Update: Magdi Allam

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Magdi Cristiano Allam, the Egyptian naturalized Italian journalist and convert from Islam to Catholicism profiled in an earlier post, made a new announcement on Monday regarding his religious identity.

In it, Allam announces his formal departure from the Catholic church, saying that “I consider my conversion to Catholicism over,” though he continues to consider himself a Christian “and to proudly identify myself with Christianity as the civilization which more than any other moves man closer to God.”

Behind the timing of this move lay the recent abdication of Benedict XVI, who personally baptized Allam on Easter Sunday in 2008, and the subsequent election of Pope Francis, who has called for greater dialogue with the Islamic world.

Nevertheless, Allam argues that his disagreements lie not with a particular pope, but rather with an excessive relativism that has taken root within the Church, leading it to, among other things, “legitimize” Islam and fail to recognize its “intrinsically violent” nature. He laments that no one within the church, from John Paul II to the present, has possessed “the courage and lucidity to denounce the incompatibility of Islam with our civilization and with basic human rights.”

Allam’s statement was made on the front page of newspaper owned by the Berlusconi family, and coincides with his continuing activity as a politician on the margins of Italian right-wing politics.  In the most recent parliamentary elections, he ran, unsuccessfully, as the candidate of a party he founded, named Io amo l’Italia, on a platform based on “monetary sovereignty” and “non-negotiable values.”

Once again, this case of conversion, with its fundamentalism, its murky connections with national politics and Vatican clienteles, and its subtle and self-conscious use of both new and traditional media (the de-conversion was announced, among other places, over Twitter), combines much of the symbolism and theatrics of the conversions of the early modern Papal court with the themes and controversies of contemporary geopolitics.

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