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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. Supra

    Why go from one disease to another x_X

    March 25, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
    • Chuck

      I assume your disease is better?

      March 25, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
  2. Robert the Robot

    One goofball belief replaced with another goofball belief.

    March 25, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
    • Chuck

      Which, coming from a Robot, would be a suspect conclusion.

      March 25, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
  3. Kim

    My parents took me to the Church of Christ when I was 7. It was explained to me that "we" were the only ones who were going to heaven because this church went strictly by the bible. Even at that age I remember thinking "how do they know this". So the Baptists, Pentecostals, Lutherans, Catholics, Episcopals (sp), Presbyterians etc are all going to "hell". I did try some of these other denominations and they said the same thing about their church. Its seems every church thinks "they" do it right. Needless to say I do not belong to any church. I prefer to think of myself as spiritual. I am sure I will be persecuted by some christian for saying that. I say Live and let Live!! I don't knock anybody for their beliefs so I don't want to be knocked for my non-beliefs.

    March 25, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
    • Peace2Peace

      Awesome answer Kim! I too consider myself "Spiritual" ..... treat each other they way we would like to be treated – lets all try to live by some of the same rules we learned in Kindergarten...

      March 25, 2011 at 12:15 pm |
    • RealityChecker

      "I don't knock anybody for their beliefs"

      And yet you used your entire post to criticize (aka "knock") Christians. Just like those hypocrites who say "I hate those who hate."

      March 25, 2011 at 12:30 pm |
    • Chuck

      I have been a Christian for over two decades and have visited the majority of denominations. I have never heard any one denomination say that their denomination is the only way to Jesus. They may think they worship better or preach better, but never that their's is the only way.

      Except for one – the new cult-like (not my definition, or even defined by other Christians, but by many secular colleges) Church of Christ, who said baptism in their own denomination is the only way to salvation...

      March 25, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
  4. geo

    We know there is one god and he came down in the flesh to spread love and heal the broken he spoke a word in the living bible blessed are the poor . Which means the begger .a begger relies on people Jesus wants us to rely on him. A messenger that died and on the third day rose up a living god! Mohammed is dead so who should you pray to a living or dead god ? You decide

    March 25, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
    • Chuck

      Let me start off by saying that I am a born again Christian and I believe that the death and resurrection of Jesus is the only way humans will be saved from the consequences of their own sinful bature.

      However, with all respect, saying what you said about a dead God to Muslims who are sincerely following their beliefs is not just rude and hurtful but also not productive.

      I love you, fellow sibling, but yeah... you can kick my butt when we get to heaven. 🙂

      March 25, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
  5. ssDiesel

    Another one bites the dust.

    March 25, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
  6. Paul

    Isn't this the same God he was worshipping as a Christian?

    March 25, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
  7. rick

    The camel express is leaving the station.......all aboard!!

    March 25, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
  8. Docnotus

    To even comment about this article are any concerning spiritual matters shows that you are affiliated and do believe. Some are ignorant of who they serve while others are quite aware of the God or god of their choice. Jesus is and His return cannot be long from what I have read here and see in the world today. Gird your loins and prepare yourselves for judgement will be swift and just. Every knee will bow and every tongue will profess Jesus is Lord. Father forgive us especially those who know not what they do and say.
    May God have mercy on our souls

    March 25, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
  9. Jim Reynolds

    I think it's great that CNN is doing this series to try to unearth the persecution that is going on against Muslims in America. But I think CNN should also focus on the persecution that is going on against Christians in other parts of the world. While I do not condone the persecution done to Muslims here in the States, it is nothing compared to the persecution of Christians in Muslim countries, where people are beaten, ostracized, imprisoned, and often killed solely for being Christians and preaching the gospel. These acts of persecution are somehow given a free pass by the media because they don't occur on our soil. So instead they spend their time focusing on the relatively mild and passive persecution done against Muslims in the States.

