September 27, 2020

"[Cat] Stevens said he had originally wanted to serve as a bridge between two great cultures, yet, while Islam welcomed its famous convert, western audiences were hostile."

"'On the other side, people said, "He is a bit of a traitor." He has "turned Turk," if you like. So I was often used as a bit of a spokesman, and I was useful for certain occasions.... I thought, "Everybody should get this," but it didn’t work out quite like that.'... One of the most upsetting times for Stevens, he reveals, was his portrayal as a supporter of the Iranian fatwa that forced the novelist Salman Rushdie into hiding in 1989. 'I was certainly not prepared or equipped to deal with sharp-toothed journalists,' he said. 'I was cleverly framed by certain questions. I never supported the fatwa. I had to live through that.'... Stevens emphasised the importance music has in his life once more. 'It is a mystical thing still. It is something that permeates our emotion, our soul, sometimes our intellect. Our body moves to it. I didn’t know where I was going but music helped me to get there.'"

From "Yusuf Cat Stevens on Islam, the fatwa and playing guitar again/The singer-songwriter tells Desert Island Discs about walking away from his fans, and the difficulties of following a spiritual path" (The Guardian).

"I never supported the fatwa" — you can believe that or not. He's crying "fake news." I choose to believe him, because I've always loved Cat Stevens.

86 comments:

Professional lady said...

If he didn't support the fatwa, why didn't he say so at the time and clear it up? I loved Cat Stevens too. I think I saw him in concert twice.

Joe Smith said...

The man wrote elevator music imho. For that alone he should be guilty of something.

Charles Manson made a great paella. When he proclaims his innocence, I choose to believe him, because I've always loved paella.

See how silly that sounds?

Kai Akker said...

Bring back Dylan!

shreck said...

Tea for the Tillerman has always been one of my favorite albums. I have never heard him speak on the Fatwa on Rushdie, I had always assumed the reporting on it was true...

Lincolntf said...

On 21 February 1989, Yusuf Islam addressed students at Kingston Polytechnic (now Kingston University) in London about his conversion to Islam and was asked about the controversy in the Muslim world and the fatwa calling for Salman Rushdie's execution. He replied, "He must be killed. The Qur'an makes it clear – if someone defames the prophet, then he must die."...
(First entry in Wikipedia under Cat Stevens Fatwa. Believe him if you want, or just separate the art from the artist like most people do.

Christopher said...

I remember his statements at the time all too clearly because I loved Cat Stevens' music and was perfectly happy to keep loving it after he converted. But after his fatwa support, I stopped listening to his music and it's the only part of my large LP collection that I didn't duplicate when I bought CDs.

I'm saying this before reading the story, which I will, but I'm extremely skeptical of this claim.

hawkeyedjb said...

Yeah, well. There's plenty of evidence that Stevens/Islam believed Rushdie should be killed for his 'blasphemy.' But Cat/Yusuf wants to live in the West, not in Iran. So he blames misinterpretation of his Deeply Held Beliefs for the controversy. And always, always blames Rushdie, the blasphemer, as the source of the problem.

wendybar said...

He could have come out and explained before 2020.
Silence is violence, you know!!

wendybar said...

And I like Cat Stevens too. Yusuf Islam, not as much.

Big Mike said...

I don’t believe he never supported the fatwa, and the only song of his I ever liked was “Morning Has Broken.”

Sebastian said...

"I never supported the fatwa"

OK. But how much violence of the sort approved in the Koran does he support?

Earnest Prole said...

Cat Stevens' comments about Salman Rushdie: "He must be killed. The Qur'an makes it clear -- if someone defames the prophet, then he must die."

pacwest said...

Tea for the Tillerman was a great album. Fantastic songwriter. I hope he starts up with his music again. I can't remember him being preachy about his conversion so I wouldn't expect it now.

Ken B said...

I do not believe him because I heard him affirm his support years later.
This is a Hardin vindication thread: you “choose” to believe for emotional reasons not because of evidence.

Rory said...

From one article: "His music choices on Desert Island Discs included America from West Side Story, Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood by Nina Simone and his own song The Wind....For his book Stevens chose the Mathnawi, a collection of spiritual poems by Rumi."

It's sadly funny: most artists are only marginally interesting in talking about what they actually do, yet they still insist on gassing about the world at large.

rightguy said...

