Roundtable Discussion: Religious Dimensions of the Arab Springs

October 1, 2012 | 12:00 AM







"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.