VATICAN CITY – A Muslim author and critic of Islamic fundamentalism who was baptized a Catholic by Pope Benedict said on Sunday Islam is "physiologically violent" and he is now in great danger because of his conversion, Reuters reports.
"I realize what I am going up against but I will confront my fate with my head high, with my back straight and the interior strength of one who is certain about his faith," said Magdi Allam.
In a surprise move on Saturday night, the pope baptized the 55-year-old, Egyptian-born Allam at an Easter eve service in St Peter's Basilica that was broadcast around the world.
The conversion of Allam to Christianity — he took the name "Christian" for his baptism — was kept secret until the Vatican disclosed it in a statement less than an hour before it began.
Writing in Sunday's edition of the leading Corriere della Sera, the newspaper of which he is a deputy director, Allam said: "... the root of evil is innate in an Islam that is physiologically violent and historically conflictual."
Allam, who is a strong supporter of Israel and who an Israeli newspaper once called a "Muslim Zionist," has lived under police protection following threats against him, particularly after he criticized Iran's position on Israel.
He said before converting he had continually asked himself why someone who had struggled for what he called "moderate Islam" was then "condemned to death in the name of Islam and on the basis of a Koranic legitimization."
His conversion, which he called "the happiest day of my life," came just two days after Al Qaeda leader Usama bin Laden accused the pope of being part of a "new crusade" against Islam.