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Top Italian diplomat embraces Islam

Rome: 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 on 25 Nov., his 59th birthday. 

His official conversion was made on the eve of the Islamic holy fasting month of Ramadan, which began on 16 November in Saudi Arabia. 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.

The conversion of Cardilli -- who is married with two children and speaks Arabic fluently -- 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 move comes barely two months after Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi offended the Muslim world by saying Western Christian civilization was superior to Islam.

Corriere della Sera newspaper said Cardilli has 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. 
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