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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. JC

    This is worthy of a front page CNN headline? So he converted. Big dang deal. And now some people talk badly about him and he has to complain to the world that he is a victim. I am so tired of hearing how Muslims are misunderstood and oppressed. Boo hoo hoo.

    March 25, 2011 at 11:53 am |
  2. DnR

    No better way to have a serious conversation with your mother about your changing faith than telling her while riding It's A Small World After All at Disneyland.

    But seriously, good for him. Life is short, the earlier you find out about what makes you happy, the better.

    March 25, 2011 at 11:52 am |
  3. CheyneyBush

    To be honest, I am thinking of converting too!! It is the true religion of GOD !!

    March 25, 2011 at 11:52 am |
    • fundies

      I am consideing converting my shed into a chicken coop. I like eggs.

      March 25, 2011 at 12:00 pm |
  4. Dan

    I believe in the tooth fairy now but not the easter bunny. Can CNN do a story on me?

    March 25, 2011 at 11:52 am |
  5. Mary

    Most religions are anti-woman, and Islam is the worst of these. How much good can there be in a religion in which the "messenger of God" was a child-rapist?

    March 25, 2011 at 11:52 am |
  6. moslim

    There is no god but allah and mohamed is his last messenger to mankind. Moses,jesus and Mohamed are great prophet but should not be worshiped...

    March 25, 2011 at 11:52 am |
    • Godhasnochurch

      there is no idiot but you and all others are nothing compared to you

      March 25, 2011 at 12:14 pm |
  7. Eric P

    I don't really care what anyone wants to believe. I really don't. If you want to worship a god, a tree, or nothing. Who cares? Is this really that important in the big scheme of things? And don't bring up the morality thing, because it's nonsense. Morals don't come from God. There isn't a right or wrong way to live one's life. There ARE right and wrong ways to live within society, however...which only proves that "values" and "morals" are total BS. They mean absolutely nothing. What's correct in one place is wrong in another, so these ignorant clowns in NYC who are protesting the "victory mosque" as they like to call it or the construction of a mosque in TN are reprehensible human beings. They clearly don't value anything about what America stands for and I think THEY are the ones who should move...since that's what they tell everyone who doesn't agree with them to do.

    March 25, 2011 at 11:51 am |
  8. fundies

    I declared jihad on my italian hoagie.

    March 25, 2011 at 11:50 am |
    • Harfnab

      Which means you be declaring jihad on your toilet in about 30 minutes.

      March 25, 2011 at 11:56 am |
  9. Jim Marshall

    That "friend" who helped convert him could have just as easily been Jim Jones, or Charles Manson.
    There are so many people groping for a "greater meaning" that they'll be willing to join anything....

    weak pathetic souls.

    March 25, 2011 at 11:50 am |
  10. Hugh Jarce

    Look at his eyes – strangely vacant. I guess that's not uncommon for any variety of religious freak.

    March 25, 2011 at 11:49 am |
  11. REG in AZ

    I don't know a lot about Islam but much of what I see has the tendency to alienate. Not just the radical and the terrorist, although that is very significant, but also things like how they don't like to translate the Qur'an into any other language from Arabic. A lot of real effort seems to go into not being open and to being isolated. So much of what Islam presents seems to be all about control, about controlling the people and having them blindly following. Now maybe there is merit in having people being devote but I also suspect there is opportunity for abuse and, consistent with much of what has been demonstrated, that can be totally scary.

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

      Your statement about translating the Quran is absolutely incorrect. If you go into any local mosque or even on-line bookstore, there are always copies of the Quran available with English on one side and Arabic on the other. What is cautioned is that with translation, some meaning is often lost, so that is why the Muslims do not advocate relying on the translated versions. And just to the other people on this post...please educate yourselves. There are over 1 billion of us worldwide. Less than 0.01% have the mindset of a terrorist. I don't think people would take very kindly to the generalization that all white Christian are crazy, bible-waving members of KKK. If we are blindly following a faith, the same can be said about every Catholic, Protestant, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist, etc. Religion is religion. It is a set of guidelines for how to live life. Sorry REG, we are not all blind, mindless zombies following a religion of terrorism. Before all of you leave such ignorant posts, please read up a little...It is inappropriate to generalize about and malign a religion you clearly know nothing about.

      March 25, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
    • bethe123

      @Shabina....Ah, you are an expert then? What is the penalty for apostasy in Islam?

