Musical Jihad 2017-03-22T18:43:10+00:00

Musical Jihad

The unique effectiveness of LibForAll’s “Musical Jihad” program has been validated by renowned security experts and international organizations, including the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and has been featured in numerous blue-chip international media outlets including CNN, the Wall Street Journal, Rolling Stone, Time, the Washington Post, the Sydney Morning Herald and Serviam magazine.

“Rock Star Rattles Radical Islam”

by Rebecca U. Cho

“To the millions of Indonesian youths who sell out his concerts, Ahmad Dhani is a superstar who has commanded the nation’s rock scene for more than a decade.

“But the charismatic leader of Dewa, one of Indonesia’s top bands, isn’t just any entertainer crooning about the heartaches of romantic love. Dhani is an ambassador for peace, using his music to lead Indonesia’s youth away from radical Islam.

“This week, the Muslim rocker was in the United States to share his message of religious tolerance with an entirely different audience: top U.S. government and military leaders at a national conference on homeland defense.

“Dhani, 34, says attacking the ideology that motivates terrorists is the key to suppressing radical Islam.

“With a longtime acquaintance, former Indonesian president Abdurraham Wahid, Dhani spoke to the group on Tuesday about a long-term strategy to combat religious extremism.” Read the full article (PDF).

No to the warriors of jihad!
Yes to the warriors of love!

“In Indonesia, Songs Against Terrorism”

by Kyai Haji Abdurrahman Wahid
and C. Holland Taylor

“Dhani and the other members of Dewa have presented Indonesia’s youth with a stark choice, and one easy for the vast majority to answer: Do they want to join the army of jihad, or the army of love?…

“Dhani and his group are on the front lines of a global conflict, defending Islam from its fanatical hijackers. In a world all too often marred by hatred and violence committed in the name of religion, they seek to rescue an entire generation from Wahhabi-financed extremists whose goal is to transform Muslim youth into holy warriors and suicide bombers. For every young Indonesian seduced by the ideology of hatred and fanaticism – including those responsible for the recent, awful attacks in Bali – countless others see through the extremists’ web of lies and hatred, in no small part thanks to the visionary courage of people like Ahmad Dhani. For as they listen to Dewa’s music, the hearts of millions of young Indonesians have been inspired to declare: ‘No to the warriors of jihad! Yes to the warriors of love!’” Read the full article (PDF).

Dewa lead singer, Once.

Dewa lead singer, Once.

“I call Your name
“With every breath I take
“I call Your name… I call Your name…”

View the song’s English lyrics

Background image: Dewa concert broadcast live from the studios of Indonesian television network SCTV

Ahmad Dhani in his studio in August of 2004, discussing the lyrics of a song for Dewa’s latest album (then being recorded) with LibForAll CEO C. Holland Taylor. The album title, Laskar Cinta, means Warriors of Love.

“This Muslim Rocker Preaches Tolerance to a Strong Drumbeat”

by Mary Kissel

“Crammed into the back seat of his minivan while Dhani lounges upfront, I struggled to scribble down his words, barely audible as the booming bass shook the seats. “Wahai jiwa yang tenang!” (“O serene soul!”), blared the opening riff from the first song, “Warriors of Love,” with a strong drumbeat backing it up. The tune’s title in Indonesian, “Laskar Cinta,” is a play on “Laskar Jihad” (“Warriors of Holy War”), Indonesia’s homegrown, al Qaeda-linked terrorist group. But the song couldn’t be more different from what they preach; Dhani sings about religious freedom, weaving in Quranic references easily recognizable to Dewa’s primary audiences in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country, and neighboring Malaysia.

“It’s a conscious strategy; a cynic might even dismiss it as a marketing ploy. Dhani explains that he tucks messages of tolerance and peace beside Western, straight rock beats and halting, syncopated Arabic rhythms. Western-minded types and even radicalized Muslims buy his albums — and, one hopes, his tolerant vision, too. So far, so good: The group’s new album is on track to sell a million legal copies in Indonesia alone; estimates put the volume of pirated versions at three to four times that number. The current disc’s lead track was No. 1 in Indonesia for three weeks, running from last December to January, and the video reached MTV’s top 10 chart… Today in Indonesia Dhani is a superstar on par with Bon Jovi or Bono…

“Dhani has responded not only through his music, but by joining a small — but growing — group of religious moderates who are trying to educate Indonesians about tolerant forms of Islam. Organized by LibForAll, a small U.S. foundation based in Winston-Salem, N.C., its members include former Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid, a great Sufi leader; Abdul Munir Mulkhan, a prominent former member of the governing board of the Muhammadiyah, one of the world’s largest Muslim organizations; and Azyumardi Azra, an outspoken Islamic intellectual, among others.” Read the full article (PDF).

