Sadanand Dhume, author of My Friend the Fanatic: Travels with a Radical Islamist, in Washington, DC on June 10, 2009. (Asia Society Washington)
WASHINGTON DC, June 10, 2009 - In his new book, My Friend the Fanatic
: Travels with a Radical Islamist
, former Asia Society Bernard Schwartz Fellow Sadanand Dhume
describes the dual forces of radical Islam and globalization in Indonesia as akin to "being pulled between Bin Laden and Britney Spears." His views on the conflict, however, have changed. "I have been pessimistic for the past seven years, but now I'm in an optimistic moment," said Dhume.
Dhume arrived in Bali shortly after the October 2002 bombings as a correspondent for the Wall Street Journal Asia
. He describes that time as a turning point for Indonesia, which, "has long been regarded as immune to fundamentalism or extremism. This was shaken by the Bali bombing."
During his introduction of Dhume at the launch event of My Friend the Fanatic
, Jack Garrity
, Executive Director of Asia Society Washington, said, "[Indonesia is experiencing] a period of major transition for a society that is ninety-five percent Muslim. " In the middle of this shift, Dhume traveled across the country accompanied by Herry Nurdi, an editor for a fundamentalist magazine and an Osama bin Laden admirer. "Sadanand has gained insight that a lot of other people haven’t gained," said Garrity.
Dhume read excerpts from his book and talked about the personalities he encountered during his travels. He spoke of his arrival in Bali, a visit to Al-Mukmin Islamic boarding school, and a conversation with a young Muslim female journalist he met on a ship to Jakarta.
Dhume also addressed divisions within Indonesia's radical community; the strength of radicalism as it differs across ethnic groups; Indonesian opinion of other countries in Asia, such as China and Iran. In response to a question about his intentions as an author, he stated the desire "to tell about places in ways that are often not told; to go to places that are uncomfortable; to ask questions that are awkward; to bring a critical eye to places."
This program was co-hosted by, and held at, the United States-Indonesia Society.