September 29th, 2014
06:00 AM ET

Why India's leader won't eat with Obama

By Moni Basu, CNN

(CNN) - Fillet of sole with tyrolienne sauce. Supreme of pheasant Veronique. Chocolate lotus blossoms. These are culinary creations that were served in the past to Indian prime ministers visiting the White House.

But on Monday, when India’s newest leader meets with President Barack Obama, his plate will be empty.

That’s because Narendra Modi will be in the middle of a strict fast for Navratri, Sanskrit for nine nights. It's a Hindu festival devoted to the manifestations of the goddess Shakti, a symbol of purity and power.

Navratri’s timing depends on the lunar calendar but usually is observed once in March-April to usher in summer and again in September-October, before winter. Modi intends to survive solely on “nimbu pani” or water with lemon for nine days. FULL POST

- Moni Basu

Filed under: Asia • Faith • Food • Hinduism • India

9 myths about Hinduism — debunked
An Indian artist dresses as Kali, the goddess of destruction, at a festival in Allahabad earlier this month.
April 25th, 2014
09:00 AM ET

9 myths about Hinduism — debunked

By Moni Basu, CNN

(CNN) - Caste. Cows. Karma.

Suhag Shukla knows that’s how some people outside Hinduism see her religion. As the head of the Hindu American Foundation, Shukla, 42, clarifies misconceptions all the time.

Hinduism is ancient, though there is no specific date for when it was formed. The name is a Sanskrit word; Hinduism and Hindu were coined by invaders who used the terms to refer to the people they encountered when they crossed the Hindu Kush mountains and arrived at the Indus River.

Hotel Death: It's a place of celebration and salvation for souls

In America, Hinduism’s profile was elevated by Indian immigrants who brought their customs and rituals with them and perhaps most recently, by the growing popularity of Hindu teachings like yoga and meditation. FULL POST

- Moni Basu

Filed under: Asia • Hinduism • India

November 26th, 2013
08:49 PM ET

Giving thanks for the miracle of survival

By Moni Basu, CNN

(CNN) - Leon Gersten could not bear to watch “Schindler’s List,” the movie about Czech industrialist Oskar Schindler who saved 1,200 Jews from Nazi extermination camps. It was too painful for the Holocaust survivor, too close to reality.

But now, almost 70 years after his village in Poland was liberated by the Soviet army, Gersten is meeting the man who is the Oskar Schindler of his own life: Czeslaw Polziec.

Like Schindler, Polziec is Catholic. His family secretly sheltered Gersten in rural Poland for two years during World War II.

As though such a reunion between survivor and rescuer were not emotional enough, this one is taking place Wednesday on the eve of Hanukkah, which coincides this year with Thanksgiving. Two celebrations of gratitude.


- Moni Basu

Filed under: Catholic Church • Hanukkah • Holocaust • Israel • Judaism • New York • Poland • Thanksgiving

Imam: I wouldn’t give Boston suspect last rites
Tamerlan Tsarnaev, shown in a 2009 photo, died Friday. In accordance with Islam, he should have been buried the same day.
April 21st, 2013
03:30 PM ET

Imam: I wouldn’t give Boston suspect last rites

By Moni Basu and Eric Marrapodi, CNN

(CNN) - Tamerlan Tsarnaev died early Friday, and according to the rules of Islam, he should have been buried by now. But his severely wounded body is still being held to determine a cause of death.

"We are waiting for more information," said Terrel Harris, spokesman for the Boston Medical Examiner's Office. He wasn't sure when a cause of death would be released.

Tsarnaev, 26, had so many penetrating wounds when he arrived at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center early Friday that doctors could not tell which ones had killed him. He'd engaged in a ferocious battle with police in which more than 200 rounds of gunfire was exchanged. He and his brother Dzhokhar, 19, also allegedly hurled improvised explosive devices and handmade grenades at officers. FULL POST

- Moni Basu

Filed under: Islam • Muslim • Terrorism

Battlefield chaplain’s war unfolded on many fronts
Army chaplain Darren Turner, left, wound up quitting the Army for a spell after returning home from Iraq.
May 26th, 2012
10:00 PM ET

Battlefield chaplain’s war unfolded on many fronts

Editor’s note: CNN.com writer Moni Basu is author of “Chaplain Turner's War,” published by Agate Digital.

By Moni Basu, CNN

Atlanta, Georgia (CNN) - Darren Turner insisted on going to war, even though the Army usually reserves desk jobs at home for new chaplains like him.

Turner was young and green, enthusiastic about taking God to the battlefield. The Army captain had learned that people in pain are often wide-open to inviting God into their lives.

Jesus always ran to crises. Turner was going to do the same.


- Moni Basu

Filed under: Christianity • Military

October 14th, 2010
05:17 PM ET

Will the rescued miners' renewed faith endure? Maybe, say scholars

Omar Reygadas, 56, kneels down with a Bible after reaching the surface.

CNN's Moni Basu filed this report:
They survived for more than two months a half mile under the Earth's surface, and when the 33 trapped miners in Chile came out, many of them praised God.

Mario Sepulveda said he buried 40 years of his life down there. "I was with God, and I was with the devil. They fought, and God won."

Mario Gomez used to get annoyed that his wife asked him to say daily prayers. But trapped in darkness, he revisited his relationship with God and asked that a crucifix and statuettes of saints be sent down so the miners could construct a shrine.


- Moni Basu

Filed under: Chile • Christianity • South America

Baha'i woman recalls imprisonment in Iran
August 31st, 2010
11:10 AM ET

Baha'i woman recalls imprisonment in Iran

Minoo Vosough can still hear the guards' boots marching down the cold hallways of Iran's Gohardasht prison. The screams of other inmates burn her ears.

She can feel the thud of a fist coming down on her head. And the world going black as she was blindfolded and shoved in a courtroom to hear her fate.

She was arrested in Tehran more than 25 years ago - beaten, interrogated and thrown into solitary confinement. Once a week, she was taken out for a shower. She could tell if it was bright or overcast only by the small window high up in her cell. She cherished the chirping of birds outside.

All she had was a blanket, a spoon and a broken fork.

The Iranian regime accused Vosough of espionage, though she was never charged or afforded legal representation. Her crime in the Islamic republic, she says, was - and still is - her faith.

She is a Baha'i.

She has not spoken publicly about her terrifying experience in an Iranian jail. Until now.


- Moni Basu

Filed under: Baha'i • Iran • Journeys

June 4th, 2010
12:45 PM ET

Jewish group denounces cartoons inspired by Gaza flotilla incident

The Anti-Defamation League lashed out Friday against what it called “deeply offensive and hateful caricatures of Israelis and Jews” drawn by cartoonists across the Muslim world in the wake of the Gaza flotilla incident that left nine dead.

The cartoons, which appeared in newspapers, use religious imagery to depict Israel as satanic, blood-thirsty and even compares it to the Nazis.


- Moni Basu

Filed under: Islam • Israel • Judaism

May 21st, 2010
03:58 PM ET

S. African paper publishes Mohammed cartoon

Cape Town, South Africa, cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro draws ire after showing Mohammed on a therapist's couch.

Once again, a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed has sparked anger and controversy.

A South African newspaper published Friday a cartoon depicting the prophet lamenting that his followers lack a sense of humor, drawing ire from the Muslim community and fear of reprisal attacks just ahead of the World Cup soccer tournament that is expected to draw thousands to South Africa next month.


- Moni Basu

Filed under: Culture wars • Islam • Muslim

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.