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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. wtex23

    He should be glad he is in the US as in most muslim if the situation were reversed and he converted to Christianity, the penalty would be death. Such a loving religion
    I LEARNED ALL I NEED TO KNOW ABOUT ISLAM ON 9-11-01

    March 25, 2011 at 11:57 am |
  2. Luke3

    So many muslins converted to christian but NO ONE mentioned it or posted in CNN. And the problem with societies today is that "whatever make you happy," whether that is right or wrong or might hurt somebody mom and dad, if there is a dad, will support it.

    March 25, 2011 at 11:57 am |
  3. EHMD

    Pride is a curse. As long as we think that we know everything and that we are better than everybody else, we cannot see the truth. I am pretty sure most of the people in here don't know anything about islam or other religion. Clear your heart from hatred and don't be scared to pick up a book and educate yourself. Why are you so scared of learning when you say you are intelligent beings. Stop saying i heard and i think and read from your own from the source. You can find an english translation of the quran online for free or just read some of the ( Hadith) saying of the Prophet online for free. And only then you can start talking as an intelligent man. May ALlah guide us all

    March 25, 2011 at 11:57 am |
  4. What?

    I was hoping I might see a white doctor, lawyer, or someone with an education but no. Just the next America hater.

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

      I'm a white Muslim convert with a Ph.D. Does that help?

      March 25, 2011 at 12:13 pm |
  5. MikeInMaryland

    Um, that's a run-on sentence. It's really two sentences, technically. Just sayin'....

    March 25, 2011 at 11:56 am |
  6. Captain_Colossal

    what a hack. take a hike mathew miller. that's the blasphemous way of spelling matthew. it had to have been something more than those 23 words. you have a defective brain.

    March 25, 2011 at 11:56 am |
  7. Dwayne

    I'm not a Christian or a Muslim, I'm sort of a "prove it to me" person. I can't stand when someone "prays" (begs) for stuff from an unseen God. I mean, you think God is listening to your petty wants for a new car, or more money when there are millions of more deserving people in the world than you? Christianity is supposed to fill your hearts with love, not spite and hatred for others. Mostly what Christianity has become is a crutch for people to pray for stuff they don't deserve or need, and that some unseen being will save them from their own brainwashed messed up minds. It is a tool so you can be controlled and will exhibit predictable behavior ... anyone thinking for themselves can see that ... the majority are sheep.

    If hell is my destiny (if there is such a place) I will deal with it. If I am reincarnated, I will deal with it. If I just die, then I will deal with it. My suggestion to anyone is to avoid all organized religion ... all of it. Read everything, selectively apply what makes you a nicer person. Discard the rest.

    The more converts we have, the better IMHO; the more people asking why, the better. If religion is helping someone be more unselfish, then I'm all for it, but when all it does is teach us to be greedy, then you can shove it. I'll see all you "christians" (who among you acts like Christ, I would acknowledge and thank, the rest, can pound sand) when you are reincarnated as my dinner.

    March 25, 2011 at 11:56 am |
  8. PRISM 1234

    @colin

    "I know, but that's what you believe. So much for freedom of choice."

    Well, don't you believe what you want to believe? Don't you have YOUR FREEDOM OF CHOICE? So why the fuss?

    But if there is a God, who is the Creator of all that was, is, and ever will be, and being who He is, HE sets the rules, laws and directions, giving them to menkind to follow, and tehy in their pride and decleration of independance from Him do their own thing... is it then up to them what the outcome of their rejection of Him is, or will their destiny be the outcome of wht choice they made?

    Wht do YOU think?

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

    Mathew, I will pray for you. You have left the True Light and gone right back into the darkness.

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

      mmmmmooooooooooooorrrrrrrooooonnnnnnn

      March 25, 2011 at 11:59 am |
  10. Eric

    The new thing to believe in is ancient aliens. Let's get with the program here. Look for the Mothership!!

