Islam in Italy: Magdi Allam conversation to christianity
Nathalie Galesne - 30/01/2009
Deputy Director of the newspaper “Il Corriere della Sera”, the launching ramp of The Rage and the Pride , Magdi Allam is in a certain way much more dangerous in his execration of Islam than Oriana Fallaci is. Probably because he tries to undermine his own religion, masked as a moderate Muslim, who, at first, limited his apparently inoffensive criticisms to radical Islamism. Born in Cairo 56 years ago, having lived in Italy since long, Magdi Allam firstly distinguishes himself for his passionate denunciation of Islamic terrorism: “Starting from my own experience”, he writes in Vincere la Paura (Defeating Fear) released in 2005, “I can testify that 40 years ago, the situation in the Middle East was radically different. Society and the institutions were secular. The culture of hatred and death, that today the West associates with Muslims, is not inscribed in Islam’s DNA.” However, in a short time, his point of view changes radically. By then his denunciation of Islamic fanatism applies to all Muslims. For many, his remarks are drenched in a sort of inner truth. Many far right sites in quoting his recent declarations note that Magdi Allam knows what he’s talking about because he’s precisely a Muslim.
Magdi Allam also wrote essays that have become increasingly controversial. His second last book Viva Israël (Long Live Israel) in particular, is the unconditional defence of the State of Israel signed by an Arab. The cover’s under-title is particularly eloquent: From the ideology of death to the civilisation of life: my story. “In these pages” he writes in the foreword “I wanted to tell about my slow and painful path, from the ideology of falsehood, dictatorship, hatred and violence to the death of the civilisation of truth, freedom, love, peace and life. And of when I fully matured the conviction, that now more than ever the defence of the sacredness of life coincides with the defence of Israel’s right to exist”.
With his conversion transmitted on satellite broadcasting, Allam overcomes another stage of his hatred for his culture, which in fact is a sort of pathetic detestation of himself. This syndrome was analysed by Frantz Fanon in Black Skin, White Masks when he demonstrated that the colonised man, in this case the black man (in our case the Muslim), sometimes suffers a veritable clash that splits him in two, and drives him to see the enemy in himself. The hatred of the dominated arises from his internalisation and identification with the “white values” (those of the Western world). The White Man, his real ideal, is recognised as superior and becomes the model to be followed at all costs.
On Easter Day, Benedict XVI baptised Madgi Allam with 5 other adults in front of the entire world. The latter chose his Christian name, “Cristiano” (Christian, in Italian). The ceremony gave him the opportunity to reassert his full rejection of Islam in a reductive and provocative letter that the “Corriere della Sera” published on its headlines, the day after the Easter Vigil:
“I had to acknowledge that, beyond […] the phenomenon of radicalism and Islamic terrorism at world level, the roots of evil are inherent to Islam, which is physiologically violent and historically conflicting” writes Magdi Allam while specifying that “(his) soul freed himself of the obscurantism of an ideology that legitimates falsehood and dissimulation, violent death that leads to homicide and suicide and blind submission to tyranny, allowing (him) to adhere to the authentic religion of Truth, Life and Liberty”.
After the Ratisbon lesson, this baptism took on an exponential symbolic impact. Pope Benedict XVI addressed his speech on 12 September 2006, at the University of Ratisbon in Germany where he had taught, on the relationship between faith, religion and violence. His quotations of Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Palaiologos sparked off heated reactions, and the disapproval of several representatives of Islam.
Six centuries later, we recognize in the speech of the “learned emperor” repeated by the Pope, a vision of Islam quite similar to that of the new-convert Cristiano Allam: “Show me then,” says the emperor “what improvements brought Mohammed, and you will only find bad and inhuman things, like the mandate he preached to spread the faith by the sword”. Certainly, the supreme representative of the Catholic Church did not baptise on a whim a Muslim who cries out his aversion for the Muslim religion on the Italian media. On the contrary, by stigmatising Islam, this conversion on the media can only strengthen the increasingly popular vision since 2001 – the year of the global diffusion of Neocon theories on the clash of civilisations - of a world split in two, where cultures are condemned to fight each other until the triumph of the Western reason and of the Christian world holder of democratic progress.