The words “Laskar Jihad” mean “The Warriors of Jihad.” It’s also the name of a radical group responsible for slaughtering thousands of Christians in the Indonesian provinces of Maluku and Sulawesi after the fall Suharto, and for having driven nearly half a million others from their homes.

Asked on national TV about the difference between Laskar Jihad and Laskar Cinta, Dhani replied, “The first group spreads hatred for one’s fellow man, while the latter spreads love for all humanity. Any Indonesian who thinks with a healthy heart and mind will agree that what I’m saying is true.”

Asked by a reporter why he had called his new album Laskar Cinta, Dhani replied, “To fill the emptiness of Laskar Jihad, and spread the virus of [spiritual] love among the young generation.” Laskar Cinta quickly rose to the top of the charts, as millions of young Indonesians eagerly embraced its message of love, peace and tolerance.

Islamist groups were infuriated to see their indoctrination of young Muslims into the culture of jihad threatened by Dewa’s best-selling album. Not surprisingly, religious extremists condemned Ahmad Dhani and publicly accused him of being an infidel, an apostate (code words inciting violence) and a Zionist agent. They hauled him into court on charges of defaming Islam and sought to ban his use of rock music to promote a spiritual and progressive interpretation of Islam that threatens the appeal of their own Wahhabi-inspired extremism.  As the Wall Street Journal subsequently reported:

“Fearing for his wife, Maya, and their three children, Dhani moved them into a hotel. Only when Abdurrahman Wahid held a press conference [at the headquarters of the Nahdlatul Ulama] supporting the rock star did Dhani feel safe enough to move them home again.

“Dhani seems unperturbed by his mission. When I asked him about it, he laughed, talked about his faith (his children are named after Sufi saints), and turned the car stereo up.

“As we crawled through traffic, one of Dhani’s troupe reminded me that Dhani isn’t the first to have this calling. In a neat historical parallel, Dhani’s savior and mentor, Mr. Wahid, is a direct descendant of Siti Jenar, a 16th-century Sufi prophet who also preached tolerance in the face of a militant Islamic group in Java. He was executed for his faith, and legend has it that his blood sprayed ‘Allah is good!’ in the sand as he died. He was later heralded as a true prophet of Allah. In the notes for his latest album, Dhani thanks Syekh Lemah Abang (“Reddish-brown earth”) — a reference to the town where Siti Jenar once lived.

“Dhani laughed again when I asked him if the story of Siti Jenar’s death is true, and if he’s been compared to the prophet. He nodded, and smiled. And then he turned the music up again.”

The Wall Street Journal was referring to a heavily-publicized LibForAll Award ceremony held at the Nahdlatul Ulama headquarters in Jakarta (photo, left), at which Abdurrahman Wahid and Abdul Munir Mulkhan of the Muhammadiyah jointly defended Ahmad Dhani and Dewa’s freedom of artistic expression and the integrity of their religious views.

Several dozen journalists attended the event, including virtually all of Indonesia’s television networks, which broadcast coverage of the award to tens of millions of viewers nationwide.  The message conveyed to the public was that in the eyes of the world’s leading Islamic organizations—and the international community at large—Ahmad Dhani and Dewa represent all that is best in the Indonesian tradition of religious tolerance and diversity.

Presenter: The meeting between Dewa and Holland Taylor took place in the headquarters of the Nahdlatul Ulama and was witnessed by Kyai Haji Abdurrahman Wahid [aka Gus Dur]. Since the tidal wave of criticism [from religious extremists] fell upon Dewa, Gus Dur has been one prominent Islamic figure who supports the group without reservation.

Gus Dur: “This is my answer to Ridwan Saidi, who says that Dhani Dewa is a pantheist. A pantheist is one who worships many gods, but in fact Dhani has enough work just keeping up with one: sometimes he forgets God, and sometimes God forgets him.” [Joke, accompanied by general laughter.]

