LibForAll USA

Within the United States, LibForAll Foundation is engaged in a long-term educational campaign to assist policy-makers, opinion leaders and the general public to understand the spectrum of views within Islam, so as to distinguish between the religion of Islam and the extreme agenda of those who seek to manipulate and exploit Islam to achieve their own personal and political objectives.

Watch video of LibForAll founder and CEO C. Holland Taylor speaking in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

LibForAll itself has no proselytization agenda.  It is not our goal to convert Muslims to a different religion, nor to convert non-Muslims to Islam.  Rather, we work with people of good will of every faith and nation, to support visionary Muslim leaders in their efforts to promote a pluralistic and tolerant understanding of Islam, at peace with itself and the modern world.

LibForAll's wide-ranging contributions to public discourse in the West include such groundbreaking work as co-founder Kyai Haji Abdurrahman Wahid's article "Right Islam vs. Wrong Islam," which has inspired countless public policy makers around the globe since its publication in the Wall Street Journal in December of 2005, and subsequent translation to many languages. 

 

   

Described by the Wall Street Journal as "a seminal article for this newspaper" (February 25, 2006), the piece was praised by the Hudson Institute's Center on Islam, Democracy and the Muslim World as "a far-ranging and detailed account of what [Wahid] views as 'the global struggle for the soul of Islam'... We recommend this article, which we’ve re-published in this issue of Current Trends in Islamist Ideology, to very serious reading and reflection."
   

In a July 2007 column entitled "Public Diplomacy for Dummies," Wall Street Journal editorial board member Bret Stephens wrote, "LibForAll itself is a model of what a competent public diplomacy effort in the Muslim world should look like.... [I]f effective public diplomacy is really as vital in the war on terror as everyone appears to agree it is, we need better ambassadors, better administrators and a better sense of who we need to engage and how. At least Mr. Taylor has a clue. The [Bush] administration could stand to learn from him."

   

In April of 2008, Foreign Service Journal published an article by LibForAll co-founders K.H. Abdurrahman Wahid and C. Holland Taylor entitled A Tradition of Tolerance in Indonesia Offers Hope, in which the authors shared LibForAll's experiences countering radicalization, and their prescription for inspiring "a similar renaissance of Islamic spirituality and tolerance in other parts of our troubled world."

Published by the American Foreign Service Association, Foreign Service Journal is distributed to every U.S. embassy and consular office in the world, and to over 80% of U.S. diplomatic staff posted abroad.

   

LibForAll Foundation is in the unique position of having been praised by top U.S. government officials ("the lodestar in efforts to discredit the ideology of radical Islam"), European leaders ("You are being received at such high levels in Europe because LibForAll's reputation, and word of its achievements, have preceded you") AND world-renowned Muslim theologians and mass media ("LibForAll Foundation... an NGO which cares deeply about Islam and Muslims... [striving] to express, clarify and widely disseminate a true understanding of Islam").

Widely hailed for its expertise in the difficult and confusing field of counter-extremism, LibForAll frequently briefs members of Congress (right) and the Executive branch and their key staff, from the various committees and departments that oversee related policy areas.

   

LibForAll’s accomplishments have been repeatedly recognized by the U.S. Congress in its legislative reports.

The Senate Subcommittee Report (SR 110-128) accompanying HR 2764 (FY08 State/Foreign Ops Appropriations Bill) states: “Religious Tolerance.—The Committee recognizes the need to counter Islamic extremism, and is aware of the successes of LibforAll’s tolerance and moderation programs in Indonesia. The Committee supports expansion of these types of programs globally, particularly in the Middle East, and recommends the Department of State and USAID consider funding proposals from LibforAll for this purpose.”

The House report accompanying HR 2764 (HR 110-197) contained similar language, encouraging “USAID to consider supporting organizations such as Dosti and the LibforAll Foundation.”

 

   

LibForAll shares the strategy and principles behind its counter-radicalization success through expert presentations at key meetings, via participation in working groups that are focused in this arena, and by organizing events for policy makers and the general public.

