Sunday, November 19, 2006

Yusuf Islam/Cat Stevens

I saw Yusuf Islam (a.k.a. Cat Ctevens) on the BBC’s Heaven & Earth programme this morning. He’s released his first new record "Another Cup" in donkeys years (30?) and was also promoting the charitable work in the Muslim community in which he has been actively involved. His message is one of peace and love.

I couldn't help remembering his appearance on RTE's Late Late Show about 15(?) years ago, after he had coverted to Islam and at the time of the fatwa on Salman Rushdie over his book, The Satanic Verses. Gay Byrne, the show's host, asked him if, as a Muslim, he would feel obliged to kill Rushdie if the opportunity arose. He admitted that he would feel obliged by his religion to do so. It was quite clear that he was very uncomfortable with the question. He wasn't advocating the cause and it seemed highly unlikely that he would be taking any steps to find Rushdie.

But it was a very disturbing answer from a man who had always been associated with peace and love. If that is the effect that Islam has on peace-loving converts, then its simplistic fundamentalism is clearly a danger to society and democracy.

It's as if it's a faith firmly rooted in the past, living by literal interpretations , sometimes the most extreme, of the Koran. Is there any respected moderate Muslim faith leadership which is prepared (i.e. physically brave enough) to denounce the fundamentalists and sustain that stand?
In the ongoing debate, we need to readily acknowledge that it's only 3-4 centuries since Christians routinely burned heretics and the inquisitions were a major source of terror. And God alone knows what horrors were perpetrated in his name in Europe’s colonisation of Africa, the Americas, Asia etc..

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