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. Proud Atheist

    One day religion will be extinct and we as a human race will finally reach our true potential and stop killing eachother. There is no GOD, never was, never will be. Since we have a law called Gravity, is the reason the universe can and will create itself from nothing. Oh and if I absolutely HAD to choose a religion because my life depended on it, sorry christians, I would have to pick Islam. It at least makes more sense than the jibberish that's in the bible, sorry. But don't worry about me or my words because we have something called the First Ammendment and people can practice whatever religion they want. Have a good day.

    March 25, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
    • Brain

      Its incredible how much ignorance is required to be an atheist. It seems as though it takes a lot more faith to not believe in something so apparent then to believe in something that screams louder than your feeble human mind. Science is just the surface dont you get it? This universe is governed by laws, put in place by God and what you see is only the paint applied to the underlying canvas that holds all things together. Science can explain many things, but it only goes so deep.
      God is real, and one day all will confess Christ. You will be made to kneel before him, and so will I.
      Keep that in mind next time you decide to run mouth on a subject you really have no concept of, your ignorance is screaming louder than you are.

      March 25, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
  2. JCornelius

    Ha! Looks like this guy had too many bong hits. Give him some more and he will convert to Shintoism.

    Jesus rules – rest of y'all can burn.

    March 25, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
  3. fundies

    I am only a few hours away from contuing my devoted worship of beer.

    March 25, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
  4. puppo

    I wonder, did Soledad go to the south, and a very christian town, purposely? Just to create more controversary. There must be other mosques being built around the country. Maybe in more tolerant areas.

    March 25, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
  5. Joseph

    god be with you my friend ,Jesus is the light ,the truth and the savior ,there is no other way ,it will come one day where you will regret what you did . May Jesus Christ have mercy on your soul .
    For all the non-believers ,look around ,try to explain the miracles that happened and keep happening every day.Open your eyes and repent before it is too late .

    March 25, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
  6. ProNY

    It's funny how CNN portrays itself as neutral. I have heard many times how Muslims convert to Christianity here and abroad. Many Christians even converted to Islam and then came back to Christianity after finding out what kind of religion Islam really is. CNN, you should really come out clean and say straight what you really stand for. You are becoming radicalized like other networks as well. You have to show both side of the news.

    March 25, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
  7. SCOTO

    And the point to this astoundingly unimportant story would be?

    March 25, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
  8. Goran

    The bible says " God is love" no where in the Quran says that but God is an aggressive God

    March 25, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
  9. shootingstraight

    How typical! We Westerner's have bought the deception that there is a distinction between "radical" Islam & "moderate" Islam. Obtain a copy of the Koran translated into English at; http://www.thestraightway.org Read it, then explain to me how one can be a Muslim & also view non~Muslims in the manner they claim to!

    March 25, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
  10. SHRIKE

    Who cares.

    March 25, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
  11. PS

    I am neither Muslim nor Christian. I grew up in a poor,third world developing country. We were middle class, which meant we had just enough food to eat. We got new (new for us, but usually hand me downs) clothes once every year and we lived in an apartment that was about 500 square feet and housed my grand-parents, my parents, my sibling and I, and my father's brother's family.

    My father wanted me to get a good education. When I was 3 years, he converted to Christianity because that meant he could send my brother and me to the local Christian school without having to pay tuition. It also meant that that we got clothes (and sometimes food) from the church. My Uncle converted too – for exactly the same reasons! Education was the most important thing in our lives – I cannot remember how often we were told that! There were times when we had to skip dinner and drink water to fill up our stomach but we were not allowed to skip school.

    An unwritten rule of the conversion – we were required to go into Mass every Sunday and Wednesday, to Sunday school and help out at the church whenever needed. We were encouraged to speak about our new and the benefits of joining it to friends, relations, acquaintances, anybody!

    We had neighbors who converted for the same reason. Not necessarily to Christianity but to Islam. You see the local mosque was offering a similar program, go into the school at the mosque and get an education. Learn to read the the Koran, pray 5 times a day and come in on Fridays (only men) to the mosque. And talk about Islam and its benefits to all and sundry!

    Everyone in our neighborhood was poor so we had to choose either Islam or Christianity – for food, for a few clothes,for occasional financial assistance, for education.

    Why did my father choose Christianity? For medical reasons! My grandparents' and my mother's health would not allow them to fast and during Ramadan you were expected to fast. It was certainly not mandatory especially if you had valid health reasons.But if you were a convert who was in it for all the benefits that came your way it was best to follow the rules!

    Sometimes (and often in the developing countries) it is not about beliefs and believing! It is much simpler – it's about living and surviving!

    March 25, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
  12. tuchlu

    convert to Islam just in last two decades VIDEO


    March 25, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
  13. Joe

    Wow mention religion and you get millions of post.

    March 25, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
  14. Workingman

    Think about this, faith without works is dead, the works of Islam are violence. Islams faith is dead because thier god, prophets and works are all dead. Mathew Miller is in the first stages of Islam, he sees acceptace because he has joined Islam. He will be trained to only accept those who convert, his character and his works will be that of violence towards those who do not see Muhammad as the mouth of God. Violence comes in many forms, from hiden internal anger all the way to murder, if obtainable.

