Got home to find a voicemail message from an editor at the Times, calling to confirm I was indeed a writer of a recent letter to the editor signed by me and telling me they’re interested in running it some time this week.
I’d forgotten all about the letter, being one that I whipped off last
Friday Thursday morning after reading a puff brief on a performance last week by Yusuf Islam, which mentioned his most recent 2004 controversy but somehow ignored the much bigger one he stoked the year my daughter was born:
I grew up adoring the music of Yusuf Islam back when he was called Cat Stevens, but that adoration abruptly ended in 1989 when he publicly supported calls by Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini for the assassination of author Salman Rushdie who allegedly blasphemed the Muslim religion in his novel “The Satanic Verses.” Thus I found it interesting in Ellen Wulfhorst’s review of Islam’s performance this week (“Older, wiser and back aboard ‘Peace Train,'” Calendar Weekend, December 21) that his 2004 “no-fly list” controversy was mentioned, but not this far more disturbing public position.
In recent years, such as with this U.S. performance, the former superstar has attempted to mitigate the damage to his career and spin-manage his stance but the fact is he hoped for the death of the writer and said he would willingly help bring it about if he could, and to me that will forever derail whatever “peace train” he tries to get aboard.
Am I grudge-hugging too hard? Nope. This man and his music were inspirations to me and I wasn’t exagerating when I wrote of my adoration of him. His little ditty “If You Want To Sing Out, Sing Out,” which I first heard as a teen in the film “Harold and Maude” was like a revelatory scriptural anthem to me and there’s nothing that can reconcile the shock and betrayal I felt with his blatant support for Rushdie’s destruction. I simply can’t listen to anything of his now without it being clouded, and certainly won’t suffer his weak explanations of how what he said back then was misinterpreted or taken out of context.