Five takeaways from Pew’s comprehensive study on Islam
April 30th, 2013
03:33 PM ET

Five takeaways from Pew’s comprehensive study on Islam

By Dan Merica, CNN
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Washington (CNN) – A Pew Research Center study released Tuesday takes an in-depth look at Islam, including how Muslims around the world view extremism, sharia law and the meeting of religion and politics.

The study is a four-year effort by Pew, which conducted 38,000 face-to-face interview in 80-plus languages for the survey. In total, 39 countries and territories were included, all of which had over 10 million Muslims living there.

Here are the report’s five major takeaways:

1.) Differences between U.S. and international Muslims are vast

While Muslims in the United States share a belief system with Muslims abroad, the Pew survey released Tuesday and a Pew survey on American Muslims from 2011 reveals wide differences between the two groups.

An overwhelming number of Muslims outside the United States told Pew that “Islam is the only religion that leads to eternal life in heaven.” Ninety-six percent of Egyptians and Jordanians, 95% of Iraqis and 94% of Moroccan Muslims responded that “Islam alone” leads to heaven.

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When all Muslims outside the United States were considered, only 18% said many religions can lead to heaven. In the United States, that number is 56%, according to the 2011 survey.

Additionally, U.S. Muslims were more likely to have friends who were not Muslim.

“About half of U.S. Muslims say that all (7%) or most (41%) of their close friends are followers of Islam, and half say that some (36%) or hardly any (14%) of their close friends are Muslim,” the survey reports.

By contrast, an average of 95% of Muslims outside the United States said “most or all of their friends are Muslims.”

2.) Sharia law favored, especially by more devout Muslims

A whopping 99% of Muslims in Afghanistan told Pew that they favor sharia law – a Muslim code that dictates everything from dietary laws to morals – as the official law of the land.

Though Afghanistan is by far the most supportive of sharia, majorities in countries like Iraq (91%), Palestinian territories (89%) and Malaysia (86%) favor applying sharia to everyone in their respective countries. Support for this viewpoint was particularly strong in Southeast Asia, South Asia, Middle East-North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Analysis of the survey results by Pew found “most Muslims believe sharia is the revealed word of God rather than a body of law developed by men based on the word of God.”

Those who approve sharia becoming the law of the land generally pray more than their Muslim brethren.

Muslims who pray several times a day in Russia, for example, are over twice as likely to favor implementing Islamic law as the law of the land. The same split between those who pray several times a day and those who pray less often can be seen in Lebanon, the Palestinian territories, Tunisia and Turkey.

3.) Most Muslims believe religion, politics should be intertwined

A majority of Muslims surveyed in Southeast Asia, South Asia and the Middle East-North Africa told Pew that religious leaders in their respective countries should have political influence.

Much like favoring sharia law, religious devotion played an important role in these beliefs.

"Devout Muslims tend to be more supportive of religious leaders playing a role in politics,” the survey reads. “In a number of countries, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa but also in Southern and Eastern Europe, Muslims who pray several times a day are more likely than those who pray less frequently to say religious leaders should have at least some influence on political matters."

4.) Around the world, Muslims heralded religious freedom

Despite views that Islam should influence politics and law, an overwhelming number of Muslims told Pew that religious freedom was a good thing.

Ninety-seven percent of Muslims in South Asia, 95% in Eastern Europe, 94% in sub-Saharan Africa and 85% in the Middle East and North Africa responded positively to religious freedom, according to the poll.

“Overall, Muslims broadly support the idea of religious freedom,” the study states. “Among Muslims who say people of different religions are very free to practice their faith, three-quarters or more in each country say this is a good thing.”

5.) Islamic extremism widely rejected, but still a concern

Carrying out violent acts in the name of Islam is strongly rejected by Muslims around the world, according to the survey.

While a majority of Muslims, according to Pew, in all countries surveyed said “suicide bombing in defense of Islam” was rarely or never justified, “there are some countries in which substantial minorities think violence against civilians is at least sometimes justified.”

For example, in the Palestinian territories, 40% of Muslims said suicide bombing was often or sometime justified. In Afghanistan that number was 39% and in Egypt that number was 29%.

