Deliberate? Apparently so. Provocative? Not if you know anything about Benedict XVI.
VATICAN CITY(AP) - A Muslim scholar who participated in recent Vaticantalks to improve Catholic-Muslim relations criticized Pope Benedict XVI's Easter baptism of a prominent convert from Islam as a "provocative" act.
Magdi Allam, an Egyptian-born TV and newspaper commentator who has denounced Islam as inherently violently, was baptized by the pope in a vigil service Saturday night in St. Peter's Basilica.
Aref Ali Nayed, director of the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center in
Amman, Jordan, criticized what he called "the 's deliberate and provocative act of baptizing Allam on such a special occasion and in such a spectacular way." Vatican
The Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano denied that the baptism had been played up, saying it was kept secret until just before the ceremony. It described the baptism as a papal "gesture" to stress "in a gentle and clear way, religious freedom."
Not so gentle perhaps, but unequivocally clear.
UPDATE: Cautious Vatican response to Muslim critics on conversion