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March 25th, 2011
09:34 AM ET

Christian to Muslim: A change of faith

Editor’s Note: "Unwelcome: The Muslims Next Door" features the Muslim community of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, where Matthew Miller has lived since age 15. CNN’s Soledad O’Brien chronicles the dramatic fight over the construction of a mosque in the heart of the Bible belt. “Unwelcome: The Muslims Next Door” airing at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. E.T. April 2 on CNN.

By Elizabeth M. Nunez, CNN

The actual conversion was brief. It only involved one sentence: “I bear witness that there is no God worthy of worship but God, I bear witness that Mohammed is the messenger of God.”

For 30-year-old Mathew Miller, those words represented the culmination of a long religious transformation from Christianity to Islam.

Miller is a digital media communications major at Middle Tennessee University and works part-time at a golf course. He was raised Christian in California, surfing and dreaming of being a radio DJ.

“My first interaction with Islam was this movie called ‘Not Without my Daughter’. That was my first glimpse into what Western society believed was really going on in Islam,” he said.

"Not Without My Daughter" is a 1991 film in which Sally Field portrays an America woman who flees from Iran with her daughter. The movie, based on true story detailed in a book by the same title, was faulted by critics for portraying a stereotypical view of Iranians and Islam.

But in questioning his own beliefs, and after a conversation with a Muslim friend, Miller’s interest in Islam was piqued.

“I think for the most part I was afraid, don’t really know of what,” he said.

Later, attending Friday prayers at a small Mosque in Murfreesboro, he began to learn more.

“When I put my head on the ground with them, it felt like I could say anything to God, and what I was asking for at the time was guidance. I wanted to know whether what I was doing was the right thing to do.”

His mother had long expected his change of religious faith. “I told my mother I was Muslim in Disneyland. She said ‘I don’t necessarily know if I feel good about it, but if it makes you happy and it’s what you feel is the right way, then there’s nothing I can do.’”

Now he regularly worships at the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro mosque.

Miller, a white convert in a diverse congregation, has heard comments about his faith - and the controversy surrounding his mosque. Once, an Iraqi war veteran told him that the new controversial Islamic Center of Murfreesboro should not be built because it could potentially harbor terrorists.

“I addressed his questions formally and it was funny because at the end of the conversation, he kind of started admitting, 'Well you know, I don’t know anything about Islam.”

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Interfaith issues • Iran • Islam • Mosque • Muslim

soundoff (3,206 Responses)
  1. Steve Lopez

    CNN is constantly trying to sell muslim beliefs on the American psyche, who's running CNN is the real question?.

    March 25, 2011 at 10:46 am |
    • Paul

      ...took the words right out of my mouth....

      March 25, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
  2. Chanselor Jenkins

    Why do so many on this board say Christians are condeming others. It seems to me it is the Athiests and the Agnostics who are comdeming the Christians. In fact, I have not heard any Muslims condeming anyone either. To all the Atheists/Agnostics lets live in peace with everyone. Be tolerant

    March 25, 2011 at 10:46 am |
  3. Billy

    From my perspective – after being in the Middle East for 6 years – Muslims of the Islamic faith (there is a difference) no how to be duplicite, lying assassins with no remorse. Dont trust any of them.

    March 25, 2011 at 10:46 am |
  4. Marcos V.

    When the day comes that we stop believing in invisible all omnscient beings and realize we are really just mediating with our self concious only then will the wars violence and hatred stop. Over 2000 years every religion has commited attrocities in the name of their faith. Please tell me if you arent supposed to harm anyone why is Ok to harm those of opposing religions? Only man would have created such contradictory terms

    March 25, 2011 at 10:46 am |
  5. fundies

    I like god and many other superheroes. I noticed that GOD never visited to the Hall of Justice, though. Snob.

    March 25, 2011 at 10:45 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      I think sometimes he stops by the Avengers Mansion though.
      Becuase the U.S. is God's chosen country, he prefers to hang with Capt America instead of superman.

      March 25, 2011 at 10:48 am |
    • Emanuel

      Me thinks doth protest too much...

      March 25, 2011 at 10:48 am |
  6. Harfnab

    Looks like this guy grew up under the total control of his mother, no father in any of the pictures. Then here she is taking a grown son to Disneyland? Islam gave him the best opportunity to confront his feelings about being controlled by a woman by joining a belief system that makes women objects and obedient servants.