Despite most country’s disapproval of violence in the name of Islam, religious extremism – and in particular Muslim extremism – is a concern for a majority of Muslims in the world, according to the survey.

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“At least half of Muslims in 22 of the 36 countries where the question was asked say they are at least somewhat concerned about religious extremist groups in their country,” the report reads. “In most countries, Muslims are much more worried about Islamic extremists than Christian extremists.”

Concern over Muslims extremism was at it highest in Indonesia, Iraq and Guinea Bissau, where over 45% of Muslims said they were either very or somewhat concerned about violence in the name of Islam.

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Belief • Islam • Islamic law • Polls

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soundoff (1,682 Responses)
  1. looselycoupled

    "Overall, Muslims broadly support the idea of religious freedom"
    "majorities.. ...favor applying sharia to everyone in their respective countries"

    These two concepts are completely at odds with one another. Clearly, Islam and modern ideals of freedom and liberty are entirely at odds with one another and cannot coexist.....

    April 30, 2013 at 7:36 pm |
    • skarphace

      It merely means that they are unclear on the concept. To Muslims, "religious freedom" means the freedom to practice religion, not the freedom to choose which religion you practice.

      April 30, 2013 at 7:46 pm |
  2. fredappl

    Now please ask me if I give a Scheet. I don't care one iota. You f@#$ with the bull you get the horn. Please come forward, after 23 years in the Marine Corps I want to meet you on main street. You may not eat pork, but you are indeed pigs, you wallow in filth and somehow that makes you feel good. Come On, stop hiding show yourselves, no guts no glory. Punks with little or no guts. Want to be a MAN, stand up, want to hide behind a mothers skirt go for it.

    April 30, 2013 at 7:35 pm |
  3. islander

    The Bible says. "No man cometh unto the Father except by me." Simply put....No one.... with no exceptions whatsoever, can go to Heaven if they are not a Christian. That's not my decision, it's the word of the Lord himself. There will be no Muslims in Heaven..... no matter how nice they are down here.

    God also says that many call his name.......... but in the final analysis he will say......... "I never knew you", to the non-Christians.

    It also says you don't get there by doing 'good works', and that you can't 'earn' your way there. Eternal life is gift from God only to those who believe in the Trinity. God/Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

    It may be a tough stance........... but it's really the way it is.

    April 30, 2013 at 7:35 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      Got any evidence besides circular reasoning and fear tactics?
      And if it really is the case, then your god is an immoral douche not worthy of worship by anyone.

      April 30, 2013 at 7:38 pm |
    • Athy

      Heaven is a myth so you needn't worry about it.

      April 30, 2013 at 7:39 pm |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      It's the whole -believe in me or else, what a vicious god you have there.

      April 30, 2013 at 7:44 pm |
    • lisa

      God dammit. I aint goin.

      April 30, 2013 at 7:46 pm |
  4. STFU

    if there is a only Islamic way to go heaven !! no thanks I don't want to go to within a mile of that heaven, where Osama Bin Laden and his cronies are roaming free.

    April 30, 2013 at 7:33 pm |
  5. Carl, Secaucus, NJ

    If religious truth is so strong, then why are there so many different competing religions and sects? If there is one true religion, why doesn't everyone just naturally see the truth of it? Why do they need to be preached at, much less forced or threatened into it?

    April 30, 2013 at 7:32 pm |
    • Dennis

      Bingo. We have a winner.

      April 30, 2013 at 7:34 pm |
    • Athy

      That's pretty obvious, isn't it, Carl? I wonder why the religies don't get it.

