C. Holland Taylor

“C. Holland Taylor doesn’t look like a man radical Muslims should fear. He is trim, unassuming, and speaks with a faint southern accent. His stylish blond haircut and trim suit give him the appearance of a fortysomething European businessman. He possesses no arsenal of weapons, holds no government post, and operates no intelligence service. Yet he runs the world’s most potent and innovative anti-extremist network and may hold a key to defusing the ticking bomb of Islamic terrorism.”

~ Jennifer Rubin, “In Defense of Moderation,” The Weekly Standard

C. Holland Taylor is co-founder, chairman and CEO of LibForAll Foundation, as well as the co-founder, deputy chairman and COO of its sister organization, Bayt ar-Rahmah li ad-Da‘wa al-Islamiyah Rahmatan li al-‘Alamin (Home of Divine Grace for Revealing and Nurturing Islam as a Blessing for All Creation).

Both organizations are incorporated in Winston-Salem, NC, to which Mr. Taylor’s ancestors immigrated in search of religious freedom in the mid-18th century. The son of a U.S. military officer in the Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps, Mr. Taylor was raised primarily in Europe and Asia, including Germany, Iran and South Korea.

An expert on Islam and the process of Islamization in Southeast Asia, Mr. Taylor has lived, studied and worked in the Muslim world, from Iran to Indonesia, over a period of more than five decades. Although his knowledge of Islam pales in comparison with that of the powerful Muslim leaders who form the backbone of LibForAll Foundation, Mr. Taylor’s unique combination of experience in the fields of international business, strategy and the forging of cross-cultural relationships has enabled LibForAll to become “a model of what a competent public diplomacy effort in the Muslim world should look like” (Wall Street Journal).

Mr. Taylor established LibForAll Foundation in December 2003 together with his close friend, the former Indonesian president Kyai Haji Abdurrahman Wahid (1940-2009), whom the Wall Street Journal has called “the single most influential religious leader in the Muslim world” and “easily the most important ally the West has in the ideological struggle against Islamic radicalism.” Under their leadership, LibForAll has grown into the leading NGO developing and operationalizing successful counter-extremism strategies worldwide.

Their inspiration lay in the heroic example of President Wahid’s own 16th century Javanese ancestors, whose deft use of soft and hard power defeated Muslim extremists, and guaranteed freedom of religion for all Javanese, two centuries before the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom and the Bill of Rights led to the separation of state and religion in the U.S.

Based on lessons derived from this struggle, LibForAll and its sister organization, Bayt ar-Rahmah, are forging a global network of top Muslim leaders in the fields of religion, education, pop culture, government, business and the media, who are joining with people of good will of every faith and nation to confront the rapidly metastasizing threat of religious extremism before it’s too late.

Mr. Taylor is an acclaimed speaker whose writings have been published in major media outlets throughout the world, helping to educate policy makers and the general public about how to counter the ideology of religious supremacism, hatred and violence that underlies and animates Islamist terrorism.

Mr. Taylor’s work with LibForAll follows a career as a successful entrepreneur and global telecom executive, during which he served as CEO of USA Global Link, and was credited by numerous leading publications as one of the essential catalysts in the deregulation of the global telecommunications industry.

Mr. Taylor was educated at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill and Princeton University. He is fluent in English, Indonesian/Malay and German.

“Public Diplomacy for Dummies”

by Bret Stephens

C. Holland Taylor

“Mr. Taylor, a former telecom executive who moved to Jakarta in the 1990s and speaks fluent Indonesian, has engaged influential and genuinely reform‐minded Muslims… to articulate and defend a progressive and tolerant version of Islam.

“In its brief life, LibForAll has helped turn back an attempted Islamist takeover of the country’s second‐largest Muslim social organization (with 30 million members), translated anti‐Wahhabist books into Indonesian, sponsored a recent multidenominational conference to denounce Holocaust‐denial, brought Mr. Dhani to Colorado to speak to U.S. military brass, and launched a well‐researched ‘extremist exposé’ in order, Mr. Taylor says, ‘to get Indonesian society to consciously acknowledge that there is an infiltration occurring of radical ideology, financed by Arab petrodollars, that is intent on destroying Indonesian Islam.’

“For his efforts, Mr. Taylor has been cold‐shouldered by the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta—more proof that when it comes to public diplomacy the U.S. government functions with its usual genius and efficiency. But there’s more at work here than a bumbling and insipid bureaucracy. As the scholar Carnes Lord notes in his useful book on public diplomacy, ‘Losing Hearts and Minds,’ America’s public diplomatists ‘are today no longer as convinced as they once were that America’s story is after all fundamentally a good one, or believe an alternative, negative story is at least equally plausible…’

“But if effective public diplomacy is really as vital in the war on terror as everyone appears to agree it is, we need better ambassadors, better administrators and a better sense of who we need to engage and how. At least Mr. Taylor has a clue. The administration could stand to learn from him.” Read the full article (PDF).