Yusef is lying about his attitude towards the Rushdie fatwa and he does have a new record out:

"The singer, who adopted the name Yusuf Islam when he converted to Islam, made the remark during a panel discussion of British reactions to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's call for Mr. Rushdie to be killed for allegedly blaspheming Islam in his best-selling novel ''The Satanic Verses.'' He also said 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,'' said Mr. Islam, who watched a preview of the program today and said in an interview that he stood by his comments.
NYT's 1989

mikee said...

https://archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/books/99/04/18/specials/rushdie-cat.html

May 23, 1989: "LONDON, May 22 -- The musician known as Cat Stevens said in a British television program to be broadcast next week 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.''

The singer, who adopted the name Yusuf Islam when he converted to Islam, made the remark during a panel discussion of British reactions to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's call for Mr. Rushdie to be killed for allegedly blaspheming Islam in his best-selling novel ''The Satanic Verses.'' He also said 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,'' said Mr. Islam, who watched a preview of the program today and said in an interview that he stood by his comments."

Yeah, I still hum "Moonshadow" once in a while, too. And I think other fine artists are fine artists, and I ignore their personal lives, when I know about them at all. Doesn't mean they're good people, or that I'd want to sit down at dinner with them. Except maybe Kieth Richards or Ted Nugent. They sound like fun dinner guests.

tim maguire said...

I'm old enough to remember when the fatwa was made. And I remember Yusef declaring that when you kill a man, you put a knife in one heart, but when you insult Islam, you put a knife in a billion hearts. Then he did that head-bobbing thing that indicates he thinks he made an unassailable point.

You can choose to believe him, but his story changes and none of the stories he's told explain what I saw and heard with my own eyes and ears.

CWJ said...

Big Mike said...
...the only song of his I ever liked was “Morning Has Broken.”

Which he didn't write.

CWJ said...

But anyway, why now? what brings him back into the light after 30 years?

stonethrower said...

Maybe this video has been edited -
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mYnWtPytvhI

Earnest Prole said...

Believe him if you want, or just separate the art from the artist like most people do.

Exactly.

I've never taken seriously the stupid things great artists have said about politics and religion; why would I make an exception for Cat Stevens?

JZ said...

I stopped listening to his music the first time I heard it. The lyrics to Peace Train are as stupid as John Lennon’s Imagine. The Fatwa stuff was bad, too but it was already too late.

George Grady said...

From an AP article from March 3, 1989:

Stevens said Friday that it is the duty of every Moslem to put forward the Islamic viewpoint ″and that is what I did.″

″My only crime was, I suppose, in being honest. I stood up and expressed my belief and I am in no way apologizing for it,″ Stevens said in a statement.

Stevens’ statement was headed in black type: ″Under Islamic Law, the ruling regarding blasphemy is quite clear; the person found guilty of it must be put to death. Only under certain circumstances can repentance be accepted.″

Stevens said Moslems in Britain must observe British laws, but might have to become more involved in British politics if the government would not comply with their demands for a ban on Rushdie’s novel.

stevew said...

I like his music very much, haven't paid any attention to his politics and commitment, or not, to Islam. Like most artists, musicians, and so forth I am drawn to them for what they are expert at: their work. I am neither inclined nor disinclined to believe him.

@Ernest Prole's cite would seem to identify Yousef's words of today as a lie about his past positions. Still don't care.

Chennaul said...

The musician known as Cat Stevens said in a British television program to be broadcast next week 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.''

The singer, who adopted the name Yusuf Islam when he converted to Islam, made the remark during a panel discussion of British reactions to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's call for Mr. Rushdie to be killed for allegedly blaspheming Islam in his best-selling novel ''The Satanic Verses.'' He also said 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,'' said Mr. Islam, who watched a preview of the program today and said in an interview that he stood by his comments.



https://www.nytimes.com/1989/05/23/books/cat-stevens-gives-support-to-call-for-death-of-rushdie.html

He sounds pretty hostile there.

Now even Bahrain, the UAE and Oman see Iran as a significant problem. Might have something to do with his shift.

Bob Boyd said...

Charles Manson was directly involved in orchestrating multiple murders.
Cat Stevens held an opinion.

Plus, Cat Stevens music isn't hypothetical.

Chennaul said...

Hippies can be haters.

Chris of Rights said...

