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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. Patricia Redstone

    Christians trivialize, fetishize, and make Jesus in to caricature – and they wonder why Christians reject The Christ and convert to Islam. The most recent phenomena in Christianity is the slogan culture that comes from an American marketing mentality – a culture that makes The Christ into a brand with lines like: "personal relationship with Jesus" "Jesus is my best friend," "Jesus is the reason for the season," Jesus is my co-pilot," "What would Jesus do?" ... That's advertising not theology folks. Since this young man was raised in "Jesus Culture" not Christianity, it's no wonder a simple testimony brought him to the the recognition of God who is complete and independent of his mascot, Jesus. God – in Jesus Culture – has to prop up his old, deaf and out-of-touch Father. No wonder the Islamic message of God proved to be so transformative for him.

    March 25, 2011 at 11:24 am |
  2. Tori

    Islam=death..Kill..murder
    Jesus=Forgiveness..Love..Heal..Miracles

    March 25, 2011 at 11:24 am |
  3. Zuhaib Jahangir

    IN THE NAME OF ALLAH WHO IS THE MOST MERCIFUL:

    TRANSLATION OF SURAH 109- KAFIROON
    Say (O Muhammad(pbuh) to these Mushrikun and Kafirun*):
    "I worship not that which you worship,
    "Nor will you worship that which I worship.
    "And I shall not worship that which you are worshipping.
    "Nor will you worship that which I worship.
    "To you be your religion, and to me my religion (Islamic Monotheism)."

    * O Al-Kafirun (disbelievers in Allah, in His Oneness, in His Angels, in His Books, in His Messengers, in the Day of Resurrection, and in Al-Qadar, etc.)!

    March 25, 2011 at 11:24 am |
  4. BeyondBelief

    It is easy for any one of us to spend much or our resources and time focusing on particular sets of beliefs and the obligations associated with them that we accept. So many 'systems' proding us, influencing us, or trying to get us to think and behave in particular ways. What is most true about them all is that people devise them. Yes, some people claim to be inspired or instructed by God to put these systems together but how do we really know? Do we rely on others to tell us spiritual truth and also embrace their systems of verifying the truths they provide us. Is "I am the way, truth, and the life" or "There is only one ___" in fact unverifiable or perhaps not true? How do we really know God is communicating to us?

    March 25, 2011 at 11:24 am |
  5. Karen

    The point this guy missed is that he could have talked to God in his Christian church any time, gotten guidance any time. Christianity even has a guidance book for life that anyone is welcome to use. It's called the Bible. He did not have to convert to Islam to get there. Being raised Christian and actually being a Christian is two different things. His ignorance of his ability to have an actual relationship with his heavenly father shows he was never really a Christian at all. CNN just looking for a headline, making a story- feeding into the Islamic desire to attract more ungodly, ignorant American kids. Why would anyone with knowledge of freedom that comes from knowing Jesus ever want to enter into a repressive religion like Islam? In fact, what the media doesn't put on the front page is the number of Islamics facing death for converting to Christianity. Now that is news.

    March 25, 2011 at 11:24 am |
  6. Dilby

    Can we please restrain the definition of "believe in" something or someone to existential claims? Commendatory claims are distinctly different from existential ones. Commendatory – "I believe that I am correct." Existential – "I believe gods, fairies, ghosts, hobbits, dragons, demons, hell, heaven, etc."

    March 25, 2011 at 11:24 am |
  7. KS

    What is it with the liberal left? They are so sympathetic to Islam and so hostile to Christianity, yet Islam is the religion that believes women have no rights.

    March 25, 2011 at 11:24 am |
  8. jchen

    garbage article, should not make front page!

    March 25, 2011 at 11:23 am |
  9. Harfnab

    People who believe the end of religion would mean the end of war and violence should have their internet privileges revoked. The Chinese "great leap forward" killed more people than any other single event in the previous century and was an atheist effort.

    March 25, 2011 at 11:23 am |
  10. Captain Pipps

    I for one embrace all faiths, be they Christian, Muslim, Pagan, Satanism, Paganism, Chicken Worship, Feet Worship, Divine Fetishism and the Divine Embracing of the Inner Self. All of these faiths are equally valid, for they all proclaim that the true mysticism can be found and awaits to give unto us true revelation after we pass off this mortal coil.

    So to all true believers I encourage you, one and all, to hurry up and die.

