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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. Dee

    Just don't try to go back to Christianity unless you are willing to dodge death. Nice to know Christianity won't kill you if you convert to another religion.

    March 25, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
    • Rami

      Dee, you talk about love and the Bible, and all I can see in your writing hate and dislike. What happe to love and forgiveness? Go do something... you are using too Oxygen.

      March 25, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
  2. John

    Lets just admit that people support wars and terrorism for a million reasons. It's not just religion. It's also history. It's family. It's economy. It's geography. It's sanity. It's stupidity. It's pollution. It's starvation. It's when the few represent the many. It's when criminals become too powerful. It's when lies become truth. It's culture. It's human nature. It's rage. It's ego.

    Religion, if you want, is just an excuse to fight. We were going to fight anyway and for a lot of other reasons.

    March 25, 2011 at 12:57 pm |
  3. adnan khan

    I believe every one who criticize islam is at least able to read, why don't you get the true copy of Quran and study it yourself, i guarantee you it will change your view point about the islam and muslims. You will find that Quran not only will teach you the way of life but will also teach you the secretes of Science. and economics. and you will find lots of discoveries these days by scientist are already revealed in Quran thousands of years ago. Again Quran is not the book for Muslims only it was and is the book for all man kind guidance, try it you will experience a different life. God Bless you all.

    March 25, 2011 at 12:54 pm |
    • Rami

      Adnan, they dont want to read. They watch Fuox!!

      March 25, 2011 at 1:06 pm |
    • Dee

      The Bible will teach you the ways of life. Christianity is centered on love, but the 'other' book has no such concept. I don't want to be oppressed by Islam. I am a 1974 refugee of the Turkish Invasion of Cyprus, by the way. And guess who took our homes (and we still haven't been reimbursed)? Yep. Muslims!

      March 25, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
    • Rami

      Oh Dee, am soo sorry to hear that,,, you can go back. They will welcome you with open arms.

      March 25, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
  4. fatcatt

    This is yet another phase or fad that young impressionable people go through. They want to be different. Even though they cant fully comprehend what their getting into. This guy is a perfect example. He doesn't know what real Islamic people are all about. What they do. How they live. He is an impressionable young adult who dooesn't know where he is going in life and this seemeed like something to try. Although he says he was raised christian I doubt he really practiced Christianity or was a true Christian to begin with. This is a ferfect example of a mixed up young man who was easy to convert. And these are the people they target.

    March 25, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
    • Dee

      I agree. He's pretty vulnerable.

      March 25, 2011 at 1:08 pm |
  5. R.A.M

    Religion is one's belief and one's belief is one's opinion. Sprituality, u could say, is more important than Religion. Enlightenment is more pure and innocent than Religion. Religion is part of Sprituality. Every religion has encountered more war and genocide than you actually know. Religion is not the base of finding one's place or soul or whatever you'd like to refer to it as. Religion gives you fact then opinion than fact then opinion. Just look at Genesis, the story of Jonah, and etc. Man interprets what he believes and WE FOLLOW WITHOUT QUESTION..... BECAUSE OF FAITH? BUT WHO'S FAITH ARE WE FOLLOWING?

    March 25, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
  6. Rami

    So, most of the witting here thinks Islam is terrible. Some even suggest the elimination of this faith. Let see what Christians have done to the world and humanity. First the good… Nothing, just pure hate and greed. The bad: Building nuclear reactors and radiation (thanks a lot), the automobile to poison our air, the gun, poison gas, and arms to kill other human being to name a few. So, now who is bad?

    March 25, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
    • Buccakenji

      You blame all these things on Christians. Apparently you don't know that Alexander Graham Bell was an atheist and Thomas Edison was not a religious man.

      I thing that makes you a spoiled child. Need to resolve that relationship with your mother. Sounds like she might fil the B i o t c h catagory. Otherwise, you are just plain stupid.

