My Take: 'All-American Muslim' doesn't speak for this Muslim
One of the families in TLC's new show.
November 15th, 2011
04:20 PM ET

My Take: 'All-American Muslim' doesn't speak for this Muslim

Editor’s note: Aman Ali is a New York-based writer, stand-up comedian and the co-creator of 30 Mosques in 30 Days, a Ramadan road trip across America.

By Aman Ali, Special to CNN

Anytime I hear about a TV show coming out that features Muslims, my initial reaction is almost always “Oh man, please don’t suck. Please don’t suck.”

Unfortunately with TLC’s new reality show, it does.

“All-American Muslim” is the network’s new series about a group of Muslim families living in the Arab-rich city of Dearborn, Michigan.

Brilliant! What better way to show the mainstream public an insight into how multicultural and intellectually diverse Islam’s followers are… with a show focusing on just Arabs (20 percent of the world’s Muslim population) who follow the Shia sect of Islam (about 10 percent of the world’s Muslim population).

The show, which premiered over the weekend, presents itself as a glimpse into the American Muslim community but ignores an overwhelming majority of the cultures that comprise it. South Asians like my parents, who came from India, make up one of the largest group of Muslim immigrants in the United States.

That doesn’t bother me as much as the fact that the show makes no reference to African-American Muslims, another huge American Muslim group. Many of the black slaves that built the foundation of this country with blood, sweat and tears were Muslim.

And Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, Dave Chappelle and Lupe Fiasco are all American Muslims, too. Hell, Detroit is right next to Dearborn. All the producers had to do was turn around and they’d find one of the most active African-American Muslim communities in the country.

The first episode said Dearborn has the largest population of Arabs in the United States – a statistic I’ve heard echoed time and time again. But I just checked the latest statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau and learned that the Arab population in New York City is more than twice that of Dearborn. Seems like TLC can’t even stereotype correctly.

A bigger issue I have is with the show’s characters.

One woman is a boozing, tattoo-laden rebel child who wants to marry an Irish Catholic. Another is a scantily-clad and confrontational business shark who dreams about opening her own nightclub.

While I appreciate that the show is implying that Muslim women are more than just devout, headscarf-wearing housewives locked in the kitchen all day, why do the “liberal” characters represent an opposite extreme? Most Muslim women in this country don’t fit neatly into the ultra-conservative or ultra-liberal categories. They’re in the gray area.

The men on the show, meanwhile, are just plain boring. There’s a Muslim cop who insecurely reiterates his patriotism every 10 seconds. I’m surprised he doesn’t sleep in American flag pajamas and that his cell phone ringtone isn’t a Toby Keith song.

My favorite part of the show’s first episode is the spotlight it throws on the predominantly Muslim football team at Dearborn Fordson High School. “All-American Muslim” spends significant time on the team but leaves out that they’re 6-5 this season and scoreless in the first game losing by more than 40 points.

While its great that faith means so much to these players, it would be nice if scoring touchdowns meant just as much to them, too.

I recently co-created a project with called 30 Mosques in 30 Days, in which my friend Bassam Tariq and I drove over 25,000 miles to each of the 50 states to tell unfiltered stories about Muslim Americans. “All-American Muslim” doesn’t speak for them, nor does it speak for me.

These stories bear little resemblance to the narratives of my own or the ones I’ve stumbled across in my community.

You want to do an authentic story about an American Muslim? Do a story about a scrawny 20-something guy who awkwardly spends months mustering up the courage to tell a girl he likes her. Or girls that blabber about another girl they see talking to a guy for more than 11 seconds.

Best yet, passive aggressive parents that try to segue anything that comes out of your mouth into a lecture about why you should have been a doctor or why you’re going to die alone if you don’t get married by age 23.

That’s Muslim America. They’re stories of people no different than any one else in this country.

TLC has disappointed me. But maybe that’s not saying much, considering the network airs two shows exploiting the lives of little people and one called “I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant.”

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Aman Ali

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Opinion • TV

soundoff (1,669 Responses)
  1. CrushIslam

    Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is muslims alah

    November 15, 2011 at 11:58 pm |
  2. CJ

    I did not watch it. Just another reality show for which I am sick of.

