July 22nd, 2012
03:00 AM ET

Muslim Olympians wrestle with Ramadan dilemma

By Richard Allen Greene and Aroub Abdelhaq, CNN

London (CNN)– Olympic judo competitor Hemeed Al Drie plans to sin during the Games in London, he admits with a grin.

"God is merciful and compassionate, even when our sins are many," said Al Drie, kneeling on a mat while martial artists hurled each other to the floor around him.

Al Drie's sin isn't what you might expect. It's that he is planning to eat and drink while the sun is up during the Olympics, even thought the Games fall smack in the middle of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Observant Muslims are supposed to fast during Ramadan, abstaining from all food and drink, even water, during daylight hours, then eating and drinking after sundown. Fasting for the month is a major religious obligation, one of the Five Pillars of Islam.

But Al Drie, 19, knows that fasting on days when he has up to six judo matches against the world's best competitors would doom his chances of winning.

"If you don't eat and you enter a competition, you might faint," he said. That would lead to instant elimination.

So Al Drie is going to stick to his normal competition diet.

CNN's Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the big stories

"Maybe some people will fast, and that's good for them. But for me, I can't risk losing any of my matches," he said.

Al Drie, who is from the United Arab Emirates, isn't alone in facing the Ramadan dilemma. It's not clear exactly how many Muslim athletes are competing in the Olympics this year, but more than one in five people around the world - about 23% - is Muslim, according to estimates by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

Religious experts in Saudi Arabia determine the starting date of Ramadan each year based on the phase of the moon.

Muslim athletes face a particular challenge because there are so many hours of daylight in London during the Games, says sports nutritionist Hala Barghout.

"It's a 17-hour fast in London. It's not like here in the Middle East," said Barghout, from the United Arab Emirates.

It is "physically impossible" for a world-class athlete to stuff as much food as they need into their body during the seven hours of darkness that remain, she said.

"How much can a person eat in one meal? You can't have, say, 3,000 or 4,000 calories in one meal. You need time to digest," she said. Three thousand calories is the amount that the U.S. government recommends that an active man in his 20s eat in an entire day.

Explain it to me: Ramadan

But one of the leading Islamic religious leaders in the Middle East says Muslims competing in the Olympics should observe the daytime fast, regardless of how it affects their performance.

"Playing sports is not a requirement in Islam. Players become athletes by choice. This optional activity, therefore, does not allow athletes to break their fast," said Ahmed Abdul Aziz Al Haddad, the grand mufti of Dubai.

Muslim athletes must also observe the fast because they are representing Islam at the Olympics, Al Haddad said.

"They must be ambassadors of their faith," he said. "Meaning that Islam must be present in their actions, and they do not fall into anything that Islam forbids."

How Olympic athletes rose from the Arab Spring

Competitors may eat or drink if fasting is threatening their health, he said.
"If a person feels extreme fatigue, sharia allows him to break his fast. Sharia is flexible," he said, using the Arabic word for Islamic law.

"But to immediately break your fast without being hungry or thirsty is the same as submitting to your cravings and lusts, and not putting God's desire before your own," the religious scholar argued.

Not all Muslim authorities agree with Al Haddad.

British Olympic rower Moe - for Mohamed - Sbihi has discussed the problem with his imam, and decided not to fast during the Games.

He plans to feed 1,800 hungry people in Morocco after the Games as compensation for not fasting during the holy month, and will observe a fast later.

"It was a hard decision for me to make," said Sbihi, who was born in Britain to an English mother and Moroccan father.

"When I first started rowing as a youngster, I said that I'd be fasting regardless," he said.

But over time he changed his mind. He did his university dissertation on fasting in sports, and consulted family, friends and coaches in Morocco and Britain before making his decision, he said.

British rower Mohamed 'Mo' Sbihi.

"In the end it felt like I was making the right decision for me, and that's to postpone my fast, to make it up at a later date," he said.

Sbihi has been considering the Ramadan dilemma for years, since it became clear that the 2012 Games would fall during the holy month. They usually don't. The Muslim calendar follows the moon, so Ramadan falls during different seasons in different years.