      March 25, 2011 at 12:57 pm |
    • Dee

      Grief! Another Christian hater. Don't you have anything better to do than spout bitter lies?

      March 25, 2011 at 1:07 pm |
    • Rami

      i thing ? stupid

      March 25, 2011 at 1:19 pm |
    • Rami

      Dee, I like (female) christains, blond, 22 will do

      March 25, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
  7. Buccakenji

    With everything going on in the world, it is interesting the CNN uses this story as justification of Islam and why people should convert to Islam. Nothing is mentioned on the destruction and killing in the name of Allah that has occurred for so many years. That, people, is the agenda of the extreme left in this county, to take over the world by eliminating the enemies of their doctrine by whatever methods necessay. Read about Bill Ayers, Cass Sustein, Van Jones and the other Obama czars and you find the common theme of destroying America. Read "Shadow Government" by S. Wheeler and P. Leitner. If this read doesn't frighten you, your view of the United States is perverted.

    March 25, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
  8. John

    Isn't this just underlining the fact that the problem with terrorism not religion. Why keep looking under that rock. If that's what you think is causing it then you will never win the war against terrorism.

    March 25, 2011 at 12:52 pm |
  9. michelle

    I know Matt personally and he is an amazing person. I'm proud to call him my friend.

    March 25, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
  10. flaco212

    Some people use verses from the Quran completely isolated from their context. You are disfiguring and twisting the means of these sentences. There are words in the Quran that apply to specific situations in time and history and others are universal.
    The following are examples of passages in the Quran that are universal (The first one is about the people of the book, i.e. Jews and Christians, the second one is about righteousness and piety:

    "Surely those who believe, and those who are Jews, and the Christians, and the Sabians - whoever believes in God and the Last Day and does good, they shall have their reward from their Lord. And there will be no fear for them, nor shall they grieve" (2:62, 5:69)

    “Righteousness is not that you turn your faces toward the east or the west, but [true] righteousness is [in] one who believes in Allah , the Last Day, the angels, the Book, and the prophets and gives wealth, in spite of love for it, to relatives, orphans, the needy, the traveler, those who ask [for help], and for freeing slaves; [and who] establishes prayer and gives zakah; [those who] fulfill their promise when they promise; and [those who] are patient in poverty and hardship and during battle. Those are the ones who have been true, and it is those who are the righteous.” (2:177)

    I salute the courage and sincerity of this brave young man who in spite of the tremendous and expected pressure from the society did follow his heart and his mind. Islam is not better or lesser than Christianity or Judaism. In their essence they are the same religion, the monotheistic religion. People talk about Allah like a joke, like an exotic name from the 1001 nights, like Aladdin, or the mythological moon god. Allah is God in Arabic. And that’s why Christian Arabs call God: Allah although they are Christians, the same apply for the Mizrahi Jews.
    As regarding radical Islamists or Islamist Terrorists: those are radicals and terrorists, they can be from any faith or no faith. These extremists are both rejected from the majority of Muslims and non Muslims. And it is not God/Allah or the Quran who tell the terrorists to commit their crime, they use the religion to commit their crime. It is their twisted and ignorant mind. Islam emphasizes very clearly that man has freedom of choice: To do good deeds or the opposite. And there are consequences for man’s choices.
    Islam is not a religion of peace and the same thing applies for Christianity and Judaism. All these 3 religions are not religions of peace, and it is not difficult to prove it, because human being is not a peaceful being. Nevertheless man searches and yearns for peace. Peace is something that we have to work for it.

    Thanks for reading.

    March 25, 2011 at 12:50 pm |
  11. Bookbud

    And another man falls to the misogynistic religion. When I see men join Islam, I cannot help but think they need an ego boost. Who wouldn't want to join a group that believes men are superior and women are chattel. I would rather my daughter die than marry a devote Muslim man. This religion was founded by a pedophile and practiced by egotistical men and scared women and children.

