The most prominent Muslim commenter in Italy, Magdi Allam, was baptized by Pope Benedict at the Easter Vigil in St. Peter's. Via CNN which also has special edited video of the event which has already made it to You tube as you can see below (he is the tall dark young man who is baptized second.)
"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.
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."
Allam has already received death threats and security from the Italian government for publicly taking issue with Palestinian terrorists.
"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. "
"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.
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."
What to say?
First of all, I'd love to welcome Allam into the heart of the Church. There are other Muslims making the same commitment this Easter - all over the world and some in the US, I'm sure. A member of our Called & Gifted team in Indonesia was a former Muslim and I met a priest there who was also from a Muslim background. My friend Natalia, meets many MBB's these days (Muslim Background Believers) in the middle east these days. Some of the children of these converts are now entering into Christian leadership. They all need our personal support.
John Allen points out that Allam has been connected with Communion and Liberation for some time and that some Muslims may have already assumed that he was Christian because he has been so public about his most-Islamically incorrect opinions. Actually, this sort of gesture is beginning to sound like just the sort of thing that Allam would do.
However, there will be consequences for others.
Some Muslims who are seeking will be inspired to do the same thing.
And some will be persecuted and some may well die for this.
Why? Because it is so extraordinarily public. The image of a famous Muslim receiving baptism from the Pope's hand in St. Peter's at the most solemn liturgy of the year was watched live by hundreds of millions and now has already circled the globe. It is being prominantly covered by every major news agency in the world as I write - including in the Muslim world. Allam's personal decision could not possibly have been dramatized in a more-in-your-face manner.
To us it is an important gesture of religious freedom and freedom of conscience. To fundamentalist Muslims, it is an open act of public contempt for Islam and humiliation by the most prominent Christian in the world. This is a jihadist spin doctor's dream come true. It won't matter that Allam was never really a practicing Muslim, married to a Catholic wife (A Muslim man is permitted to marry a Christian woman but a Muslim woman may not marry a Christian man in Islam), and living in Italy for a long time.
Will there be reprisals against the Pope? I don't know. We should be praying for him and everyone else involved assiduously. Might it endanger Allam and his family? Absolutely. Might some Italian by-standers be hurt? Its possible. How about Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan? You betcha. But it will certainly affect the lives of Christians living in the Muslim world for years to come. This kind of needlessly public gesture makes them shudder.
By all means, let us propose the gospel to all and welcome all who desire to follow Christ. But lets also be wise and think of the price that they may have to pay that most of us will never face.
Historically, this sort of gesture has actually hamstrung the cause of the gospel in the Muslim world by exacerbating the enmity against those considering baptism, isolating converts from their natural social network, and making the price of conversion the loss of all family (including children) and friendship ties. The result: only the already marginalized became Christians and many didn't go the distance because the social isolation was too terrible to bear. The breakthrough happened when Christians stopped demanding individuals convert in a way that doomed them to isolation and started to work with whole families, tribes, and people groups.
Quietly. Without fanfare. And with great effectiveness.
Because the west is not the whole world. Indeed, we are now a clear minority within the global Christian community. And much that God is doing in our generation isn't about us: our debates, history, and sensitivities.
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