      April 30, 2013 at 7:42 pm |
  6. johndcross1

    A brief dialogue between a Brazilian Theologist Leonardo Boff and the Dalai Lama
    LB: Your Holiness what is the best religion?
    DL: The best religion is the one that gets you closest to God. It is the one that makes you a better person.
    LB: What is it that makes me better?
    DL: Whatever makes you
    More compassionate,
    More sensible,
    More detached,
    More loving,
    More humanitarian,
    More responsible,
    More ethical.
    The religion that will do that for you is the best religion.
    I am not interested, my friend, about your religion or if you are religious or not.
    What is really important to me is your behaviour in front of your peers, family, work, community, and in front of the world.
    Remember, the universe is the echo of our actions and our thoughts.
    The law of action and reaction is not exclusively for physics. It is also of human relations. If I act with goodness, I will receive goodness. If I act with evil, I will get evil. What our grandparents told us is the pure truth. You will always have what you desire for others. Being happy is not a matter of destiny. It is a matter of options.
    Take care of your Thoughts because they will become Words.
    Take care of your Words because they will become Actions.
    Take care of your Actions because they will become Habits.
    Take care of your Habits because they will form your Character.
    Take care of your Character because it will form your Destiny.
    And your Destiny will be your Life.
    ….. And ….

    April 30, 2013 at 7:32 pm |
  7. Bill

    Nick Rymond, in his ignorant reply to a comment of mine below, spouts off about the religious freedom of the "Christians and Jews he knows in Iran, Turkey, Indonesia, Pakistan, and other Muslim countries...." as well as how "protected" they are. He further spouts off about the source of my news as FoxNews, while having no clue who I am or anything of my background.

    Rather than spar with a person who has no clue about me, my background, education, or informational sources, it might be just as well to encourage readers to decide for themselves. Simply Google "International Coalition for Religious Freedom" and click on ICRF country reports.

    The ICRF is a non-profit, non-sectarian, educational organization dedicated to defending the religious freedom of all, regardless of creed, gender or ethnic origin. They receive the bulk of their funding from the Unification Church community, which is HARDLY known for its extremist or conservative viewpoints. Quite to the contrary, they are a rather liberal group whose beliefs seek actively to defend people of all faiths worldwide.

    So research for yourself, unless you prefer the ignorance of people like Nick Rymond.

    April 30, 2013 at 7:31 pm |
  8. Mohamiss Shafique-Kaddir

    All Islamophobia will be crushed by the Obama administration soon by the DHS . The Muslim Brotherhood will see to that . Sharia will soon be coming to your neighborhood soon . Why do you think DHS is buying all those armored personel carriers and guns and ammunition for ? Obama will win America for Islam . Infidels will sonn be crushed . Inshallah Allah will have his revenge upon the Imperialist American dogs !

    April 30, 2013 at 7:30 pm |
    • lisa

      yay sharia law! whoo hooo! go obama!

      April 30, 2013 at 7:47 pm |
    • Raaghead Eradicator

      When pigs fly you pedophile worshiper. Your prophet (pis* be upon him) was nothing more than a murderer, thief, pedophile, slave trader, and liar. Obama won't help you and the US will never submit to your death cult. I understand that the constant inbreeding of your kind makes you violent and stupid, but don't be so delusional that you think you can take over the US. We will swat you like a fly.

      April 30, 2013 at 8:17 pm |
    • Ryan

      This sort of ganster mentality went out of style in the 90's with the bloods and the crips. Feeling the need to join a violent group is a sign of an adolescent boy with out of balance testosterone. If you want to be a man and gain respect, go get a job. Satisfaction comes from hard work, not creepy plotting behind masks and closed doors. Be a good person to others and you will be happy...and enjoy your religion peacefully, like a grown-up.

      April 30, 2013 at 8:26 pm |
  9. Are we really this dumb?

    Religion is the sole cause of all hate in this world. Open your eyes people!

    April 30, 2013 at 7:26 pm |
    • motorfirebox

      I'm agnostic, but give me a break. The Khmer Rouge didn't need religion to enact one of the most horrific mass executions in modern history.

      April 30, 2013 at 7:43 pm |
  10. God Loves Your AR-15

    Sharia approved by over 95%i in many countries. Women look out!

    April 30, 2013 at 7:25 pm |
    • B(iraq) Hussein Osama

      women look-out.....
      your husband can no longer just sh ag your sister and dump you and your child thereafter like a used tamp on. shariah law is coming and he will get his alls chopped off if he is caught with your sister.

