Sunday, March 23, 2008; 1:27 PM
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) “Pope Benedict called in his Easter message on Sunday for an end to injustice worldwide and expressed joy at continuing conversions to Christianity hours after he baptized a prominent Italian Muslim convert.
The pope celebrated an Easter Mass for tens of thousands of people in driving rain in St Peter’s Square as Christians around the world commemorated Christ’s resurrection.
The mass came some 12 hours after an Easter vigil service on Saturday night where, in a surprise move, the pope baptized Muslim-born convert Magdi Allam, 55, an outspoken journalist and fierce critic of Islamic extremism.
The Egyptian-born Allam’s conversion to Christianity — he took the name “Christian” for his baptism — was kept secret until the Vatican disclosed it in a statement less than an hour before the Saturday night service began.
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.”
Under police protection? He’s probably got private rooms under the Vatican in the Catacombs, now. The death threats hanging over this guy since his conversion must make the fatwas on Salmon Rushdie look like mild rebukes. Not being Islamic, I can’t even imagine the level of brainshrieking going on within their venomous minds, their flying-spit rage against the Pope and Magdi Allam.
This puts the Danish cartoons in the shade. Even the Satanic Verses take sidebar position to this. The Pope, baptizing a Muslim!
Allam wrote: “… the root of evil is innate in an Islam that is physiologically violent and historically conflictual.”
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.
Cardinal Giovanni Re expressed “hope that the baptism will not be interpreted negatively by Islam,” but you know what a bunch of tongue-in-cheek gas that is. 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?”
I can answer that. Just ask Osama.