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Allah's Torch: A Report from Behind the Scenes in Asia's War on Terror

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2005

    Interesting travellogue and politics

    I picked up this book because I have recently become interested in Indonesia (I am studying silat - an indigenous Indonesian martial art). The title of this book is a bit deceiving, because it sounds so stern and dry. Yet, the book is really a type of travelogue, by an American from New York, with his guide, 'Norman'. The book is pretty funny and the writer has a good sense of humor. I think that at times it is 'black humor', because really, sometimes you need that to not 'freak out' (the author often gets into situations in which he doesn't know if the person he is interviewing is going to laugh and joke with him, or have him killed!). I admire the author's courage and humor. His insights are interesting, and the book provided me with not only an insight into modern, post-9/11 Indonesia, but also: Indonesian history (the Dutch colonial masters, who don't sound like they treated the Indonesians well, and who themselves lived pretty 'cruddy' lives far from home), and Islam in general. The picture of Islam that comes out is one that shows how complex Islam is. I would recommend this book not just for anyone interested in Indonesia, but also for anyone interested in Islam. I just wish the author had talked to more moderate Muslims, because I think that Indonesia is full of them. He did talk mostly to the 'radicals'. But on the other hand, in college in 1984, I had a Malaysian guy on my floor who had some very 'radical' thoughts on religion along the lines of ('in Islam, we are told to try to convert a non-believer. If he says no, we ask again. If he says no again, we insist. Then, on the third no, we chop his head off'). Maybe southeast Asia really IS like that. I hope not, though. I also wish the author had left out the unnecessary 'Bush bashing'. For instance, he once writes that Bush's attack on Afghanistan had 'merely expanded that circumference of our ignorance'. I doubt that the women in Afghanistan - who can vote for the first time in their lives - would agree with him on that. I mean, it is his opinion, but I found that it was really not related to southeast Asia, and the book really is peppered with comments like that. For me, that detracted from the book a bit, but I would still highgly recommend the book.

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