Venues organized and/or addressed by LibForAll Foundation include the Dalai Lama's anti-terror summit with Muslim leaders from around the world, entitled, "A Gathering of Hearts Illuminating Compassion" (upper right); the NORAD/Northcom-sponsored National Homeland Defense Symposium in Colorado Springs (lower right); the United Nations' Alliance of Civilizations Foundation Working Group in NYC;  the Pakistan Working Group in DC; the Simon Wiesenthal Center's annual tribute dinner; the American Jewish Committee; the Philanthropy Roundtable; and various university audiences, among others. 

   

Because of the international scope of its programs and reputation, LibForAll activities in the U.S. can also reach a huge international audience, as when al-Jazeera (left) covered a U.S. conference dedicated to the question of whether LibForAll's model can be successfully transplanted to other parts of the Muslim world.  Al-Jazeera subsequently devoted an hour-long program during prime time in the Middle East to the question, "Is what President Wahid and LibForAll Foundation are doing in Indonesia of value to the Arab world?"  The answer al-Jazeera provided to over 20 million Arabic-speaking viewers: a resounding "Yes!"
   

Supporting Pluralist Muslim Leaders in America

LibForAll recognizes that the vast majority of Muslim immigrants to the U.S. have come in search of greater economic opportunity, and to create a better life for themselves and their families, while African-American converts to Islam have often been inspired by the religion's message of equality; ancestral ties to Africa, and the profound values of Islam itself.

While the educational, economic and social status of most Muslim-American immigrants is quite high, one element of traditional Muslim society which has NOT joined the flow of immigrants to the U.S. are its leading ulama (religious clerics) and Sufi shaykhs, who have tended to remain in their native communities, caring for the spiritual needs of their followers, whether in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, South Asia or elsewhere.

As a result, there is a vacuum of traditionally pluralistic and tolerant Muslim leadership in America and the West in general, which Wahhabi and Muslim Brotherhood proselytizers have been quick to fill, often propagating a sense of isolation, victimhood and supremacy among Muslims vis-a-vis their own fellow citizens in the West.  This creates a dangerous situation, easily conducive to mutual misunderstanding and mistrust, on the part of Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

In addition to advising key decision-makers regarding issues related to Islam, LibForAll Foundation is actively engaged in helping to identify, strengthen and network truly pluralistic and tolerant Muslim organizations in the U.S. and Europe, while bringing top ulama and other Muslim leaders from the Islamic world to the West, where their example can help to counter the influence of an increasingly vigorous and sophisticated Wahhabi-Salafi lobby.

The widely publicized visit by LibForAll co-founder K. H. Abdurrahman Wahid to Los Angeles, Washington and New York in May of 2008 is one example of this effort.  As reported by the National Journal "U.S. officials—from the Bush administration to Congress to the Pentagon—have been struggling to build a strategy to counter radical Islamists. So it’s no wonder that the former president of Indonesia, Abdurrahman Wahid, was much sought after by top lawmakers, senior White House officials, and other policy makers when he visited Washington in May."

"Moderate Islam stands a greater chance of triumphing over Islamic radicalism once Western leaders stop trying to accommodate Islamic extremists.... Don't give any kind of recognition to the fundamentalist view of Islam,' Wahid advised U.S. policy-makers.  "The Saudis have a double-pronged thing: the first is to give assistance to fundamentalists, on the other side to show the 'humanist' side of Islam.  These things cannot be reconciled."

President Wahid (seated) and daughter Inayah (standing, left) with Zaynab al-Suwaij of the American Islamic Congress (red headcovering) at George Washington University, following an event designed to spotlight and support the AIC's Project Nur student movement.

