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My Take: Muslims must engage politically, look outside themselves
Muslim Americans must exercise their right to vote and be part of the process, says Khalid Latif.
October 25th, 2012
01:00 PM ET

My Take: Muslims must engage politically, look outside themselves

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

My wife and I were on our way into Bed, Bath and Beyond in late August when I decided to check my office voicemail from my cell phone. I told her I'd meet her inside. When I did, she asked whether I had any messages.

"Just one,” I told her. “I was asked to deliver an invocation at this year's Republican National Convention." She responded with a smile on her face, "Of course you were," and then showed me the pillows she’d selected.

I didn't get a chance to decide whether I would accept the invitation, as Hurricane Isaac changed the RNC schedule and made the decision for me. But before the impending storm blew me off the schedule, I sought advice from friends and colleagues. What were the implications of my participating at the RNC? Would it make sense?

One conservative, evangelical Republican friend told me that it would have been a great way to start a conversation with members of his party who are fed up with the current platform and, amongst other things, the party’s highly anti-Muslim and Islamophobic rhetoric. Now, it seemed, that conversation wouldn't happen.

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But I couldn't understand why it must take a Muslim standing on an RNC stage to get people talking. Is that really the only way a Muslim voice can be heard in the political arena? Realistically, it's not. The other options just require more time, strategy and patience.

Like all other citizens, American Muslims can be heard through our right to vote. We, as a community, can amplify our voice by building coalitions more broadly with other groups. And we can speak the loudest by encouraging our best and brightest to be a part of the system.

Most American Muslims aren't hearing a discourse that tells them to be civically engaged on a local or grassroots level, which is a huge problem. The presidential election is not the only election that takes place in our country; the impact that one can have on local communities is just as important.

We are starting to get this. In comparison to 10 years ago, today we see more Muslim mayors, city council members and commissioners, law enforcement agents, policymakers and others. But there is still a long way to go. Refraining from being part of the process really isn't an option anymore.

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In deciding who to work with or which candidate to support on any level, be it local or national, it's important to be informed beyond one's own needs. Most Muslims keep from building relationships with other groups unless there is some direct impact on us.

We don't stand up for others’ rights as well as we should. Then, when we want others to be there for us and validate our community, we don't get what we need so readily because we weren’t there for their communities or still don’t understand issues beyond our own.

Do you know what conversations are taking place in your local government? Decisions are being made that will affect people who live in your town, your city, your state, your entire country.

If the Muslim community wants people to stand with us when a hateful person protests the building of our mosques, we need to stand with them at their time of need, or even at times when there is no pressing need at all. The myopic perspective that keeps us from thinking strategically and, more importantly, humanely, needs to go.

I watched the presidential debates at the Islamic Center at New York University, where I was joined by my students and community members. I watched so that I could be better informed of the candidates' stances on all issues - including the ones that affect me directly and those that touch people around me.

I will keep telling my students, whom I encouraged to register to vote, that they must think beyond the presidential election and get involved locally. New York City will elect a new mayor next year, along with many other officials, and they should be a part of that process, too.

And I will keep telling them that civic engagement is not just about having your voice heard. It's also about having confidence that you have something to offer that will make society better.

My students, like many other American Muslims, can and should help the growth and development of our country. The time is here for them to see not only how their being Muslim benefits them individually but also how their being Muslim benefits the world around them.

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

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: 2012 Election • Islam • Muslim • Politics

soundoff (1,030 Responses)
  1. JUSTICE FOR ALL

    In the 56 majority Islamic countries there has been a 90% reduction in minorities over the past century. Until that fact changes and minorities feel islamic countries is a place to go to as opposed to run from Muslims cannot expect from others what they refused others. In fact there is a apathy in the western world for the most part. If they walk up one morning and realize this fact and threat there could be an all out religious war at some point.

    October 26, 2012 at 2:37 am |
    • Lance

      How many Native Americans are left in the USA? How many Native Americans were there in 1880? How much territory do Native Americans have today? How much territory in the USA did they have in 1880? Ain't hypocrisy jest grand now that Native Americans have been almost completely wiped out of the USA.

