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July 25th, 2011
01:53 PM ET

My Take: Norway attacks show why you can't #blamethemuslims

Editor's Note: Imam Khalid Latif is a chaplain for New York University and Executive Director of the school's Islamic Center.

By Khalid Latif, Special to CNN

In the immediate aftermath of 1995’s Oklahoma City bombing, much of the news media rushed to suggest that a Muslim, or at least a Middle Eastern connection, was behind the attack.

News reports on television and in print featured Middle East terrorism experts claiming the Oklahoma City attack echoed a World Trade Center bombing two years earlier and that it contained parallels to recent Mideast attacks.

The FBI picked up Ibrahim Ahmad, a Jordanian American, for questioning in an initial dragnet.

Does 'Christian fundamentalist' label fit Norway terror suspect?

Of course, it turned out that the attacker was homegrown and named Timothy McVeigh, not a Muslim.

Sixteen years later, not much has changed.

The tragic events that took place in Norway on Friday provoked initial accusations against Muslims worldwide. Of course, that proved to be the farthest thing from the truth.

Anders Behring Breivik, the confessed bomber and shooter in this horrendous act, was not motivated by the teachings of Islam, but by the teachings of those who oppose Islam.

A 1,500-page manifesto that appears to be written by Breivik is an anti-Islamic tirade.

Who is Anders Behring Breivik?

“Since the creation of Islam in the 7th century and to up to this day, the Islamic Jihad has systematically killed more than 300 million non Muslims and tortured and enslaved more than 500 million individuals,” it says.

“Since 9/11 2001, more than 12, 000 Jihadi terrorist attacks have occurred,” it continues. “… This trend will continue as long as there are non-Muslim targets available and as long as Islam continues to exist.”

An inappropriate response to Norway’s acts of violence would be the condemnation of Christianity, or a claim that religion itself breeds violence and hatred, though the manifesto repeatedly invokes the defense of Christianity as a primary reason for violently defeating multiculturalism and combating the “Islamic colonization” of Europe.

The expectation shouldn't be that white Christian males should now be scrutinized at airports or profiled by TSA workers. It's wrong when it happens to Muslims and it would be just as wrong if it happened to anyone else.

A more appropriate response would be to expand the conversation around terrorism and violent extremism beyond Islam and the Muslim community. The Norway attacks highlight why congressional hearings should not be held on solely on radicalization in the Muslim community, but should focus on radicalization more broadly.

Far right makes comeback in Europe

It's also imperative that training for law enforcement and other governmental offices on Islamic doctrine and law not to be conducted by those who present the normative understanding of Islam to be something that is radical. Our focus should be the safety of all citizens in any country from every act of violence or terrorism.

By cultivating a narrative that says Islam is the problem, we keep ourselves from maintaining that focus. All terrorist acts stem from an idea that it's OK to resort to violence in order to get what you want; that it's OK to kill to get the kind of world that you would like; that if we disagree, we cannot co-exist peacefully.

Over the weekend, #blamethemuslims became a trending topic on Twitter. The purpose of the hashtag was not to blame Muslims for the Norway attack, but show how Muslims are unfairly blamed and singled out regularly these days. The tragic events in Norway remind us that not all terrorists are Muslim and there is no reason that all Muslims should be treated like they are.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Norway. May God make things easy for them and grant us all the strength and courage to stand up against those who preach intolerance and hatred, even if they look like us, align politically with us, or practice the same religion we practice.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Khalid Latif.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Interfaith issues • Islam • Opinion • Terrorism

soundoff (2,486 Responses)
  1. Reality

    Another Timothy McVeigh !!! Hopefully this "nut job" meets the same fate. The sooner the better!!! If Norway does not have a death penalty, then there is always the "oops" accident. "While transporting Breivik to prison via an aircraft, the cabin door suddenly opened and he fell 30,000 ft. He did not survive the frigid waters of the North Atlantic. "

    July 25, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
  2. nik green

    All the mainstream US corporate media jumped on their infantile Islamophobia-evangelism bandwagon of "all terrorists are Muslims", without a shred of evidence or proof. To much of the US population who only read the corporate media headlines, they probably now think that Muslims were responsible, and those who habitually read the extreme rightwing blogs and listen to hate radio had the "Muslims did it" opinion firmly lodged into their heads as soon as the news came out. On sampling the comments sections on CNN, Yahoo and the rest of the mainstream network sites, the sheer proportion of anti-Arab, anti Islamic hate and bile in the US is truly incredible.