Members of the London committee organizing the Games this year noted it was not their decision to hold them during Ramadan - the International Olympic Committee sets the date.

The IOC pointed out that the Games "bring together virtually every religion and creed. ... How to deal with religious practices is up to each athlete and his/her personal beliefs."

Sandrine Tonge, a spokeswoman for the IOC, said different countries and individuals deal with the question differently.

"Some countries, like Egypt, for example, issue fatwas exempting athletes from the need to fast when competing," she said, using the Arabic word for a Muslim religious ruling. "At the end, religious practice is a matter for individual conscience."

Interactive: The evolving Olympic athlete

The London organizers pointed out that major international sports events have taken place during Ramadan before, including the Singapore Youth Olympic Games in 2010.

Dining facilities in the Olympic Village will be open 24 hours a day, and athletes observing Ramadan will be able to order "break-of-fast packs that will include water, nutritional bars and fruit," the organizing committee says.

Even with those provisions in place, and with the Games beginning in just days, Khadijah Fahed Mohammed hasn't decided whether she will fast.

The 17-year-old weightlifter is the first woman from the United Arab Emirates ever to qualify for the Games.

Her nutritionist has put together a plan for her to consume 5,000 calories a day - more than twice as much as an active woman her age should normally eat, according the U.S. guidelines.

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She's torn between her obligation to fast and her desire to win.

"Both are important to me. Fasting is a must," she said, even as she recognizes the importance of her first time in the Olympics.

"This is our chance. Ramadan just happened to be at the same time as the competition, so no one knows what to do. Should we fast or not?" she asked.

Her coach says she should.

"Many competitions have taken place during Ramadan," said Nagwan El-Zawawi. "I am not convinced you can break your fast. I mean, fasting is a must. There are no excuses."

But judo competitor Al Drie doesn't believe that.

"God is with me wherever I go, whether I fast or not," he insisted. "The most important thing is to have faith in God and give it your best and thank God, whether you win or lose."

CNN's Christina Macfarlane, Mohammed Jamjoom, Jon Jensen and Nima Elbagir contributed to this report.

- Newsdesk editor, The CNN Wire

Filed under: Belief • Islam • Ramadan • Uncategorized

soundoff (1,052 Responses)
  1. dr André Kruger

    I've been researching and practicing fasting for more than 30 years now. Our findings is the same as that of the university in St Petersburg, Russia: Energy levels and endurance increase measurably during a fast. After all, fat has twice the energy content of carbohydrate or its derivative, protein. And during a fast you need not waste energy on digestion and detoxification.

    BUT a fast STARTS about 24 hours after the last meal. This thing the Muslims do is not a fast. They stuff their faces as soon as the sun goes down, long before real catabolism sets in. That's what makes them so miserable and sick. If they were to do it properly, they would have been a lot healthier: There's not a single disease (anorexia nervosa included!) where the patient does not benefit from fasting.

    July 22, 2012 at 9:37 am |
    • Muhammad

      Bismillah, the fast the Muslims do is the same as Jesus Christ (Peace to Him) did for 30 days. Your research is not relevant and is less than correct. Starvation and fasting are mutually exclusive events.

      July 22, 2012 at 9:18 pm |
  2. Kebos

    Olympians: don't fret about this one. God doesn't exist. Now go out there and do your best in the games!

    July 22, 2012 at 9:27 am |
    • wrong side of the bed

      A brief moment of sanity.Thanks.

      July 22, 2012 at 10:25 am |
  3. Texas

    Maybe all religions change with time. Remember when I was going to catholic school, and the Nuns were saying you could do this, and you could not do other things. I made my own choice about what I would do. Maybe this is happening with the muslim religion now, but I do not think so. Until they start to take steps for change, there is not going to be much peace in this world.

    July 22, 2012 at 9:15 am |
    • Unknown

      If people do not like it they should leave it,not change it.

      July 22, 2012 at 9:17 am |
    • Kebos

      Man-made things are changed by man. Religion is completely man-made so let him change whatever he wants. In the end, it's changed so that it can survive. Like a virus.

      July 22, 2012 at 9:29 am |
  4. Unknown

    Do atheists care what "Muslims" do in the name of Allah or Islam,or pass it off until they force their "religious law" into "secular law".