~ Broadcast on television network RCTI, “GoSpot”

Gus Dur: The [radicals’] claim that Dhani is not a true Muslim is their opinion. People who think like that usually idolize fiqh (classical Islamic law). But in fact, those who talk that way are usually ignorant [and don’t understand Islamic law at all].”

~ Broadcast on television network SCTV, “Kasak-Kusuk”

President Wahid’s support demonstrated the effectiveness of theologians and rock stars working hand-in-hand to promote a pluralistic and tolerant understanding of Islam. Rather than retreat in the face of extremist threats, Ahmad Dhani went on to compose a new song called Laskar Cinta (the previous album did not have a title track), using lyrics inspired by the Qur’an and hadith (sayings of the Prophet Muhammad) to denounce religious hatred and terrorism. Warriors of Love became the #1 song in Indonesia upon its release in December of 2005, while its music video soared to #1 on MTV Asia’s hit program Ampuh in March of 2006.

Inspired by Faiz (Ahmad Dhani’s spiritual advisor and a Sunni Muslim)—who conceived the original idea of Laskar Cinta—the members of Dewa deftly employed popular culture to disseminate a spiritual and progressive interpretation of Islam in the world’s most populous Muslim nation.

Their songs continued the venerable Sufi tradition of worshipping God through profound love poetry, set to contemporary music.  Like the Diwan of Hafez, their lyrics are open to multiple interpretations—either as praise of the earthly beloved, or a call of longing to the Divine.

“Time will annihilate everything on earth… but not my love for You,
“For I am the (divinely intoxicated) Prince of Love”

View the song’s English lyrics

Holland Taylor, Once (center) and Ahmad Dhani (right) setting English lyrics to the music of Laskar Cinta

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A “Musical Fatwa”
Against Religious Hatred and Terrorism

Laskar Cinta (Warriors of Love)

Lyrics and Music by Ahmad Dhani (English by C. Holland Taylor)

Notation of Sources (al-Qur’an & Hadiths) by Dr. Abdul Munir Mulkhan

Hey there, all you lovers of peace 1
Watch out, watch out and be on guard
For lost souls, anger twisting their hearts
For lost souls, poisoned by ignorance and hate
There’s no doubt, evil dwells in the hearts
Of all those, of all those who are full of hate
There’s no doubt, evil dwells in the souls
Of all those, of all those full of prejudice 2

REFF

Warriors of love
Spread the seeds of love throughout the earth
Go and destroy the virus of hatred
That makes people’s hearts sick and depraved
By corrupting their souls 3

Warriors of Love
Teach the mystical science of love
For only love is the eternal Truth
And the shining path for all God’s children everywhere in the world 4

If hatred has already poisoned you
Against those … who worship differently 5
Then evil has already gripped your soul 6
Then evil’s got you in its damning embrace
If so, don’t bother to hope or dream 7
that I…that I’ll ever love or embrace 8
People full of hate and anger like you
People… who’re always full of lust… for others’ blood

REFF

Hey there, all you lovers of peace, don’t ever don’t ever don’t ever don’t
Try to play God, by judging and condemning anyone different from you
For God has not given you the right to be mankind’s judge and jury
Nor the power to know the ultimate Truth, or to tell others what they must do
Weren’t all of us created as either men or women, on this earthly plane
Destined to become many tribes and lands, no two of them exactly the same?
Why don’t we understand and respect all of our brothers’ and sisters’ pain, 9
Rather than turn into murderous demons, with our bloody arms raised to the sky?

[1]. (And thou, O soul at peace (28) Return to thy Lord well pleased with Him and He well pleased with thee (29) So enter thou among My chosen servants (30), And enter thou My Garden (30). See al-Fajr in The Holy Qur’an, Published by Islam International Publications Limited, Islamabad, 1988, p. 2822)

[2]. (O ye who believe! Avoid much suspicion; for suspicion in some cases is a sin. And spy not, neither back-bite one another. Would any of you like to eat the flesh of his brother who is dead? Certainly you would loathe it. And fear Allah, surely, Allah is Oft-Returning with compassion and is Merciful (13) See al-Hujurat in The Holy Qur’an, Published by Islam International Publications Limited, Islamabad, 1988, p. 2462)

(Satan threatens you with poverty and enjoins upon you what is foul, whereas Allah promises you forgiveness from Himself and bounty. Allah is Bountiful, All-Knowing (269) See al-Baqara in The Holy Qur’an, Published by Islam International Publications Limited, Islamabad, 1988, p. 337)