    March 25, 2011 at 11:56 am |
  11. JEWYANKEE

    Dad why did i have to take out the trash why do i have to take a bath. Why do u make me accept responsability for my actions F U DADDY! says every petulant child your attacks on faith point out your own negative exp with faith. I can call myself muslim jew christain or atheist doesnt make anx of them true if i dnt follow them faithfully there are billions of muslims who have never blown up a christian there were jews christains and aitheists making the first nuke. So how do we assign guilt for that oh wait man regardless of faith is capable of greatw evil and great good. Yet we always blame faith. Lol ignorance cuts both ways

    March 25, 2011 at 11:55 am |
  12. Logan

    Wow, you have to be the biggest moron on the planet to go from one redneck backwards logic destroying religion to another, this guy is a waste of space

    March 25, 2011 at 11:55 am |
  13. John Geheran

    Either this guy has never read the Qur'an or was duped with the sanitized version for infidels. Sad, really sad.

    March 25, 2011 at 11:55 am |
    • LKJ

      John, when I was 22 I was trying to convert my Muslim friend so one day I walked into a B. Dalton and bought an English translation of the Qur'an, translated by Muhammad Pickthall. That was in 1979. A year later, after reading the Qur'an and having my questions answered, I became a Muslim. I don't know what kind of "sanitized" version you're talking about, but I know that in 1979 Muslims were not organized enough to pull it off. Anyway, I've been a Muslim for over 30 years now and I have no regrets. Try reading the Qur'an. Put all of the verses in context.

      March 25, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
    • willy

      If you convert from Christianity to Islam, how do you handle Jesus being Christ (God in flesh) and dieing to pay for our sins. If you did not believe in that I find it hard to call you a Christian. If you do not believe we need a savior to enter the kingdom of heaven then you were something else other than a Christian.

      March 25, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
  14. 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?

    To commenters who state the above facts are false: The onus is on you to provide the facts to disprove them. Stating they are false without any supporting evidence, or even an url, will not convince anybody.

    March 25, 2011 at 11:55 am |
    • LKJ

      I am a Muslim woman, a white convert like Matthew, and I have to tell you that we Muslim women have it pretty good, as long as the men in our lives are true Muslims. The terrible incidents you hear about honor killings and such all involve men who prefer ancient local customs over Islam. My husband is a sincere Muslim and he treats me very well. He worked in fast food for two years after earning his doctorate (and helped take care of our two little ones) so I could finish mine. Not only do I drive, but my husband bought a car for me. Whatever a Muslim man earns he must spend on his wife and family, but whatever a Muslim woman earns she can spend on herself if she wants. We believe that the first question men will be asked on the Day of Judgment will be how they treated their wives. Many will fail. But that's because they went against the teachings of Islam.

      March 25, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
    • bethe123

      @LKJ - a woefully inaccurate reply. Read "Infidel" by Ayan Hirsi Ali to get a more accurate picture of Islam, and the treatment of women in Islam...
      Regarding women driving in Islam...No, if you believe the Islamic scholars in Saudi Arabia (who do you think funds CNN?)
      See here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hJWZtgyc4CY

      March 25, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
  15. logan

    he's dream is to be a radio DJ? get ready for 10 to at most 14 bucks an hour, loser. that's not going to cover the student loans. sounds like it back to mommy's basement living.

    March 25, 2011 at 11:55 am |
  16. willy

    So he ask his mom " how do we know we are right in our religious beliefs". I wonder how he knows he is right in his new religious beliefs.

    March 25, 2011 at 11:54 am |
  17. Mohdemes

    Thousands of people in US are becoming Muslim. Islam is like Tsunami you can predict it but you cant stop it. Fourteen hundred years and 1.6 billion followers and counting. One out of every four human beings is Muslim. The largest religion in the world (if Catholism and Protestanism counted separately). Unlike other religious people, muslims (most of them) actually follow their religion. Prophet Mohammed, peace be upon him, remains the most influential man ever per Michael Hart's research.

    Of all the religious groups in the world only muslims are advocating for a government and law according to Islam. Clearly, right or wrong, only they have the conviction of their belief. Only the Mosques around the world are always full to the capacity. Go to any Mosque in the world at Dawn any day of the week and you will find people worshipping in it.

    If I was a detractor of Islam the question I would ask myself is, why such universal attraction for Islam. Before I start condemning Islam I would read in great detail and find out for myself. By reading I dont mean reading one or two out of context verses I mean study it in full detail. If I cannot read in detail than I will refrain from giving a opinion on a topic of which I have no or little knowledge.

