The Tenth Parallel: Dispatches from the Fault Line Between Christianity and Islam [NOOK Book]

Overview


A riveting investigation of the jagged fault line between the Christian and Muslim worlds
The tenth parallel—the line of latitude seven hundred miles north of the equator—is a geographical and ideological front line where Christianity and Islam collide. More than half of the world’s 1.3 billion Muslims live along the tenth parallel; so do sixty percent of the world’s 2 billion Christians. Here, in the buzzing megacities and swarming jungles of Africa and Asia, is where the two ...

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The Tenth Parallel: Dispatches from the Fault Line Between Christianity and Islam

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Overview


A riveting investigation of the jagged fault line between the Christian and Muslim worlds
The tenth parallel—the line of latitude seven hundred miles north of the equator—is a geographical and ideological front line where Christianity and Islam collide. More than half of the world’s 1.3 billion Muslims live along the tenth parallel; so do sixty percent of the world’s 2 billion Christians. Here, in the buzzing megacities and swarming jungles of Africa and Asia, is where the two religions meet; their encounter is shaping the future of each faith, and of whole societies as well.

An award-winning investigative journalist and poet, Eliza Griswold has spent the past seven years traveling between the equator and the tenth parallel: in Nigeria, the Sudan, and Somalia, and in Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines. The stories she tells in The Tenth Parallel show us that religious conflicts are also conflicts about land, water, oil, and other natural resources, and that local and tribal issues are often shaped by religious ideas. Above all, she makes clear that, for the people she writes about, one’s sense of God is shaped by one’s place on earth; along the tenth parallel, faith is geographic and demographic.

An urgent examination of the relationship between faith and worldly power, The Tenth Parallel is an essential work about the conflicts over religion, nationhood and natural resources that will remake the world in the years to come.

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Editorial Reviews

Mark Oppenheimer
A number of recent books have enlarged our sympathy by focusing on memorable victims of global conflict: Dave Eggers's What Is the What, for example, and Tracy Kidder's Strength in What Remains. The Tenth Parallel is not a page-turner like those. But Ms. Griswold's fearless wandering has given her a broad view of religious and ethnic conflict, one that reminds us just how many victims Mr. Eggers and Mr. Kidder had to choose from, and how many millions more continue to be with us.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Award-winning journalist Griswold chronicles her travels along the 10th parallel, the line of latitude 700 miles north of the equator and home to many Christian-Muslim standoffs. Griswold does her best to counter the received wisdom of interfaith fighting by astutely pointing out where religion is simply used as a tactic in a nonreligious conflict over land, resources, or the like. As examples of war-rejecters, multifaith, and environmental advocates, the author introduces many organizations and individuals with hopes for peace, such as the Nigerian pastor, who, in addition to working with a Muslim imam to stop fighting between their communities, also distributes green stoves that burn less wood, thereby preventing further deforestation and possibly inter-religious fighting over land rights. The reader also meets Nigerian Christian warriors, quasi-military Filipino Catholic gangs, and Indonesian jihadis who sell herbal cures door-to-door to raise funds. Though not a scholar of Islam, Griswold has a profound grasp of the misinterpretation and manipulation of Islam. Her insight that no single, unified sharia (Islamic law) exists is a conclusion that has eluded more celebrated authors; among other perceptions, she notes that Islam was spread more by intermarriage than the sword. Always maintaining a journalist's objective view, Griswold, a published poet, nevertheless enchants the reader with her lush, flowing prose. (Aug.)
From the Publisher
“Eliza Griswold's The Tenth Parallel deals with a geographical slice of the Muslim world spanning Africa and Asia. With a sharp eye and equally sharp wit, Griswold dissects the events and issues that have gripped the region, uncovering their nature through memorable encounters and personalities. The story brims with insightful details and instructive lessons. Seldom does a book of this nature ranging over such vast terrain succeed in maintaining a steady focus and an engaging lightness of touch. In her hands, Islam resounds through the voice of Muslims, and religion lives through its followers and devotees. The book is a triumph of the human imagination and capacity for intercultural exploration.” —Lamin Sanneh, author of Whose Religion is Christianity?

