Rising anti-Islamic sentiment in America troubles Muslims
The ruins of a mosque in Joplin, Missouri, after a fire last month that Muslims leaders suspect was an arson.
September 5th, 2012
01:19 PM ET

Rising anti-Islamic sentiment in America troubles Muslims

By Moni Basu, CNN

(CNN) -
When the nation pauses to remember 9/11 next week, a group of Tennesseans will gather at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Franklin for a commemoration. But it will be more than that.

On the program, called "The Threat in Our Backyard," is a lecture on Islam in public schools and a short film on Sharia finance.

It's a program organized by people who feel the American way of life is threatened by Islam - in particular, Sharia, or Islamic law.

Sharia would bring ruin to America, says Greg Johnson, vice president of the 9/12 Project Tennessee, a sponsor of the event that advocates for shifting government back to the intent of the Constitution's authors.

He says he has nothing against Muslims, but he takes issue with the tenets of Islam.

Sharia, he believes, would mean that practicing homosexuals would be put to death, women would not be educated and would be married off to men chosen by their fathers, and non-Muslims would become kafirs - nonbelievers - relegated to second-class citizenship.

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"And I don't want that coming to America," Johnson says.

He's not alone in his fears.

A tide of anti-Islam sentiment has been swelling across America in recent months, strong enough to prompt one imam to wish for the days immediately after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks when President George W. Bush declared that Muslims were not our enemies; that the war on terror was against a select few who acted upon their hate for America.

"In the 11 years since, we have retreated," says Abdullah Antepli, the Muslim chaplain at Duke University who likes to call himself the Blue Devil Imam.

Muslims make up less than 1% of the U.S. population. Yet, say Muslim advocates, they are a community besieged.

Hate crimes against Muslims spiked 50% in 2010, the last year for which FBI statistics are available. That was in a year marked by Muslim-bashing speech over the Islamic center near ground zero in Manhattan and Florida Pastor Terry Jones' threats to burn Qurans.

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Antepli likens the current climate to McCarthyism. Left unchecked, he says, anti-Muslim fervor, like racism and anti-Semitism, has the potential to evolve into something dangerous.

This year's holy month of Ramadan, which ended August 19, was marred by a spate of violence at U.S. Islamic centers that included a fire, a homemade bomb and pig parts. The incidents were unprecedented in scale and scope, says the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

At least seven mosques and one cemetery were attacked in the United States during Ramadan, according to the council and other groups that track such incidents.

Particularly visible on the anti-Muslim radar has been the state of Tennessee, where a mosque opened during Ramadan after two years of controversy. The new Islamic center in Murfreesboro opened a few weeks ago after delays caused by legal wrangling, community protests and vandalism.

Also in Tennessee, incumbent congresswoman Diane Black found herself publicly opposing Sharia after her opponent Lou Ann Zelenik made it a campaign issue.

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State senatorial candidate Woody Degan's website also mentions Sharia:

"VOTE CONSERVATIVE! VOTE Anti-Sharia, VOTE Against Internet Taxes, Vote FOR Gun Carry Rights! VOTE for your PERSONAL RIGHTS!"

And Gov. Bill Haslam recently came under fire for hiring lawyer Samar Ali, a Muslim woman from Tennessee, to work in the international division of the state's economic development department.

Ali's critics called her Sharia-compliant and a website called Bill H(Islam) attacked the governor for pursuing "a policy that promotes the interest of Islamist (sic) and their radical ideology."

The website links to another that discusses, among other things, Islamic infiltration of public schools.

"I cannot stress enough the seriousness of their push to spread their religion to all non-Muslims throughout our country," says website author Cathy Hinners, another speaker at next Tuesday's 9/11 event in Franklin.

Why do Muslims pray five times daily?

"Why? Why are Muslims so adamant that we accept their religion? The answer is simple. The answer is in black and white. The answer is in the Muslim brotherhoods "Strategic Goal for North America." It's called a global caliphate. One religion, one government, one law... called Sharia."

