Meet Aref

Meet Aref Nayed

Aref Ali Nayed is an experienced statesman with a clear vision for Libya and what it will take to build a stable, democratic, and prosperous country.

As a pragmatic and resilient community leader, experienced businessman, and well-respected scholar, he has built a reputation for a collaborative leadership approach that get things done. He has made it his life’s work to improve the lives of Libyans and rebuild the country.

Meet Aref Ali Nayed

Aref Ali Nayed is an experienced statesman with a clear vision for Libya and what it will take to build a stable, democratic, and prosperous country.

As a pragmatic and resilient community leader, experienced businessman, and well-respected scholar, he has built a reputation for a collaborative leadership approach that get things done. He has made it his life’s work to improve the lives of Libyans and rebuild the country.

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Introduction

Dr Aref Ali Nayed is a leading Libyan public figure and Chairman of the Ihya Libya Movement. He has been involved in Libya’s struggle for democracy since 2011. He was a former Special Envoy of the President of the House of Representatives to USA, UK, European and African Unions, and played a vital and positive role in the revitalization of the Libyan political track. He was also the former Ambassador of Libya to the United Arab Emirates.

Privately, he is Chairman of the Libya Institute for Advanced Studies (LIAS) and Kalam Research and Media (KRM), which also owns one of Libya’s most respected news channels: Libya’s Channel.

His background, expertise and influence span a unique nexus of tribal, scholarly, business and diplomatic domains. Nayed was born in Benghazi in 1962 and raised in Tripoli, Libya. His father, the late Ali Ahmed Nayed, was one of the most important civil contractors in Libya, responsible for building much of the country’s infrastructure in the 1960s and 1970s. He is from the Wirfalla tribes, his mother is from the Tarhuna tribes, and his wife is from Misratan tribes based in Benghazi.

Scholarly Background

Nayed’s early interests were primarily in academia and particularly in philosophy, theology, and interfaith relations. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering from the University of Guelph in Canada. At Guelph he became deeply interested in philosophy and in science and stayed on to complete an MA in the Philosophy of Science, and then a PhD in Hermeneutics. He pursued further studies in Islamic philosophy and theology at the University of Toronto and then specialized in Christian theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. He has held several academic positions and was Professor at the Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies (Rome), and at the International Institute for Islamic Thought and Civilization (ISTAC, Malaysia). Until 2011, Nayed lectured in Islamic theology, logic and philosophy at the restored Uthman Pasha Madrasa in the Old Madina of Tripoli. He still supervises advanced students in philosophy, theology, and interfaith until now.

Nayed is also regarded as one of the leading Muslim figures in the field of inter-faith relations and was one of the 138 original signatories of the “A Common Word”, initiated by His Majesty King Abdullah II of Jordan, and has been a leading member of the bilateral consultations and dialogue at Cambridge/Lambeth Palace, Rome, Amman and Geneva. Nayed has maintained dialogue and collaboration with key Christian institutions such as the Vatican, the World Council of Churches and various divinity centres at major universities.

He is a Visiting Researcher at the University of Virginia, a member of the Board of Advisors of the prestigious Templeton Foundation; Senior Advisor to the Cambridge Inter-Faith Programme at the University of Cambridge, UK; and also a former Visiting Scholar at Pembroke College, Cambridge. Nayed has a strong scholarly connection with Cambridge and in October 2009 he delivered a keynote speech on “Ecologies of Peace”, where he expounded a theology of compassion and love and argued for its centrality in the Islamic faith and civilization. His work with Cambridge continues with the Rose Castle Foundation. 

Nayed also has a deep scholarly affiliation with Jordan, where he is Senior Fellow of the Royal Aal Al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought in Jordan, and has worked closely with His Royal Highness Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad on projects related to inter-faith and ecumenical initiatives. He has been included over several years in the list of top 50 most influential Muslims published by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre, Amman, because of his inter-faith work. He is also the recipient of Jordan’s prestigious ‘Hussein Medal of the First Order’.

In 2009, Nayed established Kalam Research and Media (KRM) in Dubai and later in Amman, Tripoli, and Benghazi as a think tank specializing in the articulation and revival of a robust, mainstream and orthodox Islamic theology (Kalam), and in engagement with current crossroads in philosophy, science and culture. KRM has built an affective network of scholarly collaboration between key Muslim institutions around the world and is embarking on key projects to reassert the importance of sophisticated and compassionate theology within the Islamic tradition as a countervailing force against extreme and ideological religious discourses.

Nayed is an important member of all major scholarly networks in Libya, especially Azhari Ulema, and also of Sufi networks. He has ijazas from major Libyan Ulema and Sufi masters, including an Ijaza from Her Majesty the late Queen Fatima al-Shifa (wife of the late King Idris I).

 His published works include Western Engagements:Speeches in Washington DC and London (KRM/LIAS, 2020); Hellenic Engagements:Resetting Libya-Greece Relations (KRM/RIEAS/ LIAS, 2020); UNEngagements:Open Letters and Statements to the Special Envoys of the UNMission to Libya (KRM/LIAS, 2020); Russian Engagements: On Libyan Politics and Libyan-Russian Relations in Muslim-Catholic Dialogue (KRM, 2019); Radical Engagements: Essays on Religion, Extremism, Politics, and Libya (KRM, 2017); Vatican Engagements: A Muslim Theologian’s Journey in Muslim-Catholic Dialogue (KRM, 2016); Operational Hermeneutics: Interpretation as the Engagement of Operational Artifacts (KRM, 2011); co-authored with Jeff Mitscherling and Tanya Ditommaso, The Author’s Intention (Lexington Books, 2004); ISIS in Libya:Winning the Propaganda War (KRM, 2015); Overcoming ISIS Libya:A Disaster Recovery Plan (KRM, 2015); Libya:From Revolutionary Legitimacy to Constitutional Legitimacy (KRM, 2014); Beyond Fascism (KRM, 2013); Growing Ecologies of Peace, Compassion and Blessing: A Muslim Response to ‘A Muscat Manifesto’ (KRM, 2010); and Duties of Proximity: Towards a Theology of Neighborliness (KRM, 2010).