“Eliza Griswold’s talent runs through this book like a blinding light. Through her daring travel, quiet observation, empathy and gift for language, she humanizes and clarifies conflicts in Africa and Asia that are often neglected or misunderstood. The Tenth Parallel is both vitally important and beautifully written.” —Steve Coll, author of The Bin Ladens

“Ingeniously conceived and beautifully wrought, The Tenth Parallel traces the uneasy fault line of two great faiths, which have so much bloody history between them. In exploring the potent tensions that underlie so many of the conflicts of the present age, Eliza Griswold gives us a rare look at how complex and interwoven these two cultures actually are.” —Lawrence Wright, author of The Looming Tower

“In this revolutionary work, Griswold has dedicated the last seven years of her life to traveling in the world's least known places to explore the encounter between Christianity and Islam in Africa and Asia. She has brought back the unforgettable stories of Christians and Muslims along the tenth parallel whose faith is shaping the world's future. Griswold's courageous pilgrimage changes the way we think about Christianity and Islam by exploding any simplistic "clash" narrative. She returns us to the most basic truth of human existence: that the world and its people are interconnected.” —Archbishop Desmond Tutu

“Based on years of first hand experience and observation, The Tenth Parallel is a deeply impressive achievement, which so often challenges our common assumptions. The book will be immensely rewarding for anyone who wants to make sense of the relationship between those long-estranged sister faiths, Christianity and Islam. It should be required reading for policy makers, and for anyone interested in the spiritual dimensions of the “clash of civilizations.” —Philip Jenkins, author of Jesus Wars

The Tenth Parallel is one of the most important books you will ever read. Eliza Griswold combines the fearlessness of an investigative journalist and the bold vision of a poet to take readers on a perilous journey along the fault line between Islam and Christianity. No one else could have written this book.” —Reza Aslan, author of No god but God

 “Eliza Griswold is an intrepid and brilliant reporter. She has written a fascinating, nuanced account of Christian-Muslim relations along the fault line of the tenth parallel that puts the arm-chair punditry about “the clash of civilizations” to shame. It should be read by anyone who wants to understand how religion is actually lived and experienced in Africa and Asia.” —Frances FitzGerald, author of Vietnam: Spirits of the Earth

“Eliza Griswold has long been one of my favorite magazine writers, and many of us have been awaiting this book with the fervent anticipation of a J. K. Rowling fan. And The Tenth Parallel does not in any way disappoint. It is brave, sad, informative, and deeply empathetic. I quake a little to think of what Ms. Griswold had to endure to come back with this book, and these stories, but we and the literary world are all the richer for it.”— Tom Bissell, author of The Father of All Things

“Eliza Griswold is a courageous reporter, a gifted writer, and an acute observer of life. In The Tenth Parallel she takes us on a crucially illuminating tour of some of the most volatile terrain in the world, acquainting us with people who are far away both spatially and culturally but whose fates are intertwined with our own.” —Robert Wright, author of The Evolution of God

“Eliza Griswold, poet and war correspondent, takes her readers on a journey through the birthplace of terror. She marches into unspeakably frightening places, alone, with only her pen as protection. And then she speaks. The poetry of Griswold’s prose draws the reader in, even as she foretells great terrors to come. The Tenth Parallel is an important book by a courageous American.” —Jessica Stern, author of Terror In The Name Of God

Kirkus Reviews
Stories of strife and self-identity around the beltway just north of the Equator, from Africa to Indonesia, where Christianity and Islam have shared an uneasy 1,500-year history. Journalist and poet Griswold (Wideawake Field, 2007) traveled to Nigeria, Sudan and Somalia, on the African latitude, and Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines, on the Asian, to get at the root of the deep-seated conflicts between adherents of Islam and Christianity. She helpfully begins with geography, history and demographics lessons for each country, patiently explaining the Tenth Parallel's delineation in Sudan between the arid Arab north and the tribal, intermittently Christian swampy south, both vying for land, oil and water possession and manipulated by autocratic governments. Nigeria, a major petroleum producer and enormously corrupt, is fairly evenly split between Christians and Muslims, who regard each other as "objects of competition and obstacles of survival," mostly in terms of economic resources. British and American evangelicals have been building a following in Africa since the 19th century, and Griswold examines the legacy of various missionaries, many of whom still enjoy vital offshoots. In their modern manifestations, both Islam and Christianity have "reawakened" in the forms of "ecstatic experience"-Islam as fundamentalism, Christianity as evangelicalism and Pentecostalism, both casting backward for their authenticity and power, and both contentious. Though home to the world's largest Muslim population, Indonesia has a vocal Christian minority, as does its neighbor Malaysia, while the Philippines is predominately Catholic. Griswold keenly investigates how the global clash of religions especially takes its toll on women and children. She visits religious leaders on both sides and debates finer points of their arguments. An important ongoing venture in the West's attempts to understand the conflicts of this region.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781429979665
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 8/17/2010
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 265,174
  • File size: 472 KB

