World’s top Muslims list appears with Erdogan only #3. Who should be #1?
An annual list of the world’s 500 most influential Muslims has appeared and Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, the man who made Turkey’s “Muslim democracy” a model for many Arab Spring protesters, did not win the top spot. Not #2 either. Erdogan came in at #3, a notch down from his 2010 ranking as number two.
The Muslim 500: The 500 Most Influential Muslims 2011, the third list in this series started in 2009 by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre in Amman, named Saudi Arabian King Abdullah as the #1 Muslim in the world and Morocco’s King Mohammed VI as #2. It said the Arab Spring had had no impact on Abdullah’s influence, had boosted Mohammed’s and had no effect on Erdogan’s. Fourth and fifth places in the list went to Jordan’s King Abdullah and Iran’s Supreme Leader Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei.
The list is available here as a PDF download or a hard copy to order. Give us your view on the “most influential Muslim of 2011” in the poll at the bottom of this post.
In this year of enormous change in the Arab world, I think Erdogan should have been #1. And it seems I’m not alone. In its 2011 Arab Public Opinion Poll published on Nov 21, the Brookings Institution in Washington wrote: “Turkey is the biggest winner of the Arab Spring. In the five countries polled, Turkey is seen to have played the ‘most constructive’ role in the Arab events. Its Prime Minister, Recep Erdogan, is the most admired among world leaders and those who envision a new President for Egypt want the new President to look most like Erdogan. Egyptians want their country to look more like Turkey than any of the other Muslim, Arab and other choices provided.”
My choice for #2 was actually ranked sixth — Emir of Qatar Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani. The Muslim 500 spells out its reasons for saying his influence rose during the Arab Spring in a description so clear that should have merited him the second spot. It said the emir “has driven much of the Arab Spring through the coverage given by Al-Jazeera, the financial support given to protesters and political support to Libya. He is arguably the biggest enabler of the Arab Spring.” The entry on him also notes that Qatar had jet fighters flying with NATO to enforce the no-fly zone over Libya and also won the 2022 soccer World Cup.
When the first Muslim 500 came out in 2009, I thought it was too heavily weighted towards the traditional monarchies but still a useful “Who’s Who” for the Muslim world — especially for all the names listed lower down. I still think that. So when I got a copy of the list at the Catholic-Muslim Forum in Jordan last week, I asked the editors how they came to their conclusions. Chief Editor Abdallah Schleifer, professor emeritus at the American University in Cairo, said the list aimed to show the impact the leaders have on the Muslim world. “If you just based it on mass media in the West, the outstanding Muslims would be a bunch of terrorists,” he told me. The frequent mixing of political and religious power in the Muslim world meant heads of state had more influence than non-Muslims might consider.
In his introduction to the book, Schleifer wrote: “The achievements of a lifetime are given more weight than achievements within the current year. This means that our lists of names will change gradually, rather than dramatically, year-on-year.”
“We have to acknowledge that heads of state have lots of power and influence,” Aftab Ahmed from the Royal Institute said. Apart from their political influence, they can also appoint religious leaders in the country and thus shape the way Islam is preached and practiced in their countries. The Centre’s researchers collected information from media in the Muslim and non-Muslim worlds and provided their synthesis to an editorial committee. While most of the top names might seem predictable, having a list of 500 names left a lot of leeway to bring in new names lower down.
Do you agree with this? Who would you say has been the most influential Muslim of 2011? Vote below and enter any alternative names in the comments section.