Border Crossings

The Tenth Parallel
Dispatches from the Fault Line between Christianity and Islam
Eliza Griswold
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $27, 336 pp.

“Who shall find a valiant woman?” the Book of Proverbs asked, until the modernizing translators of the NSRV updated it to “a capable wife.” Well, there have been few more valiant women these days—or perhaps ever—than the peripatetic poet and journalist Eliza Griswold. Born into an intrepid Episcopal clerical family (she dedicates this book to her mother and father, Frank T. Griswold III, former presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church), Griswold chronicles her journeys in some very dangerous settings along the tenth parallel north of the equator—a kind of religious DMZ, running through Asia and Africa, where over half the world’s Muslims and Christians live. Over the course of more than half a decade, Griswold visited six countries where Christians and Muslims meet, not always in peace: Nigeria, Sudan, Somalia, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines. In these far-off places, in sometimes tense situations, she ventured forth unafraid to ask difficult, even penetrating questions about interfaith encounters. 

Most recent accounts of Muslims in the modern world have concentrated on the Middle East, and The Tenth Parallel does its readers a tremendous service by reminding us that only 20 percent of the world’s Muslims are Arabs. The largest number of Muslims live in South and island Asia; there are more Muslims in sub-Saharan Africa, meanwhile, than in the whole of the Arab world. Griswold has gone where angels fear to tread, examining the root causes of...

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About the Author

Patrick J. Ryan, SJ, is the Laurence J. McGinley Professor of Religion and Society at Fordham University.