    November 15, 2011 at 11:57 pm |
    • Nate

      Pretty much sums it up for me. I think this show has a little bit to offer, however. But yeah, reality shows are the lowest of the low. Just a total waste of time and space.

      November 16, 2011 at 12:00 am |
  3. Nate

    If I hear one more comment about how all Muslims are terrorists, or all Muslims are evil, or finally, how this show "hurt my feelings because of 9/11" I'm going to puke. Come on, people... These ideas are why we are looked upon as fools by huge portions of the world, and why we're behind most other industrialized nations. People need to wake up to the 21st century.

    November 15, 2011 at 11:57 pm |
    • HarshReality

      Cowflop, I totally agree. Not all of them are nuts, but enough that the rest are afraid to be easy-going and "real". Fear of God and their immams drives most.

      November 16, 2011 at 12:14 am |
    • lapedro

      blah blah blah blah, spare us

      November 16, 2011 at 12:19 am |
  4. Reality

    Islam gives women almost no rights and treats them like fodder for the male species as so bluntly noted by Aya-an Hi-rsi Ali in her autobiography, In-fidel.

    "Thus begins the extraordinary story of a woman born into a family of desert nomads, circu-mcised as a child, educated by radical imams in Kenya and Saudi Arabia, taught to believe that if she uncovered her hair, terrible tragedies would ensue. It's a story that, with a few different twists, really could have led to a wretched life and a lonely death, as her grandmother warned. But instead, Hi-rsi Ali escaped – and transformed herself into an internationally renowned spokeswoman for the rights of Muslim women."

    ref: Washington Post book review.

    some excerpts:

    "Some of the Saudi women in our neighborhood were regularly be-aten by their husbands. You could hear them at night. Their scre-ams resounded across the courtyards. "No! Please! By Allah!"

    "The Pakistanis were Muslims but they too had cas-tes. The Untou-chable girls, both Indian and Pakistani were darker skin. The others would not play with them because they were unt-ouchable. We thought that was funny because of course they were tou-chable: we to-uched them see? but also hor-rifying to think of yourself as un-touchable, des-picable to the human race."

    "Between October 2004 and May 2005, eleven Muslim girls were ki-lled by their families in just two regions (there are 20 regions in Holland). After that, people stopped telling me I was exa-ggerating."

    "The kind on thinking I saw in Saudi Arabia and among the Brotherhood of Kenya and Som-alia, is incompatible with human rights and liberal values. It preserves the feu-dal mind-set based on tr-ibal concepts of honor and shame. It rests on self-deception, hypro-cricy, and double standards. It relies on the technologial advances of the West while pretending to ignore their origin in Western thinking. This mind-set makes the transition to modernity very painful for all who practice Islam".

    November 15, 2011 at 11:55 pm |
    • Convert or You Will be Killed

      THANK YOU for sharing these book excerpts. People need to wake up. Islam is NOT A RELIGION OF PEACE.

      November 16, 2011 at 12:04 am |
    • Kyle

      I believe this was an article about american muslims? Obviously you have no point thus feel like the best thing to do is talk about a bad experience with followers of islam. Why not talk about the lords army in africa. A christian group that goes around raping and killing people?

      November 16, 2011 at 12:07 am |
  5. JJ

    the writer's go-tee has similarities to an unshaven va-jay jay...

    November 15, 2011 at 11:54 pm |
    • RadTad

      I think he stole his prop goatee off the set of the music video "D**k in a Box"

      November 16, 2011 at 12:03 am |
  6. CrushIslam

    Mahmoud Ahmadinejad the leader of ALL Islamers is sending these people here to take over our christian country and make an islamic one. That will never happen just the same way he will never be allowed to build nuclear weapons to destroy other countries. GO home scarf faces.

    November 15, 2011 at 11:54 pm |
    • Juan H

      We are a non secular country..please go back to school and take basic civic, government and US History classes.

      Our government is not runned by Pastors, Priests or the Pope....your comment shows your ignorance.

      November 15, 2011 at 11:56 pm |
    • Scott

      How about I crush you fool. Your ignorance is exactly why most of the world hates the U.S.

      November 15, 2011 at 11:56 pm |
    • RadTad

      Christian country sucks too ... what happened to secular country? Keep you religion to yourself.

