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My Friend the Fanatic: Travels with a…
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My Friend the Fanatic: Travels with a Radical Islamist

by Sadanand Dhume

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Simplistically put, Indonesia's problems can be seen as the growing pains of a young nation searching for identity. What is it to be Indonesian? I found My Friend the Fanatic to be an interesting look into these issues from the point of view of an atheist journalist from India seeking answers from Islamic fundamentalists fighting against secular values.

Dhume writes of the stark contrasts in Indonesia and the conflicts in politics and ideology. His work has made me curious about Indonesia and its history. ( )
  AuntieClio | Jun 19, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I had a hard time connecting with this book and I'm not sure why. I finally finished it but had to struggle to get there. I don't know exactly why I didn't connect. I had a hard time following the book's trajectory and at times wondered where it was going. Maybe someone else can give a better response than me. It just seemed rather directionless. Yes, it is part political analysis and part travelogue. I've been to Bali and Java and to the place of the bombing (before it happened). I love Indonesian culture. Parts of the book were a nice nostalgic look at the country, but the book just didn't give me enough of a clear picture of Indonesia. I just didn't get much of a visual image from the description. And I'm just not that into delving into political aspects in much more than a superficial way. I think if a person was interested in Indonesia political climate this book might be more for them. It did make me want to read more Indonesian fiction, though. ( )
  lnlamb | Oct 19, 2011 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I have spent the last year desperately trying to get into this book. I give up, I just can't. I was initially interested in the book because of the topic, but it was written in such a way to make it completely dry and unpalatable. ( )
  maryolliffe | Sep 29, 2010 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This book provided some interesting information, but I found it a bit difficult to digest. The combination of anecdotal travelogue observation and political analysis didn't seem to be well integrated. It certainly didn't make Indonesia sound a very an appealing country, but it is hard to tell which aspects of this are due to the radical Islam that the author focuses on, or just the social milieu and cultural expectations of ordinary working-class Indonesians.

The title and subtitle misled me somewhat, as they make no mention of Indonesia (or Bali, whose bombing is the main trigger for interest in the topic). It was not until actually opening the book that I discovered what it was about. Although I kept going for some time, I have to confess that the topic did not really engage me sufficiently to pursue the book right to the end. For someone based in southern Asia or Australiasia it may have more relevance. ( )
  Celebrimbor | Sep 27, 2010 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
An interesting, often disquieting look at the growth of radical Islam within Indonesia. However, parts of the book felt uneven to me. Most of the 'travels' of the title are presented as a series of vignettes, encounters with extremist Islamic groups or individuals; these, occasionally intercut with chapters explaining Indonesia's post-colonial history, form the heart of the book. Bookending this content, though, are two or three scenes presented as contrast, set in nightclubs or gatherings that might be described as extreme liberalism or Westernization. While Dhume is clearly intrigued by these contrasting forces in Indonesian society, I think that the comparisons could have been better explored.

There are also times when the author's personal beliefs and biases color his account. Dhume is open (to the reader) about his atheism, and it appears that he's somewhat uneasy about strong devotion to an organized religion even when it can't be described as radical. How much of this discomfort seeps into his depictions of Islamist schools mass-producing dull devotees, or of lobbyists advocating the institution of sharia, isn't always clear. There's an incident towards the end of the book where Dhume asks a character what he thinks about artificial birth control. When the man responds that he only believes in natural family planning, not artificial means, it's in a voice that has 'the same flatness he had used to dismiss evolution'. It's clear that the *author* believes that artificial birth control is a no-brainer that leads to economic prosperity, while trusting in natural means is a symptom of radicalism that traps people in poverty. Perhaps he would consider me, a Catholic, to be an extremist as well.

Despite these faults, this book does provide a look at one particular aspect of Islam and its current development in Indonesia. When Dhume takes us to a new place and actually gets into a discussion with someone, the narrative can become quite absorbing. It's worth reading for these encounters and interviews; just be aware that you may need to filter out the author's voice in some places. ( )
2 vote baroquem | Apr 2, 2010 |
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Epigraph
My grandfather inculcated in me Javanism and mysticism. From Father came Theosophy and Islam. From Mother, Hinduism and Buddhism.

Sukarno, SUKARNO: AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY

In Java, said one of my informants with the usual Javanese sense for cultural relativism, the spirits are unusually disturbing: 'I don't know how it is in America, but here they are always upsetting one.'

Clifford Geertz, THE RELIGION OF JAVA
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By the time I arrived in Bali the exodus had already begun.
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Book description
My Friend the Fanatic is a portrait of the world’s most populous Muslim country, Indonesia, a land once synonymous with tolerance that finds itself in the midst of a profound shift toward radical Islam. This portrait is painted through the travels of a pair of unlikely protagonists. Sadanand Dhume, the author, is a foreign correspondent, an Indian atheist with a fondness for literary fiction and an interest in economic development. His companion, Herry Nurdi, is a young Islamist who hero worships Osama bin Laden.
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A nation once synonymous with tolerance, Indonesia, the fourth most populous country in the world, and the world's most populous Muslim country, now finds itself in the midst of a profound shift toward radical Islam. Sadanand Dhume, a Princeton-educated Indian atheist with a fondness for literary fiction and an interest in economic development, travels to Indonesia to find out how a society goes from broad inclusiveness to shrill intolerance in the space of a generation. His traveling companion is Herry Nurdi, a young Islamist who hero-worships Osama bin Laden. Together, their travels span mosques and discotheques, prison cells and dormitories, sacred volcanoes and temple ruins, forging an uneasy friendship that offers a first-hand look into the crucible of radical Islam's future. With Indonesia's first presidential election in five years scheduled for April 2009, My Friend the Fanatic is a disturbing and poignant journey through the battleground for Islam's future.… (more)

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Skyhorse Publishing

2 editions of this book were published by Skyhorse Publishing.

Editions: 1602396434, 1634504216

Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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