Michael Barnes grew up in a devout Christian family in Alexandria, Louisiana. They used to go to church at least three times a week. Michael attended Jarvis Christian College and joined the US Army when he was 23 years old.
When he was deployed at an American Military base in Germany he met a Muslim soldier who was always talking about Islam and its virtues. Michael Barnes was so annoyed by this Muslim soldier that one day he decided to challenge him to a public debate about Islam and Christianity.
Thirty other soldiers from the base attended the debate. Without going into detail about what happened at the debate Michael said the Muslim soldier “kind of blindsided me with some facts and a powerful, persuasive defense of his faith that put Islam in a whole new light.” Michael recalls how he was in shock: “It was all-out cognitive dissonance, depression and shame, honestly. I thought I had a stronghold on the truth. And, for the first time, my confidence was shaken in who I was as a human being and what I believed.”
After the debate, Michael Barnes decided to study Islam. Everyday after work he would spend countless hours reading the Quran and the Bible. Two years of study made him identify deeply with Islam’s tenets: “One of my favorite passages in the Quran asks if the man who thinks and the man who does are the same. It’s the thinking component in Islam that really intrigued me. I am in control of my grace, and I don’t have to answer to the imam.” He was ready to convert and changed his name to Khallid Shabazz.
Shabazz is now a US army lieutenant colonel and has two Doctorates and three Master’s degrees. He says that some American soldiers who convert to Islam come to him for counseling and support. Just 3 months ago a master sergeant in the Special Forces came crying to Shabazz and said “I’ve been thinking about Islam for about three years and I’m ready to take shahada”.