      November 15, 2011 at 11:58 pm |
    • G-ses

      Holaluya! Get rid of all those damn muslims and their stupid praying rituals. And the muslim disguised as Scott too!

      November 16, 2011 at 12:02 am |
  7. G-ses

    Because the muslims are all terrorists, that's why i hate all muslims.

    November 15, 2011 at 11:54 pm |
    • Scott

      Are you some ignorant hick?

      November 15, 2011 at 11:55 pm |
    • G-ses

      Yo Scott, you're a muslim that's why you're backing them up. Why isn't your name Mohammad, Ismail, or something instead of Scott? Are you posing to be an american and plan to bomb us later?

      November 16, 2011 at 12:00 am |
    • Freeda People

      @ Scott

      Do you really have to ask?

      November 16, 2011 at 12:02 am |
    • RadTad

      G-Sus has the downs....

      November 16, 2011 at 12:05 am |
    • cowflop

      Agreed G-ses.

      November 16, 2011 at 12:13 am |
  8. Reality

    What instigated the attack on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon? And what drives today's 24/7 mosque/imam-planned acts of terror and horror? The koran, Mohammed's book of death for all infidels and Muslim domination of the world by any means. Muslims must clean up this book removing said passages admitting that they are based on the Gabriel myth and therefore obviously the hallucinations and/or lies of Mohammed. Then we can talk about the safety and location of mosques and what is taught therein. Until then, no male Muslim to include those living in the USA can be trusted anytime or anywhere..................................

    November 15, 2011 at 11:53 pm |
    • Scott

      Dude, they only reality here is that you are a under educated hick. Please think before showing the world your utter stupidity.

      November 15, 2011 at 11:58 pm |
    • Reality

      o On the koranic passages and world domination:
      "Mohammed could not have known the size of the world, but several passages in the Koran show that he envisioned Islam dominating all of it, however large it might be: “He it is who sent his messenger . . . that he may cause it [Islam] to prevail over all religions´(Koran 9:33, M.M. Ali; see also 48:28 and 61:9). M.M. Ali designates these three passages as “the prophecy of the ultimate triumph of Islam in the whole world.”

      Mohammed’s successors, the caliphs, quoted passages like these to inspire Muslim armies as they advanced out of Arabia, imposing Islam by the sword upon a peacefully unsuspecting Middle East and North Africa, as I described in the previous chapter.

      Islamic armies, imbued with what Mohammed claimed was divine authorization, imposed Islam by force over vast areas, all the while extorting wealth from subjugated Jews and Christians to fund their ongoing conquests. As I noted, major defeats at Tours, France, in A.D. 732, and again at Vienna, Austria, in A.D. 1683, halted Islam’s attempt to take all of Europe by force. Gradually Islamic forces were forced to retreat from Europe, except for part of the Balkans. But Islam has again set its sights on a conquest of Europe and of European civilization, wherever the latter has spread to North and South America and other regions. Muslim strategists ask their followers, Why do we find in these modern times that Allah has entrusted most of the world’s oil wealth primarily to Muslim nations?

      Their answer: Allah foresaw Islam’s need for funds to finance a final politico-religious victory over what Islam perceives as its ultimate enemy: Christianized Euro-American civilization. So, Islam follows Nazism, fascism and communism as the world’s latest hostile takeover aspirant.

      Nazis, fascists and communists failed. Does Islam have a better chance at success? I believe it will flounder if we awaken to its threat in time; yet, if there is not adequate planned resistance, Islam does have a better chance of succeeding. Communism’s world takeover attempt was guaranteed to fail because its economic policy was naively contrary to human nature. Advocating the rubric What is mine is thine, and what is thine is mine, communism failed to see that human nature will not keep those two balanced propositions in equilibrium. Like

      a female black widow spider consuming her mate, the latter part of the formula makes a meal of the former, leading to the collapse of any system based upon that formula.

      In contrast, political systems do well if they can persuade people to adhere to What’s mine is mine and What’s thine is thine maxims.

      Only if a strong religious incentive is added does such an idealistic formula have any long-term chance. Even then success will be spotty. But communism (and Nazism, for that matter) excluded religion. And that mistake was the final nail eventually clamping a lid on communism’s coffin. Communism, on a historical scale, perished while still in its childhood.

