For centuries the Catholic Church has welcomed new members during celebrations of the Easter Vigil. Yet this year's mass at the Vatican offered worldwide audiences a twist:
Italy's most prominent Muslim, an iconoclastic writer who condemned Islamic extremism and defended Israel, converted to Catholicism Saturday in a baptism by the pope at a Vatican Easter service.
An Egyptian-born, non-practicing Muslim who is married to a Catholic, Magdi Allam infuriated some Muslims with his books and columns in the newspaper Corriere della Sera, where he is a deputy editor. He titled one book Long Live Israel.
In addition to the threats previously leveled against him for censuring Islamism, Allam has speculated that his conversion may inspire "another death sentence for apostasy." These fears are not unfounded, even in the heart of Christendom.
Most Westerners first learned of the persecution of apostates under Shari'a law from the saga of Abdul Rahman, a Muslim who converted to Christianity, only to face death before an Afghan court. Though international pressure ultimately won Rahman his freedom and safety, apostates in the West also face danger as Islamism makes inroads.
A recent report illuminates one woman's harrowing ordeal:
A British imam's daughter is living in fear of her life under police protection after she received death threats from her family for converting to Christianity.
The young woman, aged 32, whose father is a Muslim imam in the north of England, has moved house 45 times to escape detection by her family since she became a Christian 15 years ago.
She has been in hiding since her home was attacked by a group of men armed with knives, axes, and hammers in 1994.
A study released by the Policy Exchange think tank in 2007 predicts that such cases will multiply, as 36% of British Muslims aged 16 to 24 now believe that someone who converts from Islam to another faith should be "punished by death."
For the sake of Magdi Allam, let us hope that Italian Islamists are more forgiving than their British brethren — and that he has a good lock on his door.