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Top 100 Global Thinkers

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  • Top 100 Global Thinkers

    Rahnavard & Soroush
    "Top 100 Global Thinkers"

    Foreign Policy: From the brains behind Iran's Green Revolution to the economic Cassandra who actually did have a crystal ball, they had the big ideas that shaped our world in 2009. Read on to see the 100 minds that mattered most in the year that was...

    # 3. Zahra Rahnavard for being the brains behind Iran's Green Revolution and the campaign of her husband, opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi.

    Political scientist and Reformer | Iran

    Of all the critical moments in the Iranian presidential election that captured the world's attention this year, one stands out: On June 3, incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad publicly questioned the credentials of his opponent's wife, wondering in a televised debate if her Ph.D. in political science was legitimate. Furious, the 64-year-old Rahnavard staged a blazing, 90-minute news conference in which she accused the president of lying, debasing her sex, and betraying the Islamic Revolution. The attack galvanized the opposition and rejuvenated the campaign of her husband, Mir Hossein Mousavi.

    Ahmadinejad should have known better. During and after the Islamic Revolution, Rahnavard had been an ardent Islamist who worked to discredit secular feminist groups. But years later, when the revolution failed to yield dividends for women, she changed course and became a driving force behind the nascent feminist movement in Iran. After she was placed on the High Council of Cultural Revolution, the body issued its first declaration in 1992 advancing women's rights. She was later fired as chancellor of Tehran's exclusively female Al-Zahra University for inviting feminist lawyer and Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi to speak.

    This year, Rahnavard's rage at Ahmadinejad drove her husband's campaign. She began stumping with him and organizing supporters through rallies, Facebook, Twitter, and text messages. Campaign posters that depicted the couple holding hands subtly hinted at the liberal reforms Mousavi would make in office; she has more explicitly said these would involve greater democratization, a stronger role for women in the cabinet, and a relaxing of Iran's notoriously discriminatory gender laws.

    #45. Abdolkarim Soroush for pitting his theological might against Iran's Islamist regime.

    religious philosopher | Institute for Epistemological Research | Iran

    A one-time philosopher at Tehran University, Soroush has perhaps done more than any other thinker to reconcile Islam with democracy. Drawing on ideas that range from the Quran to Karl Popper, Soroush argues that no individual can ever have an infallible understanding of God's law. Therefore, people should work to advance God's aims, which must be based on the betterment of humankind. This philosophy is a direct challenge to the Islamic Republic, which bases its legitimacy on the God-given right of its preferred Islamic scholars to rule. This year, Soroush sharpened his attacks on Iran's religious establishment in a blistering open letter to the supreme leader titled "Religious Tyranny Is Collapsing: Rejoice!" As resentment over the stolen election still simmers, Soroush's ideas offer Iran a way forward that establishes an Islamic foundation for a true, representative democracy.

    Reading list: The Theological Aspect of Reform Judaism, by Max L. Margolis; Zen in the Art of Archery, by Eugen Herrigel.

    Wants to visit: Egypt

    Best idea, worst idea: Just (as in fair) liberty, not just (as in only) liberty.

    Gadget: None. I'm a little bit old-fashioned.