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Muslims in Hollywood
June 28th, 2014
05:57 PM ET

How Muslims flipped the script in Hollywood

By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Editor

Los Angeles (CNN) – For years, Ahmed Ahmed’s acting resume read like a rap sheet.

His first film role was Terrorist No. 4 in “Executive Decision.”

His first sitcom part: Hakeem, a terrorist, on “Roseanne.”

“I realized there was a big market out there for playing bad Arabs,” the actor said with a sarcastic laugh.

Born in Egypt and raised in Riverside, California, Ahmed - a friendly, round-faced guy - carries no trace of an accent and doesn’t look particularly sinister.

But he said he was rarely considered for parts playing doctors, lawyers ... or anything, really, but menacing Muslims during the early days of his career.

Meanwhile, a pilgrimage to Mecca, the spiritual home of Islam, pricked his conscience. He felt responsible, in some small way, for the violent images of Islam broadcast across American screens.

“I realized I was becoming a slave to the industry,” Ahmed said.

The role in which the actor was regularly cast, an Islamic extremist, has become almost as familiar a Hollywood cliché as the noble savage or gold-hearted hooker.

In films and television shows from “24” to “Syriana,” Muslims are the olive-skinned evildoers who cloak their violent schemes in religious rhetoric while cursing their American adversaries.

Ahmed wanted no part of that anymore. He quit Hollywood and went back to waiting tables, where he compensated for the bad food with a bonhomie that would blossom into a standup comedy act.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Art • Discrimination • Islam • Media • Movies • Muslim • TV

Ramadan around the world
June 28th, 2014
08:12 AM ET

The Belief Blog guide to Ramadan

(CNN) - For 1.6 billion people, the holiest month of the year began this past Saturday.

The exact starting date sometimes depends on the locale, but most Muslims across the globe will be fasting, praying and abstaining from sex and smoking during daylight hours. Many call it a time of spiritual purity and rededication to God.

Here's everything you need to know about the observance.

What is Ramadan?

Ramadan is the name of the ninth month in the Hijri, or Islamic calendar. The word derives from the Arabic ramida or ar-ramad meaning a fierce, burning heat.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Eid al-Fitr • Faith • Holidays • Islam • Ramadan • Uncategorized

How Scalia's prophecy became a moral crisis
Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia predicted that anti-gay marriage laws would fall.
June 27th, 2014
08:20 AM ET

How Scalia's prophecy became a moral crisis

By R. Albert Mohler Jr.special to CNN

(CNN) – One year after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on the Defense of Marriage Act, this much is clear: Justice Antonin Scalia is a prophet.

Back in 2003, when the court handed down the decision in Lawrence v. Texas, striking down all criminal statutes against homosexual acts, Scalia declared that the stage was set for the legalization of same-sex unions. That was 2003.

“Today’s opinion dismantles the structure of constitutional law that has permitted a distinction to be made between heterosexual and homosexual unions, insofar as a formal recognition in marriage is concerned,” wrote Scalia.

He was proved to be absolutely prophetic when, just ten years later, the court ruled in United States v. Windsor that the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional — thus striking down the federal statute defining marriage exclusively as the union of a man and a woman.

Once again, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion, while Scalia handed down a fiery dissent. As before, Scalia was prophetic.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Church and state • Culture wars • evangelicals • Gay marriage • Gay rights • Opinion • Religious liberty • Same-sex marriage

Vatican softens tone toward gays and lesbians
June 26th, 2014
12:14 PM ET

Vatican softens tone toward gays and lesbians

By Delia Gallagher, CNN

ROME (CNN) - The Vatican said Thursday that gays and lesbians must be treated with respect, their children may be baptized in the church, and admitted that Catholic priests are sometimes unsure about how to deal with same-sex couples.

There is a “certain unease at the challenge of accepting these people with a merciful spirit and, at the same time, holding to the moral teaching of the Church,” the Vatican said in a document, called an Instrumentum Laboris.

The 75-page document is a compilation of the results of a survey sent to 114 bishops’ conferences around the world.  Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, General Secretary of the Synod, said that 85% of the conferences responded to the survey.

The document will be used as a guideline for discussions at a synod, a meeting of top Catholic bishops convened by Pope Francis, to be held in Rome in October.

The official name of the synod is "The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization."

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Abortion • Belief • Bishops • Catholic Church • Christianity • Culture wars • Discrimination • Ethics • Gay marriage • Gay rights • Homosexuality • Leaders • Pope Francis • Same-sex marriage • Sexuality

June 25th, 2014
02:40 PM ET

Mormon feminist: l'll fight excommunication

(CNN) – Mormon Kate Kelly was excommunicated after she advocated for women to be ordained in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

She told CNN on Wednesday that she'll fight for reinstatement in her church.

MORE ON CNN: Mormon feminist excommunicated for apostasy

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Culture wars • Discrimination • gender issues • Mormonism • Women

Hey religion, your misogyny is showing
Kate Kelly and Meriam Ibrahim have both been found guilty of apostasy by all-male councils.
June 25th, 2014
11:29 AM ET

Hey religion, your misogyny is showing

Opinion by Randal Maurice Jelks, special to CNN

(CNN) – Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate from South Africa, called one of his books “God is Not a Christian.”

