Yusuf Islam, the artist formerly known as Cat Stevens, can't quite seem to avoid religious/political controversy, though he is clearly expending effort to tread on contentious ground diplomatically.
Sunday, in response to Pope Benedict's notably undiplomatic speech, which contained this fateful quote from a 14th-Century Byzantine emperor — "'Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached'" — Islam/Stevens said, "At one point, I used to believe that the pope was infallible," referring to his Catholic schooling as a boy.
The Pope "should have looked elsewhere if he wanted to quote," he continued. "But we respect the pope and his position," he said, adding it was good Benedict had retracted his statement "in a way."
However, Islam, not wanting to alienate a world full of Catholic potential fans, became uncomfortable with even that relatively mild a criticism of the pontiff, and issued a "restatement" of his message to the Pope:
"Yusuf Islam's respect for the head of the Catholic Church and his position remains unaltered. However, he believes the quote the Pontiff chose was inappropriate and suggested another quote by Mahatma Gandhi, whose interpretation of Islam was much more peaceful. In Young India, he wrote, 'I become more than ever convinced that it was not the sword that won a place for Islam in those days. It was the rigid simplicity, the utter self-effacement of the Prophet, the scrupulous regard for pledges, his intense devotion to his friends and followers and his intrepidity, his fearlessness, his absolute trust in God and his own mission. These and not the sword carried everything before them and surmounted every obstacle.'"
Islam is also sending a personally signed copy of the reissue of his book The Life of The Last Prophet to the Pope for his library, "hoping the understanding and dialogue between people of the great faiths of Islam and Christianity will advance towards a more enlightened future of knowledge, charity and peaceful co-existence," the message on his site states.