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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. David Nicholson

    In equally important news, Joella Newington from Backwater, Tennessee has given up her belief in crystal therapy and is now embracing homeopathy. Tune in again next week when she becomes disillusioned by homeopathy and turns to sea shell therapy.

    March 25, 2011 at 11:34 am |
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      March 25, 2011 at 11:43 am |
  2. Peacemaker

    I will quote, Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor:

    "No human race is superior; no religious faith is inferior. ALL collective judgments are wrong. Only racists make them."

    It is wrong to make collective judgments, for example "all Muslims are terrorists or all Muslims hate us" ....... Muslims are by a large majority peaceful people. Let's be careful not to judge and condemn an entire group, that's what the Nazis did when they condemn "all" Jews!

    March 25, 2011 at 11:34 am |
  3. Frank Sellers

    All religion is BS.

    March 25, 2011 at 11:34 am |
  4. The Truth

    Why all the bickering over which religion is correct? The creator of all things and One True God cares not whether you come to him through Judaism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, or Hinduism as long as you open your heart to him through prayer. Religions tend to take things a step to far and allow themselves to become greater than God when mankind imprints his own system of beliefs into the equation. Faith is all that matters regardless of the path you choose to take.

    Wake up people.

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

      Your comment was worth 100 of these articles. Thank you.

      March 25, 2011 at 11:41 am |
    • Sean

      Huh? "The creator of all things and One True God?". Who exactly is that, then?

      You start out so well – correctly identifying all religions as divisive and therefore dangerous by nature – but then it falls apart and I think you have it exactly back-to-front. Faith is *the* problem, the one thing that all the religions (not to mention CNN) hail as the ultimate virtue (because they have to), and the one thing that screws us at every turn. A pretty good definition of faith is belief in something (in this case Very Large things) on the basis of insufficient evidence (and the more you fly in the face of the evidence, the more of a "virtue" (ahem) your faith becomes!). It is the subversion of reason, what Daniel Dennett calls "playing tennis without a net". The problem with the concept of faith as virtue is that once you accept it, you are hostage to whatever metaphysical mumbo-jumbo comes along, including the blatant hate speech to be found in the bible and the quran. *Anything* can be justified on its basis (and has been – slavery and genocide included).

      The idea that it doesn't matter what you believe as long as believe *something* untenable about the cosmos is a very prevalent and a really silly idea. It seems to be based on the idea (also pushed by the religious at every turn) that you have to have *some* supernatural moral framework, or your life and your moral standing will fall apart at the seams. This is a common view in the US but there are whole nations that are majority or overwhelmingly secular (look at Sweden, Denmark or increasingly countries like the UK) and they match (or actually, let's face it, outperform) the US on every metric of moral order (e.g. incarceration rates, homicide rates, infant mortality, educational attainment etc. etc.). Millions of nonbelievers are good without god, for its own sake and not because of some cosmic threat or bribe. This should leave the idea of "gotta have faith in something" in tatters, but sadly it hasn't happened here yet.

      The idea of "Judaism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, or Hinduism [are all OK] as long as you open your heart to him through prayer" is also silly, because they are fundamentally incompatible systems of belief. Islam even specifically identifies Christianity and Judaism as false and heretical, and Christianity obviously contradicts Judaism about middle-eastern history! They all contain some version of "thou shalt have no other god but me", prohibition of false idols etc. and are therefore explicitly exclusive. So let's not try to pretend that they're all valid paths to god. As Sam Harris puts it, the stakes couldn't be higher and each of these claims are either right, or they are wrong. Choose wisely.

      March 25, 2011 at 4:24 pm |
  5. Jesus milani

    From one fake god to another.... way to go superstar!

    In the beginning Man created god.

    March 25, 2011 at 11:33 am |
  6. Samiu

    Islam means peas, and we have some people they are Extremist and the extremists do not like what we do, so this is why they put everything that they do not like it on Islam, they say, Islam says that, we need to understand deferents between Islam and Extremist, and you chosen the right way of God, if we study Islam we will find a lots of things that never mention in other religions by logical
    thanks

    March 25, 2011 at 11:33 am |
  7. Sam

    Islam is a government

    March 25, 2011 at 11:32 am |
  8. Mary

    God told Muslims and the Messenger of God, your job is to ONLY teach my message. The Koran even says, you cannot force anyone to become a Muslim. It is logical! God wants your heart. God does not want your empty words! Even when the Messenger of God was sad because no one was listening, God sent the Angel to tell him, your job is only to teach my words. And I will guide the people that seek me. Your job is ONLY to teach! Read more!

    March 25, 2011 at 11:32 am |
  9. Yeiter

    I don't see how CNN considers this event news worthy. People convert from and to different religions every day.

    March 25, 2011 at 11:32 am |
  10. Tori..

    REALITY...You need to check your brain...If you read the Bible you will experience Miracles and you are another idiot who doesn't know what you are talking about..Athiest? Please...bunch braindead individuals...

