A nation once synonymous with tolerance, Indonesia, the fourth-most populated country in the world and its 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 across Indonesia to find out how a society goes from broad inclusiveness to outspoken intolerance in the space of a generation. His traveling companion is Harry Nurdi, a young Islamist who hero-worships the late Osama bin Laden and sympathizes with the Taliban. Their travels span mosques and discotheques, prison cells and dormitories, sacred volcanoes and temple ruins. Over time, they forge an uneasy friendship that offers a firsthand look into the crucible of radical Islam’s future.
With a new preface by the author detailing what has happened in Indonesia since the book’s initial publication, My Friend the Fanatic is the story of an alternately disturbing, amusing, and poignant journey that illuminates one of the most pressing issues of our time.