Survey finds world’s top 10 intellectuals are Muslims

US international affairs journal Foreign Policy says Turkey’s Fethullah Gülen voted top of its list of world intellectuals.

WASHINGTON – The bimonthly US international affairs journal Foreign Policy has just published a survey of the world’s top 20 public intellectuals and the first 10 are all Muslims.

Fethullah Gülen, who heads a network of schools and media that is probably the world’s largest moderate Muslim movement, came first.

Other Muslim religious personalities made the top 10 — weekly preacher on al-Jazeera satellite television Youssef al-Qaradawi (3rd), popular Egyptian television preacher Amr Khaled (6th), Iranian reformist theologian Abdolkarim Soroush (7th), and Swiss-born scholar Tariq Ramadan (8th).

Second was Muhammad Yunus, the Bangladeshi economist who won the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize for the microcredit project run by his Grameen Bank.

Several top-tenners besides Yunus made the list for their secular work.

Orhan Pamuk, the Turkish novelist who won the 2006 Nobel Prize for literature, came in fourth. Next was Aitzaz Ahsan, the Lahore lawyer whose lawyers’ protest movement is possibly the strongest voice of secular civil society in Pakistan. Ninth and tenth places went to Ugandan-born cultural anthropologist Mahmood Mamdani and Shirin Ebadi, the Iranian human rights lawyer who won the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize.

On the top 20 list were activist Noam Chomsky, former Vice President Al Gore, historian Bernard Lewis, Italian novelist Umberto Eco, welfare economist Amartya Sen, Newsweek International editor Fareed Zakaria, and chess grandmaster and a Russian democracy activist Gary Kasparov.

Half a million people visited the foreignpolicy.com site to pick their favorite candidate.

However, after the results, the journal’s editors said they are not convinced that all the intellectuals belong on top.

In their introduction in the July/August issue, the editors wrote: “Rankings are an inherently dangerous business,” as some candidates ran publicity campaigns on their web sites, in interviews or in reports in media friendly to them.

“No one spread the word as effectively as the man who tops the list,” the introduction said.

“In early May, the Top 100 list was mentioned on the front page of Zaman, a Turkish daily newspaper closely aligned with Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen. Within hours, votes in his favor began to pour in,” the introduction added.

“His supporters—typically educated, upwardly mobile Muslims—were eager to cast ballots,” the journal noted.

Foreign Policy had chosen the 100 candidates, noting that they “were included on our initial list of 100 in large part because of the influence of their ideas.”

Foreign Policy also conceded that “part of being a public intellectual is also having a talent for communicating with a wide and diverse public. This skill is certainly an asset for some who find themselves in the list’s top ranks.”

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