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

      Studies have indicated Atheists have higher IQ's than people who are religious, except perhaps Buddhists. I hope you'll take a moment to look that up, before you call Atheists "braindead" again. Someone might think you're – stupid.

      March 25, 2011 at 11:39 am |
  11. dave R

    ALL religions are based on blind faith...it just makes people feel good to believe in something. You will truly be free when you stop worshiping something (gods) that doesn't exist.

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

      Chapter 78 – Quran.
      An-Naba
      In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful

      What are they asking (one another about)? (1)
      About the great news, (i.e. Islâmic Monotheism, the Qur'ân, which Prophet Muhammad (SAW) brought and the Day of Resurrection), (2)
      About which they are in disagreement. (3)
      Nay, they will come to know! (4)
      Nay, again, they will come to know! (5)
      Have We not made the earth as a bed, (6)
      And the mountains as pegs? (7)
      And We have created you in pairs (male and female, tall and short, good and bad, etc.) (8)
      And We have made your sleep as a thing for rest (9) And We have made the night as a covering (through its darkness), (10)
      And We have made the day for livelihood. (11)
      And We have built above you seven strong (heavens), (12)
      And We have made (therein) a shinning lamp (sun). (13)
      And We have sent down from the rainy clouds abundant water. (14)
      That We may produce therewith corn and vegetations, (15)
      And gardens of thick growth. (16) Verily, the Day of Decision is a fixed time, (17)
      The Day when the Trumpet will be blown, and you shall come forth in crowds (18)
      And the heaven shall be opened, and it will become as gates, (19)
      And the mountains shall be moved away from their places and they will be as if they were a mirage. (20)
      Truly, Hell is a place of ambush — (21)
      A dwelling place for the Tâghûn (those who transgress the boundry limits set by Allâh like polytheists, disbelievers in the Oneness of Allâh, hyprocrites, sinners, criminals), (22)
      They will abide therein for ages, (23)
      Nothing cool shall they taste therein, nor any drink. (24)
      Except boiling water, and dirty wound discharges — (25)
      An exact recompense (according to their evil crimes) (26)
      For verily, they used not to look for a reckoning. (27)
      But they belied Our Ayât (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, and that which Our Prophet SAW brought) completely. (28)
      And all things We have recorded in a Book. (29)
      So taste you (the results of your evil actions); No increase shall We give you, except in torment. (30)
      Verily, for the Muttaqûn[], there will be a success (Paradise); (31)
      Gardens and vineyards, (32)
      And young full-breasted (mature) maidens of equal age, (33)
      And a full cup (of wine). (34)
      No Laghw (dirty, false, evil talk) shall they hear therein, nor lying; (35)
      A reward from your Lord, an ample calculated gift (according to the best of their good deeds)[]. (36)
      (From) the Lord of the heavens and the earth, and whatsoever is in between them, the Most Gracious with whome they dare to speak (on the Day of Resurrection except by His Leave). (37)
      The Day that Ar-Rûh [Jibril (Gabriel) or another angel] and the angels will stand forth in rows, none they will not speak except him whom the Most Gracious (Allâh) allows, and he will speak what is right. (38)
      That is (without doubt) the True Day, so, whosoever wills, let him seek a place with (or a way to) His Lord (by obeying Him in this worldly life)! (39)
      Verily, We have warned you of a near torment — the Day when man will see that (the deeds) which his hands have sent forth, and the disbeliever will say: "Woe to me! Would that I were dust!" (40)

      March 25, 2011 at 11:46 am |
  12. Sam

    So what? I discovered Paganism, but it never made the headlines.

    March 25, 2011 at 11:31 am |
  13. Clyde

    Yes, most Christians know little about Islam, Judaism, Mormonism, or Atheism. So what is the point...as long as this guy is not on the path to destroying the "Infidels" I don't care what he does. Radicalized anything is not good. My biggest concern is that at 23 I was a gullible ignoramus who could have easily been flipped into being a radical psycho by a persuasive group. For all of of I hope his conversion is based on a need for peace and harmony and not on a discontent with his former faith.

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

      What you need to understand is that true Islam is radical and has nothing to do with tolerance. Just read the Koran and find out for yourself. Jesus said "love your enemies", Allah/Mohammed said "Kill all the infidels (non-believers)...

      March 25, 2011 at 11:40 am |
  14. Mike

    And when he decides to leave his new faith, he will be declared an Apostate and his life will be forfeit. He just joined a club you can never leave upon pain of death.

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

      For people, unlike you, who actually know and understand Islam, it is such a beautiful and fulfilling religion that there is no reason to want to leave and convert. I am not speaking as a muslim, by the way, but as a young, white Christian woman who meets Muslim people at my place of work every day, and guess what– these people are thoughtful, caring, WELL-MANNERED, and respectful, very much unlike many American people that I cross paths with. There are as many Christian pedophiles (if not more) as there are "Muslim terrorists". Oh, and people, don't go quoting the Quran, if you've never actually read it yourself. Don't go be a sheep believing everything you hear.

