Cat Stevens/Yusuf Islam: How peaceful is his ‘Peace Train’?

Islam as a young convert

Cat Stevens soothed ears and gained fans with his boyish grin, light humor and lyrical songs like Moonshadow, Wild World and Peace Train. At least until 1977, when he converted, renamed himself Yusuf Islam and dropped out of popular music.

But over the last decade, he’s eased back into performance and has just announced a new musical tour, “Peace Train … Late Again,” in North America and Europe. The coverage thus far is not quite a train wreck, but it does miss a chance to examine the freight: the intolerance that once prodded him to recommend Salman Rushdie’s death.

British Yusuf Islam (4th L), the artist formerly known as Cat Stevens, his wife Faezia (3rd L) and his daughters arrive at the “Adopt-A-Minefield” Benefit Gala in support of landmines victims on May 28, 2005 in Neuss, Germany

Most news media have seemed to rely on the Associated Press story, which deals mostly with Stevens’ “unhurried music career.” They note his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this spring, as well as his upcoming blues album, his first studio album in five years.
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Remember that flap over Salman Rushdie? Some readers do…one…posted a link to a 1989 article in the New York Times:

Cat Stevens Gives Support To Call for Death of Rushdie

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.

…Several times over the years, Yusuf has tried to deny endorsing Khomeini’s fatwa. “We were just poles apart,” he said of Rushdie in a 2006 interview. “We disagreed. But I never said such a thing.” Apparently he thought no one would see the video clip linked in the 1989 Times post…

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