I tuned in to the “Restoring Sanity” rally on the National Mall today during the prep time before the NARN broadcast this afternoon, just in time to see “Peace Train” performed live — and I said to my radio partner Mitch Berg, “Did I just see Cat Stevens on stage for a rally claiming to restore sanity?” As Aaron Worthing at Patterico and Ed Driscoll confirm, indeed I did, as did everyone else. Mediate has the video of Yusuf Islam’s appearance, as well as a bit of his background:
The inclusion of Yusuf Islam in the Rally to Restore Sanity is sure to raise a number of eyebrows, given the controversy surrounding his alleged support of the fundamentalist Islamic fatwa against author Salman Rushdie. As Andy Levy tweeted “Rally To Restore Fatwas?” Yusuf has since asserted that he was simply joking and his comments were taken out of context. In the years that has followed, he has repeatedly denied ever calling for the death of Rushdie or supporting the fatwa.
You be the judge. In 1989, here’s Islam speaking on a panel discussing the fatwa issued against Salman Rushdie issued by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Does this sound like an episode of a Bill Maher-type show?
Robertson: You don’t think that this man deserves to die?
Y. Islam: Who, Salman Rushdie?
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. ….
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.
Later, the New York Times reported that Islam stood by those remarks (emphasis mine):
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.
In other words, he wasn’t joking at all — which he himself later confirmed. When confronted with a choice between freedom of speech and homicidal religious zealotry, Cat Stevens chose the latter.
What I find amazing about this is that two stars from Comedy Central would share the stage with a man who supported the idea of murdering an artist for his remarks on Islam. The producers of South Park got death threats from radical Muslims for attempting to depict an image of Muhammed in one of their recent episodes, and the executive management of Viacom forced them to censor the show in fear of Muslim reaction. Now, two of Viacom’s most recognizable television stars have linked themselves to a man who publicly endorsed that exact kind of threat — as a way to “restore sanity.”
Earlier, I guessed that the rally would just be a waste of time. Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert managed to turn it into a despicable, offensive embarrassment. Isn’t that … ironic?
Update: Salman Rushdie wasn’t fooled:
Cat Stevens wanted me dead
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