In November 2010, more than 70% of voters in Oklahoma approved a ballot initiative to amend the state's constitution that banned courts from looking at "legal precepts of other nations or cultures. Specifically, the courts shall not consider international law or Sharia law."

The amendment died after a federal court ruled it discriminatory.

"That was very explicitly anti-Islamic," says Glenn Hendrix, an Atlanta lawyer who specializes in international law. "It specifically referenced Sharia."

This year, 33 anti-Sharia or international law bills were introduced in 20 states, making it a key issue. Six states - Louisiana, South Dakota, Kansas, Arizona, Louisiana and Tennessee - adopted such laws prior to 2012.

CNN Explains: What’s Ramadan?

Two Tennessee lawmakers attempted to pass a bill this year that would have made it a felony to practice Sharia, but it failed.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations says the anti-Sharia bills are based on draft legislation promoted by David Yerushalmi, an anti-Islamic lawyer from New York.

Yerushalmi founded the Society of Americans for National Existence, an organization devoted to promoting his theory that Islam is inherently seditious and Sharia is a "criminal conspiracy to overthrow the U.S. government," according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups.

"Ideally," says the center, "he would outlaw Islam and deport its adherents altogether."

Hendrix says anti-Sharia legislation is not necessary since U.S. courts ultimately are beholden to U.S. law.

But it sends a strong message to the Muslim community.

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The American Bar Association, which opposes federal or state laws that impose blanket prohibitions on foreign laws, says such legislative initiatives stigmatize an entire religious community and "are inconsistent with some of the core principles and ideals of American jurisprudence."

Valarie Kaur, a legal advocate and hate crimes specialist, says proponents of anti-Sharia bills are battling an imaginary threat.

"There is no push to install Sharia law in the U.S.," she says. "Anti-Sharia bills target the religious principles of Muslim Americans and fuel anti-Muslim rhetoric and bias. As a Sikh American whose community has too often become the target of hate, I believe it's time to stand against all forms of racism and religious bigotry."

An attack at a Wisconsin Sikh temple last month killed six people. Many believe the shooter mistook Sikhs for Muslims. A Sikh gas station attendant in Arizona was the first victim of reprisal after the 9/11 attacks.

Kaur blames tough economic times and an amplification of hateful speech for incidents like the temple shooting and the momentum behind the anti-Sharia campaign.

For Muslims, Sharia - which means "path to the watering hole" in Arabic - is the divine law revealed centuries ago in the Quran that governs all aspects of life. More often than not, it's the most sensational parts of Sharia - like cutting off a thief's hand - that garner the most publicity.

U.S. courts bump up against it in cases of divorces, inheritance, child custody, enforcement of money judgments and commercial disputes or tort actions.

A trial court in New Jersey, for instance, ruled that a husband, who was Muslim, lacked the criminal intent to commit sexual assault on his wife because Sharia permits a man to have sex with his wife whenever he wants.

That's the kind of ruling that fuels anti-Sharia activists.

Nashville health-care investor Andrew Miller says there's no room for democracy within Islamic ideology. All you have to do is look to any Islamic state, he says.

"If you wanted to pray to a large rock and that was your God, I could care less," he says. "But the minute you want to put a gun to my head and say you will pray to this large rock and your family will or you will pay the price, that's when I see a bully. I see an overbearing ideology that wants to force and coerce people.

Miller describes himself as a tolerant person but not when it comes to people dictating how others will live.

"That's antithetical to the freedoms that we value, the liberty we value," he says.

The message that Islam is evil has been repeated so many times - sometimes directly, sometimes in a more subtle fashion - that it has sunk in as reality in the hearts and minds of many Americans, says Antepli, the Duke chaplain.

Part of it is fear of the unknown, he says.

"I, too, would have a monstrous image of Islam if I did not know any better."

But another part of it is orchestrated, he says, referring to "well-organized and polished" anti-Islam websites that have sprouted in recent years. Marry that with ignorance and the end result is lethal, Antepli says.

