The hippie-era troubadour and Muslim convert Yusuf Islam, aka Cat Stevens, is on the comeback trail and already putting his foot in his mouth. For a recent Rolling Stone article, Yusuf was asked about his declaration that “[Salman Rushdie] must be killed. The Quran makes it clear: If someone defames the prophet, then he must die.” He said this way back in 1989, shortly after the Ayatollah Khomeini declared a fatwa against Rushdie for blaspheming the prophet Muhammad in his novel The Satanic Verses.
One might assume that the 2015 version of Cat Stevens, singing and playing again in the secular world, would unambiguously disavow his old statements about Rushdie, who was forced into hiding for many years because of the fatwa. But one would be wrong. Instead, Yusuf told RS:
I’m a firm believer in the law… I was never a supporter of the fatwa [against Rushdie], but people don’t want to hear that because they keep saying that I believe in the law of blasphemy. All I’m saying is, how can you deny the Third Commandment? It’s an Islamic principle that you must follow the law of the land where you reside.
Swamp Rabbit and I scratched our heads when we read this. Was the Rock & Roll Hall of Famer saying that Rushdie shouldn’t be killed, period, or that he should only be killed in countries where Islam and the law are the same thing?
The rabbit took a swig of Wild Turkey — to help him think more clearly, I guess. He said, “Sounds to me like Yusuf ain’t honest enough to admit he talked like a jackass back in the day. He should apologize to Rushdie, or keep his yap shut.”
I almost agreed with the rabbit. Yusuf should be able to say whatever he wants to say, but no way would I ride the peace train with a guy who can’t quite renouce the ultimate form of censorship. Even if I could afford the ticket.