    A similar thing happened during the anthrax attacks of October 2001: in the wake of 9/11, the mainstream corporate media were gleefully expounding the Muslim angle, on account of the "anti-Israel" messages posted by the perpetrators. When it was discovered that the anthrax had originated from the Ft. Detrick, MD, biological weapons facility, and it was discovered that "al Qaida" and "Arabs" had nothing to do with it, the story disappeared, from "all anthrax all the time", to a roaring silence in the media and government. Obviously, the anthrax attacks was clearly intended as a false flag event, by enemies of Islam, designed to blame Muslims. And it worked.

    The neoconservative element that exerts disproportional influence in Washington DC via hardline pro-Israeli think tanks, and stacked the previous Bush administration to the rafters, and has been largely responsible for shaping popular anti-Arab, anti-Muslim hatred, especially in the US heartland. The terrorist who murdered so many people in Norway last week got much of his influence and "inspiration" from the same ideological group that launched the so-called "war on terrorism", and required an event like 9/11 (also blamed on Arabs and Muslims) to gain popular support from Congress and the general public for an extreme (anti-American) agenda that would otherwise have been 100% unmarketable.

    July 25, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
    • Jeremey N.

      Dude take your head out of your @$$ and smell the reality... More than 95% of terrorist attacks against innocents are done by Muslims in the world..

      July 25, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
    • Dan, TX

      Muslims probably do more on the order of 25% of the acts if terrorism. But those get reported 100% of the time. Terrorist acts by others are covered much less worldwide (because they don't kill enough people, or they aren't interesting, like in Darfur or Sudan, or the Congo, or South America (are drug lord's intimidations through violence terrorism?).

      July 25, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
    • syd

      Hey Jeremy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_terrorism Enjoy

      July 25, 2011 at 9:44 pm |
  3. AdamChicago

    I'm going to keep this simple. If Billy keys your car 20 times, and on the 21st time it happens to be Johhny, there is absolutely nothing wrong with assuming that it was Billy again prior to having all the facts.

    July 25, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
    • caller

      Shut up Billy!

      July 25, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
    • Nonimus

      "...there is absolutely nothing wrong with assuming that it was Billy..."
      Other than it being absolutely wrong, no.

      July 25, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
    • Nathan

      That analogy sucks.

      One person =/= millions of people.

      You cannot hold an entire religion responsible for how a minority of people choose to interpret and act on its behalf.

      So when you say "Billy", you're implying that every single Muslim not only approves of what extremists do, but can be held responsible for doing so. That sort of logic is horribly faulty, and the analogy is a profoundly inappropriate simplification of the situation.

      July 25, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
    • TrVNAmerican

      The world is complex, not simple. To summarize the writer's opinion, don't blame any ethnic or religious group until there's accurate information confirmed.

      July 25, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
    • mi4065

      Tats re
      diculous example u moron

      July 25, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
    • Ken

      In that little parable, "Billy" would be Osama Bin Laden and the Al Queda network, and "Johnny" would be Anders Breivik and (maybe) Norse right-wing extremist Christians who think they belong to the Knights Templar. Osama Bin Laden and Al Queda are not "all Muslims" or "all Arabs," just like Anders is not "all Scandinavians" or "all Christians." Your analogy says "because Billy keyed my car 10 times, all people who are named Billy, look like Billy, are male, or are teenagers are suspect." And then it ends up being Johnny. Sure, suspecting Al Queda in these attacks is rational. Blaming all Muslims is not . . . especially because it wasn't any Muslims.

