My Friend the Fanatic

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My Friend the Fanatic

Sadanand Dhume

Publisher:Text Publishing Co

In October 2002, Sadanand Dhume found himself in a place most foreigners were trying to flee -Bali. Powerful explosions the previous night had ripped through two tourist nightclubs, killing more than 200 people. That evening he visited all that remained of the Sari Club: piles of ash, twisted girders, blackened beer bottles and the stench of charred wood and petrol. Amidst the desultory crackle of police walkie-talkies, he wondered about the future of a country long regarded as immune to such carnage. My Friend the Fanatic is a portrait of Indonesia, a nation in the midst of a profound shift towards both Islamic orthodoxy and Islamist politics. This portrait is painted through the travels of a pair of unlikely protagonists. Dhume is a foreign correspondent, a Princeton-educated Indian atheist with a fondness for John Updike and an interest in economic development. His companion, Herry Nurdi, is a young Islamist who hero-worships Osama bin Laden. As the most populous Islamic nation on the planet, Indonesia occupies remarkably little space on our bookshelves. My Friend the Fanatic fills this void. It is a work made timely by a deep hunger for knowledge about Muslim cultures.But it is equally the story of a sprawling land at the edge of the world captured at a defining moment.How does a society go from broad inclusiveness to shrill intolerance in the space of a generation? Will Indonesia be radicalised alongside other parts of the Islamic world? Does Herry represent the future?

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