Monday, September 15, 2008

Exclusive Interview: C. Holland Taylor

When it comes to Indonesian affairs, there are few Westerners more expert than C. Holland Taylor. The author (The Prosperity Handbook) and former telecom exec (USA Global Link) has gone on to found the LibForAll Foundation (, which promotes liberty and tolerance worldwide ... a welcome antidote to the toxic extremism found in so many corners of the world.

Everything Indonesia sat down for an exclusive interview with Taylor, to get his state-of-the-union thoughts on Indonesia, Islam, and the Javanese culture of tolerance.

EI: Most Americans tend to lump all Muslim nations together. How would you characterize the Indonesian brand of Islam, in the spectrum?

CHT: For most of its history, Islam has been characterized by an internal tension between legalistic formalism (represented by shari’a/Islamic jurisprudence) and spirituality (represented by Sufism/Islamic mysticism). Indonesian Islam is unique, for only in Java did Sufi Islam achieve decisive political and military dominance, through the rise of the Mataram dynasty in 16th century, which reaffirmed the old Javanese principle of “Binneka Tunggal Ika” (Unity in Diversity) and established the principle of religious freedom for all Javanese. This Javanese legacy of religious freedom and tolerance served as the foundation of the new Indonesian state in 1945, and despite vigorous attempts to undermine it by Wahhabi/Salafi extremists, remains a dominant form of “cultural capital” at the heart of Indonesian Islam.

EI: What was local reaction to the Bali bombings, and the subsequent court cases, that drew such worldwide attention?

CHT: When Indonesian undercover police arrested Imam Samudra (mastermind behind the first Bali bombings) in a bus at a port in West Java, about to travel by ferry to Sumatra, word quickly spread among the local crowd that the man in handcuffs was Samudra (his face and name had been on wanted posters throughout Indonesia). The crowd grew dangerous and started chanting, “Burn him! Burn him!” and police had to rush their prisoner out of the terminal to protect him from the mob, so they could interrogate him for further leads. If the police had not protected Imam Samudra, he would have been killed on the spot by the mob, who were infuriated by the bombings. Most Indonesians appear to support the death sentence for the key Bali bombers.

EI: What is the status of secessionist movements in Indonesia, as in Aceh?

CHT: The GAM independence movement in Aceh was a nationalist (i.e., Acehnese) movement, not a Muslim secessionist movement. Most prior movements such as Darul Islam (predecessor of Jemaah Islamiyah) sought to seize control of the local or national government and create an Islamic state, rather than permanently secede. To my knowledge, there are no Muslim secessionist movements in Indonesia at present, although there are groups such as Hizbut Tahrir and Jemaah Islamiyah that seek to destroy the secular Indonesian nation state and to establish a regional or global caliphate.

EI: Is the idea of tolerance gaining traction in the Muslim world, or is it losing ground to more extremist philosophies?

CHT: On the surface, the combination of extremist ideology and the vast sums expended by Saudi Arabia to proselytize Wahabi/Salafi Islam have created a worldwide radical movement that appears to be in the ascendant. When asked, “What is LibForAll Foundation’s goal?”, President Wahid once replied, “To help ensure the global triumph of a pluralistic and tolerant understanding of Islam.” When asked, in shock, “How do you expect to achieve that?”, President Wahid replied, “It’s not as difficult as it sounds. All it requires is encouraging the vast, silent majority of Muslims to speak out about what they know to be the truth of Islam.”

EI: As a Westerner, how did you get so intimately involved in this field?

CHT: I’ve been familiar with Islam for most of my life, from 1965 at the age of nine, when I moved to Iran for three years; and in the early 1970s, when I traveled repeatedly and extensively through the Middle East, Afghanistan and Pakistan. In the 1990s I was involved in the telecommunications field, and sold a strategic stake in our company to the national carrier of Indonesia. Drawn to learn about Javanese Islam and the process of the Islamization of Java in the 16th century, I met President Wahid and other Muslim leaders. Following 9/11 and the first Bali bombing, we decided to establish LibForAll Foundation (, inspired by the strategy employed by 16th century Javanese to defeat the ideology of radical Islam.

EI: What can Americans do to promote this ideal of tolerance among peoples?

CHT: As far as this question concerns Islam:
1) Learn to recognize the spectrum of views that exist within Islam, from Wahhabi/Salafi extremism to true pluralism and tolerance;
2) Communicate to your elected representatives the absolute necessity of America’s legislative and executive leadership educating themselves regarding the threat of Wahhabi/Salafi Islam, and the need to concretely support truly pluralistic and tolerant Muslims in their struggle with Islamic radicalism;
3) Learn more about organizations such as the American Islamic Congress (; the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (, and LibForAll Foundation (, and become involved with their activities.

Tomorrow: RIP, Retirement Savings

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1 comment:

dorsey said...

you blog is nice but sorry i didn't find c Holland Taylor interview.First time i watch two and half men tv show and i like his performance. C. Holland Taylor is one of my favorite.In 1983, the lady was seen in ‘Breakfast with Les and Bess’ and that performance was on of her great theatrical moments. From 1978 to 1979, she was seen portraying the purely evil Denise Cavanaugh on the long running soap opera, ‘The Edge of Night’. Her next appearances were on 1980s sitcom Bosom Buddies and in 1984, she made a breakthrough performance on the film ‘Romancing the Stone’. At that stage of her acting career, she finally decided to settle in California.