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Rally to Restore Yusuf Islam's Reputation

6:37 PM, Oct 30, 2010 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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Mediaite reports that Yusuf Islam (aka Cat Stevens) was at Jon Stewart's rally in D.C. today:

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.

Ed Morrissey has the video and transcript of a 1989 Yusuf Islam TV appearance that proves Islam was deadly serious about wanting Rushdie dead: 

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. ….

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.

Morrissey notes that "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.

Update: Via Nexis, here's a February 23, 1989 United Press International on Rushdie (On Twitter, Andy Levy highlighted the following quotation):

In Britain, however, former pop singer Cat Stevens, who gave up his musical career in 1977 to become a Moslem, endorsed Khomeini's demand for Rushdie's execution.

''He must be killed,'' said Yusuf Islam, as Stevens is now called. ''The Koran makes it clear: If someone defames the prophet, he must die.''

You can imagine the media firestorm that would have engulfed Glenn Beck for inviting someone who'd wished death upon a writer for exercising his free speech rights.  But, hey, Cat Stevens made some pretty great music, so Stewart gets a pass, right?

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