Italian MEP Magdi Cristiano Allam is not afraid to say what he thinks – even if it puts him in peril.
Sipping tea in a succa in Jerusalem – where he is attending the Israel Allies Foundation Jerusalem Chairman’s Conference – Allam casually pointed out, as a nearby bodyguard watched, that he’s been under protection for 11 years, as if being living with the knowledge that his life was in danger was nothing unusual.
“The Italian secret service notified me that Hamas declared me a traitor to the Arab cause due to my condemnation of Islamist terrorist suicide attacks,” he said.
“Defending the sacredness of every person’s life is a constant value in my life,” Allam added, explaining why he wrote the article that raised Hamas’s ire in 2003.
“After being put under protection, I appreciate more and more everyone’s right to freedom,” he said.
Allam hasn’t stopped courting controversy, speaking against Islamic extremism and in favor of Israel.
Allam, 61, was born to a Muslim family in Cairo and moved to Rome 20 years later to pursue his university studies. He then spent 35 years as a journalist specializing in Middle Eastern and Muslim affairs and serving as vice-editor of Corriere della Sera, Italy’s largest daily newspaper, for five years.
In 2008, Allam converted to Christianity and was baptized by Pope Benedict XVI.
“Of course, my conversion brings me more problems with Islamic terrorists,” he said, chuckling.
Neither has Allam shied away from controversy in the Catholic Church, denouncing what he termed its “religious relativism and legitimization of Islam as a religion.”
“Muhammad, as a prophet of Islam, was not like Jesus.
In 627 CE, he took part in the slaughter of about 800 Jews. How can we imagine that a man who slaughtered hundreds of people can be recognized as a prophet and his religion a true religion?” Allam asked.
Christianity, on the other hand, appealed to Allam because of Jesus’s “message of love and tolerance” and respect for human life, which Allam says are not part of Islam.
That same value, the sanctity of life, is what inspired him both to convert to Christianity and to support Israel, publishing the book Viva Israele (Long Live Israel), which has been translated into Hebrew.
“After being the enemy of Israel when I was young, during the Nasser era in Egypt, I changed my mind when I realized that defending Israel’s right to exist is a defense of the sacredness of life. Israel is a symbol of that value,” he stated.
Allam underlines in his book that Israel is sincere in its desire for peace.
“It was always the Palestinian side who rejected peace, in 2000 with Arafat in Camp David, and now there’s no chance for peace with Hamas,” Allam said. “I stand with Israel, with Israel’s right to exist and the hope for true peace guaranteeing Israel’s security while allowing the Palestinians to live in dignity and freedom and under a democracy.”
Radical Palestinians don’t accept Israel’s right to exist, Allam added.
“They only accept a truce with Israel, a hudna, but not real peace,” he stated.
The Second Intifada was a turning point for Allam, after realizing that “when Islamic terrorism hit inside Muslim countries and the victims were Arabs, the government of that country condemned it, but when the same terrorism hit Israel or Americans, [Arab leaders] hailed it and defined terrorists as martyrs.”
In 2009, Allam was elected to the European Parliament, where he has remained a staunchly pro- Israel voice.
Allam is promoting a resolution to declare the rejection of Israel’s right to exist as a crime against humanity.
“Israel is a full member of the UN and a sovereign state,” he pointed out.
“People who do not recognize its right to exist are committing a crime. They are calling for its destruction.”
The Italian MEP hopes to obtain a resolution accepting Jerusalem as Israel’s unified capital.
Notwithstanding Allam’s support for Israel, he criticizes policies when he disagrees.
He slammed what he called Israel’s support for the toppling of Syrian President Bashar Assad, which he believes would bolster al-Qaida and other Muslim extremists.
“As a close friend of Israel, it’s my duty to criticize,” he told The Jerusalem Post.
The main enemy of Israel, Europe and the Middle East is Islamist terrorism, he said, and to take the rebels’ side in Syria is very dangerous.
“We cannot be on the same side as Islamist terrorism,” he stated. “I appeal to Israel to review its position.
This is an extraordinary opportunity to start a new era with moderate and secular Arab forces and to help them in this very difficult moment. If Israel sides with Islamist terror, moderate Arabs will be hostile.”
Less than a day later, Allam reviewed a briefing by Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon to the conference, writing that “Israel is committing a suicidal madness in order to disrupt and defeat the Iran-Syria Hezbollah axis” on the website of the “I Love Italy” movement he founded, which seeks to extract Italy from the Eurozone and limit globalization, among other positions.