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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. Coptic Canadian

    Guys, this is getting really ugly. I don't understand why you brought such an unprofessional out of wack article. Are you paid to promote this religion?

    March 25, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
  2. morsecoder

    He's an idiot. Period.

    March 25, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
  3. The Bodacious

    Who cares CNN, get this fukr off the front page!

    March 25, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
  4. Toby

    I Am Always Right
    "Toby. If you're trying to defend the Bible than know that the Bible is just as worse.

    You have contradictory statements that are riddled throughout the its fictional tales."

    I Am Always Right- I think, if you re-read my statement, you'll clearly see that I condemn all religions as systems of totalitarian thought control. Peace.

    March 25, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
  5. Citizenpc

    Conversions to Islam are celebrated. Conversions to Christianity, especially born-again Christians, are mocked in the news.

    March 25, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
  6. Eric Nicolas

    "“I told my mother I was Muslim in Disneyland."

    On the Alladin ride, no doubt.

    March 25, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
  7. thorrsman

    Of course, should he change his mind again and try to leave Islam, he will be under a death sentence from the "Religion of Peace".

    When I renounced Christianity because of my faith in The Old Ways, I had no such fear, just as Mathew Miller has no fear that christians will try to murder him for changing faiths.

    March 25, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
  8. Art W

    @Joe "The quote is also something Muhammad said and Muslim would not disagree. The only path to Allah is through Jesus because denying Jesus or Muhammad is denying Allah."

    Joe . . . can you quote the Surah that states Muhammad said the only path to Allah is thorugh Jesus? I'd be interested to read it.

    March 25, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
  9. Dale

    Look at him ?

    March 25, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
  10. Scott Holmes

    What would happen if Mr. Miller wanted to convert back to Christianity? Sould he be subject to death according to the Koran? or should he be free to do so according to freedom of conscience and freedom of religion in America?

    March 25, 2011 at 12:21 pm |
  11. z

    Question: if there is a heaven then there is a hell, and God obviously gave us free will to choose, what will you choose Heaven or Hell? Well whatever you choose you will have to live with the consequences for the rest of enternity. So choose heaven and NOT hell. In the Bible God says "if you seek me with all your heart you will find me".

    March 25, 2011 at 12:21 pm |
    • Toby

      Please Google "Pascal's Wager" and see the absurdity of your offer. The "choose my religion and you have nothing to lose and everything to gain" has been soundly refuted for 300 years. Peace.

      March 25, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
  12. Dave

    I suggest that you all go to youtube and search for the video of the NBC reporter that is protected during a mortar attack by the lbyans insurgents. One man pushed his down and another man rushs to the reporter and covers him with his body to protect this western's life. And what does he say? "Allah Ackbar" The phrase that strikes fear in us westerns as the qoute of a terrorist, this man uses as he saves one.

    There are monsters everywhere and not excusive to one group.

    March 25, 2011 at 12:21 pm |
  13. WildCat

    so im really confused do i should i choose christanity or muslim ? both seem to offer the same horrible fate if i dont believe

    March 25, 2011 at 12:20 pm |
  14. Chase

    Wow.

    All of this back and fourth, not even about the article, with so many uninformed, exceedingly personal opinions kind of makes me sad.

    I am a Christian, and I don't claim to know 100% of the truth, yet I keep striving to learn more and have never closed myself off to either end.

    Yet on here, time and time you find people who claim to KNOW the way. Which I find interesting because if you are dead, then we have ghosts writing on CNN, which I think is the bigger story, otherwise I'm not so sure I buy that you know the truth.

    To the believers, keep on the right path, you are doing what we, as humans, were designed to do, which is think critically.

    To the non believers, I wonder how you can be so dead set and 'faithful' to a decision which has been debated for centuries. You seem to have more 'faith' in your beliefs (which again, they are) than the people who you claim need an 'opiate for the masses.'

