Love always wins, no matter the weight or intent of the hatred. It can be seen in the story of Richard “Mac” McKinney – a US veteran. McKinney served in the US Marine Corps for twenty five years where he toured in the Middle East and assumed all Muslims as his enemies. He did not even change after his retirement when he settled with his wife and daughter in Muncie, Indiana. He wanted to kill every Muslim and hated hijab clad women around.
“Living in Muncie, now I was being forced to see people that I considered an enemy every time I went out the door. This is my country, my city. It got to the point where I wanted to do harm,” McKinney says in “Stranger at the Gate,” a 30-minute documentary by Joshua Seftel.
Richard “Mac” McKinney with his wife Dana McKinney (Photo Credit: Stranger at the Gate)
“One time, my wife and I went to a DSW (a local store’s name in Indana), and I saw in the distance, two women in black burkas. In my store. I cried as I prayed for enough strength to go over there and break both their necks. I was just angry, I was just full of hate and it just fed off itself. At that point, I was drinking a half gallon of vodka every two days,” the veteran says in the documentary.
The Muncie Islamic Center (Photo Credit: Stranger at the Gate)
“I had devised a plan to create my own IED, homemade bomb, and I was going to set it off right outside the Muncie Islamic Center. I wanted to kill or injure 200 plus Muslims,” he says.
“I saw an opportunity to do one last thing for my country. This was my rationale. I knew I would end in a federal prison with a needle in my arm, I did not care,” McKinney says.
“My hatred for Islam, it was the only thing that was keeping me alive,” he says while describing his hatred for Muslims and their religion.
“One day my daughter comes home, second grade maybe, she was telling me about a little boy who sat across from her. His mom came to get him. She said she had scarves on her head and she had a dress all the way down to her feet, and could not see nothing but her eyeballs. At that point, I snapped. Started spewing things out of my mouth that should never be said in front of children or any thing. She did not say anything, it was the look on her face. I remember my daughter looking at me like I was absolutely the craziest person on the face of the earth. She was my little buddy, she used to say we were road dogs. I know, I saw it in her eyes, I made her question that love, and that is when a light bulb came on,” Richard continues saying in the short film.
After this episode, she decided to prove her daughter wrong and went on to find something against Islam and Muslims just to show her and make his point before his daughter. He went to a local Islamic center where he met a Muslim couple – Bibi Bahrami and Dr Saber Bahrami and a new convert Jomo Williams.
Dr Saber Bahrami and Bibi Bahrami (Photo Credit: Stranger at the Gate)
“I decided to give the people of this community one more chance. So I went to the Islamic Center, see a gentleman in a shoes room taking off his shoes, He looks at me and he smiles. He said, “Can I help you?” And I said, “Yeah, I want you to teach me about Islam.” So he went and he gave me a Quran. “Read this, come back when you have questions.” So I did and I would see things in the book, I would be like, “There it is, I got him right there.” “Explain that to me.” And they would. This was a king of awakening,” Richard says about his transition from a man full of hatred to a man who wanted to learn about Islam.
Jomo Williams (Photo Credit: Stranger at the Gate)
“And, eight weeks after that first day I stepped into the Islamic Center, I became a Muslim,” he says.
Three years later, Richard McKinney became president of the Muncie Islamic Center, the center he wanted to turn into ashes and served the position for two years.
“I am a Muslim, a veteran, and a proud American. I have learned that I was completely wrong about everything that I felt,” he says.
“My big thing is now to stop the hate. I have done too many t hings. I have hurt a lot of people. I have to live with that,” he concludes.
Richard travels across the United States each year, giving talks about his journey from hate to understanding.