    March 25, 2011 at 11:23 am |
  11. Don F.

    So some random guy decides to renounce Chistianity and embrace Islam, to some degree so what....... What would have been interesting, had CNN choosen to do some serious reporting, are the reasons, thinking about this choice, what was the attraction to Islam and the repulsion away from Christianity.

    The only difference between the key statment (given in this article) " “I bear witness that there is no God worthy of worship but God, I bear witness that Mohammed is the messenger of God.” and a Christian version would be " “I bear witness that there is no God worthy of worship but God, I bear witness that Jesus is the son of God.”

    March 25, 2011 at 11:23 am |
  12. Pilfer

    So some washed surfer turned wanna be DJ attending media studies at a low quality university changes one irrational system of beliefs for another irrational system of beliefs and this is national news?

    CNN – you are making it increasingly hard to defend you or even bother stopping by to read the drivel you have been spewing.

    March 25, 2011 at 11:23 am |
  13. Karthik

    I don't know when people would really grow up and start believing in universal brotherhood! Beyond religion, beyond color, beyond creed, beyond ethnicity, there is something called humanity. Does it really doesn't matter whether you are a Christian, or a Hindu, or a Muslim to help a unknown person who is in need?
    It is just the fact that we started following our religion due the people/family around us, and it all actually drills down to how good you are as an individual and what good you can deliver to the humanity. I wish at least our future generations have only one religion (Humanity) taught in the society.

    March 25, 2011 at 11:22 am |
  14. Protestant Son

    I find it rather amusing that the majority of comments on this topic are mostly from atheist/agnostics. Wouldn't you say that it is rather illogical to be commenting on a subject that is irrelevant to you? So much for the "rational" thinking of the non believer huh?

    March 25, 2011 at 11:22 am |
    • WhatWouldHorusDo?

      Well, dear sir, have you ever been to the primate section of a zoo? Thats what its like for us, we come to watch you guys hoping for a hint of evolution to spring from our hairy little friends, but most of the time we just watch and giggle at them flinging poo at each other 🙂

      March 25, 2011 at 11:30 am |
    • Looneytoon

      I'm sorry. I will stop trying to educate myself, stick my head in the sand and wait for the end of days.

      March 25, 2011 at 11:35 am |
    • mayorkl

      Or...there are those of us who study religion as a sociological construct but are not believers ourselves. Understanding why people believe, what they believe, and how they think of themselves in regards to other believers is actually really fascinating. There doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to how Christians can be so fundamentally different from one another and still believe in what boils down to a variation on the same God. Same goes for the Sunni/Shi'ite muslims, Reform, Orthodox Jews...you name it. As a non-believer, the core of all of these ideals is a non-starter, but the stories they all tell are very interesting. That's why I come to these forums.

      March 25, 2011 at 11:37 am |
    • m richard

      We atheist/agnostics tend to be an inclusive bunch. Not to mention quite a number of us were brought up as Christians.

      Are we to leave the criticism of alcoholism up to only practicing alcoholics?

      March 25, 2011 at 1:23 pm |
  15. Will

    There can be only one Flying Spaghetti Monster

    March 25, 2011 at 11:22 am |
    • WhatWouldHorusDo?

      Are you from the alfredo or tomato sauce sect? Because the only TRUE bleievers of the great flying spaghetti monsters are those who are from the alfredo sect.

      March 25, 2011 at 11:26 am |
    • Looneytoon

      Ramen my friend. May you be touched by his noodley appendage.

      March 25, 2011 at 11:33 am |
    • Bob

      Hilarious! Sacrilegious, but very funny.

      March 25, 2011 at 11:33 am |
    • m richard

      Just a shout out for the marinara and capellini sect. We're number 1! Must I remind you other pretenders to the throne, that we only started cooking 3-4 minutes ago and we're already eating? Here's to a meatball in your eye!

      March 25, 2011 at 1:16 pm |
  16. Todd

    Funny thing is...this guy was never a true Christian to begin with so there really was no conversian to Islam. He was nothing before and now he is Muslim. True Christians do not convert to Islam, Mormonism or Catholicism.

    March 25, 2011 at 11:22 am |
    • Bob

      Something must be wrong with your religious teaching. Catholicism is Christian. In fact, it was the first and only Christian religion for hundreds of years. It has been and always will be Christian. When you make make remarks like that you are only showing your extreme lack of knowledge.