(From the evil of the whisperings of the sneaking whisperer (5) Who whispers into the hearts of men (6) From among Jinn and men (7) See al-Nast in The Holy Qur’an, Published by Islam International Publications Limited, Islamabad, 1988, p. 2916-17)

(And from the evil of the envier when he envies (6) See al-Falaq in The Holy Qur’an, Published by Islam International Publications Limited, Islamabad, 1988, p. 2914)

[3]. (Janganlah kamu saling hasut-menghasut, tambah-menambah harga untuk menipu, benci-membenci, belakang-membelakangi, dan janganlah sebagian dari kamu menjual barang atas jualan lainnya, dan jadilah kamu hamba-hamba Allah yang bersaudara (Hadits Riwayat Muslim). (Don’t goad or incite each other; deceptively raise prices; hate or backbite; nor sell goods falsely; simply become servants of God and act as brothers.)

[4]. (Tergolong orang yang tidak peracaya adanya Tuhan mereka yang tidak mencintai orang lain sebagaimana cintanya pada diri sendiri (Hadits Riwayat Bukhari-Muslim.) (Those who fall into the category of unbelievers are those who fail to love others as they love themselves.)

(Allah akan menolong seseorang selama orang itu senang menolong sesamanya (Hadits Riwayat Muslim).  (Allah will only come to the aid of those who are happy to aid others.)

(Seorang lelaki meminta wasiyat (nasehat terakhir) kepada Nabi, lalu Nabi berkata: “Janganlah marah”. Ketika lelaki itu mengulang-ulang permintaannya, Nabi menjawab” Janganlah marah” (Hadits Riwayat Bukhari).  (A young man asked for the Prophet’s final advice, to which the Prophet replied, “Don’t get angry.”  When the young man repeated his question, the Prophet answered, “Don’t get angry.”)

(And help one another in righteousness and piety; but help not one another in sin and transgression (3) See al-Maida in The Holy Qur’an, Published by Islam International Publications Limited, Islamabad, 1988, p. 599)

(He only enjoins upon you what is evil and what is foul, and that you say of Allah what you do not know (170) See al-Baqara in The Holy Qur’an, Published by Islam International Publications Limited, Islamabad, 1988, p. 220)

(And it is by the great mercy of Allah that thou art kind towards them, and if thou hadst been rough and hard-hearted, they would surely have dispersed from around thee. So pardon them and ask forgiveness for them, and consult them in matters of administration; and when thou art determined, then put thy trust in Allah. Surely, Allah loves those who put their trust in Him (160). See Ali ‘Imran in The Holy Qur’an, Published by Islam International Publications Limited, Islamabad, 1988, p. 466)

(But speak to him a gentle speech, haply he might heed or fear (45) See Taha in The Holy Qur’an, Published by Islam International Publications Limited, Islamabad, 1988, p. 1634)

[5]. (Satan threatens you with poverty and enjoins upon you what is foul, whereas Allah promises you forgiveness from Himself and bounty. Allah is Bountiful, All-Knowing (269) See al-Baqara in The Holy Qur’an, Published by Islam International Publications Limited, Islamabad, 1988, p. 337)

[6]. (Satan threatens you with poverty and enjoins upon you what is foul, whereas Allah promises you forgiveness from Himself and bounty. Allah is Bountiful, All-Knowing (269) See al-Baqara in The Holy Qur’an, Published by Islam International Publications Limited, Islamabad, 1988, p. 337)

[7]. (Verily, I am Allah; there is no God beside Me. So serve Me, and observe Prayer for My remembrance (15). ) See Taha in The Holy Qur’an, Published by Islam International Publications Limited, Islamabad, 1988, p. 1625)

[8]. (Allah itu hanya akan menolong orang yang suka menolong sesamanya (Hadits Riwayat Muslim).  (Allah will only come to the aid of those who are happy to aid others.)

(O ye who believe! If an unrighteous person brings you any news, investigate in fully, lest you harm a people in ignorance, and then be repentant for what you have done (7). See Al-Hujurat in The Holy Qur’an, Published by Islam International Publications Limited, Islamabad, 1988, p. 2459)

[9]. “O mankind! We created you from a single pair, male and female, and made you into nations and tribes, so that you may come to know one another, and not to despise each other.  Verily the most honored of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you.  And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).  (Qur’an, 49:13)