But those ten people I'm going to discuss here were very exceptional in that the controversy they have created was very significant and lasted for a long time. Their lives, actions, thoughts and struggles have affected and will continue to affect our lives, thought, actions and struggles in the future.
1- Hasan Nasrallah
Despite the negative image about him in the West, the Arab street's opinion is split on the Hizbullah leader, and one can hardly find anyone who has a neutral opinion about him. To some he's the first Arab to score a military victory against Israel in decades, but to others he's only serving Iran's interests in a critical area in the Middle East. Regardless of what you think of him, his influence has been dramatically rising inside Lebanon and in the region and that doesn't seem to be changing anytime soon.
2- Nawal Saadawi
One of the most liberal writers in the Arab world, Saadawi's writings and opinions caused her to get expelled from her job, go to jail, and receive numerous threats from Islamic groups. She suffered from genital mutilation herself then became an adovcate against it. Her writings inspire a lot of feminists in the Arab world. She remains a very controversial figure, and here's a short clip to help you understand why:
3- Hoda ShaarawiThe leader of the feminist movement in Egypt. Not only did she study in Europe and accompany her husband to many political meetings, but in 1923 she removed her face veil in public. She lead the first women's first street demonstration, the first women's social service organization, and published the first feminist magazine.
4- Faisal Al Qasim
Many things can shake relationships between two Arab countries, but very few would have expected it could be merely a TV debate show airing every Tuesday night. His provocative introductions have triggered verbal and near-physical attacks between his guests almost all the time , closed embassies and made angry people protest in the streets. Just to tell you how pissed off some governments were, his brother singer Majd Al Qasim was prohibited from entering Egypt for one debate show that Faisal hosted the week before.
Here's a clip from one such debate:
6- Nizar Qabbani
His tragic personal life brought the best of him. All of his poems about women, love, feminism and nationalism stirred controversy. It's not unusual to have his poems banned from schools and it would be hard to see anyone reading them uncensored on a TV screen. Many singers have to edit his erotic poems to make them a more family-friendly material for singing.
7- Moammar QaddafiHe has been the leader of Libya for nearly four decades. He has supported liberation movements all over the world, which created many enemies especially in the Arab world. He has been linked to bombing a commercial flight, bombing a discotheque, kidnapping a Shiite leader, invading a neighboring country, and appointing himself as the "king of Africa". He also insists that Coca Cola is African, not American.
The father of Arab nationalism. Had enormous dreams about Arab unity and liberating Palestine only to have them all crushed in the 1967 defeat. Has many followers to this day who name themselves after him. His critics hold him responsible for the shameful six-day war defeat and permanently destroying the self-esteem of Arabs.
Here's a clip playing the death announcement by Anwar al-Sadat and parts of his funeral.
9- Sayyid Qutb
An Egyptian Islamic writer and philosopher who had a massive contribution to the emergence of Islamic brotherhood on the political scene. He despised everything about America, supported the 1952 coup in Egypt against the monarchy but disagreed with the non-Islamic Abdul Nasser regime, which earned him a few years in jail. He was accused later of a plot to assassinate Abdul Nasser and was therefore executed in 1966. For that reason he is considered by his followers to be a martyr. Ironically Al-Azhar considers him to be a defiant.
10- Haifa Wahbi
Among all the new female Arab singers who are showing more flesh and less talent, Haifa Wahbi stands out. A former Miss Lebanon, she is a pioneer in the modern Arabic music era. More than that, this woman is beautiful and she was chosen as the 41 st most beautiful woman in the world per People's magazine. She proved that beauty and a few steamy clips can bring you a lot of money and fame in the Arab world, raising many serious questions among Arabs on how conservative we really are.
If you don't think so, watch this and tell me you didn't like it: