April 28th, 2013
06:00 AM ET
By John Blake, CNN
(CNN) – An angry outburst at a mosque. The posting of a suspicious YouTube video. A friendship with a shadowy imam.
Those were just some of the signs that Tamerlan Tsarnaev, accused of masterminding the Boston Marathon bombings, had adopted a virulent strain of Islam that led to the deaths of four people and injury of more than 260.
But how else can you tell that someone’s religious beliefs have crossed the line? The answer may not be as simple you think, according to scholars who study all brands of religious extremism. The line between good and evil religion is thin, they say, and it’s easy to make self-righteous assumptions.
“When it’s something we like, we say it’s commitment to an idea; when it’s something we don’t like, we say it’s blind obedience,” said Douglas Jacobsen, a theology professor at Messiah College in Pennsylvania.
January 7th, 2013
04:00 PM ET
By Shahira Amin, Special to CNN
Growing concerns about the rights of Egypt's Copts, who make up an estimated 12% of the population, have dampened the mood of Christians, overshadowing this year's celebrations.
"Many of my friends and relatives have left the country," said 27-year-old Beshoy Ragheb. "I would leave, too, if I had a place to go."
Threats by Muslim extremists against Coptic Christians in the past year have forced scores of Christian families to flee their homes in Dahshur and the Egyptian border town of Rafah. Meanwhile, extremist attacks on Christian churches and brutal attacks by security and military forces on Christian protesters demanding the protection of their churches in October 2011 remain vivid in the memories of many of Egypt's Christians.
November 29th, 2012
04:38 AM ET
By Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, for CNN
Cairo (CNN) - Seven Coptic Egyptians living abroad were sentenced to death Wednesday by a court in Cairo for their connection to an inflammatory anti-Islam film, the prosecutor's office said.
The suspects are accused of being involved with the production of the film in California, said Adel Al Saeed, official spokesman for the prosecutor's office.
Since the Egyptian citizens were tried in absentia, the sentence would be applied only if they returned to Egypt.FULL STORY
November 12th, 2012
05:53 AM ET
By Ben Wedeman,CNN
(CNN) - Thousands of supporters of various Egyptian Salafi groups gathered in Cairo's Tahrir Square on Friday calling for the immediate implementation of Islamic law.
Before midday prayers, speakers called on the government of President Mohamed Morsy to move quickly to implement Sharia. Morsy won the office as the candidate for the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Freedom and Justice Party.
About 10,000 demonstrators advocating for Sharia filled the square, chanting in unison, "The people want God's law applied."FULL STORY
September 19th, 2012
04:21 AM ET
By CNN's Ed Payne and Saad Abedine
Egyptian authorities have charged seven Coptic Christians living in the United States and a Florida pastor with insulting Islam and inciting sectarian strife for their alleged links to an online video that has enraged much of the Muslim world.
Egypt's public prosecutor announced the charges Tuesday, the latest development in the deadly backlash against the low-budget, amateurish 14-minute movie trailer produced privately in the United States and posted on YouTube.FULL STORY
September 13th, 2012
11:23 AM ET
Editor's Note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "The American Bible: How Our Words Unite, Divide, and Define a Nation," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.
By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN
What should we make of the attacks on the U.S. consulates in Egypt, Libya and Yemen, and the deaths of four Americans, including U.S. ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens?
It depends on who you mean by “we.”
From the perspective of those who stormed the embassies, taking down the American flag in Egypt and replacing it with a black flag reading, “There is no God but Allah and Mohammed is his messenger,” theirs was an act of justice on behalf of the One True Faith.
March 29th, 2012
09:19 AM ET
By John Blake, CNN
Editor’s note: The CNN documentary 'Slavery's Last Stronghold' airs on CNN International TV March 29, 30, 31 and April 22. Check local listings for times.
(CNN) - Which revered religious figure - Moses, Jesus, or the Prophet Mohammad - spoke out boldly and unambiguously against slavery?
Answer: None of them.
One of these men owned slaves, another created laws to regulate - but not ban – slavery. The third’s chief spokesman even ordered slaves to obey their masters, religious scholars say.
Most modern people of faith see slavery as a great evil. Though the three great Western religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – disagree on many matters, most of their contemporary followers condemn slavery.
Yet there was a time when Jews, Christians and Muslims routinely cited the words and deeds of their founders to justify human bondage, scholars say.
March 20th, 2012
08:33 AM ET
By the CNN Wire Staff
Cairo (CNN) - Thousands of people flooded into Cairo's Abbasiya Cathedral Tuesday to say a final farewell to Pope Shenouda III, the spiritual leader of Egypt's Coptic Christians for more than four decades.
Shenouda III died Saturday at the age of 88.
His successor's name will be chosen by a blindfolded child from among three finalists chosen by community leaders - a process that could take months.
The funeral could bring millions of Christians onto the streets of Egypt at a time when tensions with the Muslim majority are high.
Egypt's Christian minority has been the target of a number of high-profile attacks in the past several years.Read the full story on the funeral for Pope Shenouda III.
March 18th, 2012
09:09 AM ET
From Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, For CNN
Egypt's Coptic Christians are preparing for the funeral Pope Shenouda III, an event expected to bring millions of Christians onto the streets of Egypt at time when tensions with the Muslim majority are high.
Shenouda III of Alexandria, who led Egypt's Coptic Christian community for more than four decades, died Saturday. He was 88.
He died of renal failure "due to the diabetes he endured for years," said Sheif Doss, head of the Egyptian General Coptic Association. The pope had lung cancer, which spread to the rest of his body, Doss said.
Egypt's Christian minority has been the target of a number of high-profile attacks in the past several years.
March 6th, 2012
05:42 AM ET
By Amir Ahmed, CNN
A lie and a nose job may cost an Egyptian politician his spot in parliament.
Anwar al-Bilkimy, a newly elected legislator, was forced to resign from the ultra-conservative al-Nour Party after lying about having plastic surgery, Ahmed Khalil, a party spokesman said late Monday.
Black and blue from his rhinoplasty, al-Bilkimy told parliamentarians that his face was bandaged because gunmen attacked him after he refused to get out of his car, Khalil said.
Suspicious, the al-Nour Party, who's hardline creed forbids plastic surgeries, formed a committee to investigate his story and found out that he had lied, a party statement said.
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 and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team and frequent posts from religion scholar and author Stephen Prothero.