September 13, 2022


An ex-Marine was about to bomb an Indiana mosque. And then they welcomed him inside: Joshua Seftel's 'Stranger at the Gate' tells the story of military vet Richard 'Mac' McKinney's change of heart -- and religion -- after getting to know Muslims off the battlefield (RENEE GHERT-ZAND, 9/13/22, Times of Israel)

He did, in fact, plan to construct an improvised explosive device (IED). He considered setting it off in front of the Islamic Center of Muncie on a Friday afternoon in 2009, just as worshipers were gathering outside the building.

"I was hoping for 200 dead or injured -- at least," McKinney says straight into the camera.

In the end, McKinney did not commit mass murder -- thanks to a plot twist that demonstrates the power of kindness to change people.

"Kindness can be so transformative. Just talking to someone, reserving judgment, and finding common ground can make a huge difference," director Seftel said in a recent interview with The Times of Israel.

The Brooklyn-based Seftel was referring to the way longtime members of the Islamic Center, including Afghan refugees Dr. Saber Bahrami and his wife Bibi Bahrami, and African-American Muncie native Jomo Williams warmly welcomed McKinney when he walked through the door.

Incensed that a woman wearing a burqa had picked up her son at his daughter's school, McKinney was sure the boy was a terrorist in training and that it was time to put his plot into action. Looking for proof to justify the terrorist act he was about to commit, he forced himself to enter the mosque.

"I was convinced these people were killers. By the end of the night I thought they'd have me in the basement with a sword to my throat," McKinney says.

Instead, he was treated as a valued guest, although the center's members sensed there was something odd about him.

Moved -- and much relieved -- McKinney began to feel comfortable among these Muslim Americans.

"These people were just plain old pleasant. They were happy to be alive, happy to be American, and happy to talk to me," McKinney says.

Posted by at September 13, 2022 4:35 PM