A Marine Planned To Blow Up An Islamic Centre. Instead, He Converted To Islam.
Richard McKinney was shopping in his local store one day when he saw two women wearing burqas.
Rather than getting on with his day, the former U.S. marine admits he was overcome with rage.
"I just cried as I prayed to God to find the strength to go over and break both their necks," McKinney told CBS.
Thankfully for the two women, McKinney didn't act. But it wasn't the last violent thought from a man with at least 26 confirmed kills during his tours as a marine, who admits he was drinking heavily and that his "hatred of Islam was the only thing" keeping him alive.
Horrifyingly, he planned to blow up his local Islamic centre in his home town of Muncie, Indiana.
"I made my own IED [improvised explosive device] and I was going to take it to the Muncie Islamic Centre, then set it off from across the road at the carpark and just sit back and watch the show," McKinney said.
"Two hundred plus killed or injured, that was the plan. I just thorough it was one last thing I could do for my country."
Instead, in what McKinney described as a "one last chance" situation, he visited the centre to learn about a religion he'd actively hated.
"I walked into the Islamic centre and in the shoe room a man said ‘Can I help you?” And I said I wanna learn about Islam and so he gave me a Koran and said read this and ask me if you have any questions. So I did."
McKinney was so moved by what he learned, he converted to Islam eight weeks later. Three years later, he became the president of the Islamic centre.
"I am a Muslim, a veteran and a proud American. I had learned I was completely wrong about everything that I felt."
McKinney's transformation from experiencing intense Islamophobia to becoming a practising Muslim is "proof" in the power to overcome hatred, said Ali Kadri of the Islamic Council of Queensland.
"This gentleman is a living example that fighting hatred and Islamophobia using the Islamic principles of forgiveness and kindness is more effective in the long-term, of winning hearts and minds, than just simply calling out racism or demonising people," Kadri told 10 daily.
"Of course there is a place for it. You have to call out racism. When somebody says something wrong, you have to speak up against it. But you have to give people chances until they commit a crime. Until you commit a sin, you are given chances by God, and God is merciful."
Kadri said he wasn't shocked by the horrific Christchurch terror attack, where 50 Muslims were killed during Friday afternoon prayer, but he was shocked by the country in which it happened.
"I have lost family to anti-Islam feelings back in India. I know what hatred can lead to," Kadri said.
"I never thought this was possible in a country where democracy and freedom of religion are celebrated at the highest level. I didn't think it could happen in New Zealand of all places."
What McKinney was planning is horrific, Kadri said, but he adds that there are a lot of people who justify violence against Muslims -- and "I don't want to give up on all of them". Forgiveness is key, he says.
It's a value shared by McKinney, who has now been a practising Muslim for several years. He has a simple but seemingly impossible goal: to stop the hate.
"I've hurt a lot of people. I have to live with that. But if I can stop somebody else on the path of non-forgiveness, I won."
McKinney will appear on The Sunday Project, airing from 6.30pm Sunday.
Contact the author: firstname.lastname@example.org