Sunday, March 23, 2008

Who is Magdi Allam?

From John Allen:
One of the best-known Muslims in Italy, a journalist who in some ways is the heir to Oriana Fallaci as the country’s most prominent critic of Islamic radicalism, is to be baptized this evening by Pope Benedict XVI and received into the Catholic church.
Magdi Allam, a columnist and vice-director of Corriere della Sera, Italy’s leading daily newspaper, is among seven new Catholics from five countries to be personally baptized by the pope during the Easter Vigil Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica.
Particularly in the wake of recent charges by terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden that Benedict XVI is leading a “new crusade” against Islam, the reception of such a high-profile Muslim convert, on the holiest day of the Christian year, could further inflame Catholic/Muslim tensions.
Allam, 56, was born in Cairo, Egypt. His family later immigrated to Italy, where he became a prominent journalist, known for his fierce criticism of Islamic fundamentalism. Allam has also repeatedly criticized what he regard as an anemic response from Western governments, Italy in particular, to the threat posed by the radicals.
Though Allam has typically described himself as a “secular Muslim,” he is no stranger to the Catholic church. Over the years, he has been close to the Communion and Liberation movement in Italy, becoming one of the star attractions at the annual “Meeting” sponsored by the movement at the Italian seaside resort of Rimini. That event typically draws in excess of 700,000 people, including the cream of Italy’s political class.
During those sessions, Allam has typically voiced deep appreciation for Catholic social doctrine and, more generally, for the strong defense of a link between reason and faith offered by both John Paul II and now Benedict XVI.
Allam enthusiastically embraced Benedict’s call to resist a “dictatorship of relativism,” connecting it to the struggle against Islamic extremism.
“We must put together a coalition of values among those who believe that all life is sacred, to fight a kind of ideological nihilism that sees life’s value as merely relative,” he said recently. “Only in this way can we remove the roots that nourish the terrorists’ wars.”
Perhaps fearing that Allam’s conversion could spark a new round of Catholic/Muslim controversy, the Vatican issued a statement this evening playing down its significance.
“For the Catholic church, every person who asks to receive Baptism after a deep personal search, who makes a completely free choice following adequate preparation, has the right to receive it,” said Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesperson.
“For his part, the Holy Father administers Baptism in the course of the Easter liturgies to the candidates who are presented to him, without making distinctions among them, considering them all equally important before the love of God and the welcome of the community of the church.”


Sadie Vacantist said...

Father ~ this might be an interesting development. I have a suspicion that if Catholicism is to revive in this country it will do so from the "outside". By this I mean a prominent movement will begin somewhere from within a British institution, perhaps from a university faculty. In other words it will be the indigenous population who will kick off the return to the faith in the manner of the tractarian movement, 150 years ago.

By contrast, I am not optimistic when I read the new style of 'conservative' emerging from the ether and which your blog attracts. For reading 3rd generation Irish immigrants, educated at 3rd rate British public schools, indulging in moronic 'neo-conservatism' is, in my view, embarrassing. Many of them are rude and aggressive when challenged. These self-styled "John-Paul generation" of priests and their lay followers are not only intellectually unconvincing but inconsistent also. They seem incapable off offering a realistic assessment of the state of the British Church. They are as deluded as they are borish.

This Italian muslim convert is, in contrast, someone worth listening to. I hope and pray that he sticks around

Francis said...

Fr. Ray,

This is a very significant development. As usual, Pope Benedict is giving a clear signal that Christendom has an evangelizing mission, and should be reaching out to win converts among peoples from other cultural backgrounds.

It is a stark (and welcome) contrast to the defeatist attitude of secular multiculturalism, which severely downplays Christendom's contribution to civilization and believes that we have everything to learn and nothing positive to teach.

By the way, there is some interesting chatter at the moment on various religious blogs about the large number of conversions to Christianity from Islam around the world. It comes down to the issue I often reflect on -- if I was a run-of-the-mill pagan in Asia or Africa tempted to embrace monotheism and was comparing Christianity and Islam, which of the two religions has a more attractive image and connotation (quite apart from any doctrinal consideration)?

Anonymous said...

Sede Vacantist

Your second paragraph expresses the current situation of neo-conservatism with deadly accuracy. But don't confuse the third-rate Catholic private schools where many of these people received their limited education with public schools. The products are a dim-witted lot, whatever qualifications they may have subsequently received, and fundamentally uneducated in outlook and style of life. They achieve little more than the creation of self-serving cabals and embody vulgarity of mind.

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