Why This Muslim-Born Iranian Converted To Catholicism After Islamist Radicals Killed French Priest


Sohrab Ahmari, an editorial writer for The Wall Street Journal in London, grew up a Muslim in Iran. But he began losing his faith following brushes with Nietzsche, Marxism and Roman Catholicism. He finally settled his identity in the Roman Catholic Church.

In an article in The Catholic Herald, Ahmari says the murder of French priest Jacques Hamel in Normandy, France at the hands of two Islamist extremists on July 26 finally convinced him to leave Islam.

Aside from Hamel's martyrdom, Hamel says other factors drove him to follow Christ. "The real story was much longer and more complicated," he says.

When he was only 12 years old, Ahmari decided that there was no God. "At school, I had already begun clashing with my Quran teacher, whose real job was to inculcate students in the regime's ideology, a mix of Shia chauvinism, anti-Americanism and Jew-hatred," he explains.

In the late 90s, Ahmari moved to Eden, Utah, with his mother. It was there where he learned about the Mormon and Protestant faith. "If Shia Islam, with its rich iconography and theology, was all hypocrisy, then Mormonism and America's Protestant ethic and cheerful consumerism were even more contemptible – and equally repressive in their own way," he says.

Before he went to college, Ahmari then discovered Friedrich Nietzsche's "Thus Spoke Zarathustra," which he claimed was "half-mad."

"I lived totally in my head. There, the world was meaningless; and if there was any point to life, it could only be reached on the far side of God's absence," he says. "The next stop was Marxism – specifically Trotskyism, a more romantic strand of the totalitarian ideology. In retrospect, it's obvious why Marxism appealed to me: it went well with the latent anti-Americanism still imprinted on my Iranian mind."

After that, he came to terms with the Judeo-Christian foundations of the West. Even though he did not consider himself a Christian, he says their beliefs helped impact his outlook in life.

"If I enjoyed the beauty and ordered liberty I saw around me, then I had to give credit to the ideals that gave birth to it. You couldn't have one without the other. The beauty and order reflected an underlying truth. It wasn't my truth, but I no longer lightly dismissed faith," he says.

Ahmari's mother might have become a Born Again Christian, but that wasn't for him. "Why Catholicism? Well, I dabbled for a couple of years with Evangelical Christianity. Catholics don't exactly send you text messages asking: 'Would you and your wife like to join us for Sunday service?' Evangelicals do," he explains.

And ultimately, Ahmari felt drawn to Catholic Mass. "There was no definitive moment that led from those early experiences with the Mass to my knocking on a priest's door and asking him to instruct me earlier this year. There were no visions or sudden epiphanies," he says. "Somewhere along the way, I resolved to be honest with myself, if not others, about my need for Almighty God."