September 4th, 2013
04:47 PM ET
By Daniel Burke and Mitra Mobasherat, CNN
(CNN) - Marking a sharp shift from his Holocaust-denying predecessor, new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday appeared to wish "all Jews" a "blessed Rosh Hashanah" on his English-language Twitter account.
Rosh Hashanah, of course, is the Jewish celebration of the new year. As Rouhani mentions, it began Wednesday at sundown. The image in the tweet is reportedly taken from a synagogue in Tehran.
September 4th, 2013
01:10 PM ET
By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
(CNN) - How did Syria go from an internal uprising to a wider clash drawing funding and fighters from across the region?
In a word, Middle East experts say, religion.
Shiite Muslims from Lebanon, Iraq and Iran have flooded into Syria to defend sacred sites and President Bashar al-Assad's embattled regime. Sunni Muslims, some affiliated with al Qaeda, have rushed in to join rebels, most of whom are Sunni.
Both sides use religious rhetoric as a rallying cry, calling each other "infidels" and "Satan's army."
"That is why it has become so muddy," said professor Joshua Landis, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma. "The theological question has returned to the center."
January 26th, 2013
10:00 PM ET
The family of an American Christian pastor being tried in Iran for his religious activities were told Saturday that he had been moved to a different ward in the prison where he is being held, a U.S. religious group said.
Saeed Abedini "reportedly was moved to (another) ward to receive better medical treatment, although it is impossible to confirm his health status or if he is receiving treatment," the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) said in a statement. They were turned away because visitation hours for the ward are on Monday, according to the statement.
Neither Abedini nor his attorney has not been present at his trial since January 21. His family became concerned when they attempted to visit him on Thursday and were told by prison guards that he wasn't there, said the group, a right-leaning nonprofit founded by television evangelist Pat Robertson.
September 25th, 2012
04:40 AM ET
In an interview with CNN's Piers Morgan, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad condemns the anti-Islam film "Innocence of Muslims" and the extremist reactions to it.
September 20th, 2012
05:55 AM ET
By Ben Brumfield and Shirzad Bozorgmehr, CNN
Tehran, Iran (CNN) - They may be a far cry from their Western counterparts fighting for the acceptance to breast feed - or go topless - in public, but two girls clobbered a cleric recently in a small town in Iran, when he admonished one of them to cover herself more completely.
The cleric said he asked "politely," but the girl's angry reaction and some pugilistic double-teaming with her friend landed the holy man in the hospital, according to an account in the semi-official Mehr News Agency.FULL STORY
July 10th, 2012
02:39 AM ET
By Ed Payne, CNN
(CNN) - It has been more than 1,000 days since a Christian pastor was thrown into an Iranian jail for leaving Islam and sentenced to death for, as the U.S. State Department put it, "simply following his faith."
On Monday, the agency once again called on Iran to release Youcef Nadarkhani.
"Pastor Nadarkhani still faces the threat of execution for simply following his faith, and we repeat our call for Iranian authorities to release him immediately," said a statement from State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland.
His next scheduled court date is September 8.
March 13th, 2012
02:25 PM ET
Editor's note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.
By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN
(CNN) - As politicians in Israel and the United States beat the drums for war on Iran, it is worth remembering that Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, is on record against nuclear weapons.
In fact, according to a statement read on August 9, 2005, at a meeting of the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency, he issued a fatwa declaring that “the production, stockpiling, and use of nuclear weapons are forbidden under Islam and that the Islamic Republic of Iran shall never acquire these weapons.”
March 8th, 2012
09:12 AM ET
Editor's Note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.
By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN
Being president is stressful. Even the presents you receive can turn your hair gray.
Take the gift Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu bestowed upon President Obama on Monday: a copy of the Book of Esther. This book, which appears both in the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Old Testament tells a tale that Jews commemorate on Thursday with the holiday of Purim.
In this tale, set in the Persian Empire in the 5th century BCE, Persians plot to destroy the Jews. The villain of the story is Haman, whom Netanyahu described in his AIPAC speech on Monday as “a Persian anti-Semite [who] tried to annihilate the Jewish people.” The hero is Esther’s cousin Mordecai, who urges Esther, the queen to Persian king Ahasuerus, to prevail upon her husband on behalf of the Jews.
February 23rd, 2012
07:59 PM ET
By Dan Merica, CNN
Washington (CNN) - Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, an Iranian Christian charged with leaving Islam, has received a local trial courts final verdict, according to sources close to his legal team, and may now be executed for leaving Islam.
Jodran Sekulow, executive director of the American Center for Law and Justice, said he was informed on Monday by the pastor's legal team that the final execution order had been issued. At this point, said Sekulow, the pastor could be executed without the legal team's knowledge.
The White House issued a pointed statement on Thursday, strongly condemning the reports and renewed calls for Iranian authorities to release the pastor.
September 21st, 2011
04:50 PM ET
From Stan Wilson, CNN
(CNN) - When a prominent group of American Muslim and Christian leaders returned to Washington Monday after meeting with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and top clerical leaders during a six-day visit to Iran, they expressed optimism that two American hikers would be released within a few days.
On Wednesday, their hopes were realized when Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal were escorted out of Evin prison in Tehran after more than two years behind bars.
"We were very happy to learn about their release today," said Nihad Awad, national executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), who visited Tehran last week as part of a religious delegation.. "We are extremely happy for the hikers, their families and the country."
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.