      Islam is not repeating communism’s mistake. Mating political cunning and incredible wealth with religious zeal, Islam does have a chance to succeed and will succeed unless major parts of the Western world unite to take appropriate countermeasures. But many Western leaders, unable to believe that a mere religion could possible be a serious political threat, keep proclaiming themselves as Islam-friendly, reasoning that all religions are good-aren’t they?

      A Muslim strategist in Beverly Hills, California, declared several years ago, as quoted by a friend of mine: “Now that the struggle between Western democracies and international communism is winding down, it is time for the real and final struggle to begin, and we are going to win!”

      Don Richardson

      November 16, 2011 at 12:08 am |


      November 16, 2011 at 12:10 am |
  9. Anonymous

    check this out: http://www.whyislam.org/

    November 15, 2011 at 11:52 pm |
  10. Reality

    A PowerPoint slide for posting on all the refrigerator doors in Dearborn:



    Added details available.

    November 15, 2011 at 11:51 pm |
    • Scott

      You got some serious issues.

      November 15, 2011 at 11:54 pm |
    • Reality

      Some passages from the "peaceful" koran;

      o "Believers, take neither Jews nor Christians for your friends." (Surah 5:51)

      "Believers, when you encounter the infidels on the march, do not turn your backs to them in flight. If anyone on that day turns his back to them, except it be for tactical reasons...he shall incur the wrath of God and Hell shall be his home..." (Surah 8:12-)

      "Make war on them until idolatry shall cease and God's religion shall reign supreme." (Surah 8:36-)

      "...make war on the leaders of unbelief...Make war on them: God will chastise them at your hands and humble them. He will grant you victory over them..." (Surah 9:12-)

      "Fight against such as those to whom the Scriptures were given [Jews and Christians]...until they pay tribute out of hand and are utterly subdued." (Surah 9:27-)

      "It is He who has sent forth His apostle with guidance and the true Faith [Islam] to make it triumphant over all religions, however much the idolaters [non-Muslims] may dislike it." (Surah 9:31-)

      "If you do not fight, He will punish you sternly, and replace you by other men." (Surah 9:37-)

      "Prophet make war on the unbelievers and the hypocrites and deal rigorously with them. Hell shall be their home." (Surah 9:73)

      "Believers, make war on the infidels who dwell around you. Deal firmly with them." (Surah 9:121-)

      "Say: 'Praise be to God who has never begotten a son; who has no partner in His Kingdom..." (Surah 17:111)

      "'How shall I bear a child,' she [Mary] answered, 'when I am a virgin...?' 'Such is the will of the Lord,' he replied. 'That is no difficult thing for Him...God forbid that He [God[ Himself should beget a son!...Those who say: 'The Lord of Mercy has begotten a son,' preach a monstrous falsehood..." (Surah 19:12-, 29-, 88)

      "Fight for the cause of God with the devotion due to Him...He has given you the name of Muslims..." (Surah 22:78-)
      "Blessed are the believers...who restrain their carnal desires (except with their wives and slave-girls, for these are lawful to them)...These are the heirs of Paradise..." (Surah 23:1-5-)

      "Muhammad is God's apostle. Those who follow him are ruthless to the unbelievers but merciful to one another." (Surah 48:29)

      "Shall the reward of goodness be anything but good?...Dark-eyed virgins sheltered in their tents...They shall recline on green cushions and fine carpets...Blessed be the name of your Lord..." (Surah 55:52-66-)

      Ans what instigated the attack on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon? And what drives today's 24/7 mosque/imam-planned acts of terror and horror? The koran, Mohammed's book of death for all infidels and Muslim domination of the world by any means. Muslims must clean up this book removing said passages admitting that they are based on the Gabriel myth and therefore obviously the hallucinations and/or lies of Mohammed.

      Then we can talk about the safety and location of mosques and what is taught therein. Until then, no male Muslim to include those living in the USA can be trusted anytime or anywhere..................................

      November 16, 2011 at 12:12 am |
  11. Juan H

    I tuned in to see what TLC would do with this show. I have many Muslim friends of both Arab and Indian backgrounds. So I have lots of exposure to the Muslim culture (and different types)

    The show was DULL and BORING.