      July 25, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
  4. MT

    Khalid, please, even many Muslims initially thought the attack might have been perpetrated by Islamic radicals! A tragedy has occurred, dozens are dead, this is no time to be playing the "victim" card. It's just tacky.

    July 25, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
  5. CheyneyBush

    Terrorism is Terrorism regardless of who perpeteraes it. This nut is a CHRISTIAN FUNDAMENTALIST! Period. If we have guts to condemn Muslim attacks, why don't we have guts to condemn christian fundamentalists who are killing innocent people.

    July 25, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
    • asyouaskforit

      Before you post anything please get your defination correct. Post something you know not something you think. Christians in many parts of Europe are not plentiful, less than 25% in many counties. Please do not confuse it with Roman Catholicism and Freemasonry which is reported to be the believe of Anders Behring Breivik. Please leave Christianity out of this matter and war world2 and what have you. The fundamental christians you mentioned are being killed in pakistan and Egypt by moslems.

      July 25, 2011 at 9:24 pm |
    • THINKthenTYPE

      # asyouaskforit
      Great advice, to bad you didn't take it yourself.

      Roman Catholicism is a Christian religion. Free Masonry is not a religion. Hitler did claim Christianity as his religion.

      I've very curious how you decided what is or what is not Christian?

      July 28, 2011 at 8:48 am |
  6. Superduty

    So you compare 2 nutcases against millions of extremist Muslims.

    July 25, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
    • A

      Millions of extremist muslims? Where? It sounds like you are labeling every muslim as an "extremist", when in reality, it is only a small percentage. I will tell you, as a full blooded American, that I fear Americans far more than any "Muslim", extremist or not. If you open your newspaper every day, you will be witness to many daily acts of "terror" commited against Americans, by Americans. We have proven ourselves time and time again to be the most violent nation on Earth. When will we own up to our own problems instead of deflecting blame toward others?

      July 25, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
  7. Jan N

    Terrorism wins when we hate ourselves. What hatred this suspect learned, has turned him against own neighbours. He did this in front of Muslims and said:see what you made me do.

    July 25, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
  8. tim c

    Can't blame the Muslims??? That's nuts. Not for this Norway attack, but I can for hundreds of others around the world. In fact, every major conflict in the world has muslims pitted against some other element that they covet. When Bin Laden was eliminated, how many theocratic muslim governments stood up and said 'Good job". None. Because they secretly sympathize with terrorists who fight the west. I'm done being polite about the Muslim problem in the world. Members of this religion seek anarchy over all non-Muslims, and they need to be feared as enemies–because they are. It's time to speak out against them.

    July 25, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
    • Jay

      Not even many non-muslim countries stood up and said "good job" for killing Bin Laden. It was a stupid hunt that cost the US trillions of dollars, and even further pushed the message that the US is an evil imperialistic empire.. all the meanwhile, it did not stop "terrorism" one bit. In fact, the Norway attack, the abduction of the American kids in the Philippines, and our continual war in Afghan, are saying terrorism is growing and here to stay. So why would -any- country praise the US for killing Bin Laden? In the end, we still failed.

      July 25, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
  9. America my home

    Amit, you have too much hate in you. GO kill yourself, you filthy racist.

    July 25, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
    • Nonimus

      This has to be a joke... right?

      July 25, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
  10. L. Templeton

    At least born- again Christians will speak out against the violence that took place. So- called moderate Muslims rarely make any statement about Islamic terrorism. What this man did is not Christian doctrine whereas killing the Infidels( non- Muslims is a tenet of Islam.

    July 25, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
    • nick

      Moderate Muslims are not raising their voices? Er, what about the author?

      If that doesn't satisfy you, well, then let me be the first (even though in reality, I'm probably the 50,000th).

      Moderate Muslims condemn this act of violence.

      Happy?

