Cat Stevens was called Yusuf Islam when he supported a fatwa calling for Salman Rushdie to be killed
Rowan Dean, The Courier-Mail
“NOW, I’ve been crying lately, thinkin’ about the world as it is. Why must we go on hating, why can’t we live in bliss?”
It was a good question back in the ’70s, and just as pertinent today, with children being gassed to death in the hellholes of Syria.
The man posing the question in his hit song Peace Train was English singer-songwriter Steven Demetre Georgiou.
Handsome, a multicultural pin-up boy, Steven was half Greek, half Swedish and wrote melodic pop songs that could make The Beatles weep.
In those days, to indicate coolness, you said “cat”, so the cool hippy became Cat Stevens. By 1974, if you weren’t whistling along to his Tea for the Tillerman and Teaser and the Firecat, well, you were either stone deaf or living at the bottom of a well in the middle of the Persian desert.
Which brings us to the dude who is, apparently, living at the bottom of a well in the middle of the Persian desert, and has been for nearly a thousand years: the 12th Imam, or Mahdi, a messianic figure to Shi’ite Muslims.
He is destined to reappear out of the well in the holy city of Qom very soon to create an Islamic caliphate on Earth.
Or so many devout Muslims believe. By the end of the 1970s, these two wild worlds collided.
In 1977, Cat Stevens converted to Islam, changed his name to Yusuf Islam and denounced music as the work of the devil.
Two years later, a violent bunch of fundamental ayatollahs overthrew the government of Iran and established their Islamic Republic and brought back the burqa, the stoning of adulteresses, hangings, throwing gays off buildings and other such charming aspects of sharia law.
Fast forward a decade to 1989 when British-Indian author Salman Rushdie wrote a book The Satanic Verses which ridiculed Islam.
The Muslim world went berserk. Books were burned, booksellers killed and Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini declared a “fatwa” on Rushdie, instructing Muslims everywhere to kill him.
Asked at the time what he thought of this, Yusuf Islam, the former peace-loving guitar-strummer, said: “He must be killed. The Koran makes it clear. If someone defames the prophet, then he must die.”
Cat, sorry, Yusuf, then went on TV saying he wouldn’t bother attending a burning of an effigy of Rushdie unless it was “the real thing”. Nice.
Then came 9/11, Bali, Paris, Brussels, London and two decades of Islamist terrorism.
Somewhere along the way, Yusuf decided music wasn’t so evil after all and, in fact, wasn’t a bad way to earn a crust so he picked up his guitar, dropped the awkward “Islam” from his moniker, and now wanders around the globe singing his old hits as Yusuf Cat Stevens. He’s coming to Australia this year.
Mr Islam – sorry, Mr Stevens – has never publicly apologised for advocating Rushdie’s murder, saying, “people need to get over it. It’s 25 years ago”.
Yet, imagine if an Aussie pop icon, say John Farnham or Jimmy Barnes, had gone on TV and called for the death of cartoonist Bill Leak when he received Islamist death threats two years ago. That’s how bad it was.
But in Australia, Yusuf Cat Stevens is fawned over by the likes of Waleed Aly on The Project. In a gushing interview two weeks ago about Cat’s “humanitarian” good deeds, Aly never once mentioned the fact that Yusuf had demanded a man be murdered for blasphemy.
To compound the hypocrisy, at the same time as Yusuf Stevens was being feted by the Left here, an incredibly brave and inspirational woman, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, was being demonised and threatened by left-wing activists to the point where she cancelled her visit.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who was born Muslim but renounced her religion, has an Islamic death sentence on her identical to Rushdie’s or Leak’s. She travels the world lecturing on the urgent need to reform Islam. Yet instead of interviewing her, the likes of Waleed Aly dismiss her as being a rock star of Islamophobia.
In luvvyland, Ayaan is the baddie and Cat is the hero.
“Oh baby, baby, it’s a wild world.” And a very mixed-up one at that.
Rowan Dean’s Way Beyond Satire wilkinsonpublishing.com.au