    Won't tune in anymore. They show case one "type" of Muslim. And Dearbon is home Muslims from Iraq...just a small slice of the Muslim community. The Muslim community is very diverse (African, Arab, Indian, Asian), which TLC doesn't show.

    This show is a failure.

    November 15, 2011 at 11:50 pm |
    • RadTad

      One type of muslim? Juan, if we had a show for every single population segment, there would be an infinite number of programs. The point of this show is to portray muslisms in a positive light... not to do a deep dive ethnosociological examination of muslisms in america. if you want that, turn off the tv and go read a graduate level thesis paper

      November 15, 2011 at 11:57 pm |
    • JudyTTexas

      Oh Juan H, grow up...

      November 15, 2011 at 11:58 pm |
    • Juan H

      RadTad...the show was BORING.


      November 15, 2011 at 11:58 pm |
    • RadTad

      I'm sure it was boring ... but not because they didn't cover all subsets of the larger muslim population.

      November 15, 2011 at 11:59 pm |
    • Juan H

      I think I should hate all Germans and people of German decent because of Hitler. And also, I hate all Catholics because of priests who abuse children. I also hate all people who have children in pageants because of reality shows on TLC that exploit children on Toddlers and Tiaras. I hate, I hate and I blame and blame EVERYONE FOR EVERYTHING.

      Get a life already.

      November 16, 2011 at 12:02 am |
  12. Dee

    I agree with the author of this article.
    Muslims in America are not all Lebanese Shiite Muslims. I am a convert and I have to say, i was disappointed but I will watch hoping God willing it improves. I guess that community was just enough Muslim for tv.

    November 15, 2011 at 11:50 pm |
  13. JudyTTexas

    I watched the show and was very disturbed. It made me feel very uncomfortable...
    All I could think of was 9/11. It was like rubbing salt in the wounds of that day.
    I will NOT watch this show again... I hope and PRAY to my GOD TLC pulls it...

    November 15, 2011 at 11:50 pm |
    • Juan H

      Oh Judy, grow up.

      November 15, 2011 at 11:51 pm |
    • RadTad

      Judy, you are the only thing worse than this writer... grow the hell up.

      November 15, 2011 at 11:52 pm |
    • Nate

      Because these people are muslim, you feel like it's "salt in the wound"? Don't be so sensitive...I really doubt any of these people were on the planes that day....*cough*

      November 15, 2011 at 11:54 pm |
    • cowflop

      Bravo Judy! Bravo!
      There are no "American" muslimes.
      There are just muslime sleeper cells waiting for the call.

      November 16, 2011 at 12:01 am |
  14. IR

    There is nothing wrong with his article. There is no hate in his comments. This is his view and he did present some FACTS.
    I find it very sad and disturbing when I see some of these comments full of hate. This is when I realize what kind of sick society we live in. Normal person would not speak with so much hate. God help us all.

    November 15, 2011 at 11:47 pm |
    • RadTad

      And what, sir, are his facts? That they don't cover every nuance of the aggregate muslim population?

      Where are the shows for Latino and Asian populations? Do CBS sitcoms cover all white populations? Aren't BET, Telemundo, Christian/Jewish/Islamic TV, etc. channels inherently prejudice? I mean afterall, they don't equally cover all segments of a given population.

      November 15, 2011 at 11:51 pm |
    • JJ

      check your facts, 'cause he's wrong. more in NY, sure. more per capita than dearborn, no way. he is a cry-baby whose "30-day" story didn't get picked up by a major network. he's whining about no AA's in the show...well, welcome to america. it's a diverse place and you didnt' get in this reality show. man up, and move on...whatta baby.

      November 15, 2011 at 11:51 pm |
  15. cowflop

    Wake up America. We ARE at war with islam.

    November 15, 2011 at 11:47 pm |
    • Freeda People

      You're name perfectly illustrates your view (and probably your life in general). Maybe you're at war with Islam, flag-waver, but I'm not, nor are the thinking people of our country. There are an estimated 1.57 BILLION Muslims in the world...if they ALL wanted you dead, you would be already.

      November 15, 2011 at 11:59 pm |
    • Scott

      America started this war, when we invaded other countries for no reason.