Business and Project Management Background

Parallel to his academic endeavors, Nayed has almost 20 years experience in the IT and Communication sector. He initially started out in his father’s construction firm as an engineer, then site engineer, project engineer, safety coordinator, and eventually project manager for special intense projects that included electrical cable laying and pipeline projects in the Bani Walid area. He also worked as human resource manager and assisted in several conflict resolution situations. In 1997, at the behest of his father, Nayed set up an ICT company: Agathon Systems (with its subsidiary Alada), with offices in Libya, UAE and India, and a market coverage throughout the Middle East and North Africa. With a strong team of highly qualified and skilled and certified personnel, it now enjoys direct alliances with global giants like APC, Citrix, Lenovo, IBM, Cisco, NCR, Honeywell, Intermec, Thales, Hubbell, and Microsoft, and its clients include the Central Bank of Libya and major companies in the field of banking, oil, education, commerce and IT.

Nayed studied PMI methodology for Project Management and, as Project Director, oversaw the successful implementation of Libya’s National Payment System (a 5-year nationwide project of massive complexity), in addition to other projects.

Nayed’s business success enabled him to promote philanthropic activity such as funding restoration work of the Uthman Pasha Madrasa, supporting students pursuing graduate and postgraduate studies, funding projects and initiatives in publishing and research in religious scholarship, and a variety of humanitarian work. In later years, he fully supported the Ahli Benghazi Football Club, the city’s most important political institution (founded in 1947), and became its President for several years (a position held by his father the 1960s and 1970s). Most of Benghazi’s youth are Ahly fans.

Diplomatic and Political Work

In 2011 Nayed was appointed Libyan Ambassador to the UAE whilst overseeing the Libya stabilization plans. Nayed and his Libyan Stabilisation Team (LST) worked in Benghazi, Misrata, Jabal Nafusa, the southern areas, and Tunisia, where they spent the coming weeks coordinating stabilisation plans with Libyan professionals and local councils. They held meetings over this period with over 600 key Libyan personalities and officials and incorporated their efforts to the wider stabilisation plans. The LST team members worked under life-threatening situations to build the necessary infrastructure for the stabilization of all key areas of the country.

The LST and its members restored electricity, telecommunications, and water supply and fuel, and held regular press briefings in Tripoli and Dubai. The team continued to work on the ground in Libya, liaising with the NTC at the strategic level and with local councils, armed units and various other networks at the operational level. Town hall meetings, deployments of assessment and repair teams, retrieval of telephone records, logistical assistance in the distribution of humanitarian aid were all examples of the wide range of activities under the Team’s remit. Each sector was successfully handed over to the respective NTC ministries within its three-month.

Nayed has in later years gathered key members of the LST, and they together established the foundations of a new think-tank called the Libya Institute for Advanced Studies (LIAS). LIAS first worked on a “Disaster Recovery Plan” for Libya, and a “Government-in-a-Box” governance back office. Later on it developed a full vision for the country called “Ihya Libya” (Reviving Libya).

LIAS then focused on capacity building among the Libyan youth in all-important nodes necessary for a democratic Libya. He continues to work on Libya’s national unity and reconciliation leveraging a combination of tribal, scholarly, religious, political and diplomatic networks. LIAS organized dozens of mediations and events repairing Libya’s social fabric and reaching out to most of Libya’s areas and populations. The mediation efforts have also included the UN-brokered Libyan Political Dialogue; and mediation between citizens, civil society, local and municipal councils.

Nayed also led an important initiative to bring the Libyan social fabric of key tribal leaders together named the Hirak Movement. The Hirak movement brought together key tribal elders to the East, West and South of Libya. The purpose of the Hirak movement is to seek dialogue, reconciliation, put an end to factional fighting, ward off threats to the social fabric, renounce extremism and terrorism. In 2017, the LIAS, in cooperation with The Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers and FinnChurch Act Alliance, took a delegation of tribal leaders to Washington DC and New York for a series of high level meetings on the UN peace process in Libya.

Ihya Libya 2030

In order to develop a more positive vision for Libya, Nayed launched the Ihya Libya Vision 2030. This is a vision for the country to provide a framework for a stable, democratic, and prosperous nation where citizens enjoy a high standard of living. The Ihya Libya is a movement, aimed at connecting Libyans to building resilient and positive communities with aspirations and talents so that they too can contribute to the wellbeing of the nation. Ihya Libya Vision 2030 is based on four key areas of progress, or development pillars, and cross-cutting foundations that reinforce our vision for transformative change. The four development pillars: Peace, Security, and Rule of law, Economic Development, Human Development, and Governance and Public Sector Reform—are the core bases upon which development plans from 2021 to 2030 will be built. Ihya Libya Vision 2030 translates the development pillars into a statement of achievable objectives accompanied by transformation projects.

Ihya Libya has already begun as a movement and its website allows Libyans to suggest transformational ideas projects. Nayed believes that such visions will inspire the country to move away from the cycle of violence towards development.

His vision for Libya is that of a country that is firmly rooted in its traditions, and that is courageously open towards the rest of humanity in its modern context: A good Libya “could become an example for mutual respect, mutual compassion, mutual love amongst humanity.” [quoted in a New York Times feature on Nayed].

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