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.
No to the warriors of jihad!
Yes to the warriors of love!
Dewa lead singer, Once.
Dewa lead singer, Once.
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.
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:
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.
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.
Holland Taylor, Once (center) and Ahmad Dhani (right) setting English lyrics to the music of Laskar Cinta