    There are a few comments I would like to address for the record;

    @the truth: Jesus clearly states that he is the way the truth and the light, that in order to know the Father, they must know Him. Other religions say roughly the same thing. I agree that the most important thing is to open your heart and mind and to keep seeking, but there are some very obvious points to be made when you start getting into specifics of religion.

    @colin: that is a fair point, although I would argue that the big thing you are forgetting about is faith.

    @Tim: You said that there is no God, and to be good because it is right. My question is, where does the concept of Right come from and how can we agree on it if it is not set by some other power?

    @harfnab: I like that, I will be using it!

    @J: you need to do some experiencing rather than making your opinions on what you hear people say. All Churches do is take money from people, WRONG. And from the weak and poor Also wrong, that is who they give most of their money to, nice try though. Also, that no religion will last another 100 years, that makes me want to say one thing and ask a question. First, the fact that you say another 100 years means it has at least lasted 100 years, and my question is, why, after thousands of years of thriving, do you think that religions will stop?

    And finally

    @Jazz; you get mad at God for things that if you had spent any time thinking critically about religion, you would know wasn't God pointing a thunderbolt at, and say 'f you for all the crap bestowed on man' My question is, why aren't you also then thanking him for all the good things, like trees, an ecosystem, how life evolves, or one of the billions of good things that happen constantly for your benefit?

    The moral of the story is simply this, for a believer, there is a plethora of evidence as to why God exists, it is all around us.

    For a non believer, there will never be enough.

    All of the religious texts, all of the believers, all of the miracles, all of the ontological arguments and still you hold on to simple things like 'bad things happen' well, the bible, in its very FIRST chapter, explains that one away and although it will never be enough, what else do you have for us?

    March 25, 2011 at 12:20 pm |
  15. jorge washinsen

    The best thing about this post is that th emajority are not buying this load of crap.

    March 25, 2011 at 12:20 pm |
  16. Jorge Gonzalez

    One attractive thing about religion is that it comes in so many flavors, and it is one of those things that most of us have the freedom to pick and choose. Not sure why people just not believe in whatever way they want and feel compelled to go around "choosing" a religion. I figured that most don't bother changing and many others "cannot" convert by some governmental pressure or otherwise. Since religion is mostly based on dogma and rituals that want to substantiate myth and fantasy, people on a quest for truth are susceptible to a lot of faith-based thinking from charlatans (some well-meaning in their defense of their religion) but that somehow can come up with some strong argument that their God or the way they pray to him or their holy book is the "right" way, as if there is such a thing as divine revelation or an epiphany that made it so. And as for the ridiculous line about "Miller, a white convert..." you mean to tell me that he converted to some religion that has few whites? As far as I can tell, many, if not most, Muslims are white. So what is so strange about this story of the countless of people that switch religions all the time. I do have to admit that many people prefer to be told how to pray, how to interpret their holy book, how to love God, and how to avoid sin so they can get to some good place after death, but it is really all about coming to terms to with our finite existence as our mind plays tricks with us and conjures up ways that we can stay alive.

    March 25, 2011 at 12:20 pm |
    • Mao

      not all flavors are satisfying

      March 25, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
  17. MadMo

    I am not sure how low CNN can go. Few days ago when a Palestinian in the middle of the night slaughtered a Jewish family including 3month old child there is no coverage of it. But when an Idiot from no where is converted to Islam and white washing all sins of it then it is their main story. Every fking day there is a main positive story of Islam.
    I am wondering I am still reading CNN or Al-Jajeera?

    March 25, 2011 at 12:20 pm |
    • Dennis

      You should not condemn a whole religion by the actions of a small part of the whole. And not all Palestinians are Muslim, some are Christians.

      March 25, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
  18. Scott

    All religions are just scams to make money for those running them. Those who can't do, preach.

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

      You don't talk to pastors do you?
      Many come from fields where they were doing well. One I know was a successful mechanic, another is a financial consultant, another a famous singer. There's a reason why pastors call it a "calling". It's because they had to leave security and step into the unknown.