    Seems like they only care for Christianity, lying that they treat all religions as equal.

    July 22, 2012 at 9:09 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      How many people are actually trying to impose Sharia on America? Close to zero, just a few extremists. However, hundreds of thousands, even millions wish to impose Christian beliefs onto everybody. You need to prioritize.

      July 22, 2012 at 9:23 am |
    • Unknown

      And atheists desire to push atheism upon the rest.

      Works both ways.

      July 22, 2012 at 9:25 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      About 99.9% of atheists only wish to have secular law, not atheist law,

      July 22, 2012 at 9:26 am |
    • Unknown

      Right.Yet many atheists have shown, they are trying to force non-belief on everyone.

      July 22, 2012 at 9:28 am |
    • Kebos

      I think most atheists don't care to convert anyone. Most atheists just want to point out the stupidity and nonsense that is religion.

      July 22, 2012 at 9:32 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      There's always going to be extremists. It doesn't change the fact that secularism is the only system fair on everybody except extremists.

      July 22, 2012 at 9:32 am |
    • wrong side of the bed

      I, as an atheist, would not like to see a sudden halt in religious belief.If religion were to be stopped in it's tracks, the world would be thrown into total chaos, as millions of believers would be without(what seems to be),a necessary moral compass.I would much prefer to dismantle religion,brick by brick, which will take thousands of years.

      July 22, 2012 at 10:35 am |
    • LinCA


      You said, "And atheists desire to push atheism upon the rest."
      Not really. You, and everyone else, is and should remain free to believe whatever nonsense you wish. In a free society no idea should be suppressed, no matter how ridiculous they are. All ideas should be up for discussion.

      Where rational people draw a line, is where those cockamamie ideas start to affect, or even harm others. So, while you are free to live your life according to your fairy tale, it should never be able to determine what anyone else does, or doesn't do.

      Religion, when properly kept in check, seems to be an effective way to keep the sheeple from losing control of their moral compass. So as long as we keep the harmful effects of religion from polluting society, I'm all in favor of letting it be. It's far better to let it die out via natural means through education and the free flow of information, than to try to force it out.

      July 22, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
  5. bello

    Ramadan has no dilemma at all. Ramadan is a pillar of Islam and Islam does not impose itself on anyone whatsoever. If you, however chose to be a Muslim, them there are laid down, clear rules and regulations that guide Muslims. One of these is that you must not perform any religious activity without seeking knowledge about the activity. There is no guess work, tossing of the coin of dice. You must seek for knowledge no matter the distance. Ramadan mubarak to Fasting Muslims worldwide.

    July 22, 2012 at 8:53 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Or just have a proper diet and stop being so retarded.

      July 22, 2012 at 9:25 am |
    • cc

      What about your peaceful religion spreading "peace" around the world? Is that not Islam doing exactly what you said it didn't?

      July 22, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
    • LetsThink123

      "If you, however chose to be a Muslim". You get to choose?? Oh when will Muslims stop lying. People r born into imaginary allahs cult not by choice. And especially in the middle east, if they choose to leave islam, the penalty for apostasy is death. So where's the choice come in?

      July 22, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • Jon

      I was raised agnostic until i was 27. I chose Islam. You have a choice too.

      Even when a Muslim adopts, the adopted child has the right over the parent to choose/not choose. The Muslim may not change their name, change their religion, or anything.

      July 22, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
  6. Reality

    Dear Muslim Olympians,

    A quick solution to your problem:

    From the studies of Armstrong, Rushdie, Hirsi Ali, Richardson and Bayhaqi----–

    The Five Steps To Deprogram 1400 Years of Islamic Myths:

    ( –The Steps take less than two minutes to finish- simply amazing, two minutes to bring peace and rationality to over one billion lost souls- Priceless!!!)

    Are you ready?

    Using "The 77 Branches of Islamic "faith" a collection compiled by Imam Bayhaqi as a starting point. In it, he explains the essential virtues that reflect true "faith" (iman) through related Qur’anic verses and Prophetic sayings." i.e. a nice summary of the Koran and Islamic beliefs.

