Interview With C. Holland Taylor, Co-founder of LibForAll Foundation, an NGO That Argues for Rejecting Extremists’ Definition of Islam

It has been less than five years since the founding of the LibforAll Foundation, a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization dedicated to supporting moderate Muslims and promoting a nonviolent, pluralistic interpretation of Islam. But already this foundation has been credited with actually stemming the spread of extremist, militant Islam in Indonesia, home to 240 million people – the world’s largest Muslim population.

C. Holland Taylor, former CEO of an international telecommunications company, and former Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid, are co-founders of the organization, which works with top Indonesian Muslim religious leaders and educators, as well as mass media and even pop stars in that country to promote some of Islam’s more peaceful teachings in the world’s largest Muslim democracy.

On Friday Mr. Taylor granted me a phone interview in which he explained his unique mission to promote a tolerant and pluralistic understanding of Islam, which he maintains can and does work to undermine what he characterized as a Saudi-financed effort to spread the Wahabbi brand of Islam in Indonesia.

“The [organization’s] main thrust is to enlist top Muslim leaders to generate a worldwide movement for Muslims to address the problem [of extremism] themselves,” Mr. Taylor said.

To that end, he and Wahid, a popular figure in Indonesia known to his followers as “Gus Dur,” reach out to top Muslims in that country who have a pluralistic understanding of Islam and enlist them in speaking out. The foundation also supports the production of films and television shows that promote a pluralistic, peaceful understanding of Islam. The organization’s efforts have received favorable coverage in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and many other outlets worldwide.

LibForAll’s most recent high profile enterprise was the release, on the eve of national elections in Indonesia April 2nd, of a book, “The Illusion of an Islamic State: the Expansion of Transnational Islamist Movements to Indonesia,” that Mr. Taylor says exposes efforts of radicals in Indonesia to undermine the nation’s peaceful, pluralistic tradition of Islam with a radical, militant version of Islam.

“The book is a theological treatise rejecting extremist Islam and lays a foundation for a nationwide movement” to promote a peaceful interpretation of Islam’s teachings, according to Mr.Taylor, who added that, while threats from radicals have prevented the book from being sold in bookstores in Indonesia, it is available online and “has had almost 30,000 downloads in the past two weeks.”

While the book has not yet been translated into English, Mr. Taylor says its contents include “interviews with top domestic intelligence leaders in Indonesian society about what is going on,” or the foreign-funded infiltration of the society in an effort to promote a violent, extremist vision of Islam that clashes with what Mr. Taylor describes as the “tolerant, pluralistic understanding of Islam” that he maintains is traditional to Indonesia.

More to come.

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