    March 25, 2011 at 2:20 pm |
  15. Dan

    Simply put folks, in Scripture Christ talks about anyone who FOLLOWS Him, the WAY, would not be subjecting themselves to a life of glamour, as it is, he foretold of the hard road that is taken for True Followers of Christ. This only validates and re-validates the sincere and absolute TRUTH of the Gospel message. Why is there so much tolerance for other belief structures, whether it be muslim, budhist, atheistic beliefs, universalism, etc. (take your pick), but when it comes to the authentic truth of the Gospel, folks get turned upside down?? We shouldn't be surprised, Christ talked about this Himself, again re-validating Truth. Also, what's the difference in believing and following?? Anyone..........?? Why did Christ Himself put such an emphasis on Following........Think About that for a second....

    March 25, 2011 at 2:20 pm |
  16. ReadBible&Quran

    Until you have sat and read both the Bible and Quran with conviction and question, you shouldn't judge one against the other. I can say that the Bible doesn't tell me to hate. Jesus teaches me to love all, even if I do disagree with everything about them. The Quran does not teach me to love all; it teaches me to love a muslim brother and hate and/or berate all others. I chose Jesus teachings over all others.

    March 25, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
    • David Caldwell

      Jesus does tell us to love one another and this is a basic message in Islam as well. In fact Muslims love jesus. You say you have read the Qu'ran but you failed to mention Muslims consider the people of the book (christians and jews) as part of the same tradition.

      March 25, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
    • norcalmojo

      I'm a behaviorist when it comes to religions.

      There is no comparison on tolerance of apostasy. Most Christians don't even know what "apostate" means. It's an idea that was rightfully abandoned.

      Today, apostates are still persecuted in Islamic nations. In Afghanistan, the punishment for conversion from Islam is death. Apparently, the taliban won.

      March 25, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
  17. norcalmojo

    More power to him.

    Is he aware an Afghan who converted to Christianity is facing the death sentence?

    March 25, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
  18. chris

    Jesus said "I am THE way, THE truth and THE Life. No One come to God but by me." Jesus didn't say he was "a way" he said THE WAY. The only way to get to God is through Jesus his son. This guy made a bad mistake here. Jesus told us exactly what happens when we die. If you believe in Jesus and accept him as your saviour you have eternal Life and blessings here on earth and you become new. If you die without him you go to Hell. You better make that decision while you are still alive and have time. It's too late when you die. With all the signs in the world folk are running out of time before he comes back like he said. It's serious business.

    March 25, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
    • Thankgodi'manatheist

      how foolish this drivel is.

      March 25, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
    • Ginger K.

      No, I am THE way. And because I said it, it must be true.

      March 25, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
    • Balthazar

      Interesting. Muslims believe quite devoutly that Mohamed is THE Prophet, and THE only way to salvation.
      I understand that your belief that your position is right, and all other positions are wrong. I hope that YOU understand that there are many people who believe just as strongly that THEY are right, and YOUR position is wrong.
      Consider this carefully. Jesus does not want you to judge. Judgement is reserved only to God. Therefore, live in peace with those who disagree with you. Their judgement will come from God and no other.
      Love your enemy as Christ asked you to do. You may find that they will love you back. People who disagree can sometimes come to understand and respect each other.

      March 25, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
    • cochesset

      Actually Chris, I believe that phrase was from John, not Jesus. Men wrote the book. Men who had never met Jesus.

      March 25, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
    • Agnostic Alan

      Jesus...Living proof that not only is evolution a fact, but that there are throwbacks still among us to this day. Oooohhh...Jesus is coming. Better get out the knee pads to show him how much you love him there church-boy.

      March 25, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
  19. jasmine

    I really don't see any point to this story this happens all day everyday people convert religions on the daily basis. So I didn't see anything facinating about this story what so ever. He obviously isn't having such a hard time in his town with his new found religion. I've been married to a turkish muslim for 9 years now I am was born and raised roman catholic and he was raised to be a muslim neither one of us have converted nor have ever ran into any religion troubles.

    March 25, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
    • Prabodh

      Thanks. So long as some body gets to be at peace with himself- without hurting any thing or any body, it is fine.
      God is one, such is our belief. And just keep it simple as a relationship between you and your God. It gives you the strength to be true ,honest, believe in love harmony and peace, and yourself.There is hardly any room for another to enter the space between you and your God.

      But some will like to tell that only Allah can be God and He can be reached only through Mohammed and or Jesus or Ram or Krishna...... And those who do not subscribe to THEIR view have to be converted to their view. Big money -Power- Politics enter to exploit. And we have the mess that we find ourselves in.

      March 25, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
  20. sharif

    Dear CNN – As a Muslim, I find it peculiar that you describe this as an "unlikely face" in the Muslim community, Muslims are the most diverse group in the US, more than half of American Muslims are Black, White or Latino, this is not an immigrants faith Muslims are part and parcel of the American fabric.

    March 25, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
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About this blog

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.