(RNS) — The cities the place homes of worship have been attacked have develop into synonymous with mass killings: Oak Creek, Wisconsin. Charleston, South Carolina. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Muncie, Indiana, got here near being one other.
The Islamic Heart within the metropolis, about 50 miles northeast of Indianapolis, was the goal Richard “Mac” McKinney had chosen, planning to detonate an improvised explosive machine in 2009. A former Marine who had served in each Afghanistan and Iraq, McKinney was stuffed with hatred for Muslims.
He had determined that he needed to “shield his homeland” after his stepdaughter got here residence from faculty in the future speaking a couple of classmate whose mom was wearing an extended burqa with solely her eyes exhibiting. He would set off the bomb from a parking zone throughout the road.
However first he wanted to go to the mosque to survey the place.
What occurred subsequent is the topic of a brand new 30-minute documentary, “Stranger at the Gate,” debuting on The New Yorker magazine’s YouTube channel Wednesday (Sept. 14). The documentary is a part of director Joshua Seftel’s years-long effort to fight Islamophobia.
As a substitute of discovering enemies on the mosque, McKinney encountered a number of of the members of the Islamic Heart of Muncie who welcomed him inside.
Bibi Bahrami and her husband, energetic members of the mosque, invited McKinney to their residence for dinner. That they had heard rumors about his motives from different Muslim members and intuited that one thing was not proper. However the couple, refugees from Afghanistan who settled in america within the Nineteen Eighties, had been dedicated to therapeutic and well being. Mohammad Saber Bahrami is a household doctor.
“I may see the vulnerability in him,” Bibi Bahrami stated of McKinney. “He wanted some respect and he wanted to be heard.”
“To me, the story may be very a lot about this second,” stated Seftel, who’s an occasional contributor to “This American Life” and a commentator on CBS’ “Sunday Morning.”
“It’s the story of division and hate circulating around the globe.” And, he added, “It exhibits change is feasible.”
However the movie is as a lot a narrative about providing hospitality to others. Bahrami stated she grew up in a home the place her mother and father recurrently introduced residence strangers. Her husband does that every single day in his observe.
McKinney stated he was completely unprepared for the welcome he acquired.
“They had been simply plain nice,” he stated in a cellphone name from New York, the place he was attending the documentary’s premiere. “I didn’t anticipate that. I anticipated to be judged. I anticipated to be checked out like I used to be lower than human as a result of I didn’t observe the Islamic path. However I wasn’t. I used to be principally handled like one in all them. It threw me off. I wasn’t prepared for that.”
McKinney is now a Muslim; he transformed about two months after his first go to. He even served for 2 years because the president of the Muncie Islamic Heart. “I’ve to imagine it was God’s plan,” McKinney stated. “With the quantity of hatred I had I ought to nonetheless be wrestling with it. It needed to be God’s plan.”
McKinney, who now works as a life expertise coach for a psychological well being firm, has advised his story in lots of venues. It initially appeared in a neighborhood newspaper, the place Seftel learn it.
“The truth that Richard McKinney, who needed to bomb a mosque and commit homicide, can now be buddies with the individuals he needed to kill and the truth that members of the mosque can forgive him and be buddies, then something is feasible,” Seftel stated. “That’s why I really like this story.”
“Stranger on the Gate” is the capstone in a sequence of shorter video posts Seftel created known as “The Secret Lives of Muslims,” which have appeared on Vox.com and in different media websites. After successful a prize at this 12 months’s Tribeca Movie Competition, the documentary will likely be screened this fall in Boston, New York and Los Angeles, amongst different cities.