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Rome's Envoy to Saudi Arabia Converts to Islam

1. Rome's Envoy to Saudi Arabia Converts to Islam by Luke Baker, CNN, November 26 2001 CE
ROME (Reuters) -- Italy's ambassador to Saudi Arabia has converted to Islam, the second time in seven years that an envoy of Rome to the land of Mecca has adopted its religion.

Torquato Cardilli, a career diplomat from overwhelmingly Roman Catholic Italy, revealed his decision to Saudi newspapers Saturday, his 59th birthday. Italian diplomatic sources confirmed the announcement Monday.
His official conversion was made on the eve of the Islamic holy fasting month of Ramadan, which began on Nov. 16 in Saudi Arabia. Cardilli himself could not be reached for comment but an employee at his embassy in Riyadh confirmed the reports.

The Saudi embassy in Rome said it planned a statement later. An embassy spokeswoman said there was no record of any Saudi ambassador to Italy ever converting to Catholicism.
Italy's Foreign Ministry had no comment.
The conversion of Cardilli -- who is married with two children -- follows the move to Islam made by Mario Scialoja, Italian ambassador to the Arab kingdom in 1994-95, who has since left the foreign service and is head of Italy's Muslim League.

Scialoja's decision came as a shock, made while he was Rome's permanent representative to the United Nations in New York and long before he was posted to Riyadh.

Cardilli's change of faith follows years of study of Islam. A graduate in oriental culture and languages from the University of Naples, Cardilli has spent much of his 33-year diplomatic career in the Muslim world.

Following postings in Sudan, Syria, Iraq and Libya, he took over the embassy in Riyadh in October last year. Cardilli has also served as ambassador to Albania and Tanzania.

His personal move comes at a sensitive time, with Italy a member of the U.S.-led coalition fighting the hard-line Islamic Taliban movement in Afghanistan and barely two months after Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi offended the Muslim world by saying Western Christian civilization was superior to Islam.

Corriere della Sera newspaper said Cardilli had been recalled to Rome "for consultations."

Some 3,000 to 5,000 Italians have converted to Islam from Catholicism in recent years, according to figures from the Union of Islamic Organizations and Communities.

A spokesman for the Italy-based group said it welcomed Cardilli's entry into the Muslim community, saying of his conversion: "The ways of the Lord are infinite."

2. Italian Envoy Reverts to Islam by Javed Hassan, Arab News, November 26 2001 CE
RIYADH, 26 November — The Italian ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Torquato Cardeilli, has reverted to Islam, the Italian Embassy here announced yesterday.Cardeilli, who speaks Arabic, is the first ambassador to revert to Islam in Saudi Arabia, home to Islam’s holiest sites in Makkah and Madinah, according to a dawa center in Batha which handles Muslim reversions.Nouh ibn Nasser, director of the Batha center, said the Italian converted on Nov. 15, the day before the start of the holy month of Ramadan.

"He came to the office and read the two testimonies (necessary to declare faith) and then prayed with us," Nasser said.
Cardeilli, 59, was not available for comment as he left Riyadh to Rome on Saturday.

But in a press statement, the ambassador expressed his happiness over his reversion to Islam. He said he was fully convinced about the truthfulness of Islam through his regular reading of God’s final revelation, the Holy Qur’an.During his 34-year diplomatic career, Cardeilli, a graduate in linguistics and oriental civilization, has been posted to several Arab countries and took up his current post in Riyadh in November 2000.

Cardeilli was born in 1942. He is married and father of two. He was first appointed at the Italian Foreign Ministry’s political office in 1967 and previously worked as a diplomat in Sudan, Syria, Iraq, Libya, Albania and Tanzania.In September, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi sparked outrage across the Arab and Muslim world with remarks over the West’s "superiority" over Islam. Berlusconi insisted his comments were misinterpreted by a hostile left-wing Italian press and has since outlined his "deep respect for Islam" as a great religion.

The dawa center’s Nouh said that on average three to four people come to his office daily to embrace Islam, and the number rises to five during Ramadan. Twenty similar offices operate in Riyadh and there are many more in the other cities throughout the Kingdom.

For his part, Mohammed Abbas Afesh, of the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), told Arab News that his organization has recently distributed a great deal of Islamic literature in English among the diplomatic missions in Riyadh, including the Italian Embassy.

"We also arranged lectures on various aspects of Islam. As a result of this effort, a few people, including some women, embraced Islam," Abbas said, adding that the events of Sept. 11 had sparked a great deal of interest in Islam among Christians.

"They want to know about the concept of jihad and other relevant matters. Overall, they are receptive to the message of Islam."


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