      P.S. I'm tired of people saying moderate Muslims don't condemn these acts. We do. But you people close your ears and your eyes to us. It's hard to get recognized when your audience refuses to acknowledge you.

      July 25, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
    • Nonimus

      Here's a start:
      http://www.theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/muslim_voices_against_extremism_and_terrorism_part_i_fatwas/ (Links to parts iii, iv, and v included)

      July 25, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
    • syd

      I guess you haven't been reading ANY of the posts on this forum...

      July 25, 2011 at 9:46 pm |
  11. heather

    I remember when i told my dentist that i was interested in buddhism & he told me all buddists are going to hell. lol! all i can do is sit back and laugh at whom ever has this 'my way or the highway' attutude about their beliefs

    July 25, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
  12. the_dude

    No one should blame the muslims. The scandanavians have no one to blame but themselves. Left wing socialism has always led to an extreme right wing backlash. The scandanavians have been importing the ghetto, garbage races into their own country obviously against the wishes of the people. We will see more and mroe of this. The Norweigians are fighting for their own country back...their leaders gave it away without even a whimper. We will see the same thig in the USA very soon.

    July 25, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
    • BoHolDen

      Conservatives: fighting to take their countries back – to the Stone Age.

      July 25, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
  13. CheyneyBush

    Hitler a true christian killed more innocent people than any body in history of mankind. Have we ever heard anybody accusing christians and christianity. Double standard is the tool of hypocrites!! The recent Norway Christian fundamentalist terror action event has helped exposed the Dumb-a$$es of our time.

    July 25, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
    • Thor

      Actually, Hitler was born a Jew!

      July 25, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
    • Conservative

      Hitler was a racial evolutionist, watch the movie Downfall or read any biographly about him, not a Christian dufus. He considered Christianity to be weak and only liked the anti-jewish part of Christianity (which was in the Bible but erupted in Medieval Europe).

      July 25, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
    • Slumberjack

      That Jewish connection in the Schicklgruber family was never proven. The rumours persist though to this day.

      July 25, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
    • Nonimus

      @Conservative,
      "Hitler was a racial evolutionist..."
      What? I'm not sure what a "racial evolutionist" is, but evolution is a natural process. What Hitler did was anything but natural.

      July 25, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
    • asyouaskforit

      Hitler was never a christian, please post something you know not something you think. Christians in many parts of Europe are not plentiful, less than 25% in many counties. Please do not confuse it with Roman Catholicism and Freemasonry which is reported to be the believe of Anders Behring Breivik. Please leave Christianity out of this matter and war world2 and what have you.

      July 25, 2011 at 9:17 pm |
    • syd

      Roman Catholicism is Christianity and 90% of Freemasons are Christian.....

      July 25, 2011 at 9:47 pm |
    • CaptainAmerica

      Hitler wasn't a Christian any more that this nut was.
      This Girt guy is righ though. Islamification of Europe is going to get ugly since Muslims refuse to ASSIMILATE!

      July 25, 2011 at 11:54 pm |
  14. fastball

    Blame FOX, CNN and the other 24 hour news stations. Them and their "experts" and "pundits"....filling the dial with pointless speculation, idle rumor-mongering and sometimes just plain irresponsible journalism. They are now the tail that wags the dog.
    They get everyone's knickers in a knot before the actual facts are even known...but that doesn't stop them from speculating. And some people take that speculation as gospel...and repeat it to others. "I heard it on CNN"...well, that used to mean something. Not any more.

    July 25, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
  15. Conservative

    Worst terrorist in history have not been muslims, they have been anti-religious people. I imagine that even the terrorist that fight in the name of Islam are secularist who are trying to give muslims a bad name. Athiesm and Evolution spawned the Nazis, Communists, etc. Wake up, Athiesm is the evil of the world, not Islam.

    July 25, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
    • Thomas

      Any pinhead with an axe to grind can kill a lot of people if so inclined. Your statements are just as ignorant as those you condemn.