Meet the Author

Eliza Griswold, a fellow at the New America Foundation, received a 2010 Rome Prize from the American Academy in Rome. Her journalism has appeared in The Atlantic, The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, and Harper’s Magazine, among others. A 2007 Nieman Fellow at Harvard University, she was awarded the first Robert I. Friedman Award for investigative reporting. A collection of her poems, Wideawake Field, was published by FSG in 2007.

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Read an Excerpt


PART ONE
AFRICA
NIGERIA“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”
—THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO LUKE 23:341 “Lord, forgive thy people, they do not know.”
—SAHIH AL-BUKHARI, ISTITABE, 5
1THE ROCK: ONEWase Rock is a double-humped crag that towers eight hundred feet above the green hills of Nigeria’s Middle Belt. Wase (“wah-say”) means “all-embracing” in Arabic, and it is one of Islam’s ninety-nine names for God. Majestic and odd, the freestanding stone is smack in the center of the country, which, with 140 million people, is Africa’s most populous. It is the largest in the world to be almost evenly split between Christians and Muslims. There are forty-five to fifty million members of each respective faith, but no exact figures, since the Nigerian government deemed questions about religion too dangerous to ask during the most recent census in 2006.1 As in Sudan, fifteen hundred miles to the east, Nigeria’s Muslims live predominantly in the desert north, and its Christians, to the swampy south. (There are some important exceptions, including the southwest, where the ethnic Yoruba have adopted both religions.) For the most part, Christianity and Islam meet in the Middle Belt, a two-hundred-mile-wide strip of fertile grassland that lies between the seventh and tenth parallels (from five hundred to seven hundred miles north of the equator) and runs from west to east across most of inland Africa.This pale grassland belongs to the Sahel, which means “coast” in Arabic. The Sahel forms the coast of a great sand sea: the north’s immense Sahara Desert. And the Middle Belt sits on a two-thousand-foot-high plateau of russet tableland; as the ground rises, the air freshens and cools. Depending on the season, the terrain ranges from bone-dry steppe to luxuriant green bush. On most days, a mild breeze blows down from the Middle Belt’s knobby escarpments, over the savanna’s glossy burr grass, and across a patchwork of small cassava and dairy farms, which produce milk that is an ambrosia of butter, honey, and sun.The Middle Belt could be an earthly paradise, but it is not. I first arrived there in August 2006, to visit a local Muslim king called the Emir of Wase. As I approached Wase, the plateau became blistered with ruins. Almost every village had been burned to the ground, both the round thatched huts of the Christian farmers and the square mud houses that belonged to Muslim traders and herders. Since 2001, Nigeria’s Middle Belt has been torn apart by violence between Christians and Muslims; tens of thousands of people have been killed in religious skirmishes. Almost all of these began over something other than religion—from local elections to fights over land, to mob violence that broke out between Muslims and Christians in reaction to America’s invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001. Yet these small street fights, infused with deeper hatred, have often given way to massacres in churches, hospitals, and mosques. With each side determined to eradicate the other, the skirmishes have assumed the rhetoric of faith-based genocide; one Christian writer called Nigeria’s Muslims “cockroaches,” a deliberate reminder of the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Blessed with some of the world’s richest oil reserves, Nigeria is sub-Saharan Africa’s major petroleum producer. It is America’s fifth-largest supplier of oil, a factor in the pronouncement by the U.S. assistant secretary of state Johnnie Carson that Nigeria is “undoubtedly the most important country in Sub-Saharan Africa.”2 But if Nigeria is one of the continent’s wealthiest and most influential powers, it is also one of its most corrupt democracies. Since the end of military rule in 1999, politicians have reportedly embezzled between $4 billion and $8 billion annually.3Despite the country’s vast oil wealth, more than half of Nigerians live on less than one dollar a day, and four out of ten are unemployed. Being a citizen in Nigeria means next to nothing; in many regions, the state offers no electricity, water, or education. Instead, for access to every thing from schooling to power lines, many Nigerians turn to