In addition to top religious leaders, LibForAll invites members of its global network who are active in other fields, such as education and pop culture, to help overcome Western and Muslim misconceptions about Islam.  One such visitor to the U.S. was legendary Muslim rock star Ahmad Dhani, who in October of 2006 delivered the keynote address at the NORAD/Northcom-sponsored National Homeland Defense Symposium, to an audience of high-level U.S. military and government officials.  Dhani received a prolonged standing ovation for his remarks (see below) at this event, with many career military officers stating afterwards that they had tears in their eyes at the vision of hope conveyed by Dhani, and the courage of his example.

As reported in the Denver Post, "A famous visitor from the Muslim world – Indonesian rock star Ahmad Dhani, formerly a fundamentalist – dropped into one of the U.S. defense industry’s main deal-making forums Tuesday with a challenge.

"'The military-led war on terrorism will not defeat emerging enemies,' said Dhani, 34, his long hair and untucked shirt reminiscent of singer-activist Bono. 'You cannot defeat the ideology of religious hatred and terrorism with weapons alone.' 

"Dhani advocated promoting 'good aspects of Western culture,' such as 'love for knowledge,' free speech, religious tolerance and the rule of law. He told of how he uses his Western-inspired music to question extremism at home."

Dhani says that "attacking the ideology that motivates terrorists is the key to suppressing radical Islam." – Religion News Service/Washington Post

 

LibForAll board member Ahmad Dhani with Admiral Timothy J. Keating, Commander-in-Chief of NORAD/U.S. Northern Command, which sponsored the National Homeland Defense Symposium.

Dhani praised the United States for its religious and cultural diversity, and called on Americans to help extinguish the fires of hatred raging in the Islamic world by supporting Sufi Muslim leaders who promote love and tolerance.

 

 

 

The Honorable Frances Fragos Townsend, Assistant to President Bush for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, with LibForAll board members Ahmad Dhani and C. Holland Taylor.

Ahmad Dhani and Holland Taylor were joined by LibForAll co-founder H.E. Kyai Haji Abdurrahman Wahid.  President Wahid, via videotaped address, encouraged the audience of U.S. military and civilian officials to seek "not to defeat Islam, but to help promote an Islam which can live together with the West... so that understanding can develop between the two sides for the benefit of all humanity."

 

 

 

C. Holland Taylor and Ahmad Dhani with Admiral Thad W. Allen, Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard.

 

 

 

 

Ahmad Dhani and C. Holland Taylor with Wall Street Journal foreign columnist and editorial board member Bret Stephens, at the Journal's Manhattan headquarters overlooking Ground Zero.

The following year, Bret Stephens visited Indonesia for ten days in the company of Holland Taylor, profiling key LibForAll associates K.H. Abdurrahman Wahid ("The Last King of Java") and Dr. Abdul Munir Mulkhan ("The Exorcist"), and their work to preserve Indonesia's traditions of religious tolerance and pluralism.  Other articles in the series describe President Wahid and LibForAll Advisor Mustofa Bisri's defense of artistic freedom ("Hips Don't Lie"), and dangers posed by "The Arab Invasion."

As reported by Walter Ruby in Jewish Week, "Last year, after an extended visit to Indonesia to profile the efforts of Taylor and Wahid, Stephens, who is known for a staunchly hawkish stance on Israeli-Arab conflict and relationship between Islam and the West, stated: “My visit to Indonesia was an eye opener for me because for the first time I encountered a huge (Muslim) movement in confrontation with Muslim radicalism lavishly funded by Saudi Arabia.  I came back convinced of the need for the U.S. to pursue public diplomacy more aggressively than in the past, to identify genuine moderates in Muslim countries and to give them the resources they need to prevail.”

 

 

   
 

 

Dhani's visit to the U.S. was widely covered by Indonesia's print and broadcast media, which praised him for advising "America's generals" how to achieve peace with the Muslim world. 

 

Keynote Address by Muslim Rock Star

and LibForAll Board Member Ahmad Dhani

at the National Homeland Defense Symposium

Colorado Springs, Colorado

October 3, 2006

 

Assalamu'alaikum warrah matullahi wa barokatuh.  May the peace and blessings of God always be with you.