      October 26, 2012 at 7:54 am |
  2. Jose M. Pulido

    Why do some people still believe President Obama is a Muslim? Are they suffering from Romnesia? Remember the fact that: "Obama killed Osama, while Bush just beat around the bush." President Obama has rid the world of more nuisance terrorist Islamists/Muslims than anyone else. Therefore, vote for him. If you vote for the polygamist “Mormonian,” as former president Gump might call him, you are favoring Islamist terrorists thus, betraying the USA.

    October 26, 2012 at 1:28 am |
    • blessedgeek

      Of course they know he is not a Muslim. It's like why do the presidential debaters boast of what they could and would do, while what they want to do is in the hands of Congress, not the President.

      October 26, 2012 at 1:54 am |
    • lovemygirl

      His wedding ring is incriged with "There is one God and his name is Allah".

      October 26, 2012 at 1:58 am |
    • A Frayed Knot

      lovemygirl,

      No. That little bit of urban legend, rumor, gossip has been debunked. Please do not be so gullible.

      October 26, 2012 at 2:04 am |
    • curious

      lovemygirl, only when someone makes it say that with photoshop.

      October 26, 2012 at 2:08 am |
    • r nadar

      this logic is flawed but thanks for sharing – your zingers were very original

      October 26, 2012 at 2:32 am |
  3. Aces Full Mike

    Why does the Obama administration and most of the libs including the liberal media keep apologizing for and coddling these animals?

    October 26, 2012 at 1:11 am |
    • DRinNC

      Obama's reason is that he grew up surrounded by Muslim influences. Liberals do it because tolerance to certain groups is cool if your Lib.

      October 26, 2012 at 1:16 am |
    • James brown

      It takes one to know one.

      October 26, 2012 at 1:53 am |
    • James brown

      Hey Aces full of crap.....look @ yourself in the mirror and tell us what you see? Better yet, ask an Native American how peaceful you are. You filthy Animal.

      October 26, 2012 at 1:55 am |
  4. DRinNC

    " Most Muslims keep from building relationships with other groups." The author correctly identifies the problem, but ignores the cause. Islam teaches to avoid the unbelievers, do not befriend them and do not trust them. IE the teachings of Islam are the problem.

    October 26, 2012 at 1:02 am |
    • ExposingMisinformation

      Please don't propagate (or in this case create) misinformation. I understand if you have problems with Islamic beliefs; however, you are obligated– as a human being– to maintain the moral capacity to not invent such unsubstantiated and absurd claims. Thanks!

      October 26, 2012 at 1:34 am |
    • Bob

      DRinNC you have got it complety right. If the author of this article wants them to speak up they first need to except Americans as fellow humans.

      October 26, 2012 at 2:01 am |
    • Kafir4Life

      No misinformation here: koran/ maeda 51: O you beliveres (m u s l i m s) do no take allies (friends) of the j e w s and the c h r i s t i a n s, they are allies to each other, and if any of you taketh allies from them then he is one of them... Those who do otherwise, are not good m u s l i m s

      October 26, 2012 at 2:33 am |
    • r nadar

      I would like to know why muslim americans didn't cry outrage at 911 – largely crickets from our muslim community – of course, try to burn their holy book and the world has to stop.

      October 26, 2012 at 2:34 am |
  5. Rosstrex

    Nice to be able to live in the US where they are tolerated even when Islamic states murder all "other" religious groups even other Muslims. I am glad that Muslims can live here in peace. Let's hope they learn to stay peaceful here.

    October 26, 2012 at 1:01 am |
    • James brown

      Oh please Ross Pest, please get a life.

      October 26, 2012 at 1:57 am |
    • Dave

      Heh, The Catholics have been murdering for centuries. What's your point?

      October 26, 2012 at 2:11 am |
  6. No Religion

    If you believe in God, you are really dumb. You cannot argue that point, but try if you want.

    October 26, 2012 at 12:48 am |
    • Poltergeist

      Nicholas Copernicus determined planets orbit the sun and not the earth. He was Christian. The big bang theory was originally proposed by a catholic priest in a catholic university. Isaac Newton created calculus, he was a believer.

      October 26, 2012 at 12:55 am |
    • Poltergeist

      The priest name was Georges Lemaitre for reference.

