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Muslim Baptized by Pope
See 2nd article below, Allam describes his conversion
& 3rd article - A Conversion Heard Around the World -- by Thomas Haidon

[COMMENT:   A brave man.  Christians MUST learn how to counter the violence and propaganda from the terrorists.  We can do a good job of it if we get obedient and learn how to put evil right in the spot light -- with truth and grace.  I hope that the Pope will apply his position to expose the violence and deceit for what it is.  It will cost us lives, but we MUST do it.  If we do not know how to die well, we cannot know how to live well. 

The Pope is not an ignorant man, and knows the consequences of this for Allam.  I trust that they both will follow out the strategy which God surely is giving them.  The article by Haidon does a good job on explaining Islam in this situation. 

See Islam Library for strategy.   E. Fox]


 Muslim baptized by pope says life in danger

By Philip Pullella Sun Mar 23, 2:35 PM ET

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - A Muslim author and critic of Islamic fundamentalism who was baptized a Catholic by Pope Benedict said on Sunday Islam is "physiologically violent" and he is now in great danger because of his conversion.

"I realize what I am going up against but I will confront my fate with my head high, with my back straight and the interior strength of one who is certain about his faith," said Magdi Allam.

In a surprise move on Saturday night, the pope baptized the 55-year-old, Egyptian-born Allam at an Easter eve service in St Peter's Basilica that was broadcast around the world.

The conversion of Allam to Christianity -- he took the name "Christian" for his baptism -- was kept secret until the Vatican disclosed it in a statement less than an hour before it began.

Writing in Sunday's edition of the leading Corriere della Sera, the newspaper of which he is a deputy director, Allam said: "... the root of evil is innate in an Islam that is physiologically violent and historically conflictual."

Allam, who is a strong supporter of Israel and who an Israeli newspaper once called a "Muslim Zionist," has lived under police protection following threats against him, particularly after he criticized Iran's position on Israel.

He said before converting he had continually asked himself why someone who had struggled for what he called "moderate Islam" was then "condemned to death in the name of Islam and on the basis of a Koranic legitimization."

His conversion, which he called "the happiest day of my life," came just two days after al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden accused the pope of being part of a "new crusade" against Islam.

The Vatican appeared to be at pains to head off criticism from the Islamic world about the conversion.

"Conversion is a private matter, a personal thing and we hope that the baptism will not be interpreted negatively by Islam," Cardinal Giovanni Re told an Italian newspaper.

Still, Allam's highly public baptism by the pope shocked Italy's Muslim community, with some leaders openly questioning why the Vatican chose to shine such a big spotlight it.

"What amazes me is the high profile the Vatican has given this conversion," Yaha Sergio Yahe Pallavicini, vice-president of the Italian Islamic Religious Community, told Reuters. "Why could he have not done this in his local parish?"


Allam, the author of numerous books, said he realized that his conversion would likely procure him "another death sentence for apostasy," or the abandoning of one's faith.

But he said he was willing to risk it because he had "finally seen the light, thanks to divine grace."

Allam defended the pope in 2006 when the pontiff made a speech in Regensburg, Germany, that many Muslims perceived as depicting Islam as a violent faith.

He said he made his decision to convert after years of deep soul searching and asserted that the Catholic Church has been "too prudent about conversions of Muslims."

At a Sunday morning Easter mass hours after he baptized Allam, the pope, without mentioning him, spoke in a prayer of the continuing "miracle" of conversion to Christianity some 2,000 years after Christ's resurrection.

The Vatican statement announcing Allam's conversion said: "For the Catholic Church, each person who asks to receive Baptism after a deep personal search, a fully free choice and adequate preparation, has a right to receive it."

It said all newcomers to the faith were "equally important before God's love and welcome in the community of the Church."

(Reporting by Philip Pullella, editing by Mary Gabriel)


Muslim baptized by Pope says life in great danger

March 26th, 2008 Posted in Islam |




ZE08032309 - 2008-03-23      Permalink: http://www.zenit.org/article-22151?l=english

Magdi Allam Recounts His Path to Conversion

Benedict XVI Baptized the Journalist at Easter Vigil

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 23, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of Magdi Allam’s account of his conversion to Catholicism. The Muslim journalist was baptized by Benedict XVI at Saturday's Easter Vigil Mass in St. Peter's Basilica.