    March 25, 2011 at 12:50 pm |
    • Jerry

      I'm assuming either you are not Christhan or have not actually read Leviticus, Deuteronimy or Corinthians. The Bible treats women as chattal as well.

      March 25, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
  12. Stefan Radu

    Hey, where did my message disappear?

    March 25, 2011 at 12:50 pm |
  13. vtskivt

    The next thing you know he will end up in Afganistan throwing grenades at our soldiers. Bad and defective genes or bad drugs in grade school.... perhaps a weird uncle?

    March 25, 2011 at 12:50 pm |
  14. Just me

    You shouldn't be punished by ppl if you decide to leave your religion or leave religion altogether. That's up to God what should be done with you but remember you can't just have your cake and eat it too in this life. I believe you should believe in a religion, Islam, Judaism or Christianity, it doesn't matter. They all convey the same message. Nothing in life comes for free, you all should know that. You have to sacrifice by believing and practicing your beliefs to be thankful for the life that you have. Do you guys think we just appeared out of nowhere? C'mon think a little..

    March 25, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
  15. Melissa

    The guy in this article is an idiot.

    March 25, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
    • michelle

      Matt is a very good friend of mine and is a very intelligent person. He has his own beliefs – how does that make him an idiot? I thought we lived in America ...

      March 25, 2011 at 12:54 pm |
  16. PCollen

    Why such a BFD with this story. Obviously, his Mother was a slacker in her faith, if she had any at all. Her response to his Disneyland announcement of his Muslim conversion reminds me of Eric Cartman's Mom responding to his whining and tantrums: "That's OK, Snookums, If it makes you feel good about yourself" . And why don't we have a few stories about Muslims who converted to Christianity in Islamic countries, but were then killed for "betraying their religion. Is this article supposed to make readers feel more 'warm and fuzzy' about Islam just because this character latched on to something in the midst of his emptiness....let's check back with him in a couple years to see if his faith in Islam is still as fervent.

    March 25, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
  17. dolis

    I was actually an atheist just about four months ago, but fortunately I found Jesus Christ in my life. I used to read the bible but never understood it and never felt Jesus Christ. Then one day, I spoke to God with all of my heart and I told him that if he did exist to please manifest himself in my life. I admitted I was a sinner and I repented of all my sins. I asked him to change me and I surrendered my life to him. I never in my life imagined that the Holy Spirit was real until I felt it come into my heart...I began to cry...it was so beautiful. I've been so happy ever since and now I understand the bible because the Holy Spirit is guiding me and opening my eyes. Jesus saved my marriage, took away my anger issues, my resentment, and delivered me from drugs. He gave me a new heart capable of loving him and loving EVERYONE; words cannot describe how happy I've been since the last four months. I am a new creation...oh and by the way, I didn't find it at church or reading the bible, and no one tried to convert me. I found him when I opened up my heart to him and to the possibilityof the existence of a supreme being. I am not trying to convince anyone to surrender to Jesus, I just wanted to share my story...love you!!

    March 25, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
    • Guest

      This is totally awesome! I'm so happy for you.

      March 25, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
    • God

      Your cookie is ready

      March 25, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
    • Teephphah

      Word.

      March 25, 2011 at 1:06 pm |
    • Michaeltantino

      You were not a true atheist. When people like you speak up and claim to be an atheist I laugh. Why? Because if you were a non believer based upon solid reasoning and logic, then NOTHING has changed. There is still no evidence of God, still no evidence of the divinity of Jesus, the earth is still billions of years old, etc. So when you say you "were an atheist" but are now a Christian, then what you are really saying is that you never were an atheist for a good reason to begin with, and so now you are a Christian for equally baseless reasons.