He made some pretty inflammatory statements, some of which have been quoted by others above me. I loved "Moon Shadow", but sorry, don't believe what he's saying. Maybe he's repented a little and wished he'd not said those things. But he certainly said them.

Jason said...

I like him even less, now.

He should have owned up to it. “Yeah, I said it. I was an idiot. I don’t believe that now. It’s profoundly unislamic. The Koran says “there is no compulsion in religion.”

I’ve been a musician all my life. I’m tired of musicians being idiots. There’s no excuse for it.

GingerBeer said...

It would be hilarious if this denial of his then very public support of the fatwa against Rushdie leads to a fatwa against himself. Iranian clerics aren't known for their appreciation of "context" and "nuance."

Mark said...

"'On the other side, people said, "He is a bit of a traitor." He has "turned Turk," if you like.

No one said that.

What they said was, "Whatever happened to Cat Stevens? Haven't heard from his for a long time."

I heard that that radical revolutionary Irish pope hater became Muslim too, even sporting a burka.

GingerBeer said...

"I choose to believe him, because I've always loved Cat Stevens." Again with the cruel neutrality bullshit.

Mary Beth said...

He said, "He must be killed. The Qur'an makes it clear – if someone defames the prophet, then he must die." Then, a day later, said that he was just stating that it was blasphemy. He said he wasn't encouraging anyone to become a vigilante. That's nice, but there's a lot of space between one person becoming a vigilante and thinking that a religion has the right to put someone to death for insulting its prophet.

Anonymous said...

Tea For The Tillerman was album that got me into high end audio which started my career. I just ordered the new version which I've listened to on Spotify and am liking. Maybe except for Wild World, that one will take some getting used to. It's still the album I evaluate audio gear with.

Rabel said...

"I choose to believe him, because I've always loved Cat Stevens."

We each have our own truth, don't we.

DrSquid said...

I never really cared for him much before his transition, and not at all afterwards. He seemed to me to be just the kind of hippie that could fall for some bullshit like Islam.

The Godfather said...

Performers really should stick to performing. I liked Cat Steven's music. That doesn't mean that anyone should care about his opinion about a fatwa or anything else. I used to like Barbra Streisand's singing. That doesn't mean that any sane person should pay attention to her political opinions. There's a country music group that used to be called the Dixie Chicks (now they're just the Chicks, I guess to show they never owned slaves, or something) that years ago got banned from my local country music station because they made comments that some people regarded as anti-American.

Here's my free legal advice to any performer who is tempted to express a political, religious, or other opinion: DON'T.

gspencer said...

It's one thing to have the misfortune to be born into a Muslim family and culture. It's all downhill from birth. Some actually begin to use the brain with which they were born and see Islam for what it is. And they leave the Islam prison.

It's another thing altogether to convert, as an adult, to Islam. Basically, "Are you nuts?"

rhhardin said...

I never cared what he thought. Into White was great. Compare to Dixie Chicks Cowboy Take Me Away.

Mary Beth said...

He was cleverly framed as supporting the fatwa by saying that he thought Rushdie should die and that he would "try to phone the Ayatollah Khomeini and tell him exactly where this man is."

YoungHegelian said...

...while Islam welcomed its famous convert, western audiences were hostile.

Well, that's one way of seeing it. It has the misfortune of not being true, however.

Islam welcomed its famous convert, but not as a folk-rock performer, but as a born-again Islamic iconoclast. Cat Stevens/Yusuf Islam basically stopped performing, which is not surprising because Salafist Islam has real problems with music in general. He made several statements at the time on the wickedness of his past life in the music business. The phrase "Sex, drugs & rock-n-roll" exists for a reason, and I'm sure that his past life was no faith's idea of "moral".

His "western" audiences didn't turn on him & he stopped performing. He stopped performing because of his conversion & they then "turned on him".

William said...

It's a better apology than any offered by Jane Fonda. Probably more sincere too....I can't hold a grudge against anyone who wishes ill on Salman Rushdie although murder is a bit much and the motivation is completely wrong.

Drago said...

Cat Stevens is lying about his support for the fatwa.

So I dont care about anything else he says.

David53 said...

"Yes, peace train holy roller"

Yeah.

ambisinistral said...

We need a new label to join cruel neutrality -- cruel credulousness.

bagoh20 said...

I like his music too, but he called for an innocent man to be hunted down and killed for his writing, he lies about it to this day, and knows he's lying, and he worships a religion that calls for the death of non-believers, gays, adulterers and many others, and which actually kills thousand for just those reasons year after year.