The Center for American Progress, a liberal research and advocacy organization, published a report last year that attributed the rise of Islamophobia to a "small, tightly-networked group of misinformation experts."

The report called "Fear, Inc." lists seven foundations that gave $42.6 million to think tanks to promote anti-Islamic thought.

It describes "deeply intertwined individuals and organizations" that "manufacture and exaggerate threats of 'creeping Sharia,' Islamic domination of the West, and purported obligatory calls to violence against all non-Muslims by the Quran."

The issue of Sharia, say some Muslims, has become a political hot potato in an election year.

GOP candidates Newt Gingrich and Michele Bachmann mentioned Sharia in their campaign speeches. This year's Republican Party platform makes mention of foreign laws:

"Subjecting American citizens to foreign laws is inimical to the spirit of the Constitution. It is one reason we oppose U.S. participation in the International Criminal Court. There must be no use of foreign law by U.S. courts in interpreting our Constitution and laws. Nor should foreign sources of law be used in State courts' adjudication of criminal or civil matters."

That's the message Miller hopes people will take away from next week's 9/11 meeting; that the tenets of Islam go against the constitution of the United States.

It's diametrically opposed to what people like Antepli and Kaur will be saying as America remembers the horror of terrorism. Hateful sentiment, they say, is not the answer.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Islam • Politics • Tennessee

soundoff (2,383 Responses)
  1. Paul

    Islam doesn't need all this publicity, they need to grow and become rooted into a country before stirring up things. Then the point will be mute, Islam will rule. Ask any muslim if that is not their intent and they will admit that it is. Americas freedom of religion is an open invitation for ruin.

    September 5, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
    • ScottCA

      Muslims are as methodical as a true sociopath in their practice, that is true. But the constant flood of honor killings that follow in their wake betrays their true nature.

      September 5, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
  2. herrer

    Maybe I should convert to buddism or maybe some religion were they are not involve politically.

    September 5, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
    • JimmyK

      "Buddhism"? Go check out what these Buddhist are doing to Rohinga minority in Myanmar.

      September 5, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
    • ensense

      Jimmy hiding behind a christian name does not make you a non Muslim. First check what the rohingias who are Bangladeshi Muslims and who were refugees in Burma did to native Burmese Buddhists once they overwhelmed them numerically.

      September 6, 2012 at 10:26 am |
  3. Seriously

    Consider these quotes, and how you might feel if you lived in a country where these sentiments were mainstream:

    “Our leader was not elected…he was appointed by Allah.”
    “Those who refuse to submit publicly to the eternal sanctions of Allah…must be denied citizenship."
    “I, your Provincial Governor, do hereby proclaim… a day of prayer and fasting for our country.”
    “Allah called me to this government position…my family fasted for three days to make sure it was true.”
    “"I would not put a Christian among my advisors, or in my government."
    “(our founding doc.uments) are quite clear that we would create law based on Allah of the Qur’an and Sharia Law, it’s pretty simple.”
    “I hope I will live to see the day when…we won't have any public schools. The Mosques will have taken over them over again and Imams will be running them. What a happy day that will be!"
    “There will never be world peace until Allah's house and Allah's people are given their rightful place of leadership at the top of the world."

    These statements should rightfully alarm you. Now consider this, YOU DO live in that country, and these are not Taliban quotes. In the above quotes the religious references have been changed. They are quotes from prominent, politically powerful Americans who would establish religious control over America’s government. Here are the actual quotes:

    “George Bush was not elected by a majority of the voters in the United States, he was appointed by God.” –Lt. General William Boykin, US Army
    “Those who refuse to submit publicly to the eternal sanctions of God by submitting to His Church's public marks of the covenant–baptism and holy communion–must be denied citizenship." –Gary North, Inst.itute for Christian Economics
    “I, Rick Perry, Governor of Texas, do hereby proclaim August 6, 2011, to be A Day of Prayer and Fasting for Our Nation.” –Rick Perry, Texas Governor and Republican Presidential Candidate
    “God called me to run for this office, and my husband fasted for 3 days to make sure it was true.” –Michelle Bachman, US Senator and Republican Presidential Candidate
    “"I would not put a Muslim in my cabinet, or in my administration." –Herman Cain, Republican Presidential Candidate
    “(Our founding doc.uments) are quite clear that we would create law based on the God of the Bible and the 10 commandments, it’s pretty simple.” –Sarah Palin
    I hope I will live to see the day when, as in the early days of our country, we won't have any public schools. The churches will have taken over them over again and Christians will be running them. What a happy day that will be!" - Jerry Falwell
    There will never be world peace until God's house and God's people are given their rightful place of leadership at the top of the world." –Pat Robertson

    These statements should be no more frightening in an Islamic or a Christian context – this kind of rhetoric is a serious threat no matter who it comes from. Theocracy is dangerous no matter whose God is invoked. We hear these things from pious politicians every day and are likely desensitized to them, but even momentary consideration reveals them to be un-American to the core. Religious fundamentalists make no secret of their goal of controlling our government and establishing their narrow beliefs as law. We must not let that happen – not here, not in our country.

    It happens in small steps – the Ten Commandments in courthouses, prayer and creationism (“Intelligent Design”) in schools, revising science, history, and civics textbooks in Texas, State-endorsed prayer rallies, faith-based initiatives, and on and on – and because these steps may individually seem harmless, many people underestimate their consequences. That is why we must stay alert and fight to keep church and state separate. We should shudder whenever a politician or policymaker alludes to his or her religious beliefs as a justification for public policy. We should be deeply suspi.cious of anyone who claims to be chosen by God to lead us. We should aggressively defend our free society against any religious group who would hope to gain control over it.

    Do not underestimate the importance of defending the separation of church and state. Stand up for it at every opportunity with your voice and your vote.

    September 5, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
  4. JLS639

    Right-wing Christians who have been removing access to contraception, prenatal care and cancer screenings and saying the money will go to fund other clinics (which don't exist) want you to be worried about Sharia. Whatever happened to worrying about gay marriage? Oh, yeah, too many gays and they fight back too well. They learned to sticking to bullying the poor and smaller minorities.

    September 5, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
    • cc

      Are you kidding me dumb dumb?

      September 5, 2012 at 10:26 pm |
    • ensense

      I am not a christian and I am against sharia, what say your now.

      September 6, 2012 at 9:56 am |
  5. ScottCA

    Some interesting quotes in here.

    September 5, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
    • Shakira


      September 5, 2012 at 9:39 pm |
  6. Huebert

    The Muslims are scaring the Christians, and the Christians are getting violent...what else is new.

    September 5, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
    • Robert

      You are a FOOL!

      September 5, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
    • Huebert

      And you're a D!CK. Now would you like to add something or do you just want to continue trading insults?

      September 5, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
    • ScottCA

      Fearful you say? I suppose these people had quite a good reason to fear Islam

      ***Warning this news report video is very graphic Viewer Discretion Strongly Advised***

      September 5, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
    • ScottCA

      the penalty for a believer leaving Islam is death. There is no modern equivalent in Christianity of any kind. Christianity is a total load of BS based in no evidence, but they don't kill people for apostasy or blasphemy anymore.

      September 5, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
    • Amniculi

      I say let them kill each other. We could use some extra elbow room on this planet.

      September 5, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • Huebert


      I am an atheist. I have never been maltreated by American Muslims for this position. I have been maltreated by American Christians, on numerous occasions. I have a hard time being more afraid of Muslims, ~1% of the population, than Christians.

      September 5, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
    • ensense

      Huebert i doubt your are a atheist. you are a Muslim practicing tauquia (deflection confusion in the infidel ranks) i have seen a lot of your posts defending islam, only a fanatic would do it.. but if you really are a atheist, then let me tell you, a few day's ago a plane flew over NJ with a banner proclaiming "there is no god" and no body cared. If that happened in any Muslim country and i repeat (any Muslim country) the pilot along with the organization which sponsored it would be stoned to death.