      March 25, 2011 at 1:25 pm |
    • dolis

      Thank you Guest!!...
      Well to the poster who claims I was not an atheist...you know how I know I was...because I always reacted the way you are reacting right now towards Christians; you sound so angry as if you are 100% convinced that there is no God. That's how I was until I found Jesus and the Holy spirit revealed the truth...what do you have to lose?? Give it a try its not like anyone will judge your for having a heart and a desire to know the real purpose to life ; )

      March 25, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
  18. Vanessa

    It's unreal how much hatred some of these comments portray. It's sad to see how much hate people have on something they have no idea about. Instead of bashing someone's belief, educate yourself and read about it. Don't just make a judgement strictly on what you read or hear on the media. All religions in general are suppose to bring unity and peace to be in a better place. To practice tolerance, specially for the weakness of others. The world will never be a perfect place, but one less sign of hatred and less ignorance can go very far.

    March 25, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
    • PCollen

      Who cares about this guys conversion and beliefs, your beliefs, or my beliefs..really, who gives a f*^k. It's all personal to each of us, and we live by, and die with, the consequences of our own decisions. This is a non-story because it says NOTHING. this guy could have converted to the Krishna society or the Children of God for all we should care...it's HIS belief and as long as he doesn't draw down on me I'm OK with it. More power to him. But it's certainly no miracle or source of inspiration, not to me anyway.

      March 25, 2011 at 12:54 pm |
  19. roo111

    if this guy can read arabic he will be able to know what is the true islam and will know that the english quran modified to satisfy the american as they say dont know arabicc and wont read read and search the original muslim"s arabic books including the the original version of quran. If muslim are daring and honest they must show show every thing and translate every word honestly . Muslim make use of having money from the gas and attrackt poor poeple to show to the world how peacful and how true they are . IF U GUYS WANT TO KNOW THE ISLAM U CAN SEE THE MIDDLE EAST (MAJORITY MUSLIM) HOW STUBID ARE THEY HOW THEY ARE WAY BEHIND BECAUSE OF ISLAM THEN JUDGE IF THEY HAVE THE TRUE GOOD FAITH OR NOT U CAN KNOW IF THEY RESPECT WOMEN OR NOT U CAN SEE IF THEY ARE FAIR OR NOT. LEARN TO READ ARABIC THEN READ THE ORIGINAL MUSLIM"S ARABIC BOOK THEN U LL KNOW THE TRUE ISLAM

    March 25, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
    • Xyz

      Please get a spell checker and pick up a copy of the Elements of Style. It's hard to get to your idiotic comment through your spelling and poor grammar.

      March 25, 2011 at 12:58 pm |
    • mnmcv1

      you're right...they're totally STUBID...hahahaha...

      March 25, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
  20. Debbie

    actually when I hear the work Muslim, the thing that comes to mind is the repression of women, not 9/11.

    March 25, 2011 at 12:47 pm |
    • Vanessa

      It's sad you think that way. You should learn more about it, so you would understand not just the religion but some cultures.

      March 25, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
    • Debbie

      I know a bit more about cultures than you think, many Muslim countries do not allow women out in area men are without escorts and they must 'cover up" lotta bull as far as I'm concerned.

      March 25, 2011 at 12:54 pm |
    • Keith

      I wish we would do away with all religions and just treat each other with kindness and respect. I hear each religion talking about tolerance, but none seems to do so. Each thinks the others are going to hell because their faith is the only true faith. It's been a subject of tensions forever.

      March 25, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
    • Veteran who has been there

      Many of the cultures that repress women use religion as an excuse to do it. If they were Christian, they would find examples in the bible to form an excuse for the repression of women. If they were Buddists they would do the same, if they were Mormon, they would do the same. It isn't about religion in many of these areas. Culturally they have repressed women before Islam came to the area, and they will remain repressive of their women until cultural, NOT RELIGIOUS change occurs. All this is obviously my opinion, but i feel that many people misunderstand the difference between culture and religion, particularly Western Christian views of foreign Muslims.

      March 25, 2011 at 1:07 pm |
    • Eleni

      i agree with you i think the same thing !! women are nothing to them !!

      March 25, 2011 at 1:09 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.