RIYADH, 26 November ó 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 Islamís 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
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 Godís final revelation, the Holy Qurían.
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 Ministryís political office in 1967 and
previously worked as a diplomat in Sudan, Syria, Iraq, Libya, Albania and
In September, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi sparked outrage across
the Arab and Muslim world with remarks over the Westís "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
The dawa centerís 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
"They want to know about the concept of jihad and other relevant matters.
Overall, they are receptive to the message of Islam."