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Watch this video: Re: POPE BAPTISES MUSLIM CONVERT
VATICAN CITY (AP) -- Italy's most prominent Muslim commentator converted to Roman Catholicism on Saturday during the Vatican's Easter vigil service presided over by the pope.
Pope Benedict XVI baptizes Magdi Allam during the Vatican's Easter vigil service.
An Egyptian-born, non-practicing Muslim, Magdi Allam has infuriated some fellow Muslims with his criticism of extremism and support for Israel.
The deputy editor of the Corriere della Sera newspaper, Allam often writes on Muslim and Arab affairs.
He told the Il Giornale newspaper in a December interview that his criticism of Palestinian suicide bombings generated threats on his life in 2003, prompting the Italian government to provide him with a sizeable security detail.
Pope Benedict XVI baptized seven adults during the service. Watch the vigil »
It marks the period between Good Friday, which commemorates Jesus' crucifixion, and Easter Sunday, which marks his resurrection.
The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said of Allam before the service that anyone who chooses to become a Catholic of his or her own free will has the right to receive the sacrament. Watch Allam receive the sacrament of baptism »
Lombardi said the pope administers the sacrament "without making any 'difference of people,' that is, considering all equally important before the love of God and welcoming all in the community of the Church."
In the Il Giornale interview, Allam explained his complicated relationship with Islam and his affinity for Israel.
"I was never practicing," he was quoted as saying. "I never prayed five times a day, facing Mecca. I never fasted during Ramadan."
Yet he said he did make the pilgrimage to Mecca, as is required of all Muslims, with his deeply religious mother in 1991.
Married to a Catholic, with a young son and two adult children from his first marriage, Allam indicated in the interview that he would have no problem converting to Christianity.
He said he had even received Communion once -- when he was 13 or 14 -- "even though I knew it was an act of blasphemy, not having been baptized."
Allam also explained his decision to entitle a recent book "Viva Israel" or "Long Live Israel," saying he wrote it after he received death threats from Hamas.
"Having been condemned to death, I have reflected a long time on the value of life. And I discovered that behind the origin of the ideology of hatred, violence and death is the discrimination against Israel. Everyone has the right to exist except for the Jewish state and its inhabitants," he said. "Today, Israel is the paradigm of the right to life."
In 2006, Allam was a co-winner, with three other journalists, of the $1 million Dan David prize, named for the Israeli entrepreneur of the same name. Allam was cited for "his ceaseless work in fostering understanding and tolerance between cultures."
Benedict opened the lengthy nighttime service by blessing a white candle, which he then carried down the main aisle of the darkened St. Peter's Basilica. Slowly, the pews began to light up as his flame was shared with candles carried by the faithful, until the whole basilica twinkled and the main lights came on.
The baptism rite during the vigil service is part of the joyful renewal Christians associate with Easter.
There is no overarching Muslim law on conversion. But under a widespread interpretation of Islamic legal doctrine, converting from Islam is apostasy and punishable by death -- though killings are rare.
Egypt's highest Islamic cleric, the Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa, wrote last year against the killing of apostates, saying there is no worldly retribution for Muslims who abandon their religion and that punishment would come in the afterlife.
Reaction to Allam's conversion was largely muted from Italy's Muslim community.
The Union of Islamic Communities in Italy -- which Allam has frequently criticized as having links to Hamas -- said the baptism was a personal choice.
"He is an adult, free to make his personal choice," the Apcom news agency quoted the group's spokesman, Issedin El Zir, as saying.
Osama bin Laden accused the pope in a new audio message posted Wednesday of playing a "large and lengthy role" in a "new Crusade" against Islam that included the publication of drawings of the Prophet Mohammed that many Muslims found insulting.
Lombardi said Thursday that bin Laden's accusation was baseless. He said Benedict repeatedly criticized the Mohammed cartoons, first published in some European newspapers in 2006 and republished by Danish papers in February.
