Tarek Mostafa Ben Halim, a prominent philanthropist and entrepreneur who bridged the Arab and Western worlds, died on Dec. 11 at his home in London at the age of 54.

Mr. Ben Halim also was a seasonal resident of Chilmark, after being introduced to the town by his wife, Cynthia J. Oakes, whose family have been summer residents for the past 40 years, always in the Chilmark area. The Ben Halims currently have a house at the end of Stonewall Lane, overlooking the sea.

Mr. Ben Halim was a regular participant in the Chilmark road race. His brother in law, John G. H. Oakes said, “I think that for Tarek, as it does for any busy person, the Vineyard provided an opportunity to reconnect to the natural world and its rhythms.”

Despite spending much of his youth in Europe. Mr. Ben Halim was proud of his Arab and Libyan heritage, and he maintained a keen interest throughout his career in development in the Arab world, which he felt could only truly come about through the application of democratic principles.

On Feb. 9, 2003, just a few weeks before the coalition invasion of Iraq, Mr. Ben Halim forcefully called for the democratization of the Arab world in an article for the Los Angeles Times, Waging a ‘Good War’ for Arabs. “I am an Arab of Palestinian and Libyan descent, and I firmly believe that the Middle East needs relief from the self-serving, unrepresentative governments that have, with few exceptions, ruled the Arab world since the 19th century,” he wrote. “These governments, whether hereditary monarchies or so-called revolutionary republics, have for the most part failed their people miserably. ... Many commentators have suggested that Washington needs to pursue a more balanced solution to the Palestinian-Israeli problem to reduce resentment against the West, thereby creating a more stable Middle East. Although I agree with that view, I also believe that the real problem is the lack of representative and accountable government to address the needs of the people.”

After the invasion of Iraq, Mr. Ben Halim volunteered to serve with the British forces in Iraq, where he worked with the Coalition Provisional Authority to establish a free market system under L. Paul Bremer’s governorship.

In his role as deputy director of private sector development at the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad, Tarek brought his skills developed as an investment banker, along with his warm sense of humor, strong personal network and deep understanding of the Arab world to help Iraqis build an independent, vibrant and prosperous Iraq. He firmly believed that successful nation-building in Iraq was vital for real stability in the region.

Ever committed to principle, Mr. Ben Halim resigned his post when he determined that the American leadership there was less interested in supporting an independent democracy than in dictating terms both to its allies and to the Iraqi national interests.

Although himself the son of privilege, Mr. Ben Halim felt it incumbent upon wealthier Arabs to give something back to their people. To that end in 2004 he established a foundation and “venture philanthropy fund,” Alfanar (Arabic for “the lighthouse”). Alfanar (alfanar.org.uk) now provides financing for many small nonsectarian organizations in Egypt, including the Egyptian Association for Social and Economic Rights, which supports potters in Cairo; the Bashayer Women’s Project, which provides jobs for women and runs health clinics and outreach services; the Wadi Environmental Science Centre, located on reclaimed desert land outside Cairo; and the self-explanatory Wadi El Nil Association for the Protection of Quarry Workers.

In a Web site highlighting leading English philanthropic initiatives, philanthropy.org, Mr. Ben Halim is described as taking the long view in economic development, and decrying the indifference of the wealthy few to the suffering of the many. “There is very little interest in developing the potential of the less well-off,” Mr. Ben Halim is quoted as saying. “Wealthy people are prepared to see poor people as beneath them. As Arabs, we should do something about it.”

In recent years the Gaddafi regime, which had exiled the Ben Halims, made overtures to the family. Mr. Ben Halim acted as a consultant to the Central Bank of Libya, where he advised on the first Libyan bank privatizations. He was fiercely supportive of training for young Libyan bankers, supporting programs from English language tuition to credit training. Mr. Ben Halim firmly believed that the safeguards of democracy are stable and independent institutions, and was eager to play his part in encouraging the development of a professional central bank.

Tarek Mostafa Ben Halim was born in Tripoli, Libya in 1955. His mother, Yusra Kanaan, is Palestinian and his father, Mustafa Ben Halim, was Prime Minister of Libya from 1955 to 1957 and Libyan Ambassador to France from 1958 to 1960. With the coup of Muammar al-Gaddafi in 1969, the Ben Halim family was exiled from the country. Mr. Ben Halim would occasionally reminisce about his years growing up in the family compound in Tripoli where he and his brothers mercilessly chased a gazelle the family kept as a pet in the garden. They got to be good runners, according to Mr. Ben Halim, but never caught the gazelle.

Mr. Ben Halim graduated from Warwick University, England, and received an M.B.A. from Harvard University. Upon graduation, he worked at J.P. Morgan and Credit Suisse First Boston, before joining Goldman Sachs, where he rose to become a managing director.

In 1992, he married Cynthia Jane Oakes, an American whom he had met while working for J.P. Morgan in London. They have three children: Omar, 16; Kais, 14; and Leila, 12. Mr. Ben Halim is survived by his immediate family and three brothers and two sisters.