Preface to the English Edition
by C. Holland Taylor
Never, for an instant, did President Wahid ‘buy’ the notion—widely propagated by Islamists, and many in the West—that European or American support for Muslim moderates, in their struggle with Islamist extremism, will somehow discredit the former. He considered LibForAll’s track record of success—including with The Illusion of an Islamic State—to be proof positive thereof. When asked whether the name LibForAll should appear on the cover of the original Indonesian edition of this book, he replied, ‘No. But I’ll describe what LibForAll is in the opening paragraph of my introduction, so that when people see the name, they’ll also realize who’s involved with the organization, and what our purpose is.’
“Confident of his own ‘Islamicity,’ and revered as a saint by tens of millions, from the East Indies archipelago to the Middle East, President Wahid knew that moderate/spiritual Muslims alone (and, by the same token, Westerners acting alone) can no more derail the Islamist juggernaut than the Russians, Chinese or even Americans could have defeated the combined forces of Nazism and Japanese militarism in World War II, acting alone and without allies. Thus, although this book describes in great detail how to ‘fight fire with water’—i.e., how to marginalize and discredit Islamist ideology by drawing on universal spiritual principles deeply rooted within Islam itself—it does not ignore the practical dimensions of this challenge.
“Nor should readers fall into the trap of assuming that Muslims who embrace the spiritual principles articulated in this book are pacifists or religious quietists, unable to address the threat of violence, or engage effectively with the world at large. While non-violent extremists (who seek to use the repressive apparatus of the state to impose their views on others) felt the intense heat of public opprobrium generated by this book, their ideological brethren from Jemaah Islamiyah and other terrorist groups were being hunted night and day, with dozens captured or killed by Indonesia’s elite counter-terrorist task force, Detachment 88. In the fall of 2009, former Muhammadiyah chairman and LibForAll advisor Dr. Syafii Maarif—who was also advising Indonesia’s security officials, in the wake of the July attacks—informed me that the top leadership of Indonesia’s police and military hierarchy viewed The Illusion of an Islamic State as an invaluable tool for understanding, and countering, terrorists and the ideology they share with a far broader spectrum of society, on which they rely for recruitment and support.
“Upon hearing of the book’s dramatic impact in Indonesia, a former chairman of Pakistan’s armed forces—who is part of LibForAll’s counter-extremist rahmatan lil-‘âlamîn network—dispatched a similar message to us: ‘This is a great achievement, and I wish you all success as you move on in this direction.’
“Since the attacks of 9/11, America and the West have played into al-Qaeda’s hands, by focusing the overwhelming preponderance of their energy on ‘fighting fire with fire,’ while merely talking about, pretending to address or actively ignoring the hate-filled supremacist ideology that underlies and animates Islamist terrorism. All too often, Western governments and civil society institutions have been infiltrated by, or aligned themselves with, the Wahhabi/Muslim Brotherhood lobby, which seeks to prevent the West from establishing an alliance with truly moderate and progressive Muslim leaders, who espouse a loving, merciful and compassionate vision of Islam.
“Soon after Indonesia’s presidential election in July of 2009, a key figure from the istana, or presidential palace, asked to meet with me to discuss The Illusion of an Islamic State. Over dinner she remarked, ‘Para pejabat menganggap LibForAll sebagai sebuah yayasan yang luar biasa kuat dan sakti.’ (‘Many government officials regard LibForAll as a remarkably powerful foundation, possessed of sacred, and supernatural, abilities’—like those of a magical keris, or dagger, that can fly through the night and strike its opponents to the quick.)
“To use language more familiar to those living in the West, what she was saying was simple yet profound: LibForAll’s success is directly attributable to the selfless Muslim leaders who form the backbone of its global network, and their heart-felt desire to work in a spirit of mutual cooperation and respect with others—whether Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim or atheist—who share a common love for humanity, and a desire to see Islamic teachings reconciled with the modern world of freedom, democracy and human rights. Current upheavals in the Middle East—and the escalating controversy about Islam and Islamophobia roiling North America and Europe—demonstrate the urgent need for such a process to occur.
“Those who are uncomfortable with talk about God, or with any conception of God that differs from their own, may find The Illusion of an Islamic State a challenge to their settled notions of reality. Yet those who seriously read and reflect upon the message of this book may find themselves rewarded with the unique ability to cross over the vast gulf that separates Islam and the West, and make common cause with what President Wahid liked to call the vast, silent majority of Muslims, so that together we may strive ‘to illuminate the hearts and minds of humanity… and banish the fanatical ideology of hatred to the darkness from which it emerged.’”