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Sunday 31st October 2010
On Giving Up


Jon Stewart's Rally for Sanity yesterday featured Yusuf Islam aka Cat Stevens singing "Peace Train". Islam/Stevens previously showed his commitment to peace and sanity by saying that death was the appropriate punishment for Salman Rushdie's "blasphemy".

He has tried to wiggle out of it and issued all kinds of denials.

But here is what he said to Geoffrey Robertson QC in 1989. (Video here.)

Robertson: You don't think that this man deserves to die?
Y. Islam: Who, Salman Rushdie?
Robertson: Yes.
Y. Islam: Yes, yes.
Robertson: And do you have a duty to be his executioner?
Y. Islam: Uh, no, not necessarily, unless we were in an Islamic state and I was ordered by a judge or by the authority to carry out such an act - perhaps, yes.
[Some minutes later, Robertson on the subject of a protest where an effigy of the author is to be burned]
Robertson: Would you be part of that protest, Yusuf Islam, would you go to a demonstration where you knew that an effigy was going to be burned?
Y. Islam: I would have hoped that it'd be the real thing.

And here is what Rushdie said about him

However much Cat Stevens/Yusuf Islam may wish to rewrite his past, he was neither misunderstood nor misquoted over his views on the Khomeini fatwa against The Satanic Verses (Seven, April 29). In an article in The New York Times on May 22, 1989, Craig R Whitney reported Stevens/Islam saying on a British television programme "that rather than go to a demonstration to burn an effigy of the author Salman Rushdie, 'I would have hoped that it'd be the real thing'.''

He added that "if Mr Rushdie turned up at his doorstep looking for help, 'I might ring somebody who might do more damage to him than he would like. I'd try to phone the Ayatollah Khomeini and tell him exactly where this man is'.''

In a subsequent interview with The New York Times, Mr Whitney added, Stevens/Islam, who had seen a preview of the programme, said that he "stood by his comments".

Let's have no more rubbish about how "green" and innocent this man was.

Salman Rushdie, New York


  What "Cat" ought to have done was apologise to Rushdie and commit himself to the right to criticise power in whatever form it takes, but he has not and American leftists have yet to learn that they cannot be a little bit liberal. They can't denounce the idiocy of Fox and ignore the idiocies of religion. Maybe they will never learn.

I'm close to giving up.

PS Just had this message from Rushdie: "I've always liked Stewart and Colbert but what on earth was Cat Yusuf Stevens Islam doing on that stage? If he's a "good Muslim" like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar then I'm the Great Pumpkin. Happy Halloween."

PPS: Just had this from my marvellous Observer colleague Andrew Anthony: "He told me in 1997, eight years after saying on TV that Rushdie should be lynched, that he was in favour of stoning women to death for adultery. He also reconfirmed his position on Rushdie. He set up the Islamia school in Brent, which is currently undergoing council-backed expansion. Its mission statement three years ago explicitly stated that its aim was to bring about the submission of the individual, the community and the world at large to Islam. For this aim it now receives state funding. Its an incubator of the most bonkers religious extremism and segregation, and is particularly strong on the public erasure of women. Why do people go to such lengths to ignore these aspects of Yusuf Islam's character and philosophy?


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November 1st, 2010
2:11 PM
I doubt that Stewart, Colbert or Stevens have the intellectual capacity to understand Satanic Verses.

November 1st, 2010
2:11 PM
"..American leftists have yet to learn that they cannot be a little bit liberal. They can't denounce the idiocy of Fox and ignore the idiocies of religion. Maybe they will never learn. " They can and they do, to an astonishing degree: "Gil Hochberg, Vice Chair of Comparative Literature and LGBT Studies at UCLA, was the moderator... Homosexuality, she claimed, is an "erotic disorder exclusively as [sic] a white pathology like white racism ... fault, guilt, refusal of fault, and paranoia." There is an "innate imperialism of gay rights movement, a white western women's movement," she continued. Gay Muslims are "acting out of economic necessity." She asked, "Why has the West been so successful in imposing homosexuality on the Arab world?" and answered, "People are seduced by gayness and Americanism. Natives are informants of the white gay international, not true Arabs."

November 1st, 2010
2:11 PM
It seems liberal voters either agree with these head choppers, Abortionist, Communist, Che, Nambla et al or they are not fully informed. Chalk some of it up to our education system, I guess.

November 1st, 2010
1:11 PM
Evil truly does have many faces & forms.

November 1st, 2010
1:11 PM
'Restore Sanity', eh? More like Descent to Insanity! Liberals, especially gays, will be the first to suffer in Yusuf Islam's utopian sharia state.

Rev Dr E Buzz
November 1st, 2010
1:11 PM
Did Stewart know who Cat really is? If he did, why put him on, just to be provocative and show those mean idiot Repugs? If he didn't, he exemplifies the stupidity of the modern left, completely ignorant of so much that is happening in the world.

Jason S
November 1st, 2010
1:11 PM
I feel sorry for Mrs. Islam.

November 1st, 2010
1:11 PM
Can you imagine the hue and cry if a musician playing at Beck's rally had made the same statements? Repeatedly? The American press is completely out of control and in cahoots with the fringe liberals.

November 1st, 2010
1:11 PM
Peace Train?

the truth prevails
November 1st, 2010
1:11 PM
"Cause out on the edge of darkness their rides the peace train" Those lyrics are much more in keeping with Yusef the Cat.

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About Nick Cohen

Nick Cohen is a columnist for the Observer and author of You Can't Read This Book: Censorship in an Age of Freedom (Fourth Estate) and What's Left? How The Left Lost Its Way (Harper Perennial). Living With Lies, a collection of his writing for Standpoint, is available as an ebook. 

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