religion. Being a Christian or a Muslim, belonging to the local church or mosque, and voting along religious lines has become the way to safeguard seemingly secular rights.Nigeria’s population is also growing at a rate of 2 percent a year—dramatically faster than the global average. This growth is particularly remarkable for Christians; high birth rates and aggressive evangelization over the past century have increased the number of believers from 176,000 to nearly 50 million. When it comes to religious competition, population is an undeniable asset. Due to these staggering numbers of new believers, many African Christians argue that, as the Middle Belt Anglican archbishop Benjamin Kwashi told me, “God has moved his work to Africa.” To visit the emir, I had borrowed a gold minivan that belonged to a one-armed pastor and an imam, former sworn enemies who had started an interfaith organization in the nearby city of Kaduna. Decals on the rear window read, “PEACE IS DIVINE.” The minivan’s driver was bald, barrel-chested, and in his mid-forties; Haruna Yakubu had formerly led Muslim gangs in Middle Belt clashes. Now he was seeking to deprogram the young men he had taught to fight in defense of their religion.Wase lay on the far side of a river of the same name, and the only way to reach the tiny Muslim kingdom was to cross a narrow, one-lane concrete bridge. As we drove along the devastated floodplain toward Wase, some of the Christian farmers were beginning to rebuild. Tethered awkwardly outside the Christians’ huts were muddy white cattle. Before the fighting, the farmers had hardly any cows; they belonged to the Muslim herders. The cattle were war booty.When we reached the bridge, an orange truck was jackknifed across the lane, listing over the edge. A man in a Mylar suit and a matching peaked hat—like the tin man from The Wizard of Oz— pantomimed a traffic cop, but he was only playing at order. Cars were backed up behind the accident for several miles. The truck’s heavy cab dangled off to the right and over the cataract rushing below, like a huge steel creature lowering its exhausted head for a drink. A market had sprung up: among the jam of people and cars, women sold peanuts and blackened corn from tin trays on their heads, the commerce of daily catastrophe. Radio chatter drifted from the open doors of trucks and cars. Nobody knew how long the wait would be—a week, maybe more. It would take a special winch to lift the truck, and it was days away. Until the winch arrived, all travel—to work, to the hospital, to buy clean water from the nearby town (Wase had none)—stopped dead. But the emir was not a man to be kept waiting, so we had to find a way across the bridge. Savvy Yakubu, the minivan’s driver, quietly gathered a group of teenage boys hanging around—more than half of Nigeria’s population is under eighteen—as I heaved open the van’s sliding door and got out to walk. Somehow, the boys managed to lift our gold Toyota van, inch it around the jackknifed truck, and place it safely back onto the rickety bridge. The emir’s earthen castle stood atop a hill about five miles from Wase Rock. The clay forecourt swarmed with courtiers in billowing robes, and the clatter of hooves rang from the royal stable. On days like this one, when the emir was granting an audience, supplicants came from hundreds of miles away to ask his help with school fees or in solving disputes with neighbors. They waited in an octagonal two-story chamber, where a dozen members of the palace guard read the newspaper on the chilly floor. The king’s advisor, or waziri, with a pink lace turban set on his head like a bicycle helmet, waited for the emir to summon his visitors, as his grandfather and great-grandfather had done before him. Most royal posts the rock: one are hereditary, and the emir’s bloodline has been a source of loyalty and honor since 1816, when his ancestor founded the kingdom at the base of Wase Rock.This ancestor, a mysterious figure named Hasan, was a follower, a jihadi, of Nigeria’s most famous Islamic reformer and a hero among African Muslims to this day: Uthman dan Fodio, a religious teacher and ethnic Fulani herder who launched a West African jihad in 1802 to purify Islam and promote the education of women. Dan Fodio, like most North African Muslims, was a Sufi. His was the first in a series of holy wars to rage across the center of the continent during the nineteenth century and into the early twentieth century. Most of these jihads began as religious rebellions within Islam, uprisings against African kings who the Sufi reformers believed had corrupted the faith. Yet time and again, as Europe’s Christian colonial powers arrived in Africa, these holy wars morphed into