CHINESE WHISKERS

I'm just a soul whose intentