Since you ask, I haven’t seen the new conservative intellectual magazine Schwerpunkt. I did, on the other hand, notice the current Prospect – not one of my usual reads, as it generally comes across as New Labour at prayer.
Well, Prospect was running a poll to determine the world’s leading intellectual. They last did this in 2005, when good old Noam Chomsky won, prompting a bit of consternation amongst the liberals and leading directly to the Grauniad’s infamous hoax interview with Chomsky. So Prospect might have been expecting trouble when they ran this again.
The results are in and, as it happens, all of the top ten are Muslims. The runaway winner is Turkish Sufi cleric Fethullah Gülen, whose followers number in the millions and who has close links to the ruling AK Party, although he’s not very famous outside Turkey. Runner up is Bangladeshi microfinancier and Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus, followed by top Islamic theologian Sheikh Qaradawi. Not that I’m having a go at any of these characters – and Tariq Ramadan, certainly, would have been one of my picks – but this is all rather curious.
So curious, in fact, that Prospect has had to run an explanatory note. You remember a few years ago when the BBC World Service ran a poll to find the best record of all time, and imaginative Irish lobbying won it for the Wolfe Tones? It seems something similar happened this time. The poll got mentioned in a mass-circulation Turkish paper with links to the Gülen movement, and those Turkish votes just flooded in. Presumably this boosted the other Muslim contenders.
The white blokes don’t even begin to make a showing until number 11, where our old friend Noam pops up, followed by Al Gore. And at 13 we find eminent Orientalist Bernard Lewis. I suppose, although Bernard is both eminent and influential, the Turkish vote couldn’t have hurt in his case, as he has close ties to the Ankara establishment, and his contortions over the Armenian genocide have come in handy for Turkish nationalists over the years.
You know, what struck me most was a little juxtaposition. In my newsagent, the latest Prospect was plonked down right next to ailing lads’ mag Zoo, which is apparently having a big boobs poll. I didn’t have the heart to pick up Zoo, so I can’t tell you whether its discerning readers judged Lucy, Sophie or Saskia to have the world’s best outsize knockers. But maybe something along those lines could be Prospect‘s next poll. God knows, it might save them some embarrassment, as these highfalutin intellectual polls always seem to come back and bite them.