You know who’s full of shit? Cat Stevens.
Yesterday I was looking on YouTube for Golden retriever grooming tips when a Cat Stevens video popped up in the suggestions. Even though I, like most American teenager growing up in the 1970s, was a Cat Stevens fan, once I endured the real Cat Stevens experience — up close — just seeing that louse is enough to make me want to throw up.
When George W. Bush was in office, I agreed with him on just about nothing. But his administration got one thing right, the news of which seemed shockingly impossible to most people. In 2004, Cat Stevens, singer of all those gentle love songs in the 70s, was enroute to DC from London when American authorities ordered the plane to be diverted to Maine so they could detain him. He had been placed on the no-fly list for suspicion of cooperating with terrorists, and by the time the next morning had broken, he was back in London. Mr. Stevens, who had changed his name to Yusuf Islam, had long before converted to the strict Wahhabi sect of Islam — the arch-conservative Saudi sect known for supplying and financing the 9/11 hijackers, public beheadings, stoning women to death, and generally serving as a religious tool to enforce the power of the corrupt Saudi royal family. Mr. Peace Train endorsed the fatwa calling of the murder of the author Salman Rushdie for insults about the Prophet Mohammad (which, by the way, weren’t even in Rushdie’s book). Stevens has worked with organizations tied to al-Qaeda. Journalists on that beat in south Asia used to say he funneled money to jihadis through a network of madrassas he established. In interviews, he skates around questions of violent jihad, by saying things like he has never knowingly funded terrorism.
You know what? I know that I never funded terrorism, knowingly or unknowingly, unless you don’t include some of the things income tax is used for. I bet you’re pretty sure you haven’t, either. By the time you start pulling out “knowingly” to exculpate yourself, chances are there might be a transaction or two in the background you’d prefer to keep quiet.
But none of that is a secret. My antipathy towards this phoney comes from personal experience.
In about 1986 I was in Pakistan being carted around by a couple of colonels of the Interservices Intelligence Service who were minding me for a documentary project I was working on. Naturally, a visiting American was expected to buy a decent dinner, and so we were at whatever the top hotel in Islamabad or Rawalpindi at that time was. That’s not far south of Abbotabad, the place where President Obama had Osama bin-Laden shot.
This was a quiet, reserved place, and in those days, there were only men in public. Not a woman in sight. At the next table were a couple of local mullahs in brown robes and another dressed in a full-on Ayatollah Khomeini-lookalike grey and black outfit. It was Cat Stevens (I know — he’s a Sunni, and I don’t know if that style is Shi’ite, like the Iranians, but that’s what he was wearing. It was as if he had ordered an Ayatollah Khomeini Hallowe’en costume from a Saville Row tailor.). Pakistan was’t on the usual itinerary for Western celebrities, so there was a lot of buzz about how that was Cat Stevens. His visit had been in the newspaper and when we got to the restaurant the colonels pointed him out. He was going by Yusuf Islam by then, but everyone spoke of him as Cat goddamned Stevens, regardless of what he wanted to be called.
Cat was getting pretty agitated about something. His voice was the only one you could hear from his table. The mullahs he was with spoke in low tones. Finally he started shouting, and the thing I’ll never forget hearing the real Cat Stevens proclaim, in that nasal Cat Stevensy voice of his — and at such a high volume that one of the mullahs put his face in his hand around the time Cat started pounding on the table and making a racket — was, and this is a verbatim quote: “I will not rest until the last drop of the last Jew’s blood has been spilled!” One of the guys with him started patting him on the arm to get him to quiet down. He was trying to impress them with his zeal, but all he was doing was embarrassing them.
In an act of great moral cowardice, I did not go over to his table and slam his face into a flower vase. Instead, one of the colonels said. “Cat Stevens. A fool.”
Mr. Peace Train is full of shit. He speaks in interviews in a low, gentle voice. Ha. What an act. I’ve seen the real Cat, and the real Cat shouts for genocide at the top of his lungs.
W. got that one right. I can’t believe Mr. Islam ever got back in the United States, which he eventually did 10 years later. And I guess he’s still not resting. His dreams of the last drop of the last Jew’s blood have not materialized.
It must be hard on his poor, gentle soul.