battles against the infidel West. These jihads, while largely forgotten, represent some of the earliest and bloodiest confrontations of Islam with the West; they drove colonial policy toward Muslims not only in Africa but worldwide. They also laid the groundwork for Islam’s opposition to the modern West.By 1810, seventy-five years before the British would claim Nigeria as their protectorate, Dan Fodio’s followers, called his flag bearers, had conquered a large swath of West Africa as their own Islamic empire. The vanquished generally welcomed the flag bearers, who came riding south over the Sahel’s high, pleasant plateau, on horses and camels and with Dan Fodio’s pennant fluttering before them. When they neared the tenth parallel, the desert air moistened and the ground grew wetter. Here, the notorious tsetse fly belt began, and sleeping sickness killed off the jihadis’ horses and camels, effectively halting their religion’s southward advance. One of these jihadis, the emir’s ancestor, established his kingdom on his favorite grazing land in the shadow of Wase Rock. For thirteen generations, the emir’s family has occupied this leaking keep. A place out of time, it feels more like an ancient oasis in Arabia than a palace in modern-day Nigeria; the only objects in the anteroom to signal the passage of two hundred years are the newspapers and a white plastic wall phone that buzzes when the emir is ready to hear petitions.In his traditional dress of pistachio robes and a gauze turban that tucks under his nose and culminates in two wilting rabbit ears, the Emir of Wase is the only man allowed to wear shoes—gold-buckled loafers—in his castle. According to custom, his courtiers must sit barefoot on the floor below him. When I first met His Royal Highness Haruna Abdullahi, in 2006, however, he insisted I remain on his level, and sent his chief advisor to fetch my sneakers so we could speak as equals. Fine-boned and elegant, with dark skin and sharp features, the emir, like his ancestors, is an ethnic Fulani, and most of his people are still herders. An erudite man, he seemed bored in his clammy throne room and eager to set aside the usual supplications in order to discuss how his territory had been caught up in a religious conflagration.For all his ancient trappings, the emir is a modern intellectual and a liberal religious scholar who traveled to Pennsylvania during the 1960s to study at the University of Pittsburgh, earning a doctoral degree in public administration. “I didn’t tell anyone I was a prince in Pittsburgh,” he said, laughing deeply. He sent a minion to a stack of old papers in the corner of the cold room to root out a copy of his dissertation, the title of which he could not remember and which the courtier never found. Instead, the courtier returned with a slim yellow booklet. Dropping his head, he fell to his knees and offered it to the emir. Together with a local Catholic bishop, the emir had compiled this collection of verses from the Christian Bible and the Quran to try to correct religious misunderstanding.“These verses command believers to live together peacefully,” he said, holding up the small pamphlet and setting it beside him on the antique couch that served as his throne. More than a decade earlier, when his father died at the age of 102, Abdullah had been working as a bank manager in the capital of Abuja. When he ascended the throne in 2001, the crisis had just begun, and from mosque loudspeakers and church pulpits, religious leaders on both sides were using the holy books to call for blood.The emir, by his own count, had cared for between 350,000 and 400,000 Muslims, many of whom showed up at the palace gates and demanded his protection during the conflict. “I can’t tell you how much money I spent on feeding all those people,” he said. “Everyone who enters my domain, I have to account for before the Creator.” For example, the jackknifed truck on the bridge—“If anyone falls off that bridge today, it’s my responsibility,” he said. This was his duty as a king, and what his Muslim name, Abdullahi—abd, “servant” or “slave,” of Allah—commanded.“Anytime people come to the palace, I have to open the door. I have no choice,” he said. His voice was slightly muffled by gauze. Being a king was exhausting and expensive, and he could not afford to fix his own dripping roof. At the moment, there was a lull in the violence. On both sides, people had lost too much—land, livestock, and loved ones—to keep pummeling one another. No one could afford to keep fighting. This peace had been mandated by money, not mutual religious understanding, and the emir feared it would not last.He picked up the yellow booklet beside him. In it, he had highlighted (in his native language of Hausa) the Quran’s universal messages of coexistence for all of humankind, many of which were revealed to Mohammed early on in his life as God’s messenger, when he was forty-something and a wealthy trader living in his Arabian hometown of Mecca.