“Studying the Babad Tanah Jawi
(History of the Land of Java) with Gus Dur”

“After he retired from the telecom business in 1999, Mr. Taylor relocated to Java and would often visit sacred locales for prolonged periods of meditation. At Parangkusumo, he received a message [from God] to study the process of the Islamization of Java in the 15th and 16th centuries. ‘I spent four years researching this subject, which included reading the [17th-century] book Babad Tanah Jawi (History of the Land of Java), which describes the ideologically-driven conflict between a harsh and supremacist understanding of Islam, and that which is spiritual (ed. note: Sufism), a la Sunan Kalijogo and his disciples, including Joko Tingkir (Sultan Adiwijoyo), Ki Ageng Pemanahan and Senopati ing Alogo, founder of the Second Mataram Kingdom.’

“‘It was during the course of his research that this University of North Carolina and Princeton alumnus met Gus Dur and became a close friend of Indonesia’s fourth president. Both were profoundly attracted to the Babad Tanah Jawi and to Islamic spirituality—recognizing the vital role these could play in our contemporary world. ‘Through Gus Dur, I came to know a number of kyais [NU religious leaders], such as Kyai Haji A. Mustofa Bisri (‘Gus Mus’) from Rembang, a role model who truly embodies Islam rahmatan lil ‘alamin,’ he explained [Islam as a source of love and compassion for all sentient beings].

“Through his relationship with these kyais, Mr. Taylor became convinced that the Nahdlatul Ulama, Indonesian Islam and the aforementioned spiritual figures had the potential to help dispel misconceptions about religion that threaten international peace, including both Islamophobia and ideologically-motivated violence perpetrated by Muslims themselves. Yet only kyais who embody God’s universal love and compassion, and actively convey this love to others, are capable of performing this vital role, which opportunistic and materialistic religious leaders cannot fulfill.” Read the full article (PDF).

“Meditations on Moderate Islam”

by Lucy Hood

C. Holland Taylor ‘78 took up meditation as a freshman at UNC, and its practice is still a fundamental part of his life and closely tied to his own spiritual beliefs. It has also played a part in his fervent interest in bringing peace to the Islamic world…

“Taylor relies on what he calls a ‘counter-extremism’ network of powerful Muslim leaders ‘who have theological legitimacy, credibility… and the courage to confront radical Islam…’ ‘We work with powerful individuals,’ Taylor says, ‘who are true spiritual leaders, and as such, cannot sit back and do nothing when they see the world endangered by the threat of radical[ism]…’

“[T]he telecom industry gave him many of the tools he now uses to run LibForAll. Already in place is a vast network of Muslim leaders. Taylor says he helps them ‘flip the switch’ [and] assists these leaders in their efforts ‘to depoliticize Islam and return it to a fundamental understanding of their faith.’” Read the full article (PDF).

“An Ex-CEO’s Plan for World Peace”

by Beth Kwon

“C. Holland Taylor used to solve business problems as a telecom CEO. Now he’s aiming higher – with a goal of ending religious extremism…. Although Taylor’s foundation may seem an odd follow-up to his telecom career, his background makes him a perfect fit. A military child, Taylor lived for three years in Iran as a kid, backpacked through Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey and Pakistan and has meditated since he was 18. ‘My own meditation and spirituality was key,’ he says. ‘Meditation is universal, and helps me connect with people and form a relationship of mutual understanding and trust.’ It helps that he possesses the diplomatic and persuasive acumen to broker relationships with high-level clerics, heads of Muslim organizations, university officials and political leaders like Wahid.” Read the full article (PDF).

“Peace, Love, and Understanding”

by Robert K. Epstein

“If the world’s major religions ever learn to coexist, they may have C. Holland Taylor to thank…  ‘Holland was on the cutting edge in the Islamic world,’ recalls the Wiesenthal Center’s Rabbi Abraham Cooper, who was introduced to Taylor by [Denver businessman Larry] Mizel. ‘He impressed me immediately with the depth of his contacts as well as his realistic approach: This was no pie-in-the-sky person who thought he could change the world just like that. Kudos to Holland for being a man of clarity, courage and vision. I am certain it is not easy for him to work within the Muslim world with a kippah-wearing Jew.’” Read the full article (PDF).