      October 26, 2012 at 1:04 am |
    • timelesswheelman

      The "Big Bang Theory" first occurred over 1400 years ago in The Holy Quran. Chapter 21, verse 30 "Do not the Unbelievers see That the heavens and the earth Were joined together (as one Unit of Creation), before We clove them asunder?" [Al-Quran 21:30]

      Just sayin....

      October 26, 2012 at 1:24 am |
  7. LOYAL NORTHERN DEMOCRAT

    If they would all kill themselves at one time we would not have a Muslum problem.

    October 26, 2012 at 12:40 am |
    • No Religion

      It is not a Muslim problem. It is a Religion problem.

      October 26, 2012 at 12:42 am |
    • AmericaForAll

      @LOYAL NORTHERN DEMOCRAT.......what if the american indian would have said thesame to your ancestors....what would you say than?And you dont represent all of us.Get a life.

      October 26, 2012 at 1:19 am |
    • Aces Full Mike

      Arab Spring = Muslim Caliphate

      October 26, 2012 at 1:22 am |
    • Zippy the Pinhead

      How do you kill yourself more than one at at time? How many of you are you, and why aren't you taking your meds to get that number down to one?

      October 26, 2012 at 1:28 am |
    • James brown

      Hey crap for brains loyalist Northern Democrat, Learn how to spell Muslims. Oh yea, tell the Native Americans how much of a problem we are, so before you point your finger at Muslims, there's four fingers pointing back at you. Use spell check Dumb *ss. Lastly, you're in the wrong party numb nuts.....your compass is off, point south to the Republic Party. Have a great crappy day.

      LOYAL NORTHERN DEMOCRAT
      If they would all kill themselves at one time we would not have a Muslum problem.

      October 26, 2012 at 2:04 am |
  8. abdul

    its one thing to speak for muslims, but in this case we are speaking of arabs. i'm a non arab muslim. to most muslims and mr.latif, an infidel just like a christian or an atheist if not worse.
    arabs have a problem with america, arabs give islam a bad name, arabs are not getting involved. being muslim has nothing to do with being arab. the problem is in the arab community.
    so please, next time you want to tag me along with the arabs that have their own issues, don't generalize "muslims". state it correctly and refer to "arabs".
    and no muslim can support the RNC and its self serving goals. unless we are speaking of self serving "muslims" of the golf states.

    October 26, 2012 at 12:38 am |
    • No Religion

      Religion = no freedom.

      Muslim = idiot.

      October 26, 2012 at 12:45 am |
    • Lance

      Uhhhhh Einstein, AIPAC=no freedom from We The American Taxpayer
      AIPAC = Jew-Nited States of America
      AIPAC = Slavery for America to Israhell
      AIPAC = No freedom for Americans
      ' Nuff said.....

      October 26, 2012 at 8:26 am |
  9. Riaz

    I used to be very active in encouraging Muslims to vote. Remember quite a lot of Muslims voted for Geroge Bush in Florida because he said he opposed "secret evidence" which was used against Arabs. He sounded "compassionate conservative" but what we got was Dick Cheney who is so pro-Israel that he didn't mind putting so many over-seas Americans (like me) at risk. He sounded more like a member of Knesset than VP. Bush administeration did every thing to dis-franchise mulims because many realized that Muslims too could play the "vote" card and play it well.

    That election put many Muslims on guilt trip. So to me it was better not to vote, so that we are not responsible for the action of these self-preserving Republicans.

    October 26, 2012 at 12:24 am |
    • No Religion

      @Riaz

      You are a fool. No religion, good humans.

      October 26, 2012 at 12:27 am |
  10. Art

    Muslims and the Republics have a lot in common.

    October 26, 2012 at 12:21 am |
    • No Religion

      That is correct. They have the same agenda, however they oppose one another.

      October 26, 2012 at 12:27 am |
    • AmericaForAll

      @Art......You forgot to take you pill or you are just simple stupid

      October 26, 2012 at 1:24 am |
  11. Salero21

    Funny if Not a Phony; That nothing similar or of the like mentioned, that muslims can do here in the US is hardly ever seen being done in their countries of origin. Like Voting or Holding Elections every 4 years for all posts. We never hear or know, or see of mayors, city councils, women actively participating even running for posts in their governments etc. etc.

