The outer room
The AP reports that "Italy's most prominent Muslim, an iconoclastic writer who condemned Islamic extremism and defended Israel, converted to Catholicism Saturday in a baptism by the pope at a Vatican Easter service."
Yahya Pallavicini, vice president of Coreis, the Islamic religious community in Italy, said he respected Allam's choice but said he was "perplexed" by the symbolic and high-profile way in which he chose to convert.
"If Allam truly was compelled by a strong spiritual inspiration, perhaps it would have been better to do it delicately, maybe with a priest from Viterbo where he lives," the ANSA news agency quoted Pallavicini as saying.
All that I can say is that there are more -- many more who have secretly converted from Islam. Some sites have claimed that nearly 700 Muslims convert to Christianity per hour, though I wonder how accurate those numbers are. In that context Pallavicini's question makes sense: why did Magdi Allam make such a high profile conversion on the occasion of the Easter Vigil too? It's extraordinary for any Catholic to be baptized by the Pope. What's the message?
Maybe it is to remind the Islamic world that despite the frequency of these conversions there are no widespread calls to burn mosques, kill imams or desecrate Korans among the converted. Magdi Allam's public conversion is witness to the quiet of all those which have been made in private. And maybe that message is filtering through to the more thoughtful imams.
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.
A conversion to Christianity is not an announcement of superiority, but an acknowledgement of need. Only sinners need come to the Cross. "But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you."
Yeshua, Yeshua, hey bel livivi al shmay ya
Y'khanseyn li shlam ka
Qadish sha tith sha be'akh
Khed wah min kul di le he weh
Happy Easter, everybody.
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