Is Cat Stevens a Terrorist?

Stephen Schwartz, writing in The Weekly Standard, asks, “Is Cat Stevens a Terrorist?” by way of defending this week’s diversion of an airplane and then deportation of the one-time pop singer.

This action will doubtless provoke loud and prolonged guffaws from those who consider American security policies to be excessive. But a look at the career and associations of Yusuf Islam since he became a Muslim in 1977 shows that the decision was correct.

Yusuf Islam is already well known for his public endorsement of the death sentence issued by Ayatollah Khomeini against Salman Rushdie in February 1989. “Salman Rushdie, indeed any writer who abuses the prophet or indeed any prophet under Islamic law, the sentence for that is actually death,” he said at the time. In addition, he has been barred from entering Israel because of alleged financial aid given to terrorist groups.

Is the singer a terrorist himself? Probably not. Is he an active sympathizer of terrorist groups? Perhaps not as much as he was in the past. But Yusuf Islam is most certainly a fundamentalist Muslim, whose views are radical enough to set him at odds with the great majority of the world’s Islamic adherents, and they are no better expressed than in his comments on his own field of expression: music.Wahhabism, the state religion in Saudi Arabia, and the inspirer of al Qaeda, is especially known for its hatred of music. In Wahhabi theology, all music except for drum accompaniment to religious chanting is haram, or, or forbidden. For anybody who has had contact with Muslim civilization, this is a fairly shocking bit of information, since music is one of the great glories of Islamic culture.

I have no doubt that Stevens/Yusuf is an Islamic fanatic. Whether he is sufficiently dangerous to be deported from the country is a different matter and not one I have a strong opinion on. I have seen no evidence yet, however, that the government needed to divert a passenger jet, inconveniencing hundreds of people, to nab him instead of doing so upon his landing at Dulles.

Update (1752): British Singer Yusuf Islam Plans Legal Action over US Deportation (Voice of America)

The singer formerly known as Cat Stevens has announced plans for legal action against the United States after being denied entry into the country Tuesday and deported. The converted Muslim now named Yusuf Islam told reporters Friday in London U.S. authorities still have not told him why American authorities have listed him as a threat to U.S. security. He pledged legal action to undo what he called an injustice.

The deportation brought strong criticism from Muslim groups as well as British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, who raised the issue during talks in New York with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Mr. Islam’s flight from London to Washington was diverted to Maine when U.S. security officials discovered his name on government watch lists. U.S. Homeland Security officials would only say Mr. Islam is on the lists because of “activities that could be potentially linked to terrorism.”

One would think, at the very least, the man would be entitled to a listing of the charges.

FILED UNDER: General
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Bithead says:

    Why?
    At what point did he become a citizen?

    And I note in your article no mention of his financial ties to Hamas.

  2. James Joyner says:

    Lots of American Muslims have ties to Hamas; we don’t force land airliners to arrest them.

    We don’t live in a police state. Even non-citizens have certain rights. An explanation of what it is that they’re accused of would seem to reasonably fall within that scope.

  3. Bithead says:

    Lots of American Muslims have ties to Hamas; we don’t force land airliners to arrest them.

    They’re American citizens? Doesn’t that kinda change things?

    We don’t live in a police state. Even non-citizens have certain rights. An explanation of what it is that they’re accused of would seem to reasonably fall within that scope.

    So, you’re suggesting he doesn’t know of his own connections to Hamas? I mean I know the guy’s a little weird… aways has been, as I point out on my own blog… but if I donated to a terrorist org, I think I’d remember it.

    And his protests of “I’m so peaceful’ fall on deaf ears after he supported the execution of Rushdie.

    Sorry, James, I’m not buying.

  4. James Joyner says:

    Citizen/non-citizen doesn’t change the level of threat he poses. It’s pretty minor, from all indications. Certainly, there is no obvious reason why we’d have to divert an airplane because he was on it. (And, if he’s on a watch list, why he was allowed aboard the plane to begin with seems to be the question.)

    Lot’s of people supported the Rushdie fatwah. It makes them fanatics but not necessarily personally dangerous.

  5. Alex D. says:

    The former Cat Stevens donated to Islamic charities. One of these charities reportedly gave money to Hamas. We need to acknowledge the possibility that he was only trying to support education. Once you donate to an organization, the money is out of your control.

    The question is, did he know that the charity donated to Hamas? And that is a matter of his mind’s inner workings, something we cannot substantiate in a court of law.

    Yes, I do think it is possible that he is still a peaceful Islamic. The fatwa was a matter of religious doctrine, not up for questioning to him, so it should not be factored into his other assertions that he opposes suicide bombers.

  6. Bithead says:

    Citizen/non-citizen doesn’t change the level of threat he poses.

    Quite correct. It does, however, change how we handle him.

    And James, I can easily forgive erring on the side of caution. After all, we don’t have the luxury of being wrong…. it only takes being so once.