“Religion is personal; it is in the mind,” the emir said, smiling. “The books aren’t written in straight language—you need not only to read but to understand.” Tapping his college ring against the couch’s edge, he relished these kinds of riddles, and seemed more at ease talking about the nature of power and the lessons that God had revealed to the Prophet Mohammed than discussing upcoming elections or the price of rice or the availability of drinking water.“We know Jesus taught that if someone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to the left,” he said ruefully. “We know that Mohammed was sacked from his village and stoned at Ta’if, but he quietly left for Medina.” In 619, according to the Hadith, the reports of what the Prophet said and did during his lifetime,4 Mohammed traveled to Ta’if, a mountainside town in Arabia about seventy miles southeast of the holy city of Mecca, to invite its people to become Muslims. Instead of welcoming him, the farmers stoned him and drove him, bleeding, out of town. Afterward, the archangel Gabriel—“Gibriel” in Arabic—came to the Prophet and asked him if he wanted revenge against Ta’if. Wiping blood from his face, the Prophet refused, saying, “Lord, forgive thy people, they do not know.”5 Mohammed knew about Jesus and his teachings; before his death, he instructed his followers to act as Jesus had, to be willing to die for their faith. Mohammed’s words echo Jesus’s plea from the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34).The emir made the point that if both of these men, beaten and bloodied—the incarnations of their respective faiths—asked God to forgive their aggressors, then who were today’s religious leaders to advocate holy war? The two religions were deeply linked, the emir said, but leaders did not know of, or else had forgotten, their common bonds. The Quran also tells the story of the Virgin Mary giving birth alone beneath a date tree. When she returns in shame to her family’s house, the newborn Jesus speaks: “God is my Lord and your Lord; so serve Him: that is a straight path” (19:36).6 Yet which was the right path: Christianity or Islam? Despite the emir’s best intentions, this conflict over whose beliefs were sanctioned by God caught fire as soon as local Muslims and Christians began to see each other as objects of competition and obstacles to survival. And that came down to the economy. “People have no way to get jobs,” the emir said. “Children are being taught not to go back to farms; they’re not taught to survive practically, but to get white-collar jobs that don’t exist.” There are more than sixty million jobless Nigerian youth—including many of the boys who carried the minivan over the bridge—a ready army free to man the front lines in any religious conflict. Before elections, or at any opportune moment, the same corrupt politicians embezzling millions of dollars pay these youths to act as righteous and intimidating thugs. The first places destroyed in these battles are places of worship, then banks and cars—the symbols of worldly power to which these young people have no access.“An educated idle mind can be dangerous,” as the emir put it. This maxim could easily refer to the emir himself—trapped in his crumbling castle, his management degree rendered useless by a conflict for which he was not prepared. His grasp on power, however, was more complicated than it looked, and it was tied to the British colonial legacy. Following the Berlin Conference of 1885—known as the Scramble for Africa, when Europe’s colonial powers met to divvy up the continent—much of the vast tract of “the Soudan,” including the territories of contemporary Nigeria and Sudan, fell to the British. In these territories, Muslim North Africa met the “pagan” black African south. (On medieval Arab maps, this was the beginning of the “Land of the Blacks”—Bilad-as-Sudan— from which Sudan takes its name.) In Nigeria’s Muslim north, the British faced some resistance from Dan Fodio’s former jihadis, whom they managed to subdue by the early twentieth century. In Nigeria, the British were able to use the system of indirect rule that had proven so successful in India, and that meant bolstering the power of leaders such as Wase’s emir. Excerpted from The Tenth Parallel by Eliza Griswold.
Copyright © 2010 by Eliza Griswold.
Published in 2010 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.
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Reading Group Guide