      July 25, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
    • Regis990

      Funny post, since religion has been the cause of most of the conflict the world has seen.

      July 25, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
    • John Steel

      The Nazis were not Atheists. What terrible war did a communist nation start?

      Islam is an evil and corrupt cult. So called moderate Muslims have done little if anything to separate themselves from the extremist elements. Breivik is a raving lunatic and a coward. If he had any guts he would have gone to the Middle East and taken on Al Queda instead of murdering children. He should be drawn and quarted, dying in agony for hours.

      July 25, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
    • Mike

      Most terror has been carried out by christians from far back as in the biblical days!!!!

      July 25, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
    • shawn

      good job on the propoganda and rewriting history.

      July 25, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
    • Slumberjack

      You must be a product of the Amerikan school system. Hitler was a Catholic, and many of the soldiers that carried out his deeds, the SS included, were either Protestant or Catholic. Stalin and Paul Pot didn't murder millions of people on behalf of Athiesm. They murdered people because they were psyopathic monsters. Even still, Stalin, Paul Pot, and Mao presided over respective ideologies that for all intents and purposes replaced religion with another form of worship, of the state, which likewise the dogma couldn't be questioned by the citizenry. The age old hatreds and pograms of Jews in Europe were the result of religious hatred, not Atheism. Atheists are largely peaceful, reasonable people. A few may have committed heinious crimes, but not because of their lack of belief in faith. The same can't be said of Christian mass murderers, where throughout history their faith was can be seen as one key element among others. Religion sanctions the hatred of innocent people in the millions, as the ignorance of your post vividly demonstrates.

      July 25, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
    • WickedNorth

      Claiming Atheism is the root problem of the world is similar to claiming Islam, Judaism or communists are the root of all evil.

      July 25, 2011 at 8:43 pm |
  16. Conservative

    I am all for far right ideology as long as it is pacifist in nature and non-racist. I believe a lot of what this terrorist said is true, I just don't think we should murder people. We have a government system, educated others and take it to the polls. Also blacks, muslims, jews, etc. are not the enemy. It is athiests and secularist. It is Hollywood. They destroyed the family and moral values in America/Europe/World.

    July 25, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
    • Nodack

      So we should blame the Athiests?

      I knew there was something sneaky about them.

      July 25, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
    • J Olsen

      It's narrowmindende hatefull people like you that helps ligitimize wievs llike that of the Norwegian terrorist.

      How dare you judge the ethic values of athiests and secularist. People that you don't know.

      July 25, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
    • twiddly

      That is such a crazy thing to say, but not terribly surprising since Conservative is clearly religious (and religious belief is, by definition, not rational).

      Atheists/secularists don't hurt anyone, don't preach hate and violence like many organized religions.
      What Conservative is saying is essentially, "I don't care what supernatural being you believe in, but you better believe in one".

      I guess atheism/secularism scares the bejeezus out of people like Conservative because we're saying you won't live forever; there's no heaven or hell.

      Time to stop believing in santa claus.

      July 25, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
    • Dan, TX

      I'm an atheist, and believe me, I am not farthest thing from an enemy of anyone you could imagine. As an atheist, my philosophy is to treat others in the way I would like to be treated. I wish you could think in that way.

      July 25, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
    • JoseyWales

      you are truly an idiot, but as an athiest/humanist i say peace be unto you and have fun with that. as long as you dont try to deny rights to anyone we will have no issues. if you want to worship your god, a tree, or a star wars action figure, i say more power to you. can you say the same thing in return? oh you cant because "your" god says all that dont believe in him must be put to death.....geee whiz beaver, how am I the problem here.

      July 25, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
    • Anti Christian Taliban

      Conservative get a clue.

      July 25, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
    • rahul

      i would argue it is impossible to separate violence from any kind of far right / far left belief system. You can't be on the 'far right' and be a pacifist.

      July 25, 2011 at 6:06 pm |
  17. John Freeman

    the Problem with CNN is with the 'opinion' they post off and on...just like anal sphincters so are the opinionated.