      September 6, 2012 at 10:07 am |
    • Huebert


      Where did you get your psychic powers o great sage. You so clearly divined my true religion. No wait you're just a jack @ss. But I'll make you feel better. Allah does not exist and Mohammed was nothing more than a concurring war lord. And as far as the plane goes, I couldn't care less how other countries treat non-believers. I am only concerned with the country I live in. And the Christians in this country are a far greater threat to our legal system and our democracy than the Muslims are.

      September 6, 2012 at 10:16 am |
    • Church of Suicidal

      I love how insisting our Muslim neighbors receive the same protections as any other American is proof that we ourselves are secretly Muslim. This is what would pass for logic on the Fox News boards, if they allowed comments.

      September 11, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
  7. Tom

    What we need to do is fight like we did in WWII and earlier. When we got attacked to bring us into WWII, we fought back. No country for a while would attack us because they knew what we could do. We need to do something like WWII nowadays. Because we haven't, this is why we're getting illegal immigrants in this country and why we got attacked on September 11. We need to fight!

    September 5, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
    • Tom is a loser

      Two unjust unwinnable wars in the name of your paranoia isn't enough for you?

      September 5, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
  8. Citizen

    Islam is a violent cult.


    September 5, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
  9. ScottCA


    September 5, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
    • dipstick

      he's burning in hell as will you.

      September 6, 2012 at 7:04 pm |
  10. ScottCA


    September 5, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
  11. William Demuth

    If you live in the US you're children aref FAR more likely to be molested by a priest than to be harmed by a muslim fanatic.

    That being said, I don't think permitting ANOTHER cult to gain a foothold here is all that wise.

    It has taken almost 200 years for us to knock the Jeebus freaks back a notch or two, so I really see no need to permit the next group of sociopaths the same freedom to undermine rationality and modernity.

    September 5, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
    • ScottCA

      All faith based religion is an evil upon the world. But none is as serious a threat as Islam. Remembering that the penalty for a believer leaving Islam is death.

      September 5, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      And they are FAR FAR more likely to be molested by a member of your family than by a priest

      September 5, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
  12. ScottCA


    September 5, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
  13. ScottCA


    September 5, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
  14. Amniculi

    "Sharia would bring ruin to America, says Greg Johnson, vice president of the 9/12 Project Tennessee, a sponsor of the event that advocates for shifting government back to the intent of the Const.itution's authors."

    What a nice excuse for racism. How is this in any way even a possibility? Muslims are such a small percentage of the American population. Just more fear-mongering for the ignorant (racist) masses.

    September 5, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      It's happening in the UK. They have legally binding Sharia courts. Also, last time I checked, Islam isn't a race, it's a violent cult.

      September 5, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
    • ScottCA

      Small for now. Muslims have been battling in Canadian courts to introduce Sharia Law.
      I am sure there are movements to do this in America as well.
      Remember the penalty for a believe leaving the Muslim faith is death.

      This is not a religion anything like what America is used to.

      September 5, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      To be fair Scott, it doesn't even say in the Quran to kill apostates, it's in the Hadith, whereas there are numerous references in the Old Testament with how to deal with apostates, and violent murder is the prevalent course of treatment.

      September 5, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
    • Mona

      Shame on you playing the race card. Thisis very real as laws have had to be passed in more than one state to prohibit sharia law. Sharia law is an excuse to brutalize and kill women with impunity. Perhaps you should investigate beyond liberal news sites. Europe has bitterly regretted letting muslims into their cou tries where crime is now rampant where there was none and neighborhoods have become slums.

      September 5, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
    • Amniculi

      You all are nuts. 1.) The Muslim population in this country is too small for this to even be an issue. It would never pass a vote. 2.) The Const.itution prevents systems like sharia law from happening. 3.) "Muslim" may not be a race, but neither is "Jewish", and that hasn't prevented people from being racist and prejudiced against them. This is nothing but right-wing, Christian religio-fascist fear-mongering at its best (or worst). Laws didn't didn't have to be passed, they were preemptive strikes against something that is never going to happen.

