Muslim-turned-Christian pastor speaks on his conversion experience and Islamic extremism

When it comes to relations between Christians and Muslims, Pastor Hicham Chehab has had an extensive history on more than one side of the religious spectrum.

Now a pastor in the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, Chehab gave a presentation titled “Testimony to Jesus: From a Muslim Extremist to a Christ Follower” to an audience of approximately 100 at Christ the King Lutheran Chapel on Sunday night.

Raised a Muslim in Lebanon, Chehab was recruited by the extremist Muslim Brotherhood at the age of 13 and fought against Christian militias in the Lebanese Civil War in the 1970s.  His brother was among the war’s casualties.  While studying the Bible in a cultural studies college course, the message of peace and love in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount caught his attention and led him to study the Bible further on his own, eventually leading him to become a Christian and get involved with Lutheran ministry.

“God has taken me by the scruff of the neck and has pushed me all the way,” Chehab said of his conversion experience.  “And he is still pushing me today … Islamic culture is like a brick wall, but Jesus removes the first stone.”

Much of Chehab’s presentation consisted of a screening of a PBS documentary titled “The Road to 9/11,” which looked at the rise of radical Islam in the Middle East through the context of important cultural, religious and political events in the region. Events included the fall of the Ottoman Empire to Western occupation following World War I to the continued tensions of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict today.  Chehab included some of his own comments at certain parts of the documentary.

“It’s important to know that many of the actions in the Middle East are good examples of cultural behaviors that are not specifically tied to the Islamic religion, such as female circumcision and honor killings,” Chehab said.  “It’s a very fine line.”

According to Anne Bakker, director of International Ministry at Christ the King Lutheran Chapel, Chehab’s visit was originally planned because the number of international students coming to CMU from Saudi Arabia and Lebanon has increased.

“The presentation is even more relevant now with the events unfolding in the Middle East this past week,” said Pastor Jonathon Bakker of Christ the King Lutheran Chapel.  “This visit was originally planned in spring, so we didn’t anticipate that obviously.”

Grand Rapids senior and Lutheran Student Fellowship president Jade Anderson said she hoped the presentation was an interesting and informative experience for everyone.

“I hope people came out with a better understanding of the role of Islam in the last century,” Anderson said.  “If we were to approach Middle Eastern students while on campus, we need to realize they don’t automatically hate us.  We have different ways of viewing the world, but we can still coexist and love each other.”