      November 15, 2011 at 11:59 pm |
    • Afghan

      Any comments that show hatred toward the Islamic community are indicative of blatant ignorance of the religion, culture, and its people, which is exactly why this show was created: to show "Islamaphobic" America that we are not hateful, war-driven extremists, suppressors of our women, or any other stereotypical label associated with Muslims. Yes, it can be argued that some of the people on the show may not be the best representations of Muslims, but one could say that about any show that is geared around the lives of a particular ethnic/racial group. I, personally, as an American Muslim woman, do not feel that the women in the show accurately portray my own thoughts, feelings, and lifestyle, which many other Muslim women may feel as well. To those who strongly feel that women are suppressed in the Muslim community, think again. I have been raised with nothing but encouragement from my family, including the men, to excel in whatever I want to do in life, which I am sure most Americans would find surprising considering that I am a 1st generation Afghan women who was raised in a conservative Muslim household. I understand that many Muslim women are not in my same position, and that there are large patriarchal undertones within Muslim cultures, but society evolves. No one is doing these women any favors by blasting the religion they follow as oppressive, and then doing nothing about it. The patriarchal beliefs were typical of the 7th century, when Muhammad received his revelation, and prior to that during pagan times, BEFORE the advent of Islam. Even the Byzantine empire, which spread the Christian faith, felt that women should be kept domesticated and married in their teens, among other cultural patterns of the time that appear oppressive to us today. These beliefs did not suddenly occur out of their faiths, but out of culture. They were already there, and adapters of scripture and leaders utilized these cultural norms there were already apparent into their religious/political motives. No one at the end of 19th century thought that women in America would possess half the amount of rights and recognition that they do today. But they sought for equality, and they gained more respect into the 20th century. And now it's time for Muslim women to have their revolution.

      November 16, 2011 at 12:30 am |
  16. RadTad

    Just because he's a muslim minority, his parents are FOBs and he wears buddy holly nerd glasses, he has ultimate authority to decide what's politically correct? Where's his thesis on how various Latinos and Asians groups, Jews, Southerners and Waspy White people are portrayed on TV?

    Stick to the comedy, you arrogant, self-righteous d o u c he

    November 15, 2011 at 11:46 pm |
  17. yano

    nice beard, dick

    November 15, 2011 at 11:45 pm |
    • RadTad


      November 15, 2011 at 11:46 pm |
    • RadTad

      He looks like the lost Indian member of Color Me Badd

      November 15, 2011 at 11:47 pm |
  18. tallulah13

    I fail the see the point of this article. If you don't like a show, don't watch.

    November 15, 2011 at 11:44 pm |
  19. retired fed

    My 12 yo grand daughter is very upset they are doing this show. Stop trying to make them seem American. Watch some of the hidden camera reports that show exactly what they think of non-muslims. They scare the hell out of me, this religon needs to go.

    November 15, 2011 at 11:43 pm |
    • Freeda People

      You're scared so that means this religion "has to go?" I REALLY hope you were never really a "fed," but if you were, thank heaven you are "retired."

      November 15, 2011 at 11:49 pm |
    • molly bennett

      That is when you teach your grandaughter diversty. This world is ugly enough without people teaching hatered to children. God is my judge, who is yours?

      November 15, 2011 at 11:54 pm |
    • RadTad

      Your grand daughter is a capital B...

      November 16, 2011 at 12:01 am |
    • IR

      I am sorry I have to tell you this but clearly your granddaughters problem comes from your ignorance. You must be poisoning her with your sick views and hateful remarks.

      November 16, 2011 at 12:09 am |
  20. High IQ'er

    This article seriously sucks. First of all, "little people" do not like to be called "midgets." This is a condescending term. Also, I love the "girls that blabber about another girl" line. How pathetic and stereotypical of the author. Everyone has THEIR OWN story to tell, and there is nothing wrong with the stories being told on this show. It is the author it seems who wishes that the stereotypes would be portrayed as opposed to real life people who have dared to be different.

    November 15, 2011 at 11:39 pm |


      November 15, 2011 at 11:46 pm |
    • RadTad

      Midgets is okay by me too ... but the writer is being such a ultra-sensitive little pri*k that it is kind of hypocritical for him to use that politically incorrect terminology.

      November 15, 2011 at 11:54 pm |
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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.