US Foreign Policy

Roundtable Discussion: Religious Dimensions of the Arab Springs







“Religious Dimensions of the Arab Springs”
with Dr. Aref Ali Nayed, Director of Kalam Research & Media

On October 1st, Dr. Aref Ali Nayed, Director of  Kalam Research & Media, addressed the religious dimensions of Arab
transitions, particularly the role of religiosity in Libya’s revolution. Dr.
Nayed, also a lecturer on Islamic Theology at the Uthman Pasha Madrasa in
Tripoli and one of the founders of the 
Network of Free Ulema –later the League of Libyan Ulema-  began by underscoring the diversity and
complexity of the various Arab uprisings. 
He asserted that the uprisings’ religious dimensions were vital and must
be studied and understood.  The diversity
of Libyan Islamist groups is notable, with important distinctions apparent
among the spectrum of groups, from the Muslim Brotherhood to Salafist
organizations.  He also noted that
traditional sources of legitimacy among Islamic institutions may be shifting
from establishment-oriented organizations to newly-emerging groups, although
this legitimacy is also fluid.

Dr. Nayed expanded on the influential role of religious
actors in Libya’s revolution and transitional process. He noted that religious
actors, including more traditional ulema, were increasingly engaged in daily
affairs, issuing decrees (fatwas) on numerous developments, with sometimes
competing fatwas issued on various issues.

Lastly, Dr. Nayed touched on the social processes that
have contributed to Libya’s militia environment.  In studying Libya’s security issues and
finding appropriate solutions, he advocated for an inter-disciplinary approach
that applies numerous concepts from network theory to the anthropology of trust
to understand the rapidly evolving militias. Dr. Nayed concluded by stressing
the need for reconciliation through parallel intra-faith and interfaith
dialogue in Libya and greater Middle East. In particular,  he underscored the need for open debate
between the Sunni world and Iran, in order to defuse growing pressures that
erupt into violent hostilities. He added that such efforts must encompass
themes of respect, compassion, and forgiveness for all groups.

This roundtable discussion was hosted by Pathways to Progress: Peace, Prosperity and Change in the Middle East.

Part of the Arab Transitions Project
Middle East
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