I have a hard time forgiving that because he made some nice music decades ago. You can't even credit him for making the Peace Train run on time. He is morally challenged, and pretending that being religious makes that OK is long past its due date.

wild chicken said...

NYT just dumped Trump's tax returns.

Now the poor saps on Twitter are learning about depreciation and carry-forward losses.

Lmao.

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

I choose to believe him, because I've always loved Cat Stevens.

Must you put out the hardin batsignal like this? MUST YOU?!

Jim Gust said...

This is the first time I've ever heard any hint that Cat Stevens did not support the fatwa. Seems rather convenient. I also stopped listening to him when he failed to defend Rushdie.

The music of Cat Stevens made Harold and Maude a terrific film, one of my favorites.

JAORE said...

"Charles Manson made a great paella. When he proclaims his innocence, I choose to believe him, because I've always loved paella.

Brilliant.

Narr said...

A real but minor talent.

Narr
And a minor but real shithead

Randolf said...

His after-the-fact claims about his support for the killing of Rushdie is carefully selected weasel words about only quoting the Koran.

As is the drivel that when he brought money to Hamas he did not know it was a terrorist organization.

The stench of Taqiya wraps around him completely.

boatbuilder said...

If he had come out in support of Rushdie, he would have been Fatwa’d himself.
So he didn’t .

It would be nice if he now had the courage to explain his silence.

I award him zero points.

Nice music, though.

Unknown said...

Imagine if ACB was a Muzzy Fan-atic

Like Cat or Ilhan the Rep from Somalia

Libs be like Spinal Tap

Oh how we danced

bagoh20 said...

I've never been as much of a fan of Bob Dylan as Althouse, and maybe this has been discussed before, but I just found The Bob Dylan Old Time Radio Show on Sirus XM Radio this weekend on a trip to Utah and listed for hours. It was very eclectic and fun. Dylan tells a lot of great stories in a wonderful style, unsurprisingly.

BTW, almost no masks in Utah, other than some employees in certain businesses. Nobody in the bars or the restaurants, or the hotel where we stayed, or on the street. It was refreshing, verging on glorious.

We stayed at an awesome Hotel that was kind of a bed and breakfast, which I usually avoid, but this was special. It's called the "Big Yellow Inn" in Cedar City, a large 5 story Georgian Revival wonderfully maintained and appointed. Our two-room Master Suite was $169 on a Saturday night, some rooms are $109. A short walk to the venue of the annual Shakespeare Festival of summer in a sane year. Look it up.

People in Utah are unusually polite, and Cedar city is exceptionally clean and quiet with no graffiti or litter at all. I think you could leave your car unlocked anywhere there without concern.

We were there helping friends move into their new 20 acre home with an unobstructed mountain view for miles in all 360 degrees. Just beautiful. They have a half dozen Arabian horses, and four big dogs. It's heaven. 20 acre minimum plots, $60K for 20 acres! Thinking about it seriously myself. Our friends anti-Trump, but there are Trump signs and flags everywhere around them. It IS possible for us to live together and even be friends, if life, love, and friendship are more important than politics, or you at least make them so in your life.

Joe Smith said...

"Cat Stevens held an opinion."

Yes, he held an opinion that another man should be murdered for also holding an opinion.


Wince said...

I choose to believe him, because I've always loved Cat Stevens.

It wasn't "fatwa-fatwa."

jerpod said...

This should be very simple for the queen of the sentence parsers:

Wrong: "I've always loved Cat Stevens."

Right: "I've always loved Cat Stevens' music."

I have the same problem with the Clash.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Did he denounce the fatwa?

Joe Smith said...

Any westerner, especially one in England that can see what's been going on there in real-time, that converts to fundamental Islam is weak-minded and foolish.

Or maybe they're smart...we'll see if they bet on the strong horse once England is fully invaded and its citizens subjected to conversion 'or else.'

Mark said...

The thing is that in Islam, a Muslim has no obligation to be truthful to an infidel.

Bay Area Guy said...

"Yusef Islam" needs a little work as a stage name. It lacks sexiness.

Jupiter said...

