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Yusuf Islam's Changing Views: Were Stewart and Colbert Taken In? (Updated)

I too watched the entire three-hour Jon Stewart-Stephen Colbert rally on Saturday. But unlike my friend and colleague Roger L. Simon, I enjoy both of these comedians, and have at times laughed heartily with them, even when finding I disagree with their political assumptions and perspective. Even at this event, Colbert appropriately skewered NPR for refusing to allow its correspondents to attend, out of fear that had they done so, people would have gained the impression that the network was somehow liberal.

But as most everyone has said -- and all the critics are correct about this -- either the two ignored or did not pay attention to Yusuf Islam’s positions on the fatwa against  Salman Rushdie or his very evidently fundamentalist view of Islam. The best comment has just appeared today, and is on the blog of Standpoint, the top-notch British magazine.

As the liberal journalist Nick Cohen has written, “What ‘Cat’ ought to have done was apologise to Rushdie and commit himself to the right to criticise  power in whatever form it takes, but he has not and American leftists have yet to learn that they cannot be a little bit liberal. They can't denounce the idiocy of Fox and ignore the idiocies of religion. Maybe they will never learn.”

I think the problem is Stewart’s inability to comprehend the nature of jihadist ideology and his seeming ignorance of the very existence of a radical Islamic world-view. Indeed, he argues, as he did at the rally, that there are millions of Muslims throughout the world, and only a small group engages in terrorism. He seems to belie the very obvious point that those who do engage in terrorism are motivated by their concept of Islam. To deal with this, as the actor Don Novello (Father Guido Sarducci) put it at his “benediction,” more is needed than for both Jews and Muslims to accept their similarity because both faiths forbid the eating of pork. If only it was that easy, Father G.

And here is what Salman Rushdie said about Yusuf Islam in 2007, in a letter to the Telegraph:

Cat Stevens wanted me dead

However much Cat Stevens/Yusuf Islam may wish to rewrite his past, he was neither misunderstood nor misquoted over his views on the Khomeini fatwa against The Satanic Verses (Seven, April 29). In an article in The New York Times on May 22, 1989, Craig R Whitney reported Stevens/Islam saying on a British television programme "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'.''

He added 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'.''

In a subsequent interview with The New York Times, Mr Whitney added, Stevens/Islam, who had seen a preview of the programme, said that he "stood by his comments".

Let's have no more rubbish about how "green" and innocent this man was.

Salman Rushdie, New York