Jon Stewart Doesn't Regret Inviting Fatwa-Endorsing Singer to Rally

According to renowned novelist Salman Rushdie, Comedy Central star Jon Stewart remains unapologetic for featuring Muslim extremist folk singer Cat Stevens (a.k.a. Yusuf Islam) at his Rally to Restore Sanity on Saturday. Stevens has previously supported a long-standing Islamic death sentence against Rushdie.

Standpoint magazine's Nick Cohen spoke to Rushdie this morning, who told him that: “I spoke to Jon Stewart about Yusuf Islam's appearance. He said he was sorry it upset me, but really, it was plain that he was fine with it. Depressing.”

After Rushdie penned The Satanic Verses in 1988, Iran's Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa against him, claiming that the book was “blasphemous against Islam.”

Stevens has reiterated his support for the death sentence on several occasions, most recently in 1997. When asked during a 1989 interview whether he would take part in a protest that burned Rushdie in effigy, Stevens replied that “I would have hoped that it'd be the real thing.” The singer has never apologized for endorsing the fatwa.

Michael Weiss at The New Criterion has this to say on Stewart's decision to invite the folk singer:

Would it be rude to guess at his decision to invite Cat Stevens, a.k.a. Yusuf Islam, to perform at last weekend's mass rally in implausibly denied partisanship at the National Mall? Who better than a Greek-American convert to Islam with multi-platinum records under his caftan to combat the vicious demonization of Muslims by the Tea Party and anti-mosque fanatics.

Except that Yusuf Islam is a right-wing fundamentalist who makes Sarah Palin look like Bella Abzug.  Nothing is more of a ratings boost for that hebephrenic pseudo-historian Glenn Beck than exhibiting a medieval apologist for murder as a spokesperson for "sane" America.

And according to journalist Andrew Anthony, Stevens has taken extremist positions that are completely out-of-sync with the theme of Stewart's “sanity” rally (via Nick Cohen again):

"[Stevens] told me in 1997, eight years after saying on TV that Rushdie should be lynched, that he was in favour of stoning women to death for adultery. He also reconfirmed his position on Rushdie. He set up the Islamia school in Brent, which is currently undergoing council-backed expansion. Its mission statement three years ago explicitly stated that its aim was to bring about the submission of the individual, the community and the world at large to Islam. For this aim it now receives state funding. Its an incubator of the most bonkers religious extremism and segregation, and is particularly strong on the public erasure of women. Why do people go to such lengths to ignore these aspects of Yusuf Islam's character and philosophy?”

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