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Among the Believers: An Islamic Journey

Written by eastern writer on Friday, September 24, 2010

a book by V.S. Naipaul

Travelling through Iran just after the revolution as well as Pakistan, Malaysia and Indonesia where he meets up with those caught up in the push for Islamist nations: Shias and Shi'ites, communists and apostates, youth organisers, mullahs and government officials. Asking them about their lives, looking at their hopes and dreams and always questioning their reasons.

It's a fascinating time: we glimpse the aftermath of the Iranian revolution, visit Pakistan in flux, in the grip of the army and struggling to be a Islamic state and then see an Indonesia caught between old and new and looking for a way forward. Obviously it's deeply topical but not only for providing historical grounding on Islamic fundamentalism but also asking questions about that fundamentalism and ones that still haven't been answered.

It's not a hatchet job, Naipaul is kind, highly intelligent, sometimes superior, honest, deeply insightful and always questioning. For those used to the uncritical simplifications of today's portrayal of Islam this a most refreshing book and because Naipul looks at the Islamic faith itself, I found I learnt much. If I have made it sound dull and worthy I apologise it's eminently readable, very human but it is serious as well as fascinating, troubling as it is enlightening and the questions it raises can be applied to all fkavours of fundamentalism.

I really cannot praise this enough but maybe if you are familiar with both the faith and the history it will not be as good. Still it's worth reading as a simple, interesting, travelogue.

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