    It is almost an unknown world for them, the basic concepts and ideas of Democracy, Equality, Freedom and Liberty. I doubt very much that the Fundamentals of Democracy goes well with their Religion if even the basics are almost totally a mystery for them. The History of Islam is very well know and is Not exactly a pretty thing to read about. So that may be why it is difficult for the first immigration of muslims to adapt.

    October 26, 2012 at 12:18 am |
    • No Religion

      Anyone who follows any religion is stupid.

      October 26, 2012 at 12:20 am |
    • AmericaForAll

      you should also read the history of other religion especially christianity...you will find a lot of blood and violence there too.
      And for you to single out one religion , is not a fair game.So.......get outta here and use Google search.

      October 26, 2012 at 1:27 am |
  12. No Religion

    I am free.

    If you follow a religion, you are a slave.

    Black people who believe in Jesus are fools.

    October 26, 2012 at 12:16 am |
    • Poltergeist

      Your post suggest your far from free. They suggest youre still obsessed with religion actually.

      October 26, 2012 at 12:38 am |
    • No Religion

      @Poltergeist

      Ok, and you think that because...

      October 26, 2012 at 12:41 am |
    • Poltergeist

      Because you sit on the religious blog posting for long stretches of time. I think Einstein put it best. Many athiest are like former slaves still bearing the weight of their shackles.

      October 26, 2012 at 12:48 am |
    • James brown

      Hey No Religion....wait to die you sorry Basta&&. Keep you personal issues to yourself.

      October 26, 2012 at 2:08 am |
    • sssssss

      Poltergeist,

      Why is it that you pluralize 'stretches', 'slaves', and 'shackles' correctly ... and then say 'atheist' instead of 'atheists' (not to mention spelling it 'athiest')? Do you have a lisp or something?

      October 26, 2012 at 2:09 am |
  13. Al

    A Muslim Republican is like a black member of the KKK.

    October 26, 2012 at 12:06 am |
    • Dennis

      Or a white member of the Nation of Islam?

      October 26, 2012 at 12:28 am |
    • No Religion

      A Muslim is like a Christian and all other religions. Dumb.

      October 26, 2012 at 12:29 am |
  14. Reality

    Saving our sister and brother Muslims (including Khalid Latif)

    From the studies of Armstrong, Rushdie, Hirsi Ali, Richardson and Bayhaqi

    Go to p. 5 to see how- in English and Arabic

    October 25, 2012 at 11:46 pm |
    • No Religion

      Stay on this very page of this very blog and denouce all religion. The root of all evil.

      October 26, 2012 at 12:31 am |
  15. Infindal aka (Happy life loving American)

    I'm an Atheist. I don't believe in religious fairy tales. However, looking in from the outside, you muslims are the worst of all of them. Muslims need to step down so we can make this world a better place.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:46 pm |
    • Lance

      Atrocities committed by people professing Christianity:
      – The African slave trade practiced by every Christian nation in western Europe (100,000,000 plus victims in a period of 350 years)
      – the Crusades initiated by every Christian country in Europe that led to deaths of over 6 million people but mainly Muslims
      – the genocide against North and South American Indians (tens of millions wiped out) but committed entirely by Christian people and nations
      – the Colonialization period where untold tens of millions of people perished at the hands of the colonizers who were generally from Christian countries and which left billions of people living in misery to this day.
      – World War I where over 12 million people perished in wars by Christian nations in a war among themselves re. Europe, America, Australia and New Zealand
      – World War II where a person Jewish heritage led the European Christians on a killing spree among themselves and the world including America with over 65 million dead, and which is greater than the dead of all other human conflicts combined
      Reality check: if there is a God in heaven and a devil in hell, there will one day be more Christians in hell than all other religions combined.....' Nuff said!

      October 26, 2012 at 12:00 am |
    • Albert

      Lance – You need prayers.

      October 26, 2012 at 12:10 am |
    • No Religion

      Muslims aren't worse than Christians. Not even close.

      Religion = No freedom.