      March 25, 2011 at 12:16 pm |
    • Willy

      All I know is this report, which I believe will help a lot to read;
      http://www.snopes.com/politics/religion/allah.asp

      March 25, 2011 at 12:19 pm |
    • Shabina

      Bethe, i am not an expert in Islam. I am simply a Muslim. I can tell you there is alot of controversy with the subject of apostasy. Death penalty, imprisonment, etc. is NOT advocated in the Quran. There are historical precedences where apostasy was punishable, but many scholars in Islam have argued that this is not supported by the Quran or the prophet's teachings. Religion, any religion, in its pure form is perfect. It is the misinterpretation and abuse by its followers that ruin the perfection. This is true of all religions.

      March 25, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
    • bethe123

      @Shabina – Even an ostrich has to take its head out the sand to breath once in a while...No death apostasy huh? Tell that to this guy: http://www.jihadwatch.org/2010/11/iran-to-execute-christian-pastor-a-former-muslim-for-apostasy.html

      March 25, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
    • Shabina

      Bethe, please don't refer to me as an ostrich. As I said I am completely aware there is historical precedence, BUT this is not advocated in the Quran. Seriously. Take a moment to read before you come back with a hot-headed response.

      March 25, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
    • bethe123

      Shabina - You are avoiding the issue.
      Death for apostasy is practiced NOW.
      Those are the facts.
      In fact, in Pakistan, you can be killed suggesting the blashemy laws be modified.
      So it really sound stupid when you tell others, who are quite well read on the topic to read further. We have read, and what we have discovered does not speak favorably for Islam, and that also included your apologetics.

      March 25, 2011 at 2:02 pm |
  12. Pat

    Of course it would be someone from Tennessee.....ha

    March 25, 2011 at 11:49 am |
  13. Zerg Rush

    This happens to be a perfect example on why religion is a waste of time and does nothing constructive for society. It has caused war after war, and many civil and political issues, and it will continue to do so. Religion is the construct of man, the beast that many continue to nurture. So, as an atheist living in the bible belt, with many friend of other religious denominations, anything you religous nut jobs say is totally void of any reason or intelligance. All you do is try to avoid the fact that there is nothing after death and want a pirpose in life. Get over it and get back to reality

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

      Amen brother! Organized religion is about politics.

      March 25, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
  14. stephen

    People who are incapable of worshiping the earth, from which you came, who sustains you in a cosmos of boundless freezing vacuum and atomic fire, and to which you shall return; such people are incapable of worshipping anything but a reflection of themselves made into a diety.

    The earth is the only thing worthy of worship.

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

      puff puff pass, maaaan

      March 25, 2011 at 11:53 am |
    • Rick

      Stephen,
      This is the most profound statement I've read in a long time. Out of the abundance of the soul, the mouth speaks. Thanks for sharing.
      Rick.

      March 25, 2011 at 12:00 pm |
  15. BW

    A community in Tennessee does not want a Moslem center built in its' town and that reflects a "dramatic fight"? A "white" guy becomes a Moslem and that's a story??? Try something real dramatic, like Christian churches being burned down by Moslems in Egypt. Talk about "unwelcome". I guess that would not be pandering enough for CNN.

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

      Atleast spell it right, its Muslim. And its a country of freedom anyone can do whatever makes them feel happy or right. If he did so.

      March 25, 2011 at 11:58 am |
  16. Jangocat

    A 30 year old soul searching dreamer is not news. Enough of your constant attempts to garner sympathy for the worlds largest cult CNN. Can we have one day without one of these spin stories?

    March 25, 2011 at 11:48 am |
  17. SeenThisB4

    Saying that you were raised a Christian, does not necessarily mean you were practicing the faith. My guess is that this guy went through the motions of being a Christian, probably claims he knows what it is to be a Christian, but in fact, never did. Which is okay, I know, because I was raised a Christian, but and am not practicing the faith. So, I'm pretty sure he wasn't questioning his own "beliefs", when he probably didn't have any. Tthe Islamic friends he somehow came in contact with, probably filled a void in his own life and led him to the path of Islam. Which is fine. A lot of people need religion to fill a void in there lives.

    But, in many foreign countries, the Islamic Church and the ruling government are not separate, they are in fact, completely interwined in a complex manner, exactly the thing that spawned the birth of this country. And the muslims in those countries don't comprehend the existence of government without islamic control. And that is something I will repudiate with the last drop of my blood. I don't care what religion it is, it should not be in control of the government. Government should respect religion and allow it's citizens to worship as they please, but don't try to proselytise a certain religion, especially Islam, which in it of itself, wants to be a form of government.

    March 25, 2011 at 11:48 am |
    • John

      Well stated - probably the best description of the actual situation.

      March 25, 2011 at 11:56 am |
    • Godhasnochurch

      Good points concerning Islam, however I have similar concerns about the Christian movement in the USA. As long as Conservatives try to ram Jesus down my throat by changing laws, they are just as bad or worse than Jihad–at least they make no secret of their intentions.

