V.S. Naipaul has felt that his acceptance of his religion is a rejection of the culture he lives in. And, similarly, his distance from the Arab world -- for he believes Islam is fundamentally an Arabic religion -- is also a distance from his faith. In the early 1980s, Naipaul published Among the Beleivers, a collection of reflections on his travels in Indonesia, Pakistan, Iran, and Malaysia. At that time, the fundamentalist revolution in Iran was at its peak, Pakistan was a struggling and repressive South Asian nation, and Indonesia and Malaysia were trying to adapt to the demands of Western capitalism. Now, 15 years later, with Iran ever-so-slowly liberalizing, Pakistan making moves to be a world power, and Indonesia and Malaysia at the heart of both the Asian miracle and the Asian crisis, Naipaul returns to these countries in Beyond Belief. With one or more of these countries making the front pages of newspapers around the world almost every day, understanding the philosophical and practical expressions of religion is crucial to both understanding the nations and interpreting the news.
Naipaul is an incomparable chronicler of sacred survivals and the desperation the sacred has to keep at bay. -- New York Times Book Review