Western readers are likely to learn a few new names by checking out the final results of the Foreign Policy/Prospect poll of the World’s Top Public Intellectuals. In an unprecedented development, all of the top 10 are Muslims, some of whom are barely known in the United States. No result was more surprising than our winner-by-a-landslide, Fethullah Gulen.
The Western media has never known quite what to make of this Turkish religious leader, who lives in exile near Philadelphia. He is described alternately as a leading voice for moderation and education in the Muslim world or the second coming of Ayatollah Khomeini. But, as we’ve learned here at FP, the passion and dedication of his supporters is impressive, to say the least. After an article on the poll appeared in Turkey’s Zaman newspaper, the avalanche of votes for Gülen began.
While voting for their champion, Gülen’s supporters tended to pick other Muslim names for the other four choices. This boosted the standing of lesser-known academics such as Abdolkarim Soroush (No. 7) and Mahmood Mamdani (No. 9) as well as famed Nobel laureates like Muhammad Yunus (No. 2), Orhan Pamuk (No. 4), and Shirin Ebadi (No. 10). When all was said and done, the top non-Muslim on the list was Noam Chomsky in 11th place. Ironically, historian Bernard Lewis, who made his name by describing the rift between the Islamic world and West, came in thirteenth.
The top 20 list hardly looks as we expected, but any group that includes both the fiercely anti-Islamic activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali (No. 15) and conservative Islamist cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi (No. 3) is sure to at least provoke discussion, which was really the main reason for having a poll in the first place. So, FP readers, have a look at the list and let us know what you think.
PS: For those radical fundamentalists who call themselves the Colbert Nation, your man was the top write-in vote.