Promoting Moderate Islam: An Interview with Holland Taylor
"Our goal is to marginalize, discredit and defeat the ideology of radical Islamism," says C. Holland Taylor, the chairman and CEO of the LibForAll Foundation, "and to transform the understanding that Muslims have of their religious obligations."
Taylor is a Christian-turned-Universalist -- a South Carolinian expert in Islam residing in Indonesia -- who left the cushy corporate world for more spiritual pastures. These involve "helping ensure the global triumph of a pluralistic and tolerant understanding of Islam, at peace with itself in the modern world."
This, he argues, is the only way that the West and Muslims themselves will be able to eradicate the evil of those who have been politicizing and exploiting Islam for pernicious aims at global hegemony.
A close friend of Abdurrahman Wahid, the late president of Indonesia and leader of the world’s largest Muslim organization, Taylor believes that the West has been dropping the ball where confronting the Wahabbi-Muslim Brotherhood lobby is concerned. Rather than making a distinction between its false agenda and the true nature of Islam as a religion, Taylor claims, both the West and Muslims are being seduced into its orbit and lulled into submission.
Indeed, argues Taylor, radical Islam is a "danger to all of humanity." And the only way to counter and conquer it is for Muslims and non-Muslims to join forces.
To this end, the LibForAll Foundation, established in 2003, is working to educate these forces in what Taylor asserts is the true pluralistic and spiritual nature of Islam versus the totalitarian ideology of the extremists. One project the foundation undertook was the publication -- and translation into English -- of The Illusion of an Islamic State, a book exposing the infiltration of Islamist extremists into Indonesia. The book was a sensation there and derailed the candidacy of the Muslim Brotherhood vice presidential contender in the 2009 elections. Another is the establishment of the International Institute of Qur'anic Studies -- a global network of top Muslim scholars and leaders working to initiate a systematic reform of Qur’anic studies that "promotes freedom of thought, conscience, and religion in the Muslim world."
BLUM: Is it not the task of Muslims to behave in such a way that others will have a "tolerant understanding" of Islam? Is it not the duty of their own religious leaders to "transform their understanding of their religious obligations," to extricate themselves and the rest of us from the Wahabbi-Muslim Brotherhood ideology?
Taylor: During WWII, the United States and the United Kingdom were fighting against a national socialist ideology; during the Cold War, we were opposed to a totalitarian, Marxist-Leninist international ideology. Each was relatively easy to confront, because the Nazi ideology was tied to German racial supremacy, and the Communist ideology was tied to atheism and materialism.
Islamist ideology poses a greater challenge. Here, totalitarianism has leapt the species barrier from previous, more readily-identifiable-as-pernicious ideologies by embedding itself in a religion. This has created a difficulty, both for Muslims and non-Muslims, because of the particular strategy that's being employed by the extremists, who are masters of manipulation, intimidation, and violence. We can see this, for example, in the Gaza Strip, where it is simply not possible for Muslims to oppose Hamas. Those who do so are killed. Another example is Pakistan, where moderates are liable to find themselves with a suicide bomber showing up at their madrassa during Friday prayers to kill the sheikh who's been condemning the Taliban. This is a threat to all of humanity. It is therefore incumbent upon all human beings -- everyone of good will of every faith and nation -- to join together to fight it.
Clearly, to theologically discredit it requires Muslims. But, using the WWII analogy: in seeking to defeat the Japanese or the Germans, we didn't say that it was up to all the good Japanese or Germans to defeat Hitler. We didn't say that it was up to the Russians or the Chinese to defeat the Germans or the Japanese. And it may well have been that even the United States could not have defeated Germany without the presence of Russian forces on the Eastern Front.
Dealing with a totalitarian ideology which has infiltrated and seized power within a society, and which has harnessed the resources of that society to propagate itself, requires a variety of parties. And it is just as much in our interest to defeat it as it is in Muslims' interest to do so.
BLUM: After 9/11, the United States did go to war to defeat the radical Islamists in Afghanistan. And Israel did go to war against Hamas in Gaza and against Hezbollah in Lebanon. Does this not constitute assistance to moderate Muslims, as well as to the West?
TAYLOR: Since 9/11, the West, particularly America, has been engaged in what can be called kinetic actions against terrorists. What we have not done is develop and execute any internally coherent strategy to marginalize, discredit, and defeat the ideology of radical Islam, which underlies and animates terrorism. It is very important to distinguish between the efforts to take down terrorists and the efforts to discredit the ideology. Ideology is more dangerous than bombs. There are organizations, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, that very deliberately eschew violence as they seek to influence Muslim populations, acquire control over the repressive apparatus of the state in Muslim-majority countries, influence foreign policy in the West, and neutralize any possibility of Western governments opposing them and their brand of radical Islam.
They also have a global, expansionary perspective. Both the Shiite extremists in Iran and the Wahabbis in Saudi Arabia act globally. They have agents everywhere in the world propagating their ideology, seeking to influence and control what Muslims think and what they perceive to be their religious obligation.
BLUM: In fairness to the Western governments you accuse of not developing and executing strategies to discredit and defeat the ideology of radical Islam, whenever anyone even dares call it by name, he is labeled as "Islamophobic."
TAYLOR: This is both a manifestation and proof of the strategy and success of the Islamists. I mean, who is accusing the West of being Islamophobic? It is the Wahabbi-Muslim Brotherhood lobby in the West, backed up by Westerners who ally themselves with that lobby. The Wahabbis and the Muslim Brotherhood have grafted themselves onto certain segments of Western society, saying, "We have a common interest, and our common interest is to prevent Islamophobia," or, "Our common interest is to ensure the civil rights of minorities."
This is not to say that there is no such thing as Islamophobia in the West, a phenomenon that has existed among people whose religious views convince them that Islam is a satanic religion. This is not related to 9/11, but has been around for hundreds of years. Then there are those who might be Islamophobic for one reason or another, but if there were not Muslim extremists committing the acts that we read about in the newspaper, it would be a moot issue. Even people who think that Islam is a satanic religion wouldn't be very concerned about it, because they'd be busy thinking about something else. It is the actions of Muslim extremists that have brought this to the fore.
Furthermore, most people in the West are not Islamophobic at all; they're simply concerned about security. The term "Islamophobia" today is used and spread by Muslim extremists against anyone seeking to expose their nefarious activities. And it is a tool to gain sympathy among humanitarian people.