      September 5, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
    • Amniculi

      Oh, and the 9/12 Project? That's Glenn Beck's baby, and we all know what kind of nutjob he is.

      September 5, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
    • Christie

      New Jersey is already Sharia compliant – what's the big deal?

      September 6, 2012 at 9:41 am |
    • ensense

      In islam the laws which came the last take precedence over any previous laws, every Muslim knows that. So when they say it is a religion of peace, Muslims always point to an older law, when they all know there is a newer law which has modified it, and that is the one which they follow. that is the duplicitous nature of ISLAM. Amaniculi you say Muslim population is insignificant. I for one would not want to wait till it becomes significant. Islam has already destroying Europe from within. I would hate for America to be the next in line.

      September 6, 2012 at 10:17 am |
    • bam

      check again christianity is a violent cult

      September 6, 2012 at 11:51 am |
  15. ChristardMingle.com

    Beards. Beards everywhere.

    September 5, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
  16. ScottCA


    September 5, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
    • JimmyK

      The proof that God exists is in Qur'an itself. No human is capable of producing such prose/poetry combo with such high degree of consistency.

      September 5, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
  17. tuvia



















    September 5, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
    • bam

      the United States of America is NOT the military of Israel....
      Fight your own religious wars and stop infiltrating our government.....

      September 6, 2012 at 11:49 am |
  18. ScottCA


    September 5, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
  19. ScottCA


    September 5, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
  20. tuvia



    'Germany met with Munich terrorists after attack'

    08/26/2012 18:05

    Fearing additional attack on German soil, Germany offered Black September political upgrade of PLO, 'Der Spiegel' reports.

    Photo by: REUTERS / Handout

    BERLIN – For years, Germany’s government had contact with the organizers of the Black September terror group that was responsible for the murder of 11 Israeli sportsmen and a German police office at the 1972 Olympic Games, German newspaper Der Spiegel reported Sunday.

    Several months after the murders, the West German government proposed a secret meeting between one of the organizers of the Palestinian terrorist group and then-foreign minister Walter Scheel. The aim of the clandestine meeting was to create a “new basis of trust,” according to Der Spiegel.

    Germany’s government demanded a quid pro quo.

    The PLO would cease attacks on German soil in exchange for a political upgrade. In addition to granting political legitimacy to the PLO, the government would pull the plug on any criminal charges for the murders in Munich.

    Paul Frank, the state secretary in the Foreign Ministry, sent a signal to the PLO that the “Munich chapter” is now “closed,” Der Spiegel wrote.

    The newsweekly reported that when the French police arrested Abu Daoud (real name Muhammad Daoud Oude) – one of the main organizers of the killing spree in Munich – and inquired about extraditing him to the German authorities, Bavarian justice secretary Alfred Seidl recommended that Germany take no action. The French released Abu Daoud. Syria’s Assad regime protected Abu Daoud and the Fatah terrorist in a Damascus hospital in 2010.

    Germany today maintains a quid pro quo policy toward the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah that is similar to its posture toward Black September, according to German journalists and intelligence officers. The Federal Republic allows Hezbollah’s 950 active members to work legally in Germany in exchange for not engaging in terrorism on German soil.

    Philipp Missfelder, Bundestag foreign policy spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party, wrote The Jerusalem Post last week, “It is long overdue to place Hezbollah on the EU’s list of terror organizations.”

    The Berlin office of the American Jewish Committee issued a statement last week calling on Merkel’s administration to ban Hezbollah.

    September 5, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
    • William Demuth

      And your point is?

      Germany has made it's disdain for zionisim QUITE clear.

      Are you claiming they have done something illegal, or merely that you disaprove?

      September 5, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
    • William Demuth

      And as for Pollard, he is a traitor, and should be hung by his neck until dead and then buried with the corpse of a pig.

      September 5, 2012 at 2:21 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.