He might have added a subtitle, “God is not a man, either!”

One of the great problems in our world is patriarchy. The late James Brown, the Godfather of Soul, put best in song, “It’s a Man’s, Man’s, Man’s World.”

Patriarchy assumes that men are made to lead and women are simply cooperative and reproductive subordinates.

These assumptions come to light in all kinds of ways, but especially through religion — the various faiths that treat women as though they are not equal to men.

We read it in the Quran and the Bible. We see it in iconic imagery, and religious taboos about sexuality, particularly women’s sexuality. And we see that around the world these days, from Salt Lake City to Sudan.

Men continue to dominate religious institutions, and use them to judge whether women can be in religious leadership or change faiths.

There is a direct link between Kate Kelly, a lifelong member of the Church of Jesus Christ Latter day-Saints, who was excommunicated on charges of apostasy, and Meriam Ibrahim, a Sudanese woman sentenced to death for her supposed apostasy.

And the link is deeper than the charge of abandoning one's faith.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Africa • Belief • Bible • Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints • Culture wars • Discrimination • Faith • gender issues • Islam • Islamic law • Mormonism • Opinion • Persecution • Prejudice • Religious liberty • Sharia • Women

All in the family? Not for atheists
Marrying an atheist can lead to family problems, a new survey says.
June 24th, 2014
08:03 AM ET

All in the family? Not for atheists

By Sara Grossman, CNN

(CNN) When Americans think of their future in-laws, they approve of nearly every type of person - except for atheists.

A recent survey conducted by the Pew Research Center aimed to examine political polarization. It asked Americans whether they would be disappointed if a close family member married someone of a different race, country, political party or someone who doesn't believe in God.

Less than 20% of Americans said they would be unhappy if a close family member married someone from the opposite political party and only 11% said they would be upset if that person was of a different race.

But 49% of Americans said they would be disappointed if their family member married an atheist, making nonbelievers by far the most stigmatized group in the survey.

Conservatives overwhelmingly held reservations about secular Americans, with 73% saying they would be less than thrilled if a family member tied the knot with a nonbeliever.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Atheism • Discrimination • Prejudice

June 23rd, 2014
02:03 PM ET

Christian woman freed from death sentence

(CNN) - A Sudanese woman has been freed from prison a month after being sentenced to die by hanging for refusing to renounce her Christian faith.

"I am a Christian," Meriam Yehya Ibrahim told the judge at her sentencing hearing in May, "and I will remain a Christian."

An appeals court in Sudan ruled that a lower court's judgment against the 27-year-old was faulty, her lawyer, Mohaned Mustafa El-Nour, said Monday. He declined to elaborate.

An international controversy erupted over Ibraham's conviction in May by a Sudanese court on charges of apostasy, or the renunciation of faith, and adultery. Ibrahim was eight months pregnant when was sentenced to suffer 100 lashes and then be hanged.

"I'm so frustrated. I don't know what to do," her husband, Daniel Wani told CNN in May. "I'm just praying." Wani, uses a wheelchair and "totally depends on her for all details of his life," Ibrahim's lawyer said.

Ibrahim was reunited with her husband after getting out of custody, her lawyer said Monday.

FULL STORY
- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Africa • Belief • Christianity • Church and state • Discrimination • Foreign policy • Islam • Islamic law • Persecution • Prejudice • Religious liberty • Sharia

How an apocalyptic plague helped spread Christianity
Remains of victims of the Plague of Cyprian, discovered in the funeral complex of Harwa and Akhimenru in Egypt.
June 23rd, 2014
09:01 AM ET

How an apocalyptic plague helped spread Christianity

By Candida Moss, special to CNN

(CNN) - Archaeologists in Egypt have unearthed relics from an apocalyptic plague that some Christians believed heralded the end of the world an idea that likely helped spread the faith centuries ago.

A team from the Italian Archaeological Mission to Luxor unearthed the remains in a funerary complex in the ancient city of Thebes. (The city is now known as Luxor.)

As archaeologists excavated the site earlier this month, they found remnants of bodies covered in a thick layer of lime. The lime was significant, as it was used in the ancient world as a form of disinfectant to prevent contamination.

Nearby, there was evidence of an enormous bonfire, used to incinerate the remains of plague victims, and three kilns used for lime production.

Pottery located in the kilns enabled the scientists to date the discovery to the middle of the third century, the time of a gruesome epidemic known as the “plague of Cyprian.”

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: archaeology • Christianity • Death • Egypt • End times

June 20th, 2014
10:14 AM ET

Pope says nope to dope

By Michael Pearson, CNN

(CNN) - Are you stoned?

That's the message Pope Francis seemed to be sending lawmakers Friday, saying the growing worldwide trend toward legalizing recreational drugs is a very, very bad idea.

"Drug addiction is an evil, and with evil there can be no yielding or compromise," he told participants at the International Drug Enforcement Conference in Rome.

The Pope's call isn't shocking. Francis has spoken of the dangers of drug use before.

But it lends his voice and the authority of the Catholic Church to the growing worldwide debate over legalizing or at least decriminalizing some recreational drugs, most notably marijuana.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Catholic Church • Pope Francis

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About this blog

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.

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