Here's a good story for Holy Saturday as it edges into Easter for Protestants, Roman Catholics, and Eastern Catholics: Magdi Allam has been a trenchant critic of the jihad ideology and Islamic supremacism. Now he is exercising his freedom of conscience. Will he now have to live in fear for his life from those who take seriously Muhammad's dictum: "If somebody (a Muslim) discards his religion, kill him"?
The Italian government should be poised to protect Magdi Allam, as the Dutch should be standing by Geert Wilders and Ayaan Hirsi Ali. It is not about them. It is about defending Western civilization.
"Pope to baptize prominent Muslim," by Nicole Winfield for Associated Press (thanks to all who sent this in):
VATICAN CITY - Italy's most prominent Muslim commentator, a journalist with iconoclastic views such as support for Israel, converted to Roman Catholicism Saturday when the pope baptized him at an Easter service.
As a choir sang, Pope Benedict XVI poured holy water over Magdi Allam's head and said a brief prayer in Latin.
"We no longer stand alongside or in opposition to one another," Benedict said in a homily reflecting on the meaning of baptism. "Thus faith is a force for peace and reconciliation in the world: distances between people are overcome, in the Lord we have become close."
Vatican television zoomed in on Allam, who sat in the front row of the basilica along with six other candidates for baptism.
An Egyptian-born, non-practicing Muslim who is married to a Catholic, Allam often writes on Muslim and Arab affairs and has infuriated some Muslims with his criticism of extremism and support for the Jewish state.
The deputy editor of the Corriere della Sera newspaper, Allam, 55, told the Il Giornale newspaper in a December interview that his criticism of Palestinian suicide bombing generated threats on his life in 2003, prompting the Italian government to provide him with a sizable security detail. [...]
The Union of Islamic Communities in Italy — which Allam has frequently criticized as having links to Hamas — said the baptism was his own decision.
"He is an adult, free to make his personal choice," the Apcom news agency quoted the group's spokesman, Issedin El Zir, as saying. [...]
Allam also explained his decision to entitle a recent book "Viva Israel" or "Long Live Israel," saying he wrote it after he received death threats from Hamas.
"Having been condemned to death, I have reflected a long time on the value of life. And I discovered that behind the origin of the ideology of hatred, violence and death is the discrimination against Israel. Everyone has the right to exist except for the Jewish state and its inhabitants," he said. "Today, Israel is the paradigm of the right to life." [...]
Yes. Congratulations, Magdi, and Viva Israel.
There is no overarching Muslim law on conversion. But under a widespread interpretation of Islamic legal doctrine, converting from Islam is apostasy and punishable by death — though killings are rare.
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....
Actually, all the schools of Islamic jurisprudence agree that apostates must be executed. But don't take my word for it. Here's the great Sheikh Al-Qaradawi, who has been praised by John Esposito as a "reformist":
That is why the Muslim jurists are unanimous that apostates must be punished, yet they differ as to determining the kind of punishment to be inflicted upon them. The majority of them, including the four main schools of jurisprudence (Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi`i, and Hanbali) as well as the other four schools of jurisprudence (the four Shiite schools of Az-Zaidiyyah, Al-Ithna-`ashriyyah, Al-Ja`fariyyah, and Az-Zaheriyyah) agree that apostates must be executed...
And what of Ali Gomaa? He didn't say quite what AP says he said here. He actually denied saying that Muslims could leave Islam without punishment.
Bottom line: All free people should stand now with Magdi Allam.