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

      amen brother! get it through everyone pea brains, there is no GOD at all. No Islam, Jew, Christians. sorry to disappoint you all

      March 25, 2011 at 12:31 pm |
  19. Alex

    HOW

    TERRIBLY

    BORING

    March 25, 2011 at 12:18 pm |
  20. Buccakenji

    You don't have to know much about Islam to know that radical Muslims are determined to destroy non-believers, Infidel. Regardless of the large percentage of Muslims who claim to be passive and peaceful, the radical element will convert you or kill you if you fail to convert. I can pray to my Christian God for direct just as well as a Muslim. The difference is my God will not tell me to destroy anyone that does not believe in him.

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

      God will not tell you to kill them because God offers everyone a chance to come to Him.
      However with your hateful generalizations you are hindering the very purpose of what you argue.

      March 25, 2011 at 12:21 pm |
    • ObammaAlabamaSlamma

      Erm, pretty sure that's what the Catholic church did for the better part of a millennia.

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

      then why are we so hell-bent and condenmning and destroying the middle east? what is your god saying about that? they're wrong and deserve to die because their skin is another color and god has another name and face? give me a god who teaches compassion and tolerance or bigotry, hatred, ignorance, and xenophobia!

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

      Wow, it never fails to amaze me how ignorant Christians are of the history of their own religion. Have you ever heard of the Christian Crusades and Holy Wars, look it up my friend. You will find plenty of Christian terrorists. And oh by the way the central tenent of Christianity is that if I do not accept Jesus Christ as my savior I shall burn for eternity. So it looks like your christian God does plan to smite me if I do not convert to your religion. That's one of many flaws in ALL religions, they believe they are right and you should die/suffer one way or another if you don't convert to theirs.

      March 25, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
    • Jerry Senzee

      Are all religions good? Or bad? Or neurotic? Or money making schemes? Whats up with religion, anyway?

      March 25, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
    • Mao

      @ all those above
      Don't equivocate God with Christians.

      March 25, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
    • JHC

      Don't you have a funeral to protest?

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

      Have you read the bible well . i have read it and there is violence .

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

      Or equivocate God with those who claim to be Christian.

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

      Ok, read the words of the LORD, the God of Israel.
      Ezra 18:23 "Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?"

      March 25, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
    • Robert

      Buc, If you ever read this- which i hope you do. I ask that you try and step back for a second. Outside of yourself, your belifs, your convictions and compare and contrast the two faiths. You would be suprized how similar they are- for better and for worst. Christianity too has its exstremists. Look at westboro for example, they do not represent Christianity- but they claim to be doing gods work. If you look back in history at christianity was in its infancy as a developing world power it lead the crusades. While Islam was migrating west, Europeans invaded the east in the name of god. When the sultans were in charge the tolerated the christians, fed their pow and signed treaties. The christain zealots sacked and pilliaged and slaughtered all who would not convert. At the time the crusaders back then were as reasonable as the Taliban is today.

      March 25, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
    • Peter

      We Christians shouldn't be so smug. Lots of examples of how Christians have persecuted non-believers in the name of Christianity. Examples: The Crusades, Salem witch trials, in 1700/1800s killing Arican natives right after they were converted so their souls woulld go to heaven, killing people for blasphemy in the middle ages. Radical Muslims are just a few hundfed years behind the curve for violence against infidels. How about the way we persecute the vast najority of American muslims just because a few crackpots are terroists.

      March 25, 2011 at 12:37 pm |
    • Just me

      Wow, you're pretty ignorant dude. I feel sorry for ppl like you. The very reason why we believe in Islam is because it tells you to make peace with ppl not kill them. Unfortunately, it's interpreted in the wrong way. Ppl like you before making these comments should read the book fully. It really sucks to be ignorant. You should always opt for learning more.

      March 25, 2011 at 12:37 pm |
    • Robert

      Just consider that, and see that the to faithers are neither right or wrong. They are just differeant ideologies worshiping the same god. But man on both sides use God, or Alah to justify there crimes- when really both faiths preach peace and love as their primary goals.

      March 25, 2011 at 12:40 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.