    March 25, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
  10. Jeffrey

    I am currently a student at MTSU and live in Murfreesboro. We are a small town with a little over 100,000 residents in the city. But in the past few years the influx of Muslims from Middle Eastern countries has been staggering. Mostly because of MTSU's ELS program. It is a collegiate English school for foreigners. Most of the student are Saudi Arabian and for a small Southern town to absord such a huge change has been hard. Bigotry and racism still has a tight hold here regardless of what the rest of America is striving for. Regardless of the fact we have an African American in the highest elected office in the land many in Murfreesboro, not all, but many refer to the President as "The N." Most of the Saudi and other Middle Eastern student that I have met have always been very respectful and friendly and overall have the same desires of any full blooded American. To have a job and family and to live their lives as they choose. But this is The South and the cynicism and racism that has pervaded the mindset of many here for centuries sadly continues.

    March 25, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
  11. fundies

    I am awaiting moderation of the moderates who have yet to be moderated by the moderator of this moderately entertaining forum where there seem to be several moderates.

    March 25, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
  12. Melissa Gorsuch

    Everyone has the right to believe in something that brings them guidance and comfort. Some find that in God, in whatever form and religious affiliation they find peace in... No one finds comfort in believing in nothing. It doesn't matter what you believe, as long as you believe in something... that is the true glory in religion. Open your heart to what your neighbor holds dear to his heart, even if it isn't the same "something" that you hold in your own.

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

      And, may I add, even if I disagree with you, be determined to love and serve you in every way I can.

      March 25, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
  13. JoeMama

    Peace to All...hopefully.

    A true humanitarian action. A hint of cynic humor here...

    How come Jordanian leadership is the only one who chose to exercise some common sense by using WATER CANONS instead of deadly forces to control protests? WTH, is deadly force the best option? It's just a bunch of people crowded together, huge masses, but still, with regards to what the technologists and engineers of today are able to create, who are capable of sending humans to moons & other planets can build something to the equal and counterpart of a Cruise Missiles for large crowd control, but one that shoots, various pressures of water?? It's less deadly than using the extreme brutality of our weapons for dealing with urban gathering events regardless of what size and to which degree of sensitivity is the reaction equal to action. Counter Defensive, accurately and proportionately applied, depending on which type of situation is undertaken and its metrics accurately measured with a less lethal policy. Idea for the EU?? lol...just for laughs, to loosen up the tension in here....geeeeeezzzz people! Breeeeeeaaaathe...then think.

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

      I so agree, Joe!! I find the concept of guns really miserable – little pieces of metal that tear through flesh. Why not use an incapacitating gas or dart that would render a soldier paralyzed for 3 or 4 hours?

      The answer is the same as the source of the tension here – anger/fear leading to an inability to work through more peaceful means.

      I did not see the Jordanian water cannon piece, thanks for pointing it out.

      March 25, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
  14. BnB

    Looks like my previous post was deleted? So again, did he think he was born a Christian, as most Americans do? He had no substantive faith in the Christ. If he described his version of the Christian god, I wouldn't believe in him either... And he demonstrated such critical discernment in selecting Islam? Another clueless and uncritical feelings based article assaulting other faiths while pushing tolerance for the intolerant Islam.

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

      The Christian God...isn't there just one God...worshipped in different ways by different religions?

      March 25, 2011 at 12:13 pm |
    • Chuck

      Paul, yes there is just the one God. However how humans describe HIm does matter. The Bible describes God very differently from the Quran, and adherents of each religion will then shape their belief systems around each one.

      To say, the Islamic God (Allah cannot have a son) is the same as the Christian God (who came in human form as Jesus, the Son of God) could insult Muslims.

      Every religion will claim they have the right way, of course. We are all encouraged to seek out the Truth and use our faculties to rationally find God.

      March 25, 2011 at 12:39 pm |
  15. Shah Newaz

    Hi everybody

    I ask everyone you follow your own Christinity religion, But I invite you also join a prayer in a mosque, keeping your christinity. In the mosque prayer you will feel that you are close to God. Then you decide which one is good. Test by yourself. Don't be fool by not testing yourself. There are payer 5 times a day in your local mosque. Ask the mosque people about the timing of the prayer and join any one.

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

      Thank you for your invitation, sir.