The Tenth Parallel: Dispatches from the Fault Line Between Christianity and Islam Eliza Griswold Farrar, Straus and Giroux


INTRODUCTION

Sharing a line of latitude seven hundred miles north of the equator, Nigeria, Sudan, Somalia, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines also share an increasingly violent struggle between Christianity and Islam. The tenth parallel spans two continents and nineteen nationalities, but those six countries reflect the strife in significant ways. Taking us to the epicenters of conflict in each of these nations, the award-winning investigative reporter Eliza Griswold provides a clear-eyed account of the twenty-first century's most alarming religious schisms and the history behind them, a history that continues to stoke the flames of terrorism, warlord rebellions, and devastating corruption. Living in the villages and slums of the tenth parallel for seven years, Griswold conducted extraordinary interviews with leaders from varying factions. She also traveled with high-profile figures such as the evangelist Franklin Graham, who has succeeded in propagating the mission of his aging father, Billy Graham. The result of her frontline research is a book that will transform our dialogue about globalization—its looming threats as well as its prospects for peace.

Of the world's 1.6 billion Muslims, more than half live along the tenth parallel, as do roughly 60 percent of the world's 2 billion Christians. Illuminating the role of natural resources, cultural identity, and other factors that foster religious tension rather than collaboration in this economically pivotal swath of the globe, Griswold's The Tenth Parallel captures the human experience throughout centuries-old struggles. We hope that the following suggestions for discussion will enrich your experience of this timely work.


QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION

1. Griswold frequently quotes both the Quran and the Gospel. What is your view of sacred texts: Do you see them as wisdom literature, divine words, accurate accounts of history, collections of myths that reflect humanity's experience with God, or something else altogether? To what extent are sacred books at the heart of the conflicts taking place along the tenth parallel?

2. What did you learn about the fragile ecosystem of the tenth parallel by reading about Dr. Amin al-Amin, the chair of Nature Trust International and a champion of environmentalism in Nigeria? In the wake of the Biafran War, in which the predominantly Christian southeast unsuccessfully attempted to secede from the mainly Muslim north during the 1960s, will the environmental crisis heal or exacerbate Nigeria's social crisis?

3. Griswold notes that for six hundred years prior to the Crusades, Christians and Muslims interacted peacefully in Sudan. By the nineteenth century, David Livingstone's statue captured the climate of colonization: "Christianity, Commerce and Civilization." How does this history help us to understand contemporary strife in Sudan?

4. With virtually no oil and a government besieged by warlords who have run off most humanitarian aid workers from the West, what does Somalia have to offer its people?

5. Griswold describes the Walisongo school massacre, perpetrated by Catholics in 2000, and the Dutch legacy of colonization as factors contributing to anti-Christian sentiment in Indonesia. Yet some residents distrust Sharia law also, observing that it is enforced more harshly among impoverished communities than in prosperous ones. Can religion and justice ever be equated in Indonesia?

6. The colonization of Malaysia was marked by rubber plantations (generally worked by Indians), tin mines (generally worked by the Chinese), and other profit centers drawn from natural resources. Despite the British mandate for equal rights (regardless of ethnicity) upon decolonization in 1946, the Muslim Malay majority won a constitutional right to religious and ethnic superiority. Chapter 26 concludes with Edo's thoughts on humanity's connectedness to the earth—a connection that transcends religion or ethnicity. What would it take for his vision to be realized, not only in Malaysia but throughout the tenth parallel?

7. Griswold notes that the Philippines remains overshadowed by U.S. influence, despite gaining independence at the end of World War II. How has this shaped the particular types of Islamic schisms seen in the Philippines, such as the schism between those who view Islam as a connection to a culturally powerful legacy and those who seek "martyrdom" for the prospect of oil? Is the Philippines's historical connection to America an asset in the twenty-first century?

8. How do Asia's struggles in the tenth parallel compare with Africa's? What accounts for these differences? How does the more recent spread of Islam in Asia compare to the earlier tactics that brought it to northern Africa?

9. If a nation possesses valuable natural resources, what determines whether the wealth will benefit all classes of people or lead to corruption that concentrates wealth in the hands of a few? Does religion help or hinder in the fight against corruption?