      March 25, 2011 at 11:57 am |
  15. ObjectiveGuy

    OK, I still can't get past the part where this dude is 30 years old and still going to college, and works part time at a golf course. Clearly we're not dealing with the "sharpest pencil in the box" here, so the fact that Islam sounded good to him is no great surprise. If the Hari Krishnas or the National Association of Flaming Sword Swallowers had gotten to him first, he probably would have "converted" to one of them.

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

      There are 30 year olds going to school and unemployed, because there are no jobs for a large percentage of young people. You're lucky if you have a job, but will your children be as fortunate?

      March 25, 2011 at 11:41 am |
    • MoInFL

      Oh, sorry he doesn't quite fit your "mold" of what a successful American man *should* be doing by the age of 30. Some of us like to take our time in figuring out who we are and what we want to do in our lives. Congrats to you that you're working your slave 9-5 corporate job. Extra points if you have a white fence and a dog.

      March 25, 2011 at 11:47 am |
  16. john

    It is not a coincidence that every muslim country is F'ed up.......

    March 25, 2011 at 11:30 am |
  17. Rashid

    Because muhamad is not mentioned by name in the bible does mean that u shouldn't believe in him.4 ur information even the word BIBLE is not in the bible ! the word QURAN is in the quran.

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

      this is the dumbest comment i have read

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

      The Bible is Gods Words, so it is mentioned from the beginning to the end.

      March 25, 2011 at 11:33 am |
    • Jesus milani

      the fact that the word Quaran is in the Quaran just goes to show that this and every religious book is fictional. The word was not even first used till 1756

      March 25, 2011 at 11:35 am |
  18. Kael

    Jesus: Love one another as you love yourself. All are considered equal.

    Islam: Torture and kill anyone who does not agree with our only point of view. Woman is an animal to all man.

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

      I laugh at you. Not with you, at you.

      March 25, 2011 at 11:36 am |
    • Joe

      That is complete Rubbish. The Qur'an states that you should be tolerant of all religions as well. However extremists take it too far. Ever hear of the West'Boro Baptist Church? If not look them up; they are the Christian equivalent of Muslim extremists, worse I think.

      So stop acting like you know what you're talking about, when you don't.

      March 25, 2011 at 11:36 am |
    • t-dawg

      Obviously, your an idiot...

      March 25, 2011 at 11:38 am |
    • Kael

      Those are not my words, it is what the world sees everyday!!!

      March 25, 2011 at 11:40 am |
    • AM81

      Where did you get the Islam part?
      As a Muslim my faith even prohibits me from insulting and ridiculing any faith, let alone killing others. Quran states, that whoever kills a person (unjustly), it is as if he has killed the whole humanity, and whoever saves a person, it is as if he has saved the whole humanity.
      The exhortations to fight, kill and be killed are in the context of defending the then Islamic city of Medina against overwhelmingly numerically superior pagan forces.

      March 25, 2011 at 11:41 am |
    • S-NYU

      This is a huge lie! If you learned anything from Jesus (peace of upon him) you should know that you should only tell the truth. If what you said is true about Islam, then why thousands converts to Islam every year (from all nations and countries, especially in Europe and North America). Most of them are highly educated people and professionals. Do you think these people are stupid or missled?
      Islam is all about love and peace. Women are equal to men. Killing and torture are forbidden. Please try to read books from the true sources and avoid matching too TV.

      March 25, 2011 at 11:43 am |
    • Socks

      40 years ago, white christians in America wouldn't share a water fountain with black people. Many husbands beat their wives and treated them as lower class citizens. Now, an Enlightened America shuns all who haven't done an 180 degree turn in these areas. It's just so much easier to blame "Islam" and countries halfway across the world, rather than walk around the corner into their own slum projects and y'know – help people.

      March 25, 2011 at 11:49 am |
    • MoInFL

      Socks: very well said.

      March 25, 2011 at 12:00 pm |
    • Wow

      This is a lie

      March 25, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
  19. chief

    he is 30 years old and in college
    working part time at a golf course
    dreamed of surfing and being a DJ
    raised christian in california
    his first interaction with islam was a damn movie

    COME ONE – this isnt exactly what i call a conversion from anything to anything.... this about equvalent as bill murray making a movie as a golf course worker and then later a bowler...

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

      well put

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

      Chief, are you serious? Obviously he did some research about Islam, and spent time thinking about his conversion. This is a major faith change, and sometimes, all it takes is a movie, a story, or a conversation to get someone thinking about a new idea. Don't be so quick to knock down the relevance of this story. I think that the reason for it is to show that not all "white people" are ignorant and think that "Islam is of the Devil" like that psychotic Florida preacher...or, for that matter like a lot of people in this forum.

      March 25, 2011 at 11:43 am |
  20. Snooks

    Muslims convert to Christianity all the time as well. The media aren't interested in these stories, though. Christian converts to Islam have to keep a low profile to avoid death.

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

      Christians, Jews and Muslims are acturally the same religion. Everyone who doesn't believe in their religion is going to be torchered in hell forever. Religions are man-made-up.

      March 25, 2011 at 11:46 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.