      October 26, 2012 at 12:18 am |
    • minnesotamom2

      Lance, you are crazy. Slavery...blacks sold to whites by other blacks. Mohammed was a slave owner, let's not forget that. What about the slaughter of innocent men, women and children by marauding Muslims in India (which used to be only Hindu, till there was forced conversion by Muslims). Look at the wholesale slaughter going on in the middle east now. Sunnis vs Shiites, religious fanatics attacking and murdering women, and females basically being slaves. I'm glad I'm not in a religion where a woman has to cover herself up to get "closer to Allah". Muslims rioting over cartoons? Threatening Christians...yes, they are doing that. What about Christians living in Arab lands? Their lives are in danger every day. So Muslims are better people than Christians? They're no better, no worse.

      October 26, 2012 at 12:40 am |
    • Jose M. Pulido

      Lance:
      It was child-molester Mohammed who murdered millions of innocent people who refused to be perverted into Islam in North Africa and many other countries. It was your pedophile self-styled stand–up Prophet Mohammed and his later followers who captured African people and sold them into slavery.

      October 26, 2012 at 1:17 am |
    • AmericaForAll

      get a life

      October 26, 2012 at 1:30 am |
    • James brown

      Hey Infidal aka (Happy life loving American).....you should have listened to the Native Americans....I will a James Brown on you #ss. Happy days in hell creepo.

      October 26, 2012 at 2:12 am |
    • Lance

      Hey Albert, you need a psychotherapist to deal with yer ohhhhhh so selective memory. Jest like Israel-Firsters who ohhhh so conveniently forget about Adolph Hitler's Jewish origins, it seems you ohhhh so once ineptly forget the terrible evils inflicted on the world by those who professed to be Christians! 'Nuff said!

      October 26, 2012 at 7:57 am |
  16. Lance

    Remember the USS Liberty:
    George Christian, Press Secretary to President Lyndon Johnson in letter to James Ennes, 1978: "No one in the White House believed that the attack was an accident." in reference to Israel’s murderous attack on the unarmed American ship, the USS Liberty in international waters where 34 Americans were killed and hundreds wounded in a methodical attack by air and naval units of Israel.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:37 pm |
  17. Sherri

    I disagree that Muslim's voices are not being heard. It seems all we do hear are their voices. Saying how they hate America. How they are being discriminated against. How they want special treatment. We constantly hear how they are offended by everything they hear and see. I want to see Muslims speak out against the violence committed BY Muslims. They are very vocal when they are 'offended' but we don't hear from them when Muslims burn churches, commit honor killings, behead people, fly planes into buildings. Why is that? Where are the protests against those things? Why aren't they protesting when little girls get acid thrown in the faces? Or when the Downs Syndrome girl was accused of burning a Koran? I did not hear of any protests. I'm tired of hearing how they have it so bad. They have it hundreds of times better than any Christian in a Muslim country. Give me a break

    October 25, 2012 at 11:37 pm |
    • Lance

      Hey Sherri, do you hear the voices of the survivors of Israel's murderous attack on the USS Liberty? Can I hear you condemn Israhell for this murderous attack so as to demonstrate that you are not an Israel-Firster who puts the interests of Israhell ahead of those of America! We are waiting for your unequivocal condemnation of Israhell for attacking the USS Liberty where it murdered 34 Americans and injured hundreds more including strafing survivors in life rafts in the water! Anyway, we all await your clear condemnation of Israhell......

      October 25, 2012 at 11:42 pm |
    • Karen

      Sherri I suggest you go to a local mosque and meet some Muslims. They speak out about these atrocities nearly every Friday! This article is about American Muslims and their place in America. A lot of them came to this country because of the intolerance and hate in their countries of orgin. I myself am a christian american married to a secular Saudi. We have been married for 15 years. I am more warmly embraced by the Muslim culture than I usually am by my own. It really hurts me to see how generous and giving the community is. I am truly blessed to be apart of it. Whether it has been here in CA, in MD, in Saudi or Egypt I am always well received, and continually hear people speak out against the horrors commited in other countries.

      October 26, 2012 at 12:05 am |
    • Adak95

      Sherri you are right you never hear Muslims condone any of the atrocities committed in the name of Allah or Mohammad. Shoot a young girl because she wants an education. Not a word from the Muslim community. Yes, Islam is the religion of peace.

