The Middle East Channel

FP’s Middle East Thinkers

FP’s Middle East Thinkers

The FP Top 100 Global Thinkers List — or as I like to call it, the "Blake Hounshell makes 100 Friends and Loses a Few Thousand Who Secretly Think They Should Have Been On It List" — hit the stands today. As you’d expect, given this year’s astonishing events, the Middle East features prominently. My contribution was an article, The Big Think Behind the Arab Spring, which reviewed of some of the key ideas, thinkers, and trends which contributed to the Arab uprisings. I tried to focus on what Arab intellectuals and writers have said about their own revolutions, not on what we in the West have written about them. I can’t blame Blake for that one. 

On the list itself, you’ll find profiles of:

  • Alaa Al-Aswany, the Egyptian novelist who laid bare his country’s deteriorating public culture; we can’t wait for his next book
  • Mohamed el-Baradei, the Nobel Laureate who took the reins of the National Association for Change to challenge Hosni Mubarak; he may have missed his moment to lead Egypt, but he helped make January 25 possible
  • Wael Ghonim, the once-anonymous administrator of the We Are All Khaled Said Facebook page whose dramatic appearance in Tahrir Square restored the spirit of the revolution
  • Ali Ferzat, the Syrian cartoonist whose savage renditions helped puncture the Assad regime’s cult of personality and paid a heavy price
  • Razan Zaitoune, the Syrian human rights activist who helped expose the brutal facts of repression
  • Rached Ghannouchi, the leader of Tunisia’s Ennahda Movement who oversaw its astonishing electoral rebirth and has worked to reassure both Tunisians and the West of his party’s commitment to democracy and moderation
  • Khairat el-Shater, the power behind the throne in Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood who has emerged from prison to become a key player in shaping its uncertain political future
  • Tawakkol Karman, the Nobel Laureate Yemeni activist who simply would not stop protesting against President Ali Abdullah Saleh
  • Wadah Khanfar, the former director of Al Jazeera who helped shape the narrative of protest and populism which defines the new Arab era
  • Manal al-Sharif, the Saudi women’s right activist who really wanted to drive
  • Eman al-Najfan, a leading Saudi blogger pushing for reform
  • Fathi Terbil, the determined Libyan human rights activist
  • Ahmed Devotogulu and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the architects of Turkish foreign policy who seem to be doing something right
  • Sami Ben Gharbia, the Tunisian internet activist who has done such phenomenal work on transparency and played a key role in his country’s revolution
  • Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad, the President and Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority whose electoral mandates have long since expired, authority over half their territory lost, and peace negotiation strategy failed. Um, yeah.
  • Meir Dagan, the former director of the Mossad who has taken to pointing out the idiocy of an Israeli attack on Iran

Among those on the list who are not as obviously connected to the Middle East, I would especially point to Samantha Power, whose ideas about the urgency of preventing genocide and push for global norms against impunity have emerged as one of the defining principles of the new Arab order, and Anne-Marie Slaughter, who pursued the same ideas at the State Department and then emerged as a forceful public advocate. I would also include my old Williamstown friend Ethan Zuckerman, for his brilliant and innovative work pushing the limits of the social uses of the internet, including helping to create the Global Voices Online collective which included so many key figures in Arab social media.

There are obviously so many more who could have been selected. FP couldn’t cover every country or every brilliant mind. If you’re one of them, or you really think there’s someone who should — or should not — have been included, let me repeat: blame @blakehounshell.