An abbreviated form of this account appeared as a letter to Paolo Mieli, the director of the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera. Allam is the paper’s deputy director. The Italian version of the complete text is available at magdiallam.it.
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Dear Friends,

I am particularly happy to share with you my immense joy for this Easter of Resurrection that has brought me the gift of the Christian faith. I gladly propose the letter that I sent to the director of the Corriere della Sera, Paolo Mieli, in which I tell the story of the interior journey that brought me to the choice of conversion to Catholicism. This is the complete version of the letter, which was published by the Corriere della Sera only in part.

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Dear Director,

That which I am about to relate to you concerns my choice of religious faith and personal life in which I do not wish to involve in any way the Corriere della Sera, which it has been an honor to be a part of as deputy director “ad personam” since 2003. I write you thus as protagonist of the event, as private citizen.

Yesterday evening I converted to the Christian Catholic religion, renouncing my previous Islamic faith. Thus, I finally saw the light, by divine grace -- the healthy fruit of a long, matured gestation, lived in suffering and joy, together with intimate reflection and conscious and manifest expression. I am especially grateful to his holiness Pope Benedict XVI, who imparted the sacraments of Christian initiation to me, baptism, confirmation and Eucharist, in the Basilica of St. Peter’s during the course of the solemn celebration of the Easter Vigil. And I took the simplest and most explicit Christian name: “Cristiano.” Since yesterday evening therefore my name is Magdi Crisitano Allam.

For me it is the most beautiful day of [my] life. To acquire the gift of the Christian faith during the commemoration of Christ’s resurrection by the hand of the Holy Father is, for a believer, an incomparable and inestimable privilege. At almost 56 […], it is a historical, exceptional and unforgettable event, which marks a radical and definitive turn with respect to the past. The miracle of Christ’s resurrection reverberated through my soul, liberating it from the darkness in which the preaching of hatred and intolerance in the face of the “different,” uncritically condemned as “enemy,” were privileged over love and respect of “neighbor,” who is always, an in every case, “person”; thus, as my mind was freed from the obscurantism of an ideology that legitimates lies and deception, violent death that leads to murder and suicide, the blind submission to tyranny, I was able to adhere to the authentic religion of truth, of life and of freedom.

On my first Easter as a Christian I not only discovered Jesus, I discovered for the first time the face of the true and only God, who is the God of faith and reason. My conversion to Catholicism is the touching down of a gradual and profound interior meditation from which I could not pull myself away, given that for five years I have been confined to a life under guard, with permanent surveillance at home and a police escort for my every movement, because of death threats and death sentences from Islamic extremists and terrorists, both those in and outside of Italy.

I had to ask myself about the attitude of those who publicly declared fatwas, Islamic juridical verdicts, against me -- I who was a Muslim -- as an “enemy of Islam,” “hypocrite because he is a Coptic Christian who pretends to be a Muslim to do damage to Islam,” “liar and vilifier of Islam,” legitimating my death sentence in this way. I asked myself how it was possible that those who, like me, sincerely and boldly called for a “moderate Islam,” assuming the responsibility of exposing themselves in the first person in denouncing Islamic extremism and terrorism, ended up being sentenced to death in the name of Islam on the basis of the Quran. I was forced to see that, beyond the contingency of the phenomenon of Islamic extremism and terrorism that has appeared on a global level, the root of evil is inherent in an Islam that is physiologically violent and historically conflictive.

At the same time providence brought me to meet practicing Catholics of good will who, in virtue of their witness and friendship, gradually became a point of reference in regard to the certainty of truth and the solidity of values. To begin with, among so many friends from Communion and Liberation, I will mention Father Juliàn Carròn; and then there were simple religious such as Father Gabriele Mangiarotti, Sister Maria Gloria Riva, Father Carlo Maurizi and Father Yohannis Lahzi Gaid; there was rediscovery of the Salesians thanks to Father Angelo Tengattini and Father Maurizio Verlezza, which culminated in a renewed friendship with major rector Father Pascual Chavez Villanueva; there was the embrace of top prelates of great humanity like Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Monsignor Luigi Negri, Giancarlo Vecerrica, Gino Romanazzi and, above all, Monsignor Rino Fisichella, who personally accompanied me in the journey of spiritual acceptance of the Christian faith.

But undoubtedly the most extraordinary and important encounter in my decision to convert was that with Pope Benedict XVI, whom I admired and defended as a Muslim for his mastery in setting down the indissoluble link between faith and reason as a basis for authentic religion and human civilization, and to whom I fully adhere as a Christian to inspire me with new light in the fulfillment of the mission God has reserved for me.

