Cat Stevens/Yusuf Islam uses new song to deny he supported fatwa against Rushdie

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

The New York Daily News reports:

There’s a song on the new album, “Tell ’Em I’m Gone,” out Monday, that refers to a infamous incident in 1989 when the star made statements interpreted by the media to endorse a fatwa against Salman Rushdie. The edict had been issued for “blasphemy,” allegedly committed by Rushdie’s novel “The Satanic Verses.”

“One day the papers rang us up/t’check if I said this,” Islam sings of the incident and its aftermath, in the song “Editing Floor Blues.” “I’d never say that!/… but they never printed that.”

The 66-year-old star says he wrote the song because “as opposed to just talking to a journalist, this lets me speak from the heart. It helps me to explain.”

But does it?

In his own lyrics, he presents the controversy as having no resolution. He compares himself to the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates, who was put on trial, and finally died, for his beliefs.

Today, Islam says unequivocally, “I did not support the fatwa.”

That is not how the The New York Times reported it in an article in 1989 entitled: ‘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.

Islam, who is originally from the UK, now makes his home in Dubai.