Perhaps I should begin my remarks by saying that I was not born into a family that was tolerant of those who believed differently from us.  In fact, my grandfather was a leader of the Darul Islam guerilla movement, which tried to establish an Islamic state in Indonesia during the time of our first president, Sukarno.  My father was the head of an Islamic fundamentalist political party.

I grew up thinking that my mother’s Catholic relatives would all go to hell, and I still remember, as a child, cursing a cousin of mine who converted from Islam to Christianity. When I was old enough to vote, I voted for that fundamentalist Muslim party, and despised those who did not vote the same way.

Back then, I believed that Islam is the only true religion, and you could even say that I was an embryonic radical Muslim.  But in my mid-twenties – I am now 34 – I changed course in ways that have had a profound and lasting effect on my life.

Over a period of years, I grew tolerant of cultural and religious differences.  I stopped thinking that I had all the answers, or that my understanding of Islam was somehow better and more perfect than everyone else’s.

I think there were two basic factors in this change.  First, I have long been a fan of Western pop culture.,  There is no doubt that pop culture offers young people a door through which to enter the modern world and experience globalization first hand.  Listening to Western music, I found that I loved the albums of the Beatles, U2 and Queen, which included a subtle but very clear message of spirituality, freedom and tolerance.

Actually, it is rare for Indonesians to say that there are good aspects to Western culture, because we’ve been taught from childhood that Western culture is perverse and dangerous.  Muslims usually focus on aspects of Western culture that they perceive as deeply threatening, rather than on what we can learn from the achievements of America and the West.  For example, the love for knowledge that can be seen in your great libraries, and the traditions of free speech, the rule of law, and education for everyone.

Perhaps one of the most inspiring and valuable lessons that America can offer the world is to show how a nation of 300 million diverse people can live in religious harmony – each practicing their own faith, while accepting those who believe differently, without their differences leading to violence. 

It is my dream for the people of Indonesia, and for Muslims throughout the world, to learn this great lesson from America, and to see how people here identify themselves first and foremost not by tribe or ethnic origin, but as Americans.

Popular culture can play a role in this process, through music, film and television.  But I believe a second influence must also come into play, in promoting the culture of liberty and tolerance to the Muslim world.

I mentioned before that two factors were responsible for my own evolution from an embryonic fanaticism to tolerance.  The first was Western popular culture.  The second was what we call, in Indonesian and Arabic, “tassawuf,” or what you call in English “Sufism.” 

Sufism is the inner, spiritual dimension of Islam that focuses not on what separates people from one another or God; but rather, on what unites us.  Sufi Islam teaches Muslims to love and respect all of God’s creatures, and not to unnecessarily harm anyone.

There are well over 1 billion Muslims in the world today, most of whom are deeply attached to their faith.  Radical Muslims play upon this fact, and try to convince Muslims that they must hate… or even fight and kill… anyone who believes differently from themselves.

I do not believe that the problem of religious hatred and terrorism can be solved by trying to make all Muslims into secular humanists, or Christians, like the people of the West.

But I do believe that it can be solved by helping Muslims to understand the essence of Islam itself in the form of Sufism.  Perhaps 70% of all Muslims in the world today practice forms of Islam closely linked to Sufism. 

Leaders such as President Wahid, who personally inspired me to change, are themselves the embodiment of Sufi teachings.

The radicals who fly planes into tall buildings, or blow up trains, nightclubs, hotels and even other Muslims, hate and fear Sufism.  That is because they know that Sufism has a unique power to discredit their ideology of hatred and violence.

In the words of another LibForAll Foundation associate – the great Sufi leader Kyai Haji Mustofa Bisri – “You cannot put out fire with fire.  It takes water.”  You cannot defeat the ideology of religious hatred with weapons alone.  Only Muslim leaders themselves can accomplish this – encouraged and supported by those who understand the importance of this vital mission.

 

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