    More Christian and jewish scholars and priests and celebraties have converted to Islam than vice versa. Yousuf Estes (christian priest), Hamza Yousuf (christian clergy), Abu Bilal Philip, Green, Mohammed Asad, zaid shakir, Yvonne ridley, Murad Hoffman German ambassodor, Mohammed Ali, Malcolm X, Mohammed Yousuf (pakistan cricket captain), Mohammed abdul Rauf and Abdul jabbar (basketball)' plus hundreds of others.

    A path travelled often is travelled often for a reason.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_converts_to_Islam

    Islam is not your enemy unless you stand for injustice, oppression and tyranny.

    March 25, 2011 at 11:54 am |
    • tubbs

      Those who respond here defending islam are basically using the following for their two best arguments in favor of the religion: 1) We're not all bad. (ie: not all muslims plant car bombs or cut off peoples' heads 2) islam is a religion of peace and stands against tyranny.

      I'll let you decide which is the truer statement.

      March 25, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
    • SconnieGuz

      You people are dumber than a sand flea.
      "Islam is not your enemy unless you stand for injustice, oppression and tyranny."
      That's why in every islamic country there is nothing but injustice, oppression and tyranny....let me add murder, religious intolerance, abuse of women and poverty to the never-ending list of reasons to stay far away from islam.

      March 25, 2011 at 12:09 pm |
  18. woodie

    Interesting observation, "we don't know much about Islam", but what we do know is they praised Allah right before they cut Pearl's head off. That's a fact. So let's discuss that religious reference, which is a recurring theme in crimes against nature.

    March 25, 2011 at 11:54 am |
  19. Bob Reid

    Why is this front page news? Conversions to all religions happen all the time. Prominently featuring a Muslim conversion projects bias. There was nothing else noteworthy in the story.

    March 25, 2011 at 11:54 am |
    • jim

      totally agree! There conversions from Islam to Christianity all of the time - Islam is a way of life – one that oppresses if others do not share its values - all this story is about a wayward CA, surfing, want a be DJ, move to Tenn to get away from the crowds NUT!!!! check back with him 2 yrs and he will on to something else - Shame on CNN for even doing this story!

      March 25, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
  20. Admiral 149

    I find it very hard to understand why a person seeking religion would abandon a faith based on Christ's love, for a religion motivated by hatred, and intolerance, as interpreted by ten thousand imans who seem to worship death.

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

      Are you serious?

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

      I guess you don't know very much about Islam then. I followed the same path Matthew did, thirty years ago, and I have never regretted it.

      March 25, 2011 at 11:59 am |
    • david55

      have you read the bible? The entire old testament frequently supports brutally murdering all non hebrews, and then supposedly god can sacrifice one life to make up for all the horrible things and take on your sins. How does one persons life equate to the sins of the entire world? Why couldnt God just forgive people without killing his son? I guess he wasnt omnipotent enough to think of a better way, or invent a good world to begin with.

      Islam is a beautiful religion, with just as much claim to reality as christianity... that is to say slim to none.

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

      that's a common misconception, given that our focus is on the people who use this religion in the name of hatred and intolerance. But the truth is, that at it's heart, the central message of Islam is love, peace, and tolerance. By the way, I'm not Muslim, but I've studied it and many other religions for many, many years.

      March 25, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
    • someone

      OK let me explain it, if you are a muslim you know Islam as the best way of living, if you are not a muslim and know about Islam you will know that it is a religon of at least fifth of earth population that 99.999% peacefull and loving people. However, if you are not a muslim and all of what you know is through Fox , Holllywood . etc so you will know about the remaining 0.0001% of muslim that in political strugles and exterme opnions.

      March 25, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
    • Jacobtheliar

      How do you know it is based on hatred? Have you read it? Watching foxnews is not going to educate you on anything!
      The bible talks about killing as well.

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

      I'm from Nashville. Let's see what happens when the Southern Baptist build a church in Mecca. If you don't like it here, GO HOME.

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

      hey Miller,

      So YOU say, an Iraqi war veteran doesn't know much about Islam.
      What do YOU know about WAR?

      March 25, 2011 at 12:16 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.