    The First Five of the 77 Branches:

    "1. Belief in Allah"

    aka as God, Yahweh, Zeus, Jehovah, Mother Nature, etc. should be added to your self-cleansing neurons.

    "2. To believe that everything other than Allah was non-existent. Thereafter, Allah Most High created these things and subsequently they came into existence."

    Evolution and the Big Bang or the "Gi-b G-nab" (when the universe starts to recycle) are more plausible and the "akas" for Allah should be included if you continue to be a "crea-tionist".

    "3. To believe in the existence of angels."

    A major item for neuron cleansing. Angels/de-vils are the mythical creations of ancient civilizations, e.g. Hitt-ites, to explain/define natural events, contacts with their gods, big birds, sudden winds, protectors during the dark nights, etc. No "pretty/ug-ly wingy thingies" ever visited or talked to Mohammed, Jesus, Mary or Joseph or Joe Smith. Today we would classify angels as f–airies and "tin–ker be-lls". Modern de-vils are classified as the de-mons of the de-mented.

    "4. To believe that all the heavenly books that were sent to the different prophets are true. However, apart from the Quran, all other books are not valid anymore."

    Another major item to delete. There are no books written in the spirit state of Heaven (if there is one) just as there are no angels to write/publish/distribute them. The Koran, OT, NT etc. are simply books written by humans for humans.

    Prophets were invented by ancient scribes typically to keep the un-educated masses in line. Today we call them for-tune tellers.

    Prophecies are also invali-dated by the natural/God/Allah gifts of Free Will and Future.

    "5. To believe that all the prophets are true. However, we are commanded to follow the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) alone."

    Mohammed spent thirty days "fasting" (the Ramadan legend) in a hot cave before his first contact with Allah aka God etc. via a "pretty wingy thingy". Common sense demands a neuron deletion of #5. #5 is also the major source of Islamic vi-olence i.e. turning Mohammed's "fast, hunger-driven" hallu-cinations into horrible reality for unbelievers.

    Walk these Five Steps and we guarantee a complete recovery from your Islamic ways!!!!

    Unfortunately, there are not many Muslim commentators/readers on this blog so the "two-minute" cure is not getting to those who need it. If you have a Muslim friend, send him a copy and help save the world.

    Analogous steps are available at your request for deprogramming the myths of Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Paganism..

    July 22, 2012 at 8:10 am |
  7. panda

    Eating during fasting is a great sin.
    Blowing up infidels ? That's virtue.

    July 22, 2012 at 8:03 am |
  8. J.S.

    There is no reason whatsoever for these Olympians to fast. They have plenty of time to make up for these days in their training down times. And this such a non-issue in Islam, there's no shame about it or anything – CNN stop adding fuel to fire.
    So typical of CNN to try and make Islam out as this monster denying its followers food and drink even when they are competing in the Olympics.
    People who are not expected to fast are those who are: sick, traveling a journey of more than 50 miles, have certain dietary conditions, need regular pills, the elderly, pregnant women, women who breastfeed, people whose livelihood would cease if they fasted.
    In some cases they are encouraged to fast any other day of the year to make up for the missing days, and in other cases they are encouraged to give money out feed a poor person for every day that they didn't fast.

    Personally while traveling on business trips in Ramadan I decide whether to fast of not depending on the day. If I have a full day conference where my focus is needed, I go ahead and have that coffee in the morning. When I do decide to fast while traveling, i do so because it's easier to get it all done one shot while you're used to it.
    And contrary to common beliefs,I get plenty of nutrients in the evening, and drink my 2 liters of water . Fasting is only really hard for smokers and coffee drinkers, but often people use the month to cut down on their addictions. Yes it is inconvenient, but it helps you think of all those starving people out there.

    July 22, 2012 at 7:59 am |
  9. Lily

    Huh....please Olympics keep religion out of the Games. I'm sick of Muslims making a big deal about their religion everywhere. keep it in your homes and community and dont impose on the world at large.

    July 22, 2012 at 7:52 am |
    • cc

      Agreed, also revoke their tax exemptions. All religions for that matter they are all equally full of it.