      March 25, 2011 at 12:02 pm |
  18. bethe123

    The penalty for apostasy in Islam is death. Nice.
    How about the treatment of women in Islam? How about honor killings?
    Fear of terrorism and bombs are not the only reasons to oppose this religion.

    This is unique to Islam...it cannot be said of other religions.

    If you don't want to be a Muslim anymore, then the penalty is death. Death for changing your mind. Cool. Where do I sign up?
    That is not true of Judaism, Christianity, or any other religion.
    Hmmm. Any comments CNN?

    March 25, 2011 at 11:47 am |
    • Grayson23

      Actually the penalty for apostasy is dependent on interpretation. Others don't punish, others do. Don't generalize, it only makes you out to be an idiot.

      March 25, 2011 at 11:55 am |
    • Josh Randell

      An excellent point bethe123. And the stoning. People who stone others live in the stone age.

      March 25, 2011 at 11:59 am |
    • truth123

      bethe stop lying for the sack of justice. i know you dont know anything about islam. now doys for some reason people are quick to jump on commenting about something they DONT now anything about. 1: Basic. THERE IS NO HONOR KILLING IN ISLAM ABSOLUTELY NO HONOR KILLING. WE TREAT OUR WOMEN THE BEST POSSIBLE WAY. THERE IS ABUSE OF WOMEN AMONG every culture regardless of their religion. check the statistic of women abuse in the world and you will be shocked my friend.

      March 25, 2011 at 12:07 pm |
    • bethe123

      @Grayson23 ...Death for apostasy is not dependent on interpretation. Of course, if you have the misfortune in living in, say, Pakistan, you can be killed just for challenging blasphemy laws...So, if anybody is looking like an idiot, it would be someone who is attempting to defend Islam...Provide the facts, and people can make up their own mind. So if you can give an example of where in the Quran or Hadith death is not a valid penalty for apostasy, please provide it...

      March 25, 2011 at 12:08 pm |
    • Josh Randell

      Grayson23: By resorting to name calling, (calling beth123 an idiot), you ARE generalizing. Nice try at sounding broadminded and tolerant of Islam, and in the same breath, when someone sees it differently, you call them an "idiot".

      March 25, 2011 at 12:09 pm |
    • Willy

      I agree with you and add this;
      http://www.snopes.com/politics/religion/allah.asp

      March 25, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
    • Tina

      Josh Randell
      An excellent point bethe123. And the stoning. People who stone others live in the stone age.

      Reply: Yup, now they use firing squads :).

      March 25, 2011 at 12:17 pm |
    • Josh Randell

      Good one Willy...and an excellent point.

      March 25, 2011 at 12:18 pm |
    • Josh Randell

      Point well taken Tina. You won't catch me defending firing squads either.

      March 25, 2011 at 12:20 pm |
  19. American

    This has to be some kind of joke. with all that is going on in the world CNN chooses to advertise its commentary show and treat it as headlines. This is no more a news story than the housewives of oc,ny, bev hills, miami....when did housewives become so important that we need half a dozen shows about lunch and gossip. CNN ....where we make up the news.

    March 25, 2011 at 11:47 am |
  20. Big Bob

    Peacemaker. I never implied that all Muslims are terrorists. There are moderate Muslims. But Islam is Islam, and from a western viewpoint, is hardly moderate. It's a numbers game. If only 10 percent of 1.5 billion are jihadists or their sympathizers, that would amount to a lot of jihadists, right? It's NOT racism to point out Jihad and Islamic Supremacy.

    March 25, 2011 at 11:47 am |
    • Ken

      Please provide a source (other than Glen Beck or Fox News) that supports 10% of Muslims being "Jihadists."

      March 25, 2011 at 11:53 am |
    • Jeff

      You're right Bob, it is not racism to point that out. The struggle people have is that when somone counters by pointing out that most white supremacists believe whites are God's chosen people, and mention that the KKK was a Christian organization, people disregard those facts.

      But yeah, there is a problem within Islam. I would say less than 10% of Muslims are extremists, but even is it's 2%, it's still a problem. And the extremism is one thing, active extremism is the real issue. I have strong feelings about the over-reaction to hard hits in the NFL, but I'm not going to try to assassinate Roger Goodell....

      March 25, 2011 at 11:57 am |
    • SconnieGuz

      Hey Ken...you should take your head out of your ass and take a look at these countries....Yemen, Saudit Arabia, Pakistan, Iran, Somalia, Syria. How do you think it would be to live in these countries? You know why they suck so bad??? ISLAM!!! Those people choose to live their lives that way....wouldn't that mean that there is A LOT of people that are radical when it comes to islam?? How much more proof do you want?

      March 25, 2011 at 11:59 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.