If "Islam welcomed its famous convert", but "western audiences were hostile", maybe he should go fuck goats with his betters in some Islamic shithole. There's plenty of them around. Of course he called for Rushdie's murder. I don't know why he bothers to lie about it now. By voluntarily joining a bloodthirsty death cult, he called for billions of murders. He claims to think that's what God desires. Does the stupid little shit really think he gets to pick and choose which Muslim atrocities he supports? I hope they fatwa his useless impious ass for blaspheming.

Yeah, sure, a couple of his songs are OK. If he ever loses his mouth, all his teeth, North and South, oh if he ever loses his mouth, he can STFU.

Unknown said...

Never understood the allure of submission. Submission turns you into a tool of that to which you have submitted. Why do people choose to be tools?

Ingachuck'stoothlessARM said...

(Crescent) Moonshadow

Oh, I'm bein' followed by a moonshadow, moonshadow,
watched and haunted by a crescent moonshadow, moonshadow

And if I ever lose my head
If the Caliphate wants me dead
Oh if I ever lose my head
Oh wee oh oh wee ee oh
I wont have to submit, no more

DEEBEE said...

With his conversion, Islam gains an artist while the West or Christianity loses one. It would be a no brained for the former to be welcoming and the latter not so much. What;s surprising is that Steven is ignorant or parenting to be so as to piss on his previous connections to curry favor with his current.

Aggie said...

I don't care about his opinions, but I always liked his music. I hope Cat Stevens has been able to find peace and spiritual fulfillment within his chosen religion. I think it would be a shame if his music no longer brought him joy.

Mark said...

Never understood the allure of submission.

Freedom is hard. Many can't handle it.

M Jordan said...

Cat Stevens was the most influential musician for me in my early college years. “On the Road To Find Out” was especially influential. I really felt that was me. When he quit music and became a Muslim I was floored. I thought only Christians had a Road to Damascus moment. The man influenced my music interests as well. I loved “Wild World” and “Sad Lisa.” “Father and Son” also. All of them, tbh.

I’d love to talk to him about the spiritual experience he went through.

Wilbur said...

I found his music mildly interesting until I heard his cover of the Sam Cooke classic 'Another Saturday Night". I've never before or since been made angry by a record until I heard that witless desecration of a beautiful song. If I had seen him, I'd have wanted to fight him.
The Islamic stuff? It's no different to me than any show business Leftist. They hate me and they hate all of you. To hell with all of them.
But keep buying their stuff. Biden needs the money.

Big Mike said...

Of course he called for Rushdie's murder. I don't know why he bothers to lie about it now.

@Jupiter, because there are people gullible enough to fall for his disclaimer, even if you and I and a lot of people who know how to use an Internet search engine know better.

Kirk Parker said...

"..I can't hold a grudge against anyone who wishes ill on Salman Rushdie "

WTH???

TheThinMan said...

No one cared that he changed religion but that he changed his name, looks, and stopped making music seemed like he went off the deep end. Islam was his Yoko Ono.

Aaron said...

Cat Stevens is lying

You can hear him speak in favor of the fatwa here https://youtu.be/mYnWtPytvhI

wendybar said...

People who blindly believe him now, also believed the Russian Collusion lies and the Benghazi lies, and all the other Obama Scandals, and lies. So easy to fool people that want to believe in something.

exiledonmainstreet, green-eyed devil said...

I've never forgiven him for "If I ever lose my mouth/All my teeth, north and south."

I do like "Wild World."

Kassaar said...

On the positive side, he never stole a speech from Neil Kinnock.
Despite the naive lyrics, I love the 10,000 Maniacs cover of Peace Train. After Stevens’ Rushdie comments, the Maniacs removed the song from future releases.
https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x1atb6

Fernandinande said...

Shouldn't the fatwa he supported be called "eating disorder wa"?

RobinGoodfellow said...

“The cat formerly known as Stevens.”—Dennis Miller

SensibleCitizen said...

I'll take him at his word. If that's still a concept.

Robert Cook said...

"We each have our own truth, don't we."

Indubitably so.

sparrow said...

I believe him too: he always seemed sincere and Moslems are not universally belligerent.

Texan99 said...

He said at the time he didn't support it, or least that's what I recall reading. He was quite troubled by it.

ManleyPointer said...

Natalie Merchant covered Peace Train. After the comments on the Rushdie fatwa, she had it removed from all future prints of her album.

I was too young to remember the controversy 1st hand. But Merchant's stance made an impression on me.

GingerBeer said...

Why do bad things always happen to Muslims?