      April 30, 2013 at 7:44 pm |
  11. Tim

    I was an atheist until God saved my life on the highway. I was driving on the highway and a car almost hit me. I turned the wheel to avoid being hit and when I tried to straighten the wheel the vehicle started losing control. At that time I blacked out. The next thing I knew I came out of the blackout and grabbed the wheel and turned it to the right and the car spun around and stopped straight in the lane. The only thing about it a strong power caused me to do this and it was so perfect I never could have done it. I since have dedicated my life to the Lord and am one of his children.
    I have heard that the atheist lifestyle is a great way to live, but the worst way to die. If you are right you have nothing to worry about and neither do I. But what if you are wrong?

    April 30, 2013 at 7:23 pm |
    • Are we really this dumb?

      You're a better driver than you gave/give yourself credit for. God didn't save you man, muscle memory and fast reflexes did. Get over yourself if you think you are that special that God actually intervened. Selfish...

      April 30, 2013 at 7:29 pm |
    • sam

      Yes, Pascal's Wager is always fun.

      There's absoutely no other explanation for what happened to you. Must have been god. Totally.

      April 30, 2013 at 7:30 pm |
    • Jesus freaker

      That's nice. God intervened to help you, but he lets children starve and die from cancer. Aren't you special.

      April 30, 2013 at 7:30 pm |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      If I'm wrong I'll never know. Pascals Wager is what you presented and it fails miserably. No-one has ever returned from the dead (not even jesus) to state that we are wrong and until there is evidence to support heaven/hell there is no reason to believe it..

      April 30, 2013 at 7:32 pm |
    • skarphace

      That is fine. Believe how you want to believe. I will do the same. If my belief is wrong, then I will deal with it then. By the way, you could be wrong too, you know. It could have been Allah that saved you. You will never know until after you die. Therefore, you are not safe at all. Go figure.

      April 30, 2013 at 7:40 pm |
    • motorfirebox

      What if you're wrong about the will of Allah, Tim? What if you're wrong about Taoism, and end up reborn in a lower form? What if you're wrong about the ancient Egyptians, and you're not able to get on Ra's boat because your body was improperly preserved? What then, Tim?

      April 30, 2013 at 7:51 pm |
    • Randy

      I don't believe your story. And even if it was true, have you even begun to understand exactly what you're saying? You believe a god snapped you out of it & helped you avoid a dangerous situation. OK, fine. But why did god send a car hurtling at you to begin with? It was sheer chance, not a miracle that you were not killed. It happens every single day. Sometimes people live, and sometimes they are killed. That is no proof of god. that is just life.

      April 30, 2013 at 8:35 pm |
  12. Mohamiss Shafique-Kaddir

    Every Muslim , knows , that only Muslims go to heaven , especially the mujahdeen martys who die in the act of Jihad against the Infidels and Kaffir . The world belongs to Allah , so only propper law is Allah's law , the Sharia , for the whole world . The earth belongs to Allah , and Mohammid ( PBuH) is his prophet . The world is Allah's , and Allah's law is the Shariah . Simply perfect .

    April 30, 2013 at 7:23 pm |
    • God Loves Your AR-15

      Stick an AK-47 up your poop chute and pull the trigger.

      April 30, 2013 at 7:27 pm |
    • Akira

      And every Christian thinks Christianity is the only way to get into Heaven.
      Quite the conundrum.
      Which is why religion is so divisive.

      April 30, 2013 at 7:33 pm |
    • STFU

      hey Mohamiss, stop hitting your head on the floor.

      April 30, 2013 at 7:39 pm |
    • bob

      Obvious troll is obvious (likely right-wing)

      April 30, 2013 at 7:50 pm |
    • Ryan

      Mohammid ( PBuH) was not a killer and would not condone killing. Decisions of life and death belong to God – not men. Any man who murders in His name will have to answer for his actions... to God – the only One who can judge men.

      This article is about religious freedom. Be grateful that you were able to choose your religion and that it was not forced upon you. When religion is forced, people actions are in it but their hearts are not. This would render religion meaningless and would be a shame.