      July 22, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
  10. complete list of Muslim winners


    July 22, 2012 at 6:44 am |
    • schroeder

      what do you want to say... the editor in chief shame on you to say that this is doing sin... no its not what it meant...
      he has dropped FASTING so that he can perform much better in sport so that he can make his country PROUD.. this is what he want to say to the world not that he wants to sin becoz he doesnot eat and drink..


      July 22, 2012 at 7:11 am |
  11. Just to clarify

    If you are travelling you are not required to fast. So not sure what is the big deal with Olympians breaking their fast, since they are on travel.

    July 22, 2012 at 6:40 am |
  12. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    July 22, 2012 at 6:36 am |
    • daveh32

      Of course it does. Go to a children's hospital and cure all the dying kids. While you're at it, could you cancel out this drought?

      July 22, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
  13. saintlysecret

    It isn't hard enough to be a good person, so let's invent some imaginary rules to make it even harder for ourselves. Then let's fail at everything anyway, and hypocritically point to all the fake good stuff we WOULD have done, but couldn't because it made no sense.

    Yeah, religion is really useful if you want to PRETEND to be good–if you're surrounded by people stupid enough to fall for that.

    July 22, 2012 at 6:35 am |
    • stupid followed to its logical conclusion

      becomes atheism proof provided above

      July 22, 2012 at 6:38 am |
  14. Zubair kaka

    Good luck to them I whatever choice they make. May Allah grant them success and forgiveness in this holy month. Also I would like to say I
    Hi to all the trolls above! Enjoy the trolympics'

    July 22, 2012 at 6:22 am |
    • common sense needed

      allah is an idol a false god and of no value

      July 22, 2012 at 6:39 am |
    • BUCKEYES00


      July 22, 2012 at 9:15 pm |
  15. Guest

    Olympic drinking game: take a shot every time an athlete faints

    July 22, 2012 at 6:02 am |
  16. HeavenSent Blog

    Hello and welcome to the HeavenSent blog. This is YOUR opportunity to voice your HeavenSent opinions!

    Please frame your posts to best preach to Atheists about the dangers of a Godless life-style.

    Here are some suggested key words to get you started:

    Itchy Ears
    God doesn't have favorites
    You're a putz, cough fool
    Liar against His truth
    Abide in Jesus' truth
    Stay on the wrong side of the gulf until you are blotted out for eternity
    Tommie Tom
    Minions of satan
    Prayer changes things
    Man-made lies of the talmud
    Jesus’ letter, the Bible
    God’s truth
    Jesus’ truth
    The truth
    Jesus Christ's truth are resurrected to eternity
    I am flying with Evil
    Boo hoo
    I know from Moe Curly of the 3 stooges that nothing works
    Those that believe in Him go with Him to eternity
    Lies lies lies
    Fat drippings
    Personal worms
    Horrors, earth quakes, floods, disasters are God's wrath against all of us
    You fools doing evil
    You atheists
    Smug atheists
    Prideful atheists
    Throw away that users manual
    Prayer really works
    No eyes to see or hear His truth
    Blotted out for eternity
    Burn burn burn for all eternity
    Writing your filth
    True Christians
    The liar satan
    Snakes in your Belly
    Athiests at CNN
    They are blocking my posts again
    Dead bones
    Logic?? I don't require a single shred to define my beliefs
    You must like worms
    Pay no attention to the small minded fools that got their brain fried
    Read back through the previous articles for over a year dummy
    I know you atheists to be fools
    Notice who is most quoted in the Golden rule. Jesus Christ's wisdom
    You believing something doesn't make it true
    I'm not holding my breath
    You own those labels
    Humble yourself and ask Jesus for forgiveness
    Reprobate minds
    Jesus told us he would give you reprobate minds
    After their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears
    Satan's lies causes confusion
    Atheists write this garbage
    Satan is death
    You are fooling yourself if you don't tell gays they suffer for eternity
    Tortured for eternity
    Blame it on the Christians for having the guts to tell idiots God's truth
    Your father Satan
    End of days taught in Jesus' truth is nothing new to Christians
    Another rock. Nothing new under the sun
    You insist on your lies having wings to fly
    You are still a pigeon
    The entire MO behind the atheist is to throw out as many lies and see what sticks
    Debating is the atheists game
    Satan impregnated Eve with Cain
    I know you atheists to be fools
    Christians are on these articles to ensure Jesus Christ's truth is posted
    Start your walk with Jesus
    Blinded by satan's lies
    Test from God. Do you have what it takes to pass?
    Serpent is just one of the multiple names of Lucifer aka satan
    The big bang and evolution are lies against Jesus’ truth to cause doubt, creating confusion
    Satan's lies are built on quick sand foundation
    What part of Jesus' truth is clarity and satan's lies are confusion do you not comprehend?
    There are no flaws in His word
    Jesus' truth stands for eternity
    Get over your obsession with me
    Lions and tigers and bears, oh my
    Rocks, everywhere on this site, rocks
    Seeds of Jesus falling on rock.
    Stepping over His seeds that get blown by the wind to find their way to fertile grounds
    Typical of swines trampling
    It's obsessive compulsion to grab at any straw to give a reason not to learn or understand
    Go back to posting under my handle and answering yourself
    Get a life and try to grow
    Singular swine using multiple handles.
    You still continue to refuse to learn your heritage
    I've posted the answer numerous times
    I'm glad the line from the movie Secretariat sticks in your mind
    Statistics prove that the more devout someone is, the higher IQ they have
    Read the Bible. It is 100 percent accurate in every facet
    It makes me smile to know that people will be tortured in hell for eternityS