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
10/09/07 12:54 Filed in: Hope for Western Civilization
Magdi Allam is a muslim, but no ordinary Muslim--he is a
staunch opponent of the Islamization of Europe. He is an Egyptian born
columnist and vice-director of
Corriere della Sera, Italy’s
leading daily newspaper. He has become Italy’s most prominent critic of Islam
and his views have become highly regarded in more conservative Catholic
Allam's mother sent him to a Catholic boarding school in Egypt, where he began studying Western culture and civilization. He later immigated to Italy.
He has supported a ban against building new mosques in Italy and has sought to expose underground relationships between Italian mosques and international terrorist groups. His writings and opinions have led to numerous death threats and have necessitated him to be under constant guard.
But as recently as 2002 Allam was espousing a more liberal mindset that Islam is compatible with democracy and pluralism. But in recent years Allam has had a change of mind and heart that is reflected in his latest book entitled, "Long Live Israel - From the Ideology of Death to the Civilization of Life: My Story", in it Allam argues that Israel represents a culture of life, while Islam’s represents a culture of death.
In a recent interview with an Israeli news agency, Allam was asked about Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. His response: “I hope that someday Israel will capture Ahmadinejad and force him to live the rest of his life between the walls of Yad Vashem.”
Allam also stated, "...[F]or me, 'Viva Israele' is a song of praise to Israel's life and to everyone's life. My book opens with the words: 'What you are about to read is a declaration of faith in the sanctity of life, 'the sanctity of life of every human being...I want to tell you about my slow and tortured path from the ideology of lies, tyranny, hatred, violence and death, to the culture of truth, freedom, love, peace and life, until it ripened into absolute certainly that defending the sanctity of life is more than ever in keeping with defending Israel's right to exist".
Not surprisingly, Allam is seen as an advocate of division and a promoter of "islamophobia" among liberal catholics and secularists. As a result a recent letter condemning Allam's latest book was published in an Italian journal and was signed by 230 liberals, both Muslim and Christian. It stated:
“Journalism risks falling into the logic of cheering for one sports team against another, rather than being rational and analytical, above all when it’s dealing with delicate and sensitive subjects such as religion,” it said, accusing Allam of adopting the all-or-nothing logic of “totalitarian ideologies.”The appeal was signed by a “who’s who” of center-left Italian Catholic opinion, including Enzo Bianchi, founder of the ecumenical monastery of Bose; Paolo Branca, an expert on Islam and advisor to Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi of Milan; Alfredo Canavero, a scholar who also writes for L’Avvenire, the newspaper of the Italian bishops; and Alberto Melloni, a well-known church historian.
REGARDING THE ISLAMIZATION OF EUROPE
Allam states, "Europe is already a bastion of Islamic extremism. Just look at the attack on Mike's Place in Tel Aviv, which was carried out by British suicide bombers drafted by Hamas; the massacre by Islamists in Madrid and in London; the slitting of director Theo Van Gogh's throat in Amsterdam; and the dozens of Islamic terror attacks that were prevented in Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Belgium and Holland."
"This bastion exists thanks to a widespread network of mosques, Koran schools, financial bodies and charitable institutions linked to the Muslim Brotherhood; Moroccan, Tunisian and Algerian Salfists; Saudi Wahabis; Al-Qaida jihadis and Pakistani groups. This multicultural Europe, which has trampled its values and betrayed its identity, is satisfied with reacting to the obvious terror, which is only the tip of the iceberg, but is afraid to deal with terror's ideological and organizational roots."
REGARDING THE IRANIAN THREAT
Allam recently stated: "Israel has to prevent the Nazi-Islamic government of [Ali] Khamenei and [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad from acquiring nuclear weapons. I don't place my faith in the United Nations and I have no illusions about the Bush administration, which now wants only to leave Iraq without losing face. And of course I don't count on a weak, cowardly and divided Europe. I believe Israel is the last bastion in Islamic terror's war against all of human civilization. Therefore I hope Israel will have a strong national unity government, determined to confront the most serious threat to world security since World War II."