Converting From Hate to Islam—One Man’s Journey Out of Darkness

In 2009, Richard McKinney visited the Islamic Center in Muncie, Indiana. His purpose: to scout the building in preparation for killing Muslims.

McKinney was a former Marine. He had served in Afghanistan and Iraq and was no stranger to violent deaths. He had developed a deep-seated hatred of Muslims. His plan: to detonate a bomb that would kill or injure at least 200 Muslims at the center.

Image by SevenMaps/

He walked in the door seeing nothing but enemies. “By the end of the night I figured they would have me in the basement with a sword to my throat,” he later said. He looked at the people and remembered what his Marine instructors had told him was the way to avoid remorse: “As long as you can look at them as anything but human, you won’t have any problem.” 

He ticked off the people, one by one. “Yep, he’s gone (dead). He’s gone.”

Mohammad Saber Bahrami, the founder of the mosque and a leader in the local Islamic community, saw the trouble in McKinney’s eyes. He walked up to McKinney and hugged him. Not an artificial gesture; a genuine welcoming hug. “Salam,” Bahrami said. Meaning, “you are safe from me, there will be no danger from me.”

“It requires real strength to love Man. And to love him despite all invitations to do otherwise.” 

“We need to be kind, to any guest,” Bahrami explained. He and his wife had made a practice of opening their home to those in need. They did so for McKinney. In the weeks that followed, McKinney returned to the mosque many times during community dinners and during prayers. “He was hugging the people he wanted to choke,” Bahrami explained.

Eight weeks later, McKinney became a Muslim. He now speaks of the Quran telling him that to kill one human being is as if you killed all of humanity, but to save one human being is as if you saved all of humanity. He served for two years as president of the Islamic Center, and he tours the country speaking of his experience converting from hatred to love.

A documentary has been made of McKinney’s experience. You can watch it here: 

This story resonates perfectly with STAND’s purpose. It deserves wide retelling.

It also reminds me of what Scientology Founder L. Ron Hubbard wrote in his essay “What Is Greatness?”

“It requires real strength to love Man. And to love him despite all invitations to do otherwise, all provocations and all reasons why one should not.

“Happiness and strength endure only in the absence of hate. To hate alone is the road to disaster. To love is the road to strength. To love in spite of all is the secret of greatness. And may very well be the greatest secret in this universe.”

Leland Thoburn
Leland has been a Scientologist for 45 years. His writings have been published in numerous magazines and literary journals, including Foliate Oak Review, Writers’ Journal, Feathertale Review, Calliope, Vocabula Review and others. Formerly an executive at EarthLink Inc., he works as a business consultant.