Richard McKinney recently spoke at the Oklahoma City University and declared that he once hated Muslims. Of note, the speech was co-sponsored by The Council on American-Islamic Relations-Oklahoma chapter and even more surprisingly, Mr. McKinney says he is now a convert of Islam.
McKinney, a military veteran, explained in his speech that he was miserable when he returned from serving tours in the Middle East and had developed a hatred for Muslims. One day he found himself at a local mosque, posing as someone curious about the faith. But to his surprise, he was welcomed into the mosque and over an eight week period, he read the Quran and learned that Islam is a religion of peace. This new understanding led to his conversion. “Islam was right for me. It saved me in so many ways,” he recounts.
“I think it was a wonderful experience having him here,” says Adam Soltani, executive director of CAIR-OK. “The biggest thing I got from it was that hate can be overcome. He journeyed from having a white supremacy ideology that he firmly believed in to the point where he was going to take action, to taking steps to understand the people he was propagating against and through that understanding, embracing the Islamic faith.”
Mr. McKinney says he is on a mission to share his story with the hope that people will be encouraged to reach out and learn about other faiths. “We, as human beings, have a duty to our creator, to the rest of humanity, to try to connect,” he said in his speech. “You don’t have to be like me and I don’t have to be like you and that’s OK.”