Arabic Speaking Countries: Poetry and Opposition
Although Islam continues to play a prominent role in Arab debates, public intellectuals can exert influence far beyond theological discourses. This is shown by this year's ranking of Thought Leaders in the Arab world.
Arabic Thought Leaders 2018: Wikipediasphere
Last year, when we conducted a Thought Leader study in the Arabic-speaking countries for the first time, three religious thinkers filled the top three places. This dominance has diminished this year. There are still theologians among the most influential Arab thinkers: the Saudi cleric Salman al-Odah (shared 7th place) and the Egyptians Yusuf al-Qaradawi (10) and Amr Khaled (12). The best places, however, this time go to public intellectuals beyond theological discourse: the Saudi poets Mohammed Alrotayan (1) and Mohammad Hasan Alwan (3) and the Syrian Faisal al-Qassem (2), presenter of “The Opposite Direction” on Al-Jazeera – arguably the toughest talk show in the Arab world.
An additional sign of a shift towards more secular debate is the good position of three opposition activists: the human rights activist Raif Badawi, imprisoned in Saudi Arabia (5th place), the Yemeni Nobel Peace Prize laureate Tawakkol Karman (shared 7th place) and the Tunisian Rached Ghannouchi (6th place). His Ennahda movement played a major role in the peaceful revolution of 2011 and the subsequent democratization of the country.