Cat Stevens Appearance At Sanity Rally Rankles Right Winger

October 30, 2010 10:08 a.m.

Conservative bete noir Yusuf Islam (a.k.a. Cat Stevens) made a guest appearance at the Comedy Central rally today, inspiring an instant backlash from at least one right winger, a group fond of accusing the musician of sympathizing with terrorists.

[TPM SLIDESHOW: Sanity Restored: Photos From The Stewart/Colbert Rally]

Islam was accused in 1989 of sympathizing with Ayatollah Khomeini’s fatwa against Salman Rushdie, after he was quoted saying “In Islam there is a line between let’s say freedom and the line which is then transgressed into immorality and irresponsibility and I think as far as this writer is concerned, unfortunately, he has been irresponsible with his freedom of speech. Salman Rushdie or indeed any writer who abuses the prophet, or indeed any prophet, under Islamic law, the sentence for that is actually death. It’s got to be seen as a deterrent, so that other people should not commit the same mistake again.”

Since then, he has strenuously insisted that he does not support the fatwa and never did, though he strongly criticizes Rushdie’s novel The Satanic Verses.“I never called for the death of Salman Rushdie; nor backed the Fatwa issued by the Ayatollah Khomeini–and still don’t,” he wrote. “The book itself destroyed the harmony between peoples and created an unnecessary international crisis.”

A 1989 New York Times article quotes Islam saying he wouldn’t mind seeing Rushdie burned in effigy. “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.””

In 2004, he was booted from the U.S. after landing on the terrorist watch list, but was allowed reentry without incident two years later.

During Islam’s appearance, Sarah Palin aide and Weekly Standard writer Michael Goldfarb re-tweeted Reason magazine senior editor Michael Moynihan, who tweeted: “What the fuck. Sanity = supporting fatwa against Salman Rushdie?”

Islam played “Peace Train” — a song he seldom plays — to tens of thousands of assembled fans.

Correction: This post originally said Goldfarb was the original tweeter, when in fact, he re-tweeted Moynihan. We regret the error.

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