    March 25, 2011 at 10:45 am |
  7. tyler

    I just want to say I live in murfreesboro, tn and this is not even half of the real story of what is going on here in murfreesboro. If only you knew the truth behind the reasons we dont want a mosque here then it would be more understandable. How would you feel if they wanted to build a mosque less than 100 yards from a christian church?????

    March 25, 2011 at 10:45 am |
    • adam

      Like I lived in a free country?

      March 25, 2011 at 10:56 am |
    • Melissa S

      What Adam said.

      March 25, 2011 at 11:09 am |
  8. Jackie Treehorn

    People need to get more in tough with God, and less in touch with religion.

    March 25, 2011 at 10:45 am |
  9. Mark

    Mathew Miller = idiot

    March 25, 2011 at 10:44 am |
  10. J

    Down with all religion.

    March 25, 2011 at 10:44 am |
  11. Joe S

    When the day comes that we stop believing in invisible all omnscient beings and realize we are really just mediating with our self concious only then will the wars violence and hatred stop. Over 2000 years and every religion has commited attrocities in the name of their religion. Please tell me if you arent supposed to harm anyone why is Ok to harm those of opposing religions? Only man would have created such contradictory terms

    March 25, 2011 at 10:44 am |
  12. jack

    To all To all of you who say that "Islam instructs its followers to kill" – learn about Islam before you start talking (I'm was raised catholic – but I’m a true atheist now). Most of you are so ignorant about Islam, but all of you who say stuff like "Islam creates terrorists" sound like you know all about Islam. Actually, If you take a look at history, Christianity is directly responsible for more wars and deaths (all in the name of god) than all other religions combined...

    March 25, 2011 at 10:44 am |
    • Z

      Quran, Surah 9

      9:1 A declaration of immunity from God and His apostle to the idolaters with whom you have made agreements:

      9:2 For four months you shall go unmolested in the land. But know that you shall not escape God’s judgement, and that God will humble the unbelievers.

      9:3 A proclamation to the people from God and His apostle on the day of the greater pilgrimage:

      God and His apostle are under no obligation to the idolaters. If you repent, it shall be well with you; but if you give no heed, know that you shall not be immune from God’s judgement.

      Proclaim a woeful punishment to the unbelievers,

      9:4 except to those idolaters who have honoured their treaties with you in every detail and aided none against you. With these keep faith, until their treaties have run their term. God loves the righteous.

      9:5 When the sacred months are over slay the idolaters wherever you find them. Arrest them, besiege them, and lie in ambush everywhere for them. If they repent and take to prayer and render the alms levy, allow them to go their way. God is forgiving and merciful.

      9:6 If an idolater seeks asylum with you, give him protection so that he may hear the Word of God, and then convey him to safety. For the idolaters are ignorant men.

      9:7 God and His apostle repose no trust in idolaters, save those with whom you have made treaties at the Sacred Mosque. So long as they keep faith with you, keep faith with them. God loves the righteous.

      9:8 How can you trust them? If they prevail against you they will respect neither agreements nor ties of kindred. They flatter you with their tongues, but their hearts reject you. Most of them are evil doers.

      Bible NIV, Matthew 5:43-48
      43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[i] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

      March 25, 2011 at 10:58 am |
  13. Mr.T

    CNN, do you get brownie points every time you do a story on Islam? Does it make you feel good inside? Gosh, look at us, we are so politically correct...we're not hate mongers like them country folk over thar down yonder at FOX. Geez, we get it already: Christianity is the scourge of the world, my Muslim neighbor doesn't want to blow me up, he likes Starbucks just like me, etc...

    March 25, 2011 at 10:44 am |
  14. bubbyboy

    This god allah does not offer you eternal life.

    March 25, 2011 at 10:44 am |
  15. Santi

    It is so funny how people will deny/ question the existance of God..Yet when faced with death as heard in real life recordings you can hear people collectively praying or calling for his help.

    March 25, 2011 at 10:44 am |
    • adam

      Did it ever cross your brainwashed mind that 1) these dying people you seem to know so much of might have already been religious throughout their lives or 2) in their fear of the unknown, they latched on to something irrational?

