Yousuf Islam--as the former pop music star Cat Stevens is now known--has once again explained that Islamic law calls for the death of “The Satanic Verses” author Salman Rushdie, and this time he has chosen to speak to viewers of the Christian Science Church’s new “World Monitor” cable TV news program.
The interview was a major scoop for the Boston-based news program and was Islam’s first extended interview since he became a part of the worldwide furor over the Rushdie book.
“When I studied (what the Koran says about this subject) I found that, yes, the evidence is all there,” Islam told “World Monitor” London correspondent Ned Temko in an interview broadcast late Tuesday. "(Rushdie) has been irresponsible with his freedom of speech. . . . Any writer who abuses the Prophet or indeed any prophet, under Islamic law the sentence for that is actually death. . . . (Rushdie’s writings are) as good as stabbing Muslims in the heart.”
Temko conducted the interview with Islam on Monday in a mosque north of London.
Islam did not apologize for his controversial earlier statements and, indeed, reaffirmed his support of the Ayatollah Khomeini’s call for the death of the novelist.
“It’s got to be seen as a deterrent so that other people should not commit the same mistake again,” Islam said. “Let’s face it, America has the atom bomb. It’s a deterrent . . . able to blow up a whole nation of people. What we are talking about is a deterrent for individuals to be careful not to disturb the society in which they live.”
Islam chose the news program on the relatively obscure 18-hour-a-day Discovery cable channel, which is available to 37.6 million U.S homes because, “World Monitor” officials said Wednesday, he liked the way he was treated in a report that the program broadcast last fall on the rise of the Muslim faith in the United States.
Islam “felt he was treated very fairly, and he and Ned struck up a good relationship,” said Sanford Socolow, the show’s producer.
Temko contacted Islam when comments supporting Khomeini’s calls were attributed to the one-time singer-songwriter. Temko told The Times on Wednesday that Islam was “puzzled by the depth and range” of the furor over his statements, including destruction of his old recordings as part of radio station promotions.
“Certainly that was what prompted him to speak at all,” said Temko from London.
Temko said that at first Islam planned to hold a large press conference or be interviewed by a major American network news representative.
But Temko said that Islam was concerned about making sure his explanations were kept in context. “He wanted to talk at greater length (than most news shows would allow) and not be turned into 30-second sound bites.”