Skip to comments.Pope risks new rift w/ Islam as he baptises (Arab) journalist facing death threats (Photos)
Posted on 03/24/2008 10:14:18 AM PDT by yankeedame
Last updated at 12:19pm on 24th March 2008
The Pope is risking a new rift with Islam after baptising an outspoken newspaper editor who renounced his Muslim faith after condemning it as a "religion of hate".
Magdi Allam, a top editor for the Corriere della Sera newspaper, said he believed he will face greater demands for his assassination after he committed the sin of "apostasty", the renunciation of his faith.
But the death threats he has already received for his harsh words about Islam only made him more determined to leave the "intolerant" religion.
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The Pope baptises Magdi Allam at the Easter Service
Allam wrote that it was "time to put an end to the violence of Muslims who do not respect the freedom of religious choice."
His conversion freed him "from the shadows of a preaching where hate and intolerance toward he who is different, toward he who is condemned as an 'enemy,"' he said.
And he praised the pontiff - himself under fire from militant Islam - for defending civilization.
Allam predicted his surprise baptism by the pope during the Easter vigil Mass in St. Peter's Basilica Saturday night would spark an "even graver condemnation to death for apostasy," or renunciation of religious faith.
Hamas singled him out for death after he criticized Palestinian suicide bombings, and Italy provides him with a security escort.
But under a widespread interpretation of Islamic legal doctrine, converting from Islam is apostasy and punishable by death - though killings are rare.
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The outspoken Allam is facing death threats over his conversion
Allam's baptism highlighted tensions that have at times characterized the theologian-pope's relationship with the Muslim world.
Allam, 55, was born a Muslim in Egypt, but was educated by Catholics and says he has never been a practising Muslim.
In a front-page letter in Corriere yesterday, he described how Benedict helped in his decision to break with Islam, a process which included support from a Vatican cardinal and several prelates close to the Vatican.
"Undoubtedly the most extraordinary and significant encounter in the decision to convert was that with Pope Benedict XVI," Allam said. He said he admired the pope for his skill in laying out the relationship "between faith and reason as the basis of authentic religion and human civilization."
The pope himself has come under verbal attack from Islamic militants. Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, in a new audio message posted last week, accused Benedict of playing a role in what he called a "new Crusade" against Islam. The Vatican has described the accusation as baseless.
The Vatican is still trying to repair relations with the Muslim world after Benedict in a 2006 speech about faith and reason cited a medieval text that described some of the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad as "evil and inhuman," particularly the command to spread the faith "by the sword."
The pope later expressed regret that his remarks angered Muslims and stressed that the text didn't reflect his own opinion.
Benedict made no specific mention of Allam's conversion, but at his Easter Sunday Mass in St. Peter's Square, the pope hailed conversions to Christianity as a "miracle."
By baptizing him, in a ceremony televised to millions of people worldwide, Benedict was making "an historic and courageous gesture" to a Church "which up to now had been too prudent in the conversion of Muslims, refraining from proselytizing in countries with Muslim majorities, and being silent about the reality of converts (from Islam) in Christian countries."
He contended that the Church was afraid it couldn't protect the new converts from possible retaliation by Muslims and also worried about Christians living in Islamic countries.
In November, Benedict raised concerns about restrictions on worship by non-Muslims in Saudi Arabia, when he held the first ever meeting between a pontiff and a reigning Saudi King. In his meeting with King Abdullah he lauded the contribution of Christians in Saudi Arabia, where Christians are barred from opening churches.
The Union of Islamic Communities in Italy - which Allam has frequently criticized as having links to Hamas - was quoted as describing the baptism as a personal choice.
An Italian Muslim leader, Yahya Pallavicini, who has been involved with Vatican-Muslim dialogue, expressed surprise.
"As a European Muslim, there was no reason to deny his religion of origin in order to love better or more the Christ figure or Christianity," Pallavicini told Italy's SKY TG24.
The conversion became political fodder ahead of Italy's elections next month. Rejoicing over the conversion was Roberto Calderoli, a leader of the anti-immigrant Northern League party that is an ally of Silvio Berlusconi, the conservative bloc's candidate for the premiership.
The Vatican cardinal in charge of inter-religious dialogue appeared to dismiss any flap over Allam's conversion.
"To whoever knocks, the door of the Church is always open," Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran was quoted by the Apcom news agency as saying. "Freedom of conscience is a fundamental right."
I am not an expert on comparative religions. I will share my feelings, which are not those of an "expert."
I am making an observation that there seem to be Muslims that I have known and that have seemed to exist in different parts of the world that have at times lived in harmony with their non-muslim neighbors. If the beliefs of those Muslims can become the dominate beliefs of that religion, that that I what I would hope in a "reformation."
As to "...any organized religion, none of which is any truer than another..." I would have to say that to a certain extent I do believe that. If someone is a Mormon and lives a good life I would hope that they are not condemned to eternal damnation. If someone is a Catholic and lives honorably I would hope for their salvation. Likewise if some one is Bahia, I have no problem with their practicing their religion. If a Buddhist, such as the Dalia Lama, lives a thoughtful and respectful life, I do not see his having a lesser life than my own. I see them each in their own way as doing God's work.
I am no more saying that Islam is "largely true" than I would debate whether the Greek Orthodox religion is more true than the Catholic religion. I will also not debate whether the Mormon religion or Christian Scientist "religions" are "largely true." I will leave those debates for others.
While I am not saying that the Muslim religion is "largely true," I will say that Islamic Fundamentalism seems to me to be "largely wrong." To the extent that people of the Muslim religion can respect their neighbors who may be of different beliefs, then I can accept that religion as having some societal value.
From what I know, I would say that the Saudi money behind the Wahhabi Muslim fundamentalists, is a big part of the current world terrorism problem. I feel that all civilized people should unit against such hateful and intolerant preaching. If the Muslim people of the world can "reform" their religion to allow tolerance for others, then there is no need to wipe the Muslim religion off the face of the earth.
I have a personal friend who is a Suffi. At his wedding, party I had the opportunity to speak to many of his other friends and listen to their prayer. I feel comfortable that I and others could live in harmony with him and his friends. There are many other Muslims I would not feel that way about.
Thanks for a thoughtful answer.
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