      In return, I invite you to read the Gospel of John in one sitting, and then ask yourself if you know for sure where you will spend eternity.

      March 25, 2011 at 12:18 pm |
    • RealityChecker

      Practice what you preach. You should attend a Christian church. Of course, if you do, you will be targeted by other Muslims for violence since they will suspect you are converting.

      March 25, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
  16. aatami

    I find it so interesting that people are so weak minded that they need to believe these iron age fairy tales that are so obviously just tools for control and manipulation of resources. It's so pathetic. (and I am referring to all organized religion.)

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

      You arrogant fool!

      March 25, 2011 at 12:15 pm |
    • cheryl

      And you called another poster an arrogant fool?

      Fine if you're an atheist. Or agnostic, Muslim, Christian, don't like labels, or whatever. You don't have to be arrogant about it, and call things "a bunch of Iron Age" fairytales, just because YOU don't believe them. You're just as arrogant as you're claiming others to be.

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

      (I don't know you to say you are arrogant or a fool. I was being funny because you called someone else an arrogant fool for the same reason..)

      March 25, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
  17. RobertAllen

    A true Christian would not make fun of Matthew Miller, or anything he has done in his spiritual journey. Making statements against Islam, for whatever purpose or reason, is a sign that the spiritual journey of the person commenting has not been completed - indeed it may not have even begun.

    Of course there are "wackos" in any religion but that is not a reason to paint them all with one broad stroke of the brush. Here is an easy way to know this, have a cup of coffee with a Muslim. You are going to be shocked that they are concerned about the very same things you are.

    March 25, 2011 at 12:09 pm |
    • Melissa Gorsuch

      Well said, thank you 🙂 We are all on the same quest for peace. We, however, don't all find it in the same places.

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

      Why, Why am I going to be shocked, Maybe you should have a cup off coffee with a real American and figure out were not all as ignorant and stupid, racist, ignorant, and lazy as you assert we are. This simply happens to be our steriotype, so just know that your assertion that we all need to sit down and have a cup of coffee with a muslim to realize that those following islam are not so different than ourselves is as demoralizing to Americans as me saying we should send a bunch of peanut butter and Marijuana to the geographical orgins of Islamic cultures in order to trick them into getting stoned and hungry, and incapacitate them from yelling out Jihad whilst their mouths are full of peanut butter.

      March 25, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
    • Chuck

      To have coffee with a Muslim is a great concept.

      A better one would be have coffee with a friend, whatever religjon he happens to be.

      March 25, 2011 at 12:57 pm |
  18. Rhymeskeema

    cNN is really pushing Islam lately. I'll put Islam right there with gay marriage. I don't care if you do it, but don't try to make me think it's great and I'm missing out. Lots of people make poor choices.

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

      Same thing with education.

      March 25, 2011 at 12:18 pm |
    • Rich

      I'll put islam right there with christianity and the easter bunny. We don't need any of them. Muslims appear to be more attached to fundamentalism than christians, which means they interpret their medieval doctrine more often literally than christians. Other than that, I think they both belong in trash heap of irrelevant, dangerous beliefs.

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

    Just would like to point out that what some may see as 'stereotyping" Iranians or Islam, until you marry someone from another country and have a child with them ( or part of your family has) and one of the parents took the child to an alternate jurisdiction and hid them, YOU do not know what you would do. People here in US need to figure it out....the laws and freedoms here, DO NOT extend around the world. However, God's love does.

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

      Which god? You arrogant fool.

      March 25, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
  20. WOW!

    He was never a Christian to begin with. Many people call themselves Christians and are not followers of Christ. LEARN ABOUT KAMAL SALEEM: A MUSLIM CRIES OUT TO JESUS http://www.cbn.com/media/player/index.aspx?s=/vod/AL32v1_WS

    March 25, 2011 at 12:08 pm |
    • Blaine

      Oh? And you know this for a fact?

      "Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye. Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you." – Matthew 7:1-6

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

      I am a Christian and a follower of Jesus. But I would not rush to say anything about this gentleman or anyone, for that matter.

      March 25, 2011 at 12:20 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.