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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. ben

    Jesus is the only Way. I hope he finds his way back to Jesus soon.

    March 25, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
    • fundies

      Turn left into the barrio. You'll find him hanging out. Si.

      March 25, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
  2. debbie

    unless he is recognizing Jesus as God's son and Lord and the Holy Trinity....he's just as lost and confused as the rest of them.......there is only one truth!! satan would like for you to believe otherwise......sounds like this guy 'left his first love' and went for the Lie..

    March 25, 2011 at 1:29 pm |
  3. fundies

    "Westboro church is homphobia stripped bare" I have Westborochurchophobia. Especially when they strip bare.

    March 25, 2011 at 1:29 pm |
  4. PRISM 1234

    If the last person on the earth goes their own way, and makes his/her own religion , which includes atheism, the truth will never change! God is true, an evry man a liar! God sent His son, Yeshua, the Messiah whom we call Jesus Christ, to give mankind the way of salvation. Those who truly seek the Truth, will recognize Him.The rest of the won't. And her is something He said :

    "He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.”

    Here lies the reason why so many don't recognise Him... because of what is in their hearts!

    March 25, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
  5. brad

    story doesn't tell me anything of his conversion. As an atheist, raised christian, that sees more sense in judaism and mulim treatment of the prophets vs the magic of Jesus, I know there is a well of details you could present in an intelligent report that isn't just created to obtain 50 pages of idiots having uninformed arguments about religion.

    March 25, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
  6. JB

    My conversion was very similar except my one sentence was shorter, “I bear witness that there is no god"

    March 25, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
    • Mark

      And where exactly did you witness this?

      March 25, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
  7. Stephanie Anderson

    Looking forward to your story of Muslims converting to other religions, or no religion, now. And how their mothers say it;s ok if it makes them happy. Try to find one, I dare you!

    March 25, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
  8. adrifter

    Most Christians, Muslims and people in other religions don't really bother me. They were, as Lady Gaga might say, born that way. However, I think many of them realize the foolishness of religion. Converts to any religion are a completely different story. They believe strongly enough to convert to a new religion, often causing rifts with family and friends. That's really, really believing in something. It's also really, really unsettling. I never can understand how seemingly rationale people can believe in such obvious nonsense.

    March 25, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
  9. kj

    if the mother told him that then they were never christian in the first place.

    March 25, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
  10. bobby

    So what? You worship the same god and still believe in jesus.

    March 25, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
  11. mike

    He would feel better if he would move to the middle east...they just love a white bread convert in the motherland. I hear Iran is nice this time of year.

    March 25, 2011 at 1:25 pm |
  12. Gene

    You make some good points, especially "...He became the bearer of all the sins of the world, even the sins of those that didn’t believe in him...." But , of course, you have to qualify that by "...The difference is that Jesus will stand there to take whatever punishment is due us AS LONG AS WE LET HIM (emphasis mine)..."

    I think stoning for adultery is infinitely more humane (by comparison only, mind you) than eternal torment and torture for what amounts to, in most cases, confusion or simple human cognitive error.

    March 25, 2011 at 1:25 pm |
  13. .

    .

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

      March 25, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
  14. MCHammer

    This conversion is just what the Mormon Church teaches. "Feelings, Faith, Facts" in that order.
    Forget about what the Manual (Bible) teaches, which is to not trust your heart or feelings, for they can (and do) deceive.
    It's always been Facts, Faith, then Feelings.

    March 25, 2011 at 1:25 pm |
  15. fundies

    Was Haji in Johnny Quest Hindu or Islamic? I think he was Hindu, but I am not sure.

    March 25, 2011 at 1:24 pm |
    • Silly people

      Seek actually

      March 25, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
  16. jubaeda

    matt.. do u need read the Al quran, later u find Isah Almasih in Alimbran book...Isa (Jesus Christ) the light,the way,and the truth..

    March 25, 2011 at 1:23 pm |
  17. David Caldwell

    It is time we start using the brain that God gave us, and look at his entire message.