      October 26, 2012 at 12:46 am |
    • minnesotamom2

      Lance, why do you deflect current events with something that happened over 40 years ago, during a war, in which Israel was attacked by Arab countries? That doesn't excuse what happened to the Liberty, but that is ancient news. Muslims are attacking and murdering Christians in the middle east weekly. what's your excuse for that? Where is the Muslim response to the humanitarian crisis happening in Africa? Americans are sending BILLIONS of dollars to help the Somalian Muslims, as well as other Africans, such as the Malians. Where is the "wonderfully charitable Muslims"? The Saudis have money coming out of their ears. Why aren't they sending BILLIONS of dollars to Africa? Karen, do you have to cover up in Saudi Arabia? Bet you can't drive over there...nor dress the way you'd like to.

      October 26, 2012 at 12:53 am |
    • AmericaForAll

      @sherri......we are at war for the last 11 yrs with those who were responsible for those attacks......where have you been?what more you wanna do.....I suggest you should join the army and go there and fight....I am done sending my kid over there to blow up the caves.

      October 26, 2012 at 1:39 am |
  18. togirl

    No that will never happen. If that's what you need to be happy, then I suggest you go live in a country that wants it!!

    October 25, 2012 at 11:33 pm |
  19. Lance

    Remember the USS Liberty:
    Oliver Kirby, former deputy director for operations/production, National Security Agency. Kirby participated in NSA's investigation of the attack and reviewed translations of intercepted communications between pilots and their headquarters which he reports show conclusively that they knew their target was an American ship. Kirby is considered the "Godfather" of the USS Liberty and USS Pueblo intercept programs. (Telephone interviews with James Ennes and David Walsh for Friendless Fire, Proceedings, June 2003):
    "I can tell you for an absolute certainty (from intercepted communications) that they were attacking an American ship”.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:32 pm |
    • ArthurP

      That was almost 50 years ago.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:36 pm |
    • Lance

      So was the Holocaust but we never hear the end of it whereas the voices of the survivors of the USS Liberty have never been heard under oath by Congress unlike any other attack by a foreign nation on American forces! Remember the USS Liberty!

      October 25, 2012 at 11:45 pm |
    • Sandy

      What is your point? Israel wanted to start war with USA? It was clear incident, you Muslim f#k

      October 26, 2012 at 12:10 am |
    • minnesotamom2

      The Muslims claim the holocaust never happened. By the way, if the Muslims hadn't taken over Christian's holy lands, the Crusades never would have happened. What do you think would happen if we took over Mecca? Think the Muslims would do nothing?

      October 26, 2012 at 12:55 am |
    • Lance

      The Muslims correctly say that the Holocaust was initiated by a person of Jewish origin, namely, Adolph Hitler, with the active assistance of people professing to be Christians from just about every European nation around. That is the reality and is one that cannot be whitewashed. It is not about who denies the Holocaust or that Elvis lives or some other such issue because people will always have differing viewpoints but to know who was actually responsible for the Holocaust and it certainly was not the Muslims!

      October 26, 2012 at 8:49 am |
  20. Infindal aka (Happy life loving American)

    Its sad that cnn felt that your Islamic opinion had to be pushed on us.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:29 pm |
    • ArthurP

      Because you never see articles pushing the merits of Christian Fundamentalism on the CNN web site.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:35 pm |
    • Lance

      ....it is sadder to hear the traitorous AIPAC Al, guilt of Holocaust guilt trip, demands for more American monies be imposed on We The American Taxpayers..........
      Signed,

      Tired of Getting Leeched By Israhell

      October 25, 2012 at 11:35 pm |
    • Tandy

      CNN's just being a good little member of the elite liberalist-progressive media.

      "Democracy is the road to Socialism"

      "The meaning of peace is the absence of opposition to Socialism."

      The theory of Communism may be summed up in one sentence: Abolish all private property."

      "If anything is certain it is that I myself am not a Marxist."

      Karl Marx

      October 25, 2012 at 11:44 pm |
    • James brown

      Hey Infindal aka (Happy life loving American)....its called freedom of speech. You don't like it, move to Greece.

      October 26, 2012 at 2:16 am |
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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.