Italy: Papal Baptism Of Muslim Journalist A “Provocative Act”, Says Muslim Scholar

Amman, 25 March (AKI) – The Easter baptism of Italian Muslim journalist Magdi Allam which generated headlines around the world has been condemned as “a deliberate and provocative act” by a respected Muslim scholar.

Aref Ali Nayed, director of the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center in the Jordanian capital Amman, said the Vatican had used the baptism on a special occasion and in a “spectacular way”.

“It is sad that the intimate and personal act of a religious conversion is made into a triumphalist tool for scoring points,” Nayed said in a statement released on Tuesday.

“Such instrumentalisation of a person and his conversion is contrary to the basic tenets of upholding human dignity.

“It also comes at a most unfortunate time when sincere Muslims and Catholics are working very hard to mend ruptures between the two communities.”

Nayed was one of 130 Muslim scholars who wrote to Pope Benedict XVI and other Christian leaders urging greater understanding between the two faiths in October 2007.

Nayed a senior adviser at the Cambridge Inter-faith Programme at Cambridge University led an Islamic delegation to the Vatican in February.

Nayed also singled out Allam, a prominent Muslim critic and commentator, for particular criticism.

“It is sad that the particular person chosen for such a highly public gesture has a history of generating, and continues to generate, hateful discourse,” Nayed said.

“It is now important for the Vatican to distance itself from Allam’s discourse. Should Muslims take the high-profile Papal baptism as a papal endorsement of Allam’s discourses regarding the nature of Islam?”

Nayed said Allam’s most recent article was the “very message” of the Byzantine emperor quoted by the Pope in his Regensburg lecture.

At a lecture delivered at the University of Regensburg in September 2006, Pope Benedict XVI incensed Muslims around the world.

“Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached,” he said.

The Milanese imam Yahya Pallavicini, vice-president of the Islamic Religious Community in Italy, described the baptism as an “honest intellectual mistake” that had been committed with the complicity of the Vatican.

“Our position is to proceed with dialogue but we cannot hide our great embarassment for the indelicate choice of the Pope’s advisors,” he told Adnnkronos International (AKI).

Pallavicini agreed with Nayed in his attack on the baptism saying it put at risk the dialogue between Muslims and Christians.