The conversion of Magdi Allam on Easter was his most famous conversion but not his first.
Pope Benedict XVI baptises journalist Magdi Allam (R) as he celebrates a Easter Vigil mass in Saint Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican March 22, 2008. Pope Benedict led the world’s Catholics into Easter on Saturday at a Vatican service where he baptised Allam, a Muslim-born convert who is one of Italy’s most famous and controversial journalists. (Dario Pignatelli/Reuters)
It is strange how the entire world is staring at this tiny man. As if he is the new David, fighting Goliath with a piece of paper and a pen. Although he might look tiny on the outside, Magdi Cristiano Allam does not lack of courage. “I want to belong to God”, said the deputy director of Il Corriere della Sera to his religious mentor, father Gabriele Mangiarotti, just before his sensational conversion. Clearly that was not Allah…
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The only problem being: Magdi Allam is one of the most authoritative people in Europe when it comes to speak out loud against radical Islam. And, most of all, he was a Muslim himself. Allam is already surrounded by big guys (his personal bodyguards assigned to him by the Italian government on the ground that his life is constantly at risk) so, when he arrives at a conference or in a public place, you won’t immediately notice that he has in fact arrived. Magdi Allam is also the kind of guy you won’t notice because he just does not like to be at the center of attention. He gave a speech against a unintelligent anti-semite cartoon published on the leftist newspaper Il Manifesto which represented Magdi’s friend Fiamma Nirenstein . There were four speakers at the press conference (organized by the Magna Carta Foundation) and Allam spoke for just about five minutes with a calm and low voice. It was almost like he wasn’t invited for the speech. Almost like he begged someone for letting him speak.
When Allam told Mangiarotti that he wanted to become a catholic, the priest got worried. Magdi is already at risk and the move would have caused a wave of treats from the major Islamic association around the world, both moderate (according to Allam, though, there is no such thing) and radical. One would think: “well, Allam certainly knows that the conversion will put him even more at risk and he might get scared”… instead Magdi’s answer to father Mangiarotti’ concerns was: “You should worry about the Pope, not me”.
“I am not afraid of death, I am convinced that we must go ahead. We should go on the road of truth and liberty”, said Cristiano Allam in an interview published by the Italian newspaper Libero . “I don’t want to give up, neither I want to be intimidated in anyway. I know I am right”.
Now, his conversion has in fact caused a wave of protests coming from the Islamic world. The international daily newspaper Al Quds al Arabi wrote: “The pope provokes the indignation of Muslims by baptizing an Egyptian journalist who attacks Islam and defends Israel”. Some others have said that Allam has added more fuel on the fire of the so-called clash of civilizations . But there were answers to this criticism: Michael Leeden wrote on his blog that , “Magdi’s very public conversion, and his baptism by Benedict, is an act of defiance against those who have already forced him to live the life of a recluse”. He also told us that the “the whole point of radical Islam is to silence all other voices”. That involves a personal choice as well.
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Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzi ,a well known Iranian political activist living in NYC, has an articulated opinion on Allam’s conversion . She points out how Allam’s conversion can be perceived as a loss from another point of view: “I love and respect all those whose faiths makes them better people – says Zand-Bonazzi – …people who are principled, righteous and truly tolerant, just like Magdi…who is one of the sweetest and almost saintly people I know. But I feel a loss for us secular and liberal Muslims because his voice, fighting from within Islam has a kind of intense impact…first in terms of his stance toward the diabolical Islamo-imperialists, then in terms of those who remain Muslim and are liberal and dare not speak out for fear of reprisal from the diabolical Islamists and finally for those westerners (non-Muslims) who absolutely refuse to believe that Islamo-Imperialists are the biggest threat to modernity and liberal life…So of course speaking from within the faith in order to have an impact…and I’m glad that he stayed till the tender age of 56 but still…his voice has been a darn valuable one and that’s what makes it a loss for us liberal Muslims around the world who need pioneering voices such as Magdi’s”.
Although certainly the most famous, this is not Magdi’s first conversion. A previous conversion is worth mentioning as well. Allam, in fact, did not start his career writing against radical Islam. He started out by writing on the leftist newspaper La Repubblica about multiculturalism and how this value could have saved the world. He was pro-Muslim at the beginning and not pro-Western. After 9/11, though, he changed his mind. Completely. So, he has been a supporter of Islam and later decided to give up with this beliefs. Therefore, one cannot claim that he doesn’t know about Muslims. That he hasn’t thought about his religion and he is a ignorant. In fact Allam represents everything that radical Islam fights against: the freedom to choose and the ability to change your mind. If a terrorist will hurt Magdi, he would hurt the freedom itself. He would hurt Magdi’s future and past at the same time, not just a person. In this way he will show the world the true nature of radical Islam and the terrorism, namely: the negation of liberty and freedom of choice.