Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Juan Cole on Cat Stevens

Professor Cole also points out the same kind of ambivalent feelings I had upon learning that the Artist Formerly Known as Cat Stevens had been taken off a plane because he’s on a terrorist watch list. A lot of people made fun of that, mostly because they still think of Cat Stevens as the guy who sang Moonshadow and Peace Train. Sorry kids, that Cat Stevens left us a long time ago, replaced by Yusuf Islam, a radical nutball who thinks it’s okay to kill people for writing books he disagrees with. Several times he endorsed the Ayatollah Khomeini’s death sentence on Salman Rushdie back in 1989. Sorry pal, your membership in the human race was revoked the moment you said so. You get zero sympathy from me.


  1. #1 DonM
    September 23, 2004


    I agree, he should have been sent back. But, don’t you think that it was a bit ridiculous diverting the airliner to Maine!!!


  2. #2 raj
    September 24, 2004

    I don’t feel any sympathy for him either, but it does strike me as a somewhat silly waste of government resources.

  3. #3 Ed Brayton
    September 24, 2004

    The one thing I don’t get about it is….why Maine? “We’ve got a dangerous terrorist on this plane…send him to Maine, who can he hurt up there?”

  4. #4 Dan
    September 24, 2004

    Maybe the Artist Formerly Known As Cat wanted to see if he could drop in on his old friends from the Saudi royal family at the Bush compound in Kennebunkport? After all, while we are concerned with national security, we don’t want to let such things stand in the way of old friendships. Or whatever.

  5. #5 DonM
    September 24, 2004

    I’m in Canada. We had a similar thing a couple of months ago when there was an alert that there may have been terrorists or a bomb on board a Toronto – Vancouver flight.

    What did they do? They scrambled 3 CF-18s to “escort” the B-767 into Vancouver!!!!!!!

    Where does the stupidity and money wasting end?


  6. #6 Dave S.
    September 24, 2004

    Overseas flights coming into the U.S. from Europe routinely use Bangor as a drop-off point for drunk and unruly passengers. It’s the closest airport that can handle the big jets, you don’t have to risk flying over much populated U.S. territory, it’s remote enough to make it difficult to easily blend into the background should the detainee make a break for it, and the security force and secure terminal on site is set up just to handle these sorts of situations.

    When the events of Sept 11, 2001 happened those international flights already bound for the U.S. were likewise deflected to similar remote Canadian destinations like Gander Newfoundland to minimize the risk on the ground.

    If you’re low on fuel, you can’t just go back where you came from. Gotta land somewhere.

  7. #7 Michael
    September 24, 2004

    Well, I’m less clear about the “supporting Ayatollah Khomeni” part. I saw an interview with him several years ago where he claims he was misquoted. The question posed was: How do you interpret the Ayatollah’s edict about Salman Rushdie? His answer was, He must be put to death for insulting Islam. I leave off the quotes because I’m paraphrasing, but you understand. He was not stating personal belief, but his interpetation of the Ayatollah’s words.

    Of course, while they’re re-routing aging ex-folk singers, the TSA continues to miss truly threatening explosives and other weapons in backpacks and carry-ons…

  8. #8 Dave S.
    September 24, 2004

    Michael –

    There was more to it than simply interpreting what the Ayatollah’s Fatwa meant. To quote an article form the New York Times, May 23, 1989:

    “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.”

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