Stranger at the Gate: The Story of a Muslim Convert Gets Oscar Nomination
Retired US Marine Richard Mac McKinney hated Muslims so much that he planned to bomb an Islamic Center in the state of Indiana. His transformation is the subject of a documentary short film called "Stranger at the Gate." The film has already won a special jury prize at the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival. It tells the story of how McKinney abandoned his plot and ended up converting to Islam.
|L to R: Mac McKinney, Jomo Willians, Dr. Mohammad Bahrami, Mrs. Bibi Bahrami
When Mac, a veteran of the US "global war on terror", returned to Indiana in 2006, he was outraged by the presence of the local Muslim community who he saw as enemies. During the periods he described to Joshua Seftel, the director of "Stranger at the Gate", as “between being drunk and sober,” he brainstormed how he could attack Muslims—an action he thought of as continuing to protect his family and serve his country.
He hatched a plot to bomb the Islamic Center of Muncie, Indiana on a Friday to "kill and injure at least 200 Muslims". But before carrying out his plot, he went to the mosque to check out the place where he met the Bahrami family, co-founders of the center and themselves Afghan refugees who arrived in the United States in the 1980s; and Jomo Williams, a Black local convert. The warm welcome he received at the mosque surprised him. Thus began his transformation that the film is about.
There are probably many more such stories that have remained obscure. One such story is about Balbir Singh in India. Balbir participated in the demolition of the ancient Babri masjid in Ayodhya, India. Then he went through a transformation and embraced Islam. His new name is Mohammad Amir. He now builds mosques across India to wash away his guilt.
"Stranger at the Gate" is directed and produced by Joshua Seftel. It is one of five films nominated in the "Best Documentary Short Film" category for an Oscar. The other four are: “The Elephant Whisperers,” “Haulout,” “How Do You Measure a Year?” and “The Martha Mitchell Effect." You can watch it on YouTube.