By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Editor
(CNN) – Books, filled with prayers for peace, splattered with blood. Sacred vestments shredded by bullets and knives. Lifeless bodies in the sanctuary.
The rabbis had gathered to ask God to bestow blessings upon their troubled land. Their prayers were interrupted by two men wielding butcher knives and a gun.
An Israeli police officer and four rabbis were killed, including an American whose family is considered "rabbinic royalty."
Combined with the site of the slaughter - a synagogue in West Jerusalem - the targeting of rabbis struck at the soul of Jews around the world, several Jewish leaders said Tuesday.
By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog co-editor
Washington (CNN) – As terrorism increasingly becomes a tactic of warfare, the number of attacks and fatalities soared to a record high in 2012, according to a new report obtained exclusively by CNN.
More than 8,500 terrorist attacks killed nearly 15,500 people last year as violence tore through Africa, Asia and the Middle East, according to the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism.
That’s a 69% rise in attacks and an 89% jump in fatalities from 2011, said START, one of the world’s leading terrorism-trackers.
Six of the seven most deadly groups are affiliated with al Qaeda, according to START, and most of the violence was committed in Muslim-majority countries.
The previous record for attacks was set in 2011 with more than 5,000 incidents; for fatalities the previous high was 2007 with more than 12,800 deaths.
Opinion by Hussein Rashid, special to CNN
(CNN) - During Ramadan, the holy month of fasting for Muslims, there is a night that I look forward to every year.
This night is called Laylat ul-Qadr, which translates as the “Night of Power” or the “Night of Destiny.”
It is the night when Muslims believe that the Prophet Muhammed received the first revelation of the Quran. He was in a cave, praying, when he hears the angelic voice of Gabriel speaking to him, bearing him a revelation from God.
CNN's Peter Bergen thinks that this night has symbolic meaning for al Qaeda, and perhaps it does.
By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
(CNN) – The Transportation Security Agency has issued an advisory about the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, telling its workforce and passengers that they may observe Muslims fasting, carrying prayer beads and whispering prayers on planes and in airports.
Ramadan begins this week, though the exact date varies depending on locale. It is the holiest month of the year for the world's 1.5 billion Muslims, during which many fast during daylight hours and dedicate more time than usual to praying and reading the Quran.
"Whenever the TSA is trying to create an environment of understanding, we welcome that," said Haris Tarin, director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council's Washington office. "At the same time, it highlights certain actions that can make the American Muslim population seem almost alien."
By Laura Smith-Spark, CNN
London (CNN) – A man thought to be a serving British soldier was killed by two armed men in a frenzied attack on a London street Wednesday, in what the government is treating as a suspected act of terrorism.
Witnesses told of a gruesome scene in which the man was hit by a car, then hacked with cleavers and his body dumped in the middle of the road in Woolwich, southeast London.
The two suspects in the killing were injured in a confrontation with police and have been taken to two hospitals, where they are being treated.
CNN affiliate ITN aired a video showing a man with bloody hands and holding a meat cleaver, who says, "We swear by almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you."
The man, who seems to have a London accent, carries on: "The only reasons we killed this man this is because Muslims are dying daily. This British soldier is an eye for an eye a tooth for tooth.
Editor's note: Ken Ballen, a former federal prosecutor, is president and founder of Terror Free Tomorrow, a nonprofit organization that investigates the causes of extremism. He is the author of "Terrorists in Love: True Life Stories of Islamic Radicals."
By Ken Ballen, Special to CNN
(CNN) - There are many unanswered questions about the motivations of the alleged Boston Marathon bombers, Tamerlan Tsarnaev and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. But it is becoming increasingly clear that they were inspired by faith in a radical Islamist ideology. Dzhokhar has told investigators that, among other things, he and his brother wanted to defend Islam, while Tamerlan's social media accounts are replete with clips by extremist clerics.
As the investigation continues to unravel the seeming paradox of how two apparently normal young men could commit acts of violence, classmates, neighbors and relatives of those who knew them have expressed surprise and disbelief.
I have interviewed over the past seven years more than a hundred radical extremists, including numerous al Qaeda and Taliban members, and it appears the Tsarnaev brothers fit the profile of many young men who turn to radicalism.
Young men—and they are almost always between the ages of 16 and 30—who convert to the radical Islamist cause come from a variety of socioeconomic and family circumstances. Before their conversion (and even often after), to all outward appearances they resemble their peers and seem like any other young men. What changes them?
Editor's note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is a political comedian and frequent commentator on various TV networks including CNN. He is the co-director of the upcoming documentary "The Muslims Are Coming!" and co-host of a new CNN podcast "The Big Three" that looks at the top three stories of the week. Follow him on Twitter @deanofcomedy.
By Dean Obeidallah, Special to CNN
(CNN) – I'm an American-Muslim and I despise Islamic terrorists. In fact, despise is not even a strong enough word to convey my true feelings about those who kill innocent people in the name of Islam. I hate them with every fiber of my being.
I'm not going to tell you, "Islam is a religion of peace." Nor will I tell you that Islam is a religion of violence. What I will say is that Islam is a religion that, like Christianity and Judaism, is intended to bring you closer to God. And sadly we have seen people use the name of each of these Abrahamic faiths to wage and justify violence.
The unique problem for Muslims is that our faith is being increasingly defined by the actions of a tiny group of morally bankrupt terrorists. Just to be clear: The people who commit violence in the name of Islam are not Muslims, they are murderers. Their true religion is hatred and inhumanity.
The only people terrorists speak for are themselves and the others involved in their despicable plot. They do not represent me, my family or any other Muslim I know. And believe me, I know a lot of Muslims.
By Dan Merica, CNN Follow @DanMericaCNN
Washington (CNN) – A majority of Muslims (57%) in Russia’s North Caucasus – including Chechnya, Dagestan and five other Russian jurisdictions – are either “very concerned” or “somewhat concerned” about religious extremist groups in their country, according to a Pew Research Center survey.
That number is higher than Russia as a whole, where more than four-in-10 Muslims in the country express the same level of concern.
This region of the world, particularly Chechnya and Dagestan, has been in the news recently because the suspects in last week’s Boston Marathon bombing – Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the younger brother who is still alive, and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the older brother who died in a shootout last week – had familial ties to the region.
The two brothers were born in Kyrgyzstan, where 62% of Muslims told Pew they were very or somewhat concerned about extremism in the central Asian country.
By Moni Basu and Eric Marrapodi, CNN
Follow @MbasuCNNFollow @EricCNNBelief
(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
By David Ariosto and Moni Basu, CNN
Boston (CNN) - On this brisk April morning in Boston's South End, worshipers filled New England's largest Roman Catholic church. It was a time to pray - and reflect on the torrent of violence this city has seen.
Last Sunday, a special blessing was said here for the runners in the Boston Marathon. Now, there were people sitting on the wooden pews who might have witnessed the tragedy. They were all scarred inside.
Almost a week has passed since bombs made from pressure cookers blew up near the finish line of the race. Three people died, and more than 170 were wounded. Many remain in hospitals.
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.