain and Indian political scientist Ashis Nandy were both newcomers in 59th and 64th position respectively.
British historian Niall Ferguson was 62nd, down from 45th.
American General David Petraeus was another newcomer at 65th.