      March 25, 2011 at 11:28 am |
    • Michelle

      You don't think Catholics are Christians?

      March 25, 2011 at 11:28 am |
    • xxbmxx

      Catholics ARE Christians you idiot.

      March 25, 2011 at 11:29 am |
    • Finch

      Bigoted much, Todd? It is people like you who give the rest of us a bad name.

      March 25, 2011 at 11:29 am |
    • Looneytoon

      Correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't Mormons and Catholics Christians also? Or are you implying that your group are the only TRUE Christians. Gotta love it, Christians hating Christians...

      March 25, 2011 at 11:30 am |
    • Agno

      Christians hating Christians....where have I heard that before...oh yeah...Ireland.

      March 25, 2011 at 11:37 am |
    • m richard

      I would say that true Christians are those Christians who take to heart, and emulate, Jesus' love for others, and keep an open mind. Looks like you've got a way to go in that department, Todd. But, don't be discouraged, after all, miracles happen . . . don't they?

      March 25, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
  17. WhatWouldHorusDo?

    Religion is the opium of the people. If you all knew the truth I would lose my summer home in the hamptons. Just stay where you are and behave, there is ice cream and candy waiting on the other side.

    March 25, 2011 at 11:21 am |
  18. Tyredofit

    I agree with one of the other posters – we are guaranteed our right to freedom of religion. That means you believe as you choose, but you don't have the right to try to force those beliefs on anyone else.

    Is there a God? That's for each of us to decide in our own hearts and then follow through accordingly. But the Bible, the Quran, all these other books that were written by MEN? The very fact that they were written by MEN makes them suspect and fallible. Men have a tendency to slant things to suit their own purposes. Some of what's written may be the word of God, but I doubt that all of it is. It's way too slanted.

    March 25, 2011 at 11:21 am |
    • Karthik

      I concur. 🙂

      March 25, 2011 at 11:25 am |
    • Zuhaib Jahangir

      Brother, there is a GOD! who created you and this whole universe. Just have a look at the creation of this universe (everything is so systematic) and again have a look at your own creation. And one more thing to worry about! The same GOD, who has created you, will resurrect you. And you will be definitely in big trouble if you do not prepare yourself for that time.
      May GOD help you understand!!

      March 25, 2011 at 11:31 am |
    • Agno

      And man, unable to understand his world, created unto him a God made in his own image and saw that it was good.

      March 25, 2011 at 11:32 am |
    • Looneytoon

      Agno, you must stop using your brain and bow down to ignorance and hatred.

      March 25, 2011 at 11:42 am |
    • Madge

      Your thinking is a bit flawed. It's true that belief in God is a matter of faith, not factual proof, but religious books (the Bible, the Koran, etc.) are considered divinely inspired, that is, written by man, but inspired through God. We, as humans, are flawed, but the word of God is not. Meaning, if you try your best to follow the word, or to say in another way, do what God expects of you, you're on the right path. That pretty much crosses all 3 of the major religions.

      March 25, 2011 at 12:02 pm |
  19. llhjunk

    He converted from Christianity? No one threatened him? No one marked him for execution? He was able to freely convert his beliefs? I wonder how it will go for him if and when he chooses to leave Islam?

    March 25, 2011 at 11:21 am |
    • charles

      Once you're in you never get out alive. It's the religion of peace and I think Islam has a distorted view towards peace.

      March 25, 2011 at 11:25 am |
    • mayorkl

      Really? If he converts again to something else you think the congregation will really care? More likely they'll thank him for his time with them and never think of him again. It's America – normal people don't care what you do or what you believe in as long as it doesn't effect them.

      March 25, 2011 at 11:30 am |
  20. Yeiter

    And how is this concidered news worthy by CNN?

    March 25, 2011 at 11:21 am |
    • AlexaMcGraw

      I'm glad someone else said it – Why is this news?

      March 25, 2011 at 11:27 am |
    • mommers

      Because CNN loves to promote the beauty of being a muslim.

      March 25, 2011 at 11:27 am |
    • Patricia Redstone

      This story is on the religion page. If you don't want to read about religion, then read the news. But don't slam CNN because they printed a story about faith on the religion page. Or do you feel the religion page should only contain Christian stories?

      March 25, 2011 at 11:28 am |
    • Madge

      It's called "special interest story". Ever hear of that?

      March 25, 2011 at 12:04 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.