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."