Mine was a journey that began when at four years old, my mother Safeya -- a believing and practicing Muslim -- in the first in the series of “fortuitous events” that would prove to be not at all the product of chance but rather an integral part of a divine destiny to which all of us have been assigned -- entrusted me to the loving care of Sister Lavinia of the Comboni Missionary Sisters, convinced of the goodness of the education that would be imparted by the Catholic and Italian religious, who had come to Cairo, the city of my birth, to witness to their Christian faith through a work aimed at the common good. I thus began an experience of life in boarding school, followed by the Salesians of the Institute of Don Bosco in junior high and high school, which transmitted to me not only the science of knowledge but above all the awareness of values.

It is thanks to members of Catholic religious orders that I acquired a profoundly and essentially an ethical conception of life, in which the person created in the image and likeness of God is called to undertake a mission that inserts itself in the framework of a universal and eternal design directed toward the interior resurrection of individuals on this earth and the whole of humanity on the day of judgment, which is founded on faith in God and the primacy of values, which is based on the sense of individual responsibility and on the sense of duty toward the collective. It is in virtue of a Christian education and of the sharing of the experience of life with Catholic religious that I cultivated a profound faith in the transcendent dimension and also sought the certainty of truth in absolute and universal values.

There was a time when my mother’s loving presence and religious zeal brought me closer to Islam, which I occasionally practiced at a cultural level and in which I believed at a spiritual level according to an interpretation that at the time -- it was the 1970s -- summarily corresponded to a faith respectful of persons and tolerant toward the neighbor, in a context -- that of the Nasser regime -- in which the secular principle of the separation of the religious sphere and the secular sphere prevailed.

My father Muhammad was completely secular and agreed with the opinion of the majority of Egyptians who took the West as a model in regard to individual freedom, social customs and cultural and artistic fashions, even if the political totalitarianism of Nasser and the bellicose ideology of Pan-Arabism that aimed at the physical elimination of Israel unfortunately led to disaster for Egypt and opened the way to the resumption of Pan-Islamism, to the ascent of Islamic extremists to power and the explosion of globalized Islamic terrorism.

The long years at school allowed me to know Catholicism well and up close and the women and men who dedicated their life to serve God in the womb of the Church. Already then I read the Bible and the Gospels and I was especially fascinated by the human and divine figure of Jesus. I had a way to attend Holy Mass and it also happened, only once, that I went to the altar to receive communion. It was a gesture that evidently signaled my attraction to Christianity and my desire to feel a part of the Catholic religious community.

Then, on my arrival in Italy at the beginning of the 1970s between the rivers of student revolts and the difficulties of integration, I went through a period of atheism understood as a faith, which nevertheless was also founded on absolute and universal values. I was never indifferent to the presence of God even if only now I feel that the God of love, of faith and reason reconciles himself completely with the patrimony of values that are rooted in me.

Dear Director, you asked me whether I fear for my life, in the awareness that conversion to Christianity will certainly procure for me yet another, and much more grave, death sentence for apostasy. You are perfectly right. I know what I am headed for but I face my destiny with my head held high, standing upright and with the interior solidity of one who has the certainty of his faith. And I will be more so after the courageous and historical gesture of the Pope, who, as soon has he knew of my desire, immediately agreed to personally impart the Christian sacraments of initiation to me. His Holiness has sent an explicit and revolutionary message to a Church that until now has been too prudent in the conversion of Muslims, abstaining from proselytizing in majority Muslim countries and keeping quiet about the reality of converts in Christian countries. Out of fear. The fear of not being able to protect converts in the face of their being condemned to death for apostasy and fear of reprisals against Christians living in Islamic countries. Well, today Benedict XVI, with his witness, tells us that we must overcome fear and not be afraid to affirm the truth of Jesus even with Muslims.

For my part, I say that it is time to put an end to the abuse and the violence of Muslims who do not respect the freedom of religious choice. In Italy there are thousands of converts to Islam who live their new faith in peace. But there are also thousands of Muslim converts to Christianity who are forced to hide their faith out of fear of being assassinated by Islamic extremists who lurk among us. By one of those “fortuitous events” that evoke the discreet hand of the Lord, the first article that I wrote for the Corriere on Sept. 3, 2003 was entitled “The new Catacombs of Islamic Converts.” It was an investigation of recent Muslim converts to Christianity in Italy who decry their profound spiritual and human solitude in the face of absconding state institutions that do not protect them and the silence of the Church itself. Well, I hope that the Pope’s historical gesture and my testimony will lead to the conviction that the moment has come to leave the darkness of the catacombs and to publicly declare their desire to be fully themselves. If in Italy, in our home, the cradle of Catholicism, we are not prepared to guarantee complete religious freedom to everyone, how can we ever be credible when we denounce the violation of this freedom elsewhere in the world? I pray to God that on this special Easter he give the gift of the resurrection of the spirit to all the faithful in Christ who have until now been subjugated by fear. Happy Easter to everyone.

