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Cat On a Hot Tin Plane

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Speaking of Islamists, yesterday the fundamentalist formerly known as Cat Stevens caused a London-to-Washington flight to be diverted to Maine:

    The plane was already in the air when US officials identified that the singer, whose name is now Yusuf Islam, was on one of their “watch lists”.

    United Airlines Flight 919 was diverted 600 miles, landing in Maine.

    After an interview, the singer – who converted to Islam in 1977 – was denied entry into the US.

    Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officials said the access was denied “on national security grounds”, without giving any further details.

    Yusuf Islam is now expected to be put on a flight out of America later on Wednesday.

    Four years ago, Mr Islam was deported from Israel over allegations that he backed militant Muslims. [BBC]

including advocating the murder of Salman Rushdie for heresy for the Satanic Verses, he has subsequently retracted that opinion.

I used to love the Cat, still love the music: he had an exceptional melodic gift, unique voice, and knack for blending folk, rock and pop into a amazing string of bright, deep songs, as demonstrated on his extraordinary The Very Best of Cat Stevens:

Matthew & Son
The First Cut is the Deepest
Wild World
Where Do the Children Play?
Hard Headed Woman
Father and Son
The Wind
Morning Has Broken
Moonshadow
Peace Train
Sitting

Damn! every single one of these (and more: “Angelsea”) is a play-along, sing-along classic, with exceptional arrangements and production. The touch was fading in the later-’70s as he grew less focused and more eclectic-poppy, but he threw it ALL away when he went hard-core Muslim in ’77, and not regualr old Western-style Muslim, but kill-the-infidel, lost-his-fucking-mind jihadi Islamist.

AP has more on the flight issue and his background:

    One official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Islam, 56, was identified by the Advanced Passenger Information System, which requires airlines to send passenger information to Customs and Border Protection’s National Targeting Center. The Transportation Security Administration then was contacted and requested that the plane land at the nearest airport, that official said.

    Melendez said Islam was questioned by FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials.

    Another federal official, who is in law enforcement and spoke anonymously because of agency policy, said that after the interview, Customs officials decided to deny Islam entry into the United States.

    ….He abandoned his music career in the late 1970s and changed his name after being persuaded by orthodox Muslim teachers that his lifestyle was forbidden by Islamic law. He later became a teacher and an advocate for his religion, founding a Muslim school in London in 1983.

    Islam founded Islamia Primary school in London in 1983. In 1998, it became the first Muslim school in Britain to receive government support, on the same basis as Christian and other sectarian schools.

Of late Islam has been trying to put on a friendlier face:

    Recently, though, Islam has criticized terrorist acts, including the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and the school seizure in Beslan, Russia, earlier this month that left more than 300 dead, nearly half of them children.

    In a statement on his Web site, he wrote, “Crimes against innocent bystanders taken hostage in any circumstance have no foundation whatsoever in the life of Islam and the model example of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him.”

    After the Sept. 11 attacks, Islam issued a statement saying: “No right thinking follower of Islam could possibly condone such an action: The Quran equates the murder of one innocent person with the murder of the whole of humanity.”

He was allowed to visit New York as recently as May for a charity event – at least his public rhetoric has been sensible of late.

UPDATE: AFP has a statement from the US Department of Homeland Security:

    Garrison Courtney, told AFP that the singer’s name “was placed on watch lists because of concerns that the US has about activities that can potentially be related to terrorism.

    “More recently, our intelligence community has come into the possession of additional information that further hightens our concerns towards Yusuf Islam,” Courtney said.

CAIR was giving a press conference on the matter today at noon:

    “When internationally respected Islamic personalities like Yusuf Islam and Professor Tariq Ramadan are denied entry to the United States, it sends the disturbing message that even moderate and mainstream Muslims will now be treated like terrorists,” said Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR.

Yes, if they give money to Hamas.

UPDATE: Not just Hamas:

    A second government official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said U.S. authorities think donations from Islam may have ended up helping to fund blind sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, who was convicted for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and Hamas, a Palestinian militant group considered a terrorist organization by the United States and Israel.

    In July 2000, Islam was deported hours after arriving in Jerusalem. A local paper reported then that the government claimed he had delivered tens of thousands of dollars to Hamas during a visit in 1988. Islam denied ever knowingly supporting Islamic terrorists. [AP]

This is starting to remind me of the Damra case - another friend to Hamas and the blind sheik. You can’t have it both ways “moderate” Muslims.

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About Eric Olsen

  • http://www.kalyr.com/weblog Tim Hall

    Harry’s Place has some thoughts on this. One of two of the comments are worth reading, such as this one:

    “Stevens’ mid 1980s conversion to Islam came shortly after what anyone would recognise in retrospect as a fairly serious nervous breakdown, and his actions and statements around that time should probably be seen in that context. Peter Green (ex Fleetwood Mac) said some pretty strange things during his period off the rails, and David Bowie notoriously went through a Nazi period. I think it’s rather rough to hold people to statements they made twenty years ago when they weren’t well.”

    The allegations that he funded terrorism are unsubstantiated, and may well be through ignorance rather than malice. How many Irish-Americans unwittedly donated to the IRA thinking they were donating to republican humanitarian charities?

    This isn’t a black-and-white issue, it’s very much shades of grey here.

  • Eric Olsen

    good point, but he converted to Islam in ’77 and the Rushdie matter was 10 years later. The U.S. nad Israeli governments claim to have reliable evidence that he contributed thousands to Hamas, I haven’t heard details on the blind sheik. It is certainly possible he didn’t intentionally fund terror, but it’s up to him to fully resolve the matter.

  • JR

    The U.S. and Israeli governments claim to have reliable evidence that he contributed thousands to Hamas…

    Oh, well if THEY say so, how could it not be true?

    It is certainly possible he didn’t intentionally fund terror, but it’s up to him to fully resolve the matter.

    Yeah, guilty until proven innocent.

  • Eric Olsen

    cynicism aside, I do not believe either government just makes things up out of thin air for its own Kafkaesque amusement

    he isn’t an American citizen, he wasn’t convicted of anything: he was denied entry into the country because he is on a list of terrorists and sympathizers – it’s up to him to get himself off the list, yes.

  • JR

    cynicism aside, I do not believe either government just makes things up out of thin air for its own Kafkaesque amusement

    I don’t know whether or not it amuses them, but you can ask Brandon Mayfield about what they can generate from thin air.

    he isn’t an American citizen, he wasn’t convicted of anything: he was denied entry into the country because he is on a list of terrorists and sympathizers – it’s up to him to get himself off the list, yes.

    It’s the government’s job to enforce the law, and it should be their responsibility to get it right. I’m not one to care much about some religious fanatic, but if the government can divert airplanes with vague references to the possibility that charitible contributions eventually ended up in the hands of terrorists, I’m wondering how few mistakes they have to make before they knock down my front door. Personally, I don’t have the royalty income this guy has; so if I somehow ended up on some secretly compiled shit list, I’m not at all sure I could get myself off it.

  • http://www.iamcorrect.blogspot.com Lono

    I posted this on the two other discussions, including the one that started all this – but Cat is cleared! It was a typo involving his name ‘Yusef’ and the more common spelling (and the spelling actually tied to the no-fly list) of ‘Youssouf’ – see the story here

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