      March 25, 2011 at 10:49 am |
    • JT

      when has this happened exactly?

      March 25, 2011 at 10:51 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      I've been known to yell for God during orgasm.
      Does that make me a theist?
      "There are no atheists in foxholes" – what a contemptible lie! I can tell you from experience that it isn't so.

      March 25, 2011 at 11:00 am |
    • Santi

      @ Adam I think you know exactly what events ( aircraft accidents, naturals disasters, terroists attacks) I am talking about withhout having to go into details. How brainwashed are you? To think that there is no God? You can argue the science and make fun of or put down those of us that do, but hopefully you will grow older and wiser and have made peace with God before you die. This way if you are ever in such a hopless situation (I don't wish this on you) you are not forced to call on him because of fear, but for love. Peace be with you.

      March 25, 2011 at 11:09 am |
  16. shyst

    and another one's gone
    and another one's gone
    another one bites the dust

    Looks like satan fooled another fool! I do believe that islam is divinely inspired, where I differ from muslims is that I believe that inspiration comes from satan a fallen angel of God. Islam is one of satansgreatest inventions!

    "...God himself was slandered in paradise by Satan: let us not expect, therefore, to escape from the venomous tongue." – Spurgeon

    March 25, 2011 at 10:43 am |
  17. maybe

    Humanity has not been able to explain everything. Out of the infinite amount of planets a good portion of the population still believe this is the only planet inhabited. Many people believe our very existence is simply by chance. I do not think anyone can state with an absolutely certainty that their belief or disbelief is accurate. But there will come a time in the twilight of our lives when we all will find out. After all, the average lifespan of a human is roughly 70 years old, to this date we are still making discoveries regularly. We are still uncovering city’s that last seen the sun 1000s of years ago, discovering animals that man knew not existed. 70 years of life, may seem like a long time, but pales in comparison to the history of the world. There is so little we can accomplish in that short time. So much knowledge we lack and still seek to gain. Yet were adamant that one belief or disbelief is better than the other. To each his own.

    March 25, 2011 at 10:43 am |
    • Aezel

      No. Do not try to throw all beliefs into the same pot. Some have evidence to support them, some do not. Religious beliefs have not one shred of actual evidence to support their insane beliefs in a magical sky being. People who base their world view around rational thinking and knowledge that is obtained by evidence and skeptical analysis DO have evidence for their viewpoints. These two sides are not equal in any way in their validity.

      March 25, 2011 at 10:49 am |
  18. Joe S

    When the day comes that we stop believing in invisible all omnscient beings and realize we are really just mediating with our self concious only then will the wars, violence and hatred stop. Over 2,000 years and every religion has commited attrocities in the name of their religion. Please tell me if you are not supposed to harm anyone why is Ok to harm those of opposing views? Only man would have created such contradictory terms and be able to be absolved by admitting they did something wrong.

    March 25, 2011 at 10:43 am |
    • Bruce

      Such people are delusional, Joe. Your argument doesn't hold. If I steal something "in the name of Joe S", does that make it so?

      March 25, 2011 at 10:47 am |
    • MarylandBill

      Anyone who really believes that wars will end if religious faith disappears simply is clueless about reality.

      March 25, 2011 at 10:48 am |
  19. Ron from Jersey

    Darwin:

    You totally missed Jesus' principle in "bringing a sword." Perhaps you really need to understand the bible inasmuch as maybe you really believe that Darwin didn't have his own personal agenda.

    March 25, 2011 at 10:43 am |
    • Macdaddyoh

      You hear the joke about the priest and the alter boy?

      March 25, 2011 at 11:01 am |
  20. Rich

    Atheists feel the need to chime in here because they know God exists, and they will face him, and that is frightening to them.

    March 25, 2011 at 10:42 am |
    • fred

      lmao at you !!

      March 25, 2011 at 10:43 am |
    • Bruce

      Amen, brother.

      March 25, 2011 at 10:43 am |
    • fundies

      There is more than one god. Their names are iCarly and Sponge Bob. not necessarily in that order.

      March 25, 2011 at 10:44 am |
    • adam

      As an atheist, I feel that your statement couldn't have been more ignorant or idiotic if you had tried. Please don't pretend to speak for those who choose to use reason and empirical thinking.

