A would-be mosque bomber fuelled by a "hatred of Islam" who instead converted to the religion has shared his unlikely story.

Richard McKinney was a retired marine in Muncie, Indiana, scarred by time in service that saw him lose count of the number of people he'd killed.

Back home and battling alcohol addiction, a deep hatred of Muslims festered within McKinney, he told Australia's The Sunday Project.

Now he is president of the very Islamic Centre he had once planned to blow up.


He recalled one day walking with his wife into a local store when he saw two women in black burqas.

"I cried as I prayed for enough strength to go over there and break both their necks," he said.

He held back — but instead devised an even more evil plan: He would create his own homemade bomb, and set it off directly outside Muncie's Islamic Centre.

Richard McKinney. Source / Channel 10 Australia via News Corp
Richard McKinney. Source / Channel 10 Australia via News Corp

He would sit a safe distance away and watch the horror unfold.

"200+ killed or injured, that was the plan. My hatred of Islam was the only thing keeping me alive," he recalled.

But McKinney decided to give the community he so loathed "one more chance".

He visited the local Islamic Centre with an open mind, and was given a Koran to take home and read.

Just eight weeks later, he converted to the religion, and some years later, is now president at the very Islamic Centre he had planned to blow up.


It's a turn of events that McKinney tried to shed some light on during a satellite interview with the Sunday Project panel.

"As I was ranting one day at home, my daughter looked at me in total disgust, because of the things coming out of my mouth about other groups, other people's beliefs or races," he told them of his sudden change of heart.

"A light bulb came on: I saw what I was doing to my daughter; I was passing on prejudice."

McKinney said he could see his old self in the Australian accused of killing 50 people in the Christchurch terror attacks this month.

"The person who committed the crime, who murdered innocent people — that was me. We were the same people. When he was greeted at the door, he didn't stop and think. When I walked into my Islamic Centre and I was greeted with a smile, it automatically warmed me up a little bit. It made me open, and I started listening," he said.

"He didn't do that."