NPR's Terri Gross Interviews Eliza Griswold on her book The 10th Parallel
August 25, 2010
In the winter of 2003, writer Eliza Griswold traveled to the northern capital of Sudan with Franklin Graham, the evangelical leader and son of Billy Graham, to meet with Omar al-Bashir, the president of Sudan.
There were several reasons for making the trip. Graham wanted to ask Bashir for the right to preach to Muslims in Khartoum and in northern Sudan. (Bashir denied his request.) Griswold, meanwhile, wanted to see how Christian evangelicals had come to play such a large role in U.S. foreign policy, a topic she was researching for her book The Tenth Parallel, about the collisions between Islam and Christianity in certain parts of the world.
She says that when someone like Graham travels to Sudan to meet with an official, he is seen as representative of what all Americans believe."That is one of the more dangerous realities of how conservative evangelicals abroad can shape the perception of the West," she says. "This is especially sensitive in the Muslim world. ... [And then we see] this kind of defensive posturing of Islam — that Islam is under threat by the West. Unfortunately, a handful of evangelicals can misrepresent what the West is about and make Muslims feel very much under threat."