10. Griswold describes the Reverend Franklin Graham's passion for building relief programs throughout the world. His motivation is not only to ease suffering on earth, however; he believes that non-Christians will experience eternal damnation. Would such relief organizations be more successful if they did not attempt to convert nonbelievers, or is faith an essential component in the most successful relief organizations? What differences did you detect between Christian and Islamic relief organizations?

11. Chapter 9, part of the section covering Sudan, describes early attempts to chart the globe, including definitions of the tenth parallel as the Torrid Zone. Despite the fact that African kingdoms flourished there, wise men ranging from Aristotle to Arab philosophers and Jewish scholars considered this part of the map to contain no "worthwhile" inhabitants. What accounts for such widespread disdain?

12. Discuss the harrowing experience of the missionaries Gracia and Martin Burnham. What enabled Gracia to pray for her captors? How can we understand the tremendous sacrifice her husband was willing to endure for Christ? How is her understanding of Christianity very different from that of the Americans who attend her lectures but have never seen the world?

13. How was Griswold's identity shaped by being the daughter of an Episcopal clergyman?

14. What do you predict for the future of the tenth parallel? Is religion interfering with peace, or is it the best hope for peace in these regions?

15. What human experiences are illuminated in both The Tenth Parallel and the author's book of poems, Wideawake Field? How does her perspective as a poet affect her skill as a journalist?

PRAISE FOR THE TENTH PARALLEL

"Ingeniously conceived and beautifully wrought, The Tenth Parallel traces the uneasy fault line of two great faiths that have so much bloody history between them. In exploring the potent tensions that underlie so many of the conflicts of the present age, Eliza Griswold gives us a rare look at how complex and interwoven these two cultures actually are." —LAWRENCE WRIGHT, author of The Looming Tower

"Eliza Griswold's talent runs through this book like a blinding light. Through her daring travel, quiet observation, empathy, and gift for language, she humanizes and clarifies conflicts in Africa and Asia that are often neglected or misunderstood. The Tenth Parallel is both vitally important and beautifully written." —STEVE COLL, author of The Bin Ladens

"In this revolutionary work, Eliza Griswold has dedicated the last seven years of her life to traveling in the world's least known places to explore the encounter between Christianity and Islam in Africa and Asia. She has brought back the unforgettable stories of Christians and Muslims along the tenth parallel whose faith is shaping the world's future. Griswold's courageous pilgrimage changes the way we think about Christianity and Islam by exploding any simplistic 'clash' narrative. She returns us to the most basic truth of human existence: that the world and its people are interconnected." —ARCHBISHOP EMERITUS DESMOND M. TUTU

"Eliza Griswold is a courageous reporter, a gifted writer, and an acute observer of life. In The Tenth Parallel she takes us on a crucially illuminating tour of some of the most volatile terrain in the world, acquainting us with people who are far away both spatially and culturally but whose fates are intertwined with our own." —ROBERT WRIGHT, author of The Evolution of God

"Based on years of ?rsthand experience and observation, The Tenth Parallel is a deeply impressive achievement that so often challenges our common assumptions. The book will be immensely rewarding for anyone who wants to make sense of the relationship between those long-estranged sister faiths, Christianity and Islam. It should be required reading for policy makers, and for anyone interested in the spiritual dimensions of the 'clash of civilizations.'" —PHILIP JENKINS, author of Jesus Wars

"Seldom does a book of this nature, ranging over such vast terrain, succeed in maintaining a steady focus and an engaging lightness of touch. In Eliza Griswold's hands, Islam resounds through the voice of Muslims, and religion lives through its followers and devotees. The book is a triumph of the human imagination and capacity for intercultural exploration." —LAMIN SANNEH, author of Whose Religion Is Christianity?

"The Tenth Parallel is one of the most important books you will ever read. Eliza Griswold combines the fearlessness of an investigative journalist and the bold vision of a poet to take readers on a perilous journey along the fault line between Islam and Christianity. No one else could have written this book." —REZA ASLAN, author of No god but God

Reading group guide written by Amy Root / Amy Root's Wordshop, Inc.

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