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When we think of islam, we tend to think of the Middle East. But 80 percent of the world's Muslims live elsewhere, and in regions where they encounter half the world's Christians. If one wants to learn about the relationship between Christianity and Islam, there is no better place to begin. So Eliza Griswold spent seven years investigating what she calls the "torrid zone" to unpack the relations of the two great religions.The result is The Tenth Parallel: Dispatches from the Fault Line Between Christianity and Islam (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), "a beautifully written book, full of arresting stories woven around a provocative issue" (The New York Times).

Griswold is an award-winning investigative journalist and a fellow at the New America Foundation. Her writing has appeared in The Atlantic, The New Yorker, and Harper's. She also has published a collection of poems, Wideawake Field. Mark Galli, CT senior managing editor, talked with Griswold about her impressions of Islam and Christianity in Africa and Asia.

The title of your book suggests that geography plays a large role in the religious tensions between Muslims and Christians.

The tenth parallel is not so much a specific line but a broader zone. In Africa, it marks the southern edge of most of the continent's 400 million Muslims, who live predominantly north of this line, in the northernmost third of Africa, which is dry land. Historically, as traders and Islamic missionaries traveled, they reached as far south as the tenth parallel. Where the tenth parallel began, so did tsetse [biting] flies, which carried sleeping sickness that killed off traders and missionaries, horses, and camels. Because of sleeping sickness, Islam largely stopped there.

When the European powers came, ...

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In the Magazine

December 2010

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