Pave Benedikt 16. døpte lørdag kveld den 55 år gamle muslimen Magdi Allam, som tok navnet Christian. Allam er visedirektør for avisen Corriere della Sera. Muslimske talsmenn reagerer på at dåpen fikk så stor oppmerksomhet. Den var del av messen som ble overført i TV verden over. De opplevde det provoserende.
Allam har levd med politibeskyttelse i lengre tid. Det blir neppe mindre bruk for den nå. Mange muslimer mener straffen for frafall er døden.
«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.
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?»