    And much, much more! Remember….Muslims, Jews and Atheists need not apply!


    July 22, 2012 at 5:59 am |
    • deano

      Two questions......Are you planning on going to the movies or any other crowded public event anytime soon?
      Have you bought any automatic weapons lately?
      If you answered yes to either of the above, please let us know which events you will be attending, so the majority of the rest of us can do something else on that day.

      July 22, 2012 at 9:15 am |
    • wrong side of the bed

      You is b a t s h i# t crazy .Now get ready for Sunday service,and say Hi to your church buds from us Atheists!

      July 22, 2012 at 10:43 am |
  17. me

    Why all the hate?

    July 22, 2012 at 5:55 am |
    • Lisa

      People can not discuss contrary points without taking offense that others don't agree with them.

      July 22, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
  18. god

    what a load of bs! what a bunch of morons! but than again, athletes have never been the brightest sparks around...

    July 22, 2012 at 5:23 am |
  19. Religion is just bizarre. It has its bad points too.

    What kind of real god would give the slightest damn about how you eat or if you have a foreskin?

    July 22, 2012 at 4:28 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      The Abrahamic totalitarian god.

      July 22, 2012 at 4:34 am |
    • Jon

      well, for example-

      When your 6-year-old tells you she does not want to go to school, wants to throw toilet paper into the toilet and clog it, and spend the rest of the day eating sand in the sand box, then put her hand on the hot stove.... Do you say- Well sure, honey, go ahead, you know best!

      Or do you say- well, we kind of have set rules that we should follow so we make it to age 7 😀

      July 22, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
    • Sam

      Jon, it's called common sense, not rules. As far as I know, there is no rule book in anyone's home and if there are some rules, they are all flexible depending on the situation.

      July 22, 2012 at 9:18 pm |
    • Jon

      If it's common sense, why are there so many malnourished, obese children? Why don't children ever say 'please', 'thank you' or 'excuse me' any more? Why do so few people give up their seats on buses to pregnant, elderly and handicapped?

      We have all seen enough people do stupid things to know that we can't just rely on common sense all the time.

      As per your remark about being fexible with the rules (in this instance, fasting)–Where is the flexibility? –> If you are pregnant, nursing, mentally ill, physically ill, young in age, old in age, or --TRAVELLING--. I'm not sure why this article even exists, he meets the travelling criteria haha so he's not obligated. He does have to make it up in the future when he's able.

      But yeah, there is plenty of flexibility.

      July 23, 2012 at 10:13 am |
  20. Rational Libertarian

    I hope they fast and get battered by the opposition for being such idiots. Go ahead and ruin the years worth of training because of the ramblings of an illiterate, war-mongering pedarast.

    July 22, 2012 at 3:25 am |
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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.