    Islam sprang from the Judeo-Christian belief in one god. (The same God) If you believe in God, and submit your life to God, you are indeed a Muslim. The word Islam means to submit. What many Americans don't really realize is the overwhelming similarity of Islam and Christianity. The Qu'ran identifies Jesus, as being born the Virgin Mary; he is the Messiah, the word of God, the light of God and is the path to follow. Muhammad continued the prophetic tradition that began with Adam and continued with Abraham, Noah, David, Moses and Jesus.
    As a Christian I believe there is no God but God and this is the core of Islam too. In addition, it is hard to deny that Muhammad preached the same message.
    There are differences in the Christianity and Islam, but the overall message is the same. Pray to God, Help the needy, live a humble life, love and respect the Prophets etc. I see no substantive difference between the core beliefs. Muslims do not believe Jesus is God, but many early Christians did not either, particularly at the time Muhammad received his revelations circa 610 to 622. Muhammad’s beliefs where heavily influenced by Christianity and Judaism , as evidenced in the Qu’ran.

    But don't believe me, read it for yourself. I think this is a great story. Despite the similarities, I think Islam needs to be evaluated on its own merits as an ethical and moral philosophical and religious system. It cannot only be evaluated through a Christian perspective.

    Many people who demonize Islam do it by extracting strange passages from the Qu’ran. No doubt there are passages that when viewed from our modern sensibilities may appear odd. However, one can easily find similar passages in the Bible. Again don’t believe me, use your god given brain and make an objective comparison. Then ask yourself why it is so easy to explain away the odd passages in the Bible but not afford that same objectivity to strange passages in the Qu’ran. Instead look at the overall message of the Qu’ran and the Bible and the answer is clear. They encourage a similar path to follow.

    We are also so quick to judge the actions of those that act in the name of Islam, but there actions are clearly heretical to Islam. However, when someone acts in the name of Christianity, but those actions are heretical to the Christian message of love and peace, we seem so able to make the distinction between the message of Jesus and the heretical actions of someone who does the bad things in the name of Christianity. Somehow we cannot take that objective stance when it comes to Islam. Why not?

    March 25, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
    • bethe123

      The demonization of Islam is based on the evil acts of its folloowers in the world, and the Quran and Hadith which supports these acts.
      If you want us to break it down for you we can do so quite easily.

      March 25, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
    • bethe123

      The demonization of Islam is based on the evil acts of its folloowers in the world, and the Quran and Hadith which supports these acts.
      If you want us to break it down for you we can do so quite easily....

      March 25, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
    • Big Bob

      YOU believe that Jesus was the son of God. Islam only refers to him as a profit. The profit Issa.

      March 25, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
    • brad

      Jesus was indeed just a profit, I mean prophet.

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

      So lost you are. Quran has been read and it is all wrong. Muslim's claim Abraham just like Christians and that is where it stops. Ask a Muslim if they believe Jesus is god and they will tell you no. The only way to heaven is through Jesus and that is the truth. This poor young kid did not know Jesus and only saw himself as a Christian because he went to church every once in a while. Keep fooling yourself into thinking Islam is the religion of peace. Pray for the young man and hopefully he will find the one true God (Jesus) before it's too late. I will pray for you David and hopefully you will read the bible and study it yourself.

      March 25, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
    • Davren

      Hey Dave, no disrepspect but the Muslim and Christian are 100% at ods with each other. In Christianity the focus is on the Christ, not just as a prophet, but as God in flesh as referenced throughout the scriptures in both the OT and the NT. To deny Jesus's own claims to be one (in essence) with God, accepting worship as God, and rebuking the Devil, something only reserved for God (Read Jude) is to reject God's gift of salvation and forgiveness to the world as told in the Bible.

      Islam accepts Christ in every aspect accept for this claim to be one with God. That is not a small difference, but actually THE difference that separates the two at the core.

      March 25, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
    • Sal

      @Beth123 – the Bible supports the violent acts of people who commit them in the name of Christianity. Read it sometime. Most Christians have never read the Bible cover to cover yet I know many Muslims who have read the Bible cover to cover. People that bomb family planning clinics get their approval from the Bible. White supremacists get their approval from the Bible. Why are Muslims the only ones that have to take collective blame for every act committed by a few whackjobs?

      March 25, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
    • Sal

      @Chuck – How do you know that YOU are right?

