Magdi Allam rejected Islam and atheism

MICHAEL COREN

The remarkable Indian Christian philosopher Ravi Zacharias tells a compelling story of his encounter with a white, liberal American academic who had embraced Buddhism.

The professor criticized Ravi for his Christianity: "It's Western and as such is obsessed with single truth," he explained. "I, on the other hand, have embraced an Eastern code and believe in simultaneous truths." Ravi responded: "So what you're really saying is that it's either my Christian way of single truth or your approach of Eastern, simultaneous truth? Either one or the other." A long pause. "Oh I see," from the fatuous prof. "Yes, the Christian, Western approach does seem to emerge."

Yes, it does seem to emerge. In other words, truth is exclusive. If it's black it's not white, if it's right it's not wrong and if it's true it's not false. And most religions and ideologies claim exclusive truth, thus by inevitable consequence implying that alternative religions and ideologies are untrue. Which leads us to Pope Benedict's baptism of Italian journalist and former Muslim Magdi Allam this Easter.

The facts are really quite simple. Allam is a friend of the Pope's and is a prominent figure in Italian culture. It would have been surprising if the Holy Father hadn't personally initiated the man into the Church. In Rome the people who made Allam's conversion an international issue were less Catholic commentators than Islamic critics, who wrote and broadcast repeatedly that people should stop repeatedly writing and broadcasting about the episode.

The hypocrisy is so obvious as to be positively banal. In most of the Muslim world a convert to Christianity would possibly be killed and certainly face myriad varieties of persecution. The evidence is legion and the examples blood-stained. In countries such as Egypt and Pakistan even cradle-Christians face appalling discrimination and violence. In Saudi Arabia it is illegal to possess a Christian Bible or crucifix.

Aref Ali Nayed, one of a group of 200 Muslim scholars who claim to be intent on establishing a new, open relationship with Christianity, condemned the Pope's behaviour as "a triumphalist tool for scoring points." The group in question tends to say very little about, for example, suicide bombings, forced conversion of Christians to Islam in Sudan or Turkey's closing of a Catholic seminary. But is extremely upset that the Pope has behaved as, well, the Pope.


The facts are really quite simple. Allam is a friend of the Pope's and is a prominent figure in Italian culture. It would have been surprising if the Holy Father hadn't personally initiated the man into the Church.


It's a spurious, disingenuous critique. Theological dialogue may have been a Muslim tendency 800 years ago but nobody seriously believes that religious pluralism is a regarded concept in contemporary Islam. The denial and double-talk is sickening. Allam had been under police protection long before his conversion because of his staunch critique of violent Islamic fundamentalism. Death threats have increased since his embrace of Christianity and all that allegedly moderate Muslims are saying is that if there is going to be a conversion, for goodness sake keep it quiet.

But why? This is not about changing a shirt but transforming a life. According to Christian belief, Magdi Allam has begun a journey that will lead to eternal life. He has found not interesting opinion but absolute truth. Jesus didn't say "I may be" but "I am" The Way. The only way. The Catholic Church is far more accepting than many Protestants in the way it views the salvational possibilities of non-Catholic goodness; but it still teaches that the only guaranteed way of meeting God is through the Sacramental structure of a church founded by Christ.

This notion of exclusive truth, however, is not just a problem for Muslims but for secularists as well, what with their fetish for ostensible tolerance. Modern liberalism has not merely abandoned certain commandments but replaced those it has expunged with a set of its own. The most important of which is toleration. I tolerate therefore I am. It's nonsense of course, in that it is self-contradictory by nature the tolerant cannot tolerate intolerance and are thus no longer tolerant but it's also a grand, great lie. Human rights commissions, student unions and leftist activists remind us every day of the authentic meaning of genuine intolerance.

Yet it still plays to the core of secular thinking. The standard argument, taught in universities and passively accepted in popular dialogue, is that because religion believes that it has the truth it is not broad-minded and broad-mindedness is an indication of sophistication and urbanity.

Magdi Allam said yes this Easter. Yes to a truth and no to its rivals. No to Islam, no to atheism. Which has made many Muslims and just as many of their relativist, secular allies extremely angry. An Easter present slightly more important than a chocolate egg or even a teaching course on why nothing really matters.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

Michael Coren. "Magdi Allam rejected Islam and atheism." National Post, (Canada) April 2, 2008.

Reprinted with permission of Michael Coren and the National Post.

PHOTO: AP/Alessandra Tarantino

THE AUTHOR

Michael Coren (born January 1959 in Essex, England) is a Canadian columnist, author, public speaker, radio host and television talk show host. He is the host of the television series The Michael Coren Show. His articles and speeches often include stories of his own personal spiritual journey. Coren is half Jewish through his father.

He converted to Evangelical Christianity after a conversion experience as an adult, greatly influenced by Canadian televangelist Terry Winter. In early 2004, he embraced Catholicism. He cites St. Thomas More, C.S. Lewis, Ronald Knox and his God-father Lord Longford as spiritual influences, but remains connected to the ecumenical scene in Canada and beyond. He is the author of twelve books, including Mere Christian: Stories from the Light, Gilbert: The Man Who Was G. K. Chesterton, C. S. Lewis: The Man Who Created Narnia, J.R.R Tolkien: the Man Who Created 'the Lord of the Rings'. He is published in many countries and in more than a dozen languages. He is currently writing a book entitled Socon, A Handbook for Moral Conservatives. Michael Coren is available as a public speaker. Visit his web site here.

Copyright 2008 National Post


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