Bishop Paul Hinder, the Vatican’s representative in Arabia, was reluctant to criticize the pope, of course, but when I reached him in Abu Dhabi Wednesday morning he clearly had reservations about the way Allam was received into the Church. He said that local Christians took him aside at Easter services and asked him “why it had to be done in such an extraordinary way on a special night.” Hinder contrasted Allam’s conversion to Catholicism with former British prime minister Tony Blair’s, which “was done in a private chapel.”
“What I cannot accept is if it is done in a triumphalistic way,” said Hinder. That is, if Allam were not declaring only his personal beliefs but intentionally demeaning the faith of Muslims. Yet it is hard to read the spectacle of his conversion otherwise, because that’s exactly the tone in which Allam writes. He has made his career portraying Islam as a religion that terrorizes. Allam says he has lived in hiding and in fear for years because of reaction to his columns in the Italian newspaper Corriere della Serra, which regularly denounce excesses by Muslims and praise Israel. Allam converted to Catholicism, he says, as he turned away from “a past in which I imagined that there could be a moderate Islam.” Speaking as if for the pope, Allam told one interviewer in Italy, “His Holiness has launched an explicit and revolutionary message to a church that, up to now, has been too prudent in converting Muslims.”
Allam claims he is hoping his public embrace of Catholicism will help other converts to speak out in public. But that hardly seems likely. The more probable scenario is that others will feel even more vulnerable, while Allam’s books, like many Muslim-bashing screeds that preceded them, climb the best-seller lists.
Unless — and this really would be news — the Muslim world just turns the page. [complete article]
Editor’s Comment — Take away all the trappings of sanctity and there’s no getting away from the perception that the Vatican’s answer to Dick Cheney has a devilish streak. Benedict is a shit-stirrer — you can see it in those devious eyes.