Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Fethullah Gülen - the world's most influential intellectual

Today I read a brief article in the Swiss Newspaper NZZ about the newly published ranking of the top 100 living intellectuals. Over a half million people voted over the Internet to find out the World's top intellectuals in a vote organized by the UK magazine "Prospect and Foreign Policy". This was a rerun of a campaign that concluded in 2005 that Noam Chomsky and Umberto Eco were the most influential intellectuals.

This time, early leaders were Maria Vargas Llosa, Gary Kasparov, and Al Gore. But then a campaign was organized for the Turkish islamist preacher Fethullah Gülen, leading him to a resounding victory.
According to Prospect, the leading Turkish newspaper Zaman with a circulation of over 700000 succeeded in rallying its readers behind Fethullah Gülen. However, other newspapers in Indonesia, Bulgaria, or Malaysia launched similar campaigns, with little success.
Here are the top 12 intellectuals (in parenthesis is the ranking of 2005):
1 Fethullah Gülen (*)
2 Muhammad Yunus (*)
3 Yusuf Al-Qaradawi (56)
4 Orhan Pamuk (54)
5 Aitzaz Ahsan (*)
6 Amr Khaled (*)
7 Abdolkarim Soroush (15)
8 Tariq Ramadan (58)
9 Mahmood Mamdani (*)
10 Shirin Ebadi (12)
11 Noam Chomsky (1)
12 Al Gore (*)

There are now quite a few claims that the campaign does not reflect the real world, so I was curious to see what our Coolhunting with Condorview would tell.
Here is the resulting picture:

as well as the spiderweb of Web sites which "voted" Fethullah Gülen to victory


Amazingly, our Coolhunting pretty much confirms the ranking in Prospect and Foreign Policy, although I only checked for five people out of the 100. And none of the top Web sites "voting" for Fethullah Gülen was the Zaman Web site. So it could well be that the Prospect and Foreign Policy poll indeed mirrors global intellectual influence, as the Internet is being used more and more actively also in the developing world outside of the Western World, where a large fraction of the population is Muslim, or at least Anti-US.