      March 25, 2011 at 10:46 am |
    • doctore0

      100% certainty that the god o the bible/koran does not extis.

      Take that for all other gods too; What is a god anyways...

      March 25, 2011 at 10:47 am |
    • Trevor

      Yes thats why I don't believe in god, so I secretly believe in him. All atheists secretly believe in god the same way all die hard Christians are secretly gay.

      March 25, 2011 at 10:48 am |
    • Bruce

      Ok Adam, so where did your ability to think imperically come from? Just so many chemicals that make up the body?

      March 25, 2011 at 10:49 am |
    • gale

      You are so right. The ones on all these blogs who complain about any Christians comments are the very ones who don't want the way they think to be insulted. America, which was founded on the Christian concept took Christianity out of the public but every other religion and or belief or non belief fights with every breath they have to defend and push it on the public. Funny, they think their way should be forced on all and fight for someone's rights to defend theirs. Doesn't even make sense.

      March 25, 2011 at 10:52 am |
    • adam

      Here's the answer: yes, we are made up of chemicals and organic matter, but I don't know what allows us to have consciousness/sentience. The difference is, I don't have a constructivist way of thinking, making up an explanation that can, in no way, ever be tested.

      March 25, 2011 at 10:52 am |
    • Anthony

      It's Middle tennessee STATE University.

      March 25, 2011 at 10:53 am |
    • JT

      I wonder if he had converted from Islamic to Christianity if the Islamic response would have been as understanding and open??

      [His mother had long expected his change of religious faith. “I told my mother I was Muslim in Disneyland. She said ‘I don’t necessarily know if I feel good about it, but if it makes you happy and it’s what you feel is the right way, then there’s nothing I can do.’”]

      March 25, 2011 at 10:55 am |
    • adam

      gale: Sorry, but it nothing more than a myth that America was founded on Christian ideals. Many of the founders were agnostic, or, at best, universal pantheists.

      March 25, 2011 at 10:55 am |
    • Lamb

      @Rich.. The Bible says that arguing with people is a mute point. Unless God/ the spirit is drawing them to him they will not listen. All we can do is be kind ,respectful and wish them well. Jesus did not argue “He shall not strive, nor cry; neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets.” Matthew 12:19. So neither should we.

      March 25, 2011 at 10:55 am |
    • fred

      Not the big scary man in the sky! oh no ,maybe a belief in god is the unthinking mans way to cope with the fact that they can't understand how we actually got here , take for instance all the horrible things that go on every hour of every day, if there is a god then he would be an evil ,spiteful,cruel,god and worshiping him would be insane , Don't believe me ask any 6 year old molestation victim why god would let that happen to a completely innocent child , and if you believe in a god hovering in the sky you must also believe there is a devil living underground somewhere with millions of bad people, yet totally un traceable by science. The romans, the greeks, the vikings, the myans , the aztecs, ect..ect.. believed in multiple gods now all faiths believe there is only one god , why ? because someone published a book that says so? do you believe everything you read ?

      March 25, 2011 at 10:58 am |
    • Macdaddyoh

      Got any good preist and alter boy jokes? To all you so called "followers" please tell your preists to stop touching them kids!!

      March 25, 2011 at 11:05 am |
    • Bruce

      So Adam, if you recognize that your ability to reason through this is limited (as a human), then why not open your mind to the possibility that there is another cause of all creation that is above our ability to reason? I think that's the point. Our minds can only take us so far. Beyond that, it is about "What is the alternative?" For those that believe, we do have some point of imperical evidence. Many (Christian and not) agree that Christ existed on earth as a man. Many of the same note that miraculous things occurred apparently at his hand (i.e. raising his friend from the dead). For us, it points to more reason to believe than the absence of anything that "reason" can give us as a reason not to believe.

      March 25, 2011 at 11:06 am |
    • CW

      @Bruce

      Ergo Jesus? Why not Allah or Vishnu or Thor or the countless other mythical beings our ancestors dreamt up. Just because we don’t know the answer to something now doesn’t mean we never will. To fill our gaps of knowledge with magic and magical beings has proven to be the wrong thing to do every single time. What makes you think the mystery of consciousness will be any different? Your belief in a self-contradicting ancient book thoroughly grounded in magic and magical beings?

      March 25, 2011 at 11:54 am |
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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.