      April 30, 2013 at 8:02 pm |
  13. romany

    so they advocate religious freedom do they, maybe until it comes to converting from islam to another religion then u are not free to choose that is a death sentence in most of these countries

    April 30, 2013 at 7:22 pm |
  14. The Postman

    Why should I bother with debating the mass of people who decry religion? Why should I care what you believe? Because it hurts me. It physically hurts me to see so many people who have followed the masses into disbelief. Even if it's not my belief, I'd rather see people with a belief in something. A belief in hope. You call me ignorant for putting my faith in what "I can not see or prove". Then I'll be 'ignorant' and you can be 'intelligent'. At least I'll be happier that way. And yeah, there's no way to spin that neutrally, not that I want to, I fully exclaim my belief because I"m not scared. I feel secure and I don't need to hate other people to feel that way. You don't have to believe, though I want that with all my heart, I just want you to see that your 'non-belief' is just as bad as the 'belief' that you bash. There is no difference between a "Christian" who spews venom against a gay man and an "Intellectual" who bashes a religion. And if you can't see that. Then I guess it just proves my point that much further. Thank you for your time.

    April 30, 2013 at 7:22 pm |
    • LinCA

      @The Postman

      You said, "You don't have to believe, though I want that with all my heart, I just want you to see that your 'non-belief' is just as bad as the 'belief' that you bash."
      Bullshit. You are free to believe in your favorite imaginary friend, but that belief is not fundamentally different from a belief in the Tooth Fairy or the Easter Bunny. There is equal evidence for each.

      You said, "There is no difference between a "Christian" who spews venom against a gay man and an "Intellectual" who bashes a religion."
      Yes there is. A gay man has no choice in the matter, while a believer does. All it takes is for a believer to open his or her eyes and rationally evaluate the roots of his or her beliefs. Also, nobody is trying to restrict you in your freedom to worship as you see fit. Pointing out that worship a figment of your imagination is simply a public service.

      April 30, 2013 at 8:02 pm |
    • David

      I believe everyone has the right to love who they want and to be who they want to be. If you want to believe in a "all powerful god", go for it. But it is NOT the same as a person bullying someone because of who they are. You should be ashamed of yourself for even saying that someone born gay and being killed for it is the same as you being bashed for CHOOSEING your religion. It is no where near the same thing and that is the problem with people of religion thinking it is not a choice. You should never compare something that is a choice to something that is not. Weather you like the answer or not, religion is a choice and just because you made the choice to believe in it doesn't mean you had to make that choice or were born to believe that. Religion is a lie and if you can not see that then go believe in your god (as you clearly are) who doesn't answer your prayers but don't compare your religion to us.

      April 30, 2013 at 8:09 pm |
  15. robert

    Concern over Muslims extremism was at it highest in Indonesia. Well, there goes Bali off my bucket list!

    April 30, 2013 at 7:19 pm |
  16. Robert Clendenin

    Do you really think you are that much different from them? Ok, I get it. Your god is the best. What percent of christians think christianity is the only way to heaven?

    April 30, 2013 at 7:18 pm |
  17. Judy

    Yep. What a fool. talk of what u know, which is mush and don't talk about mushy stuff that comes out of the pea soup that u call a brain. You insult God and Christianity because u and others like u dont like the Truth about yourselves because all of u are curring Christianity because at one either u visited a church or spoke to a christian who madu look at what is really in your hearts and none of u could cope with the evil u saw there and instead of turning to God u decided that either u didnt feel good enough to turn your lives over to Him or u like the evilness and now You love to curse God and Christianity and hate God for making u look at your messed up life. Its ovious because if u didnt feel vengeful against God, Jesus His Son aem Christianity all together u would not even be checking out the religiour blogs so that you can spew out your venom. The report did not mention Christianity at all, but you and all the other God haters brought Christianity up. Now i suppose ur are going to curse me out for telling u this because it touches a raw nerve, but i dont care. If u hate God and Christianity so much it is very easy dont go or look at reilgious blogs. HE STILL LOVE U ALL. DIDN'T THEY SPIT IN JESUS FACE AND ARE STILL DOING IT TODAY FOR HIS SACRIFICE FOR A WORLD THAT DIDNT DESERVE AND NEVER WILL. GO AHEAD TELL SATAN YOU WANT TO GO TO HELL WITH HIM. HE WILL GLADLY WELCOME YOU WITH OPEN ARMS. GO AHEAD ALL GOD HATERS. AND YOU WANT US CHRISTIANS TO SHOW YOU OUR GOD? WAIT AT THE WAY HE WILL REVEAL HIMSELF TO YOU. REMEMBER YOU ASKED WHEN IT HAPPENS.