    July 25, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
  18. Sarah

    It's not fair to blame the actions of someone who is crazy on others. Specifically, we should not blame the actions of one crazy person in Norway on what the media calls the "new right" in Europe– a misnomer for those who oppose the increasing Muslim population in Europe and the (almost entirely negative) impact that it has had on Europe and its culture. My concern in this instance is that the actions of this nut case in Norway will cause others to stop addressing the legitimate concerns surrounding Islam in Europe that need to be addressed. My relatives in Norway and other parts of Europe (in all cases, individuals who are hardly right wing extremists) all have expressed concerns about Muslim migration. In many instances, Muslims have made themselves a particularly unpleasant force against the society in which they live, refusing to speak the language or integrate, living in ghettos that are dangerous for others to enter, etc. etc. ...all the while costing the taxpayers of their host countries billions. While I don't condone violence, as long as Muslims continue to behave in this manner I'm concerned that this won't be the end of this type of violence in Europe.

    As for the author's concern that Muslims are wrongly blamed for violence such as that which took place in Oslo, given that the vast majority of terrorist acts in the past 2 decades have been the work of Muslims, I don't think it's illogical to assume that Muslims are the culprits until otherwise is proven.

    July 25, 2011 at 3:17 pm |
    • N

      So basically you admit to being stereotypical and a racist. Congrats.

      July 25, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
    • Nima

      You cant stop mulsims migratting to west, because they bring ALOT of money as entrepreneurs, specifically to north america, and pay ALOT of taxes, and without "arab" money economy would get even worse... so tell ur relatives you might have a few less muslim neighbors but then with messed up economy you might get jobless as well...

      PS. I am not arab, but i sure like "arab" money... bhaha

      July 25, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
    • rahul

      logic, in your case, is clearly a subjective idea.

      so, i might suppose, are your ideas of ethics.

      July 25, 2011 at 6:08 pm |
    • sassypants

      Your concerns about immigration in Europe are shared by your American counterparts and they are valid concerns. The media is trying to discredit certain groups in their presentation of the (I'm sure) limited information that they have.

      July 25, 2011 at 10:12 pm |
  19. Mick

    Here is the difference between this and Muslim terrorism: They both are horrendous, but the reason people assume it is muslim time and time again is because A) the frequency with which Muslims perform these things, and B) the difference in responses from the large majority of non muslims to these events, vs the response of muslims on attacks like this. Muslims cheer these things. Non Muslims do not. You don't see people dancing in the streets when this happens. You don;t see non muslims saying "a few innocent deaths justify the end". Its the difference between civilized and uncivilized. However, the perpetuated treatment of arabs and south asians by militaries from US, Soviet Union, etc all bear responsibility in creating these monsters. So does that make them any less uncivilized? And who suffers? The general public like Norway.

    July 25, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
    • Nima

      Whos to say who is a real muslim or non-mulsim? only because some hairy brown guy goes on TV yells death to america and calls himsel Abdullah the muslim and celebrates the attacks doesnt mean he is really a muslim. and represents the muslim world.
      If the teachings of Islam were what you think then you would see a mulsim terrorist bombing twice a day, in fact all the muslims would leave schools and register for bombing 101, lol.

      Your judgment only shows lack of education and intelligence my friend...

      July 25, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
  20. Frangible

    He says in his manifesto he doesn't believe in God. He's an atheist.

    Panic in Europe will continue as their negative birth rates eat away at their population. It's not the fault of muslims. But the trend of declining indigenous populations is quite real. No amount of violence or hatred can reverse it.

    July 25, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
    • Nonimus

      @Frangible,
      "He says in his manifesto he doesn't believe in God. "
      Citation please...

      July 25, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
    • Laura

      Thanks, the smart and correct comment...This is the real problem that with such birth rate among white, soon we will be disappeared, and its not the fault of Muslims or anyone else.

      July 25, 2011 at 5:11 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.