      March 25, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
    • WC

      Very well written. I couldn't agree more. I am a Christian and had the same fears and concerns as many Americans. However, I recently got to travel in the Middle East and made several Muslim friends. I discovered that they and their beliefs were so much like what I was raised with that we struggled to find differences. ALL that I met abhor the violence that is happening. I cannot tell you how many times I heard, "they are not true Muslims." The stereotypes we have formed based on the extreme edges of their society are no more accurate than assuming all Americans are like what is seen in Hollywood movies. Personally, I'm not much like Dude, Where's my Car or Saw IV. Good people on both sides need to continue to reach out to each other and help the lost find their way from the madness of violence.

      March 25, 2011 at 1:59 pm |
  18. Leath

    Religion, in any form, is a crutch of the weak mind.

    If you want to be spiritual, then do so for yourself and not others. People need to find their own path and not be assailed by a doctrine of belief.

    March 25, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
    • Jose

      Well said. Don't understand why people need to have the acceptance of those around them when it comes to decisions that affect their lives. Convert, Don't convert, don't care!

      March 25, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
    • Mark

      Is that your doctrine of belief?

      March 25, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
  19. hehehe

    This article is actually for Muslims to know that USA does not kill people bcoz someone wants to convert. If this same thing happened in Pakistan or a Middle East country where a Muslim became a Christian, u think he will be alive today!!. That is why Islam is considered a terrible religion by majority. There will always be many gullible people who will convert, but if it makes them happy, so be it.

    March 25, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
    • JUSTATHOUGHT

      based on your response shows that you are a typical American that don't know anything past your front door. Their are Christians in the middle east, its just the majority in those countries happen to be Muslim. How about reading a book for a change or travel abroad to learn something? #justathought

      March 25, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
    • Sal

      You know nothing of Islam yet you speak as though you are some sore of expert. Pick up a book and get a clue.

      March 25, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
  20. Mark

    You know...why say he was a christian? He never was...so he went to church as a kid...that doesn't make you any more a christian that sitting in a garage makes you a car. He's just some lost soul like the rest of us searching for truth...and he now fell for a lie because he NEVER WAS A CHRISTIAN.

    March 25, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
    • Zombie Jesus

      Yes folks Mark has a direct link to his god and knows who is a christian and who never was. Reality is the guy is trading one delusion (christian) for another (islam).

      A person talks to an invisible friend he is crazy. A person talks to a god he is religious.

      March 25, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
    • radam82

      Both basically the same God. They stem from the desert religions.

      March 25, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
    • Johnnyb52

      Mark, you are right. Zombie, you are wrong. Just saying.

      March 25, 2011 at 1:29 pm |
    • John Sharp

      Mark,
      Why would you say this when everyone who is posting on this site knows you do not know this guy. Nor do you know his level of commitment to Christianity when he converted. So it is really strange that you would make a statement that is so patently false.
      This statement says more about you and less about anything else.

      March 25, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
    • Al

      Well stated-Zombie. Its amazing how many problems religion creates. Its like get over it already. If you stop treating people on their beliefs none of tjhese issues would be happening. I couldnt say it as clever as you could Zombie. But you know where I'm going.

      March 25, 2011 at 1:31 pm |
    • Bia

      Zombie you are right, Mark you are stupid. Just saying.

      March 25, 2011 at 1:37 pm |
    • MEB

      Mark –
      I was thinking the exact thing when I read this. Unfortunately the world has this view that if you go to Church it makes you a Christian. Nowhere in this story does it say that Matthew Miller made a conscious decision to follow Christ.

      March 25, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
    • MEB

      I also find it funny how thosewho do not beleive in God always seem to come to the blogs religious blogs to post how there is no God and call those of us that believe in God, stupid. Seems to me that if you all were so sure about your statements, you would skip over these types of articles since it is truly a waste of your time.

      March 25, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
    • MEB

      @John Sharp – Where does the story say he was a Christian? Mark (and anyone else for that matter) can only make comments based on the information presented. Based on the information presented, Mark is correct in his statement. Being raised Christian does not make you a Christian.

      March 25, 2011 at 1:50 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.