Dear friends, let us go forward on the way of truth, of life and of freedom with my best wishes for every success and good thing.

Magdi Allam

© Innovative Media, Inc.

Reprinting ZENIT's articles requires written permission from the editor.


A Conversion Heard Around the World


Posted on March 27, 2008

By Thomas Haidon

On the world stage, and under the auspices of Pope Benedict, Magdi Allam, a staunch Egyptian critic of radical Islam, became a member of the Roman-Catholic faith. The significance and symbolism of this conversion cannot be understated, particularly in the current climate of Islamic-Catholic affairs. In embracing Roman Catholicism and rejecting Islam, Mr Allam (a formerly self-avowed secular Muslim) breached one of the most fundamental precepts of traditional Islam by committing the “crime” of apostasy.

At the same time Allam has made a potentially empowering statement in support of the freedom of religion and universal human rights. The implications of this event will unfold over the coming days and weeks. It is likely that the conversion of Mr Allam will hold significant implications for Mr Allam (particularly for his personal safety and relationship with the Muslim and non-Muslim world), and for the wider state of affairs governing Muslim-non-Muslim relations. It provides both challenges and opportunities for Muslims and non-Muslims to confront the “uncomfortable” aspects of Islam that are rarely discussed in the West.

At the foundation of any ensuing controversy behind Mr Allam’s conversion is traditional Islamic law. All major jurisprudential schools of traditional Islam criminalize “apostasy” and are in general accord that the punishment of death is mandated for the male, born to Muslim parents, who takes up another religion to Islam. While there may be some academic dissonance among so called moderates and reformers, the law is well settled. As such, Allam’s conversion essentially makes him a target for traditionalists and Islamists (not only “run of the mill” jihadists).

In trying to grasp the situation, some commentators have begun to draw parallels between Mr Allam with the case of author Salman Rushdie, born into Shi’a Islam accused of blasphemy and apostasy by the Islamic Republic of Iran. Rushdie has been the subject of several fatwa (Islamic legal judgments), from Sunni and Shi’a scholars calling for his execution, which have resulted in attempts on his life.

While there are some clear parallels between Mr. Allam and Mr. Rusdhie, these comparisons are not entirely congruent. While Rushdie is considered an apostate by many Muslims and Muslim governments, he has not made a formal and public declaration of his apostasy like Mr. Allam. Through his works including “Viva Israele!”, and his unabated criticism of radical Islam, Mr. Allam had already been painted by traditionalists and Islamists with the “blasphemy” and “intellectual apostasy” brush. Mr. Allam’s formal declaration of “apostasy” makes him an innate apostate according to Islamic law, and therefore severely exacerbates his already tenuous relationship with the traditional Muslim world. Mr. Allam’s conversion will be treated with greater invective among Muslims because of its public nature and linkages to the Catholic Church and Pope Benedict. In other words, the situation of Mr. Allam is likely to be more dire than that of Mr. Rushdie. In traditionalist and Islamist eyes, Mr. Allam is likely to be perceived as far more “dangerous” than Rushdie.

While Mr. Allam, may become a target of Al-Qaeda, he is likely to be the subject of fatwa from terrorists connected with the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, and the conservative factions of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, given his Sunni and Egyptian connections. Clearly, Mr. Allam will require, and is most deserved of, state protection. Unfortunately, Mr. Allam’s conversion is also likely to result in professional implications and may result in a backlash from Western media outlets, analysts, and policy-makers who continue to deny the existence of the problems stemming from Islam and who advocate for “constructive engagement” with Islamists. Ayaan Hirsi Ali and others provide for excellent case studies to demonstrate just how difficult the path of activism for ex-Muslims can be.

In terms of the wider context, this event is likely to serve as a potential flash point in the current context of deteriorating Islamic-Catholic relations. The Pope’s recent comments about Islam and the maltreatment of Christians in Muslim countries has been indicative of the Holy See’s insistence on reciprocity as a governing principle in Islamic-Catholic relations. This “defiance” has been met with hostility in the Muslim world, even among “moderates.”

In traditionalist and Islamist circles, Pope Benedict and the Catholic Church will be viewed as the primary enabler of Mr. Allam’s conversion, and will only contribute to the Muslim world’s warped views about the Pope and the role of the Church. Given the overarching Muslim hysteria around the Danish cartoons and the papal statements, the conversion of Mr. Allam before the Church is likely to be viewed as further “provocation.” Indeed, this event will contribute to the shifting framework of inter-faith dialogue, which is shifting from the standard approach of “polite dialogue“ and focus on “the common aspects of the Abrahamic faiths,” to an uncomfortable, but necessary discussion on the core tenets of religion, particularly Islam.