    April 30, 2013 at 7:14 pm |
    • skarphace

      I don't hate God. It makes no sense to hate something that does not exist. Might as well hate Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, or the Tooth Fairy as hate God.

      April 30, 2013 at 7:18 pm |
    • RAY

      Easy there better seek some help.

      April 30, 2013 at 7:21 pm |
    • Bill

      Your tone reflects that you are a troll. You try to pose as a true Christian believer who also happens to be incapable of proper grammar and punctuation, thus demeaning Christianity (through your cleverly masked defense of it) by attempting to make Christianity's followers look like ignorant, screaming extremists.

      The true message of Christianity is the free decision that we each must make as to whether to accept Christ's free gift of grace, mercy and forgiveness for all of us, regardless of our past, simply by putting our faith and trust in Him.

      Screaming about how people are going to burn in hell or telling them that they are ignorant or evil is in no way related to the message Christ Himself offered, that of his mercy and grace and the free gift of having an eternal relationship with God through Him, to any who are willing to receive it.

      So troll elsewhere.....and stop impersonating a true Christian, because you're not, troll.

      April 30, 2013 at 7:22 pm |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Could you try to put that in English please? You sounded like a raving lunatic!

      April 30, 2013 at 7:25 pm |
    • sam

      Holy crap, they're letting the inmates at the asylum have computer time.

      April 30, 2013 at 7:26 pm |
  18. Robert Clendenin

    What the muslims, christians, hindus, jews, and anybody else with fantastical beliefs need is education. When I see thousands of people kneeling in front of a scribble on the wall or a little statue all I see are ignorant men clinging to primitive beliefs.

    April 30, 2013 at 7:13 pm |
  19. homer simpson

    "Amy said that there are lots of religions. Which is the right one?"

    "Well, not the Unitarians! If that's the one true faith, I'll eat my hat!"

    April 30, 2013 at 7:12 pm |
  20. Bill

    Interesting results...they show the contradictions within Islam.....such as:

    Muslims overwhelmingly believe that sharia law should be implemented throughout their societies, yet they say that they reject extremism and fully espouse freedom of religion.

    Hmmm. Now let's see. What is the belief system that is followed by the most violent extremists (terrorists) found in the world? That's right!! Conservative Islam, as found in the principles of sharia.

    How about religious freedom? How "free" are people of other faiths to practice their faith in societies where sharia (or a highly conservative version of Islam loosely based on Islam) rules the nation? Well, if you use Google much, you won't have to search long to find limitless examples of churches, temples, and synagogues being burned or bombed, Christians / Jews / Hindus being executed publicly, absolute legal prohibitions on the distribution of holy books other than the Q'uran, and so on.

    So we see – finally, through objective, inarguable data – that an overwhelming majority of Muslims contradict themselves when they speak of their own religion. Apply sharia law to everyone in the nation, involve the religious clerics in political control (a la Iran), but then at the same time talk about how "free" everyone is in spite of that.

    If you dug a little deeper, I suspect you'd find that their notion of a term like "freedom of religion" is VASTLY different from our notion of it. To them, being free to practice your own religion means what you do inside of your home, with the blinds closed, and never talk about it outside of your home.

    Doubt me? Just go to any one of the nations listed (or any other predominately Muslim nation) and work to establish a church, synagogue, or Hindu/Shinto/Buddhist temple. See how long it takes for your building to be burned (or, at minimum, locked up with chains) and for you to be arrested and imprisoned or executed for proselytizing. There are too many verifiable news stories with these exact things happening to deny that this is the truth.

    But CNN avoids reporting those facts......just portray Muslims as being overwhelmingly in favor of "religious freedom."

    Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha.........hahahahahaha. Yeah, right.

    April 30, 2013 at 7:11 pm |
    • Nick Rymond


      April 30, 2013 at 7:19 pm |
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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.