In many ways, the Allam conversion, and the controversy that is likely to ensure, will present both challenges and opportunities for ongoing Muslim-non-Muslim relations. First, it provides yet a further test of the Muslim commitment to universal human rights and, to a degree, compatibility with “Western values.” Earlier, opportunities arose in the context of the Pope’s initial remarks on Islam, and the publication of the Danish cartoons. These opportunities were wasted, and the perceived divide between Islam and the West has only grown. For Western Muslims in particular however, the Allam conversion affords an opportunity to demonstrate a respect for the universal human freedom of religion, which is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This necessarily requires the express rejection of the traditionalist Islamic approach to the issue. Will the Muslim world embrace this opportunity?

The Allam conversion also has the potential to shift the current policy and discourse in the West. It highlights once again the inherent conflict between universal human rights and the notion of “collective rights” (the rights of a group or cohort, which often trump individual rights) that is currently a central theme of debate in the international arena, particularly between Muslim countries and non-Muslim countries on the role of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Islamic Declaration of Human Rights. Shari’ah and its implementation epitomizes the notion of “collective rights”; that is the marginalization of individual rights in order to benefit the wider Muslim community. The Allam conversion and ensuing controversy could have the effect of encouraging public debate on this issue, and increasing awareness of the incompatibility of shari’ah with universal human rights. Perhaps this is an overly optimistic perspective, given the general reluctance and failure of policy makers in the West to confront the foundations of Islamism.

The public conversion of Allam may also lead to increased internal Muslim debate on the issue of “apostasy,” and encourage frank discussions with non-Muslims on the issue that move beyond the rhetoric that is the current framework of “inter-faith” dialogue. The immediate Muslim reaction appears to be disingenuous. The Vice President of Coreis, which purports to represent the Muslim community in Italy, failed to address the issue head on, but instead stated that he “respected” Mr. Allam’s decision, but questioned the “high profile way he chose to do it.” History tells us, however, that apostates are generally always regarded with vehemence in the wider Muslim community. The reaction over the coming days and weeks will be telling, particularly if the level of Mr. Allam’s activism escalates. It also affords the Catholic Church the opportunity to affirm the anti-Islamist overtones that has served as a hallmark of Pope Benedict’s tenure.

Importantly, this event could also serve as an empowering precedent for other Western Muslims, who may be inwardly secular, to follow Mr. Allam’s path. Mr. Allam is arguably the most prominent Muslim to convert publicly to another faith. For many Muslims, traditional Islam is an intellectual and spiritual prison; the example of Mr. Allam could help provide the impetus for Muslims to leave Islam. Undoubtedly, Mr. Allam will bring needed vigor to the ex-Muslim and secular Muslim movement. Given his connections with moderate Muslims in Italy, including liberal Muslim thinker Sheikh Abdul Palazzi of the Italian Muslim Assembly, Mr. Allam could also help foster connections between moderate Muslims and the ex-Muslim movement, to which common understandings exist. Mr. Allam has been a staunch supporter of legitimate moderate Muslims. Moderate Muslims have an obligation to reciprocate that support and to give real effect and meaning to the oft repeated Qur’anic injunction (that is so often used to attest to purported Islamic tolerance by Muslim apologists): “[l]et there be no compulsion in religion.”

Genuine moderate Muslims should stand in solidarity with Mr. Allam in the spirit of universal human rights. Mr. Allam has been a consistent supporter and enabler of Moderate Muslims and reformers. Mr. Allam has demonstrated immeasurable courage and fortitude in rejecting Islamic tyranny, and should not stand alone. It is simply not enough, however, for Moderate Muslims to pay lip service to Mr. Allam. Moderate Muslims must work harder to develop Islamic solutions to the problems of Islam, in order to create an environment for change. Collectively, we continue to fail to do so, despite the earnest efforts of a number of scholars. A primary objective of moderate Muslims and reformers should be to create an environment where is it is possible for Muslims to talk about Islam’s problems and its sources, and moreover to provide for safe mechanisms which enable Muslims to leave Islam, without the fear of repercussion. Currently, there is no such mechanism. {The Muslim Heretic Conference][1] being held in Atlanta later this month provides a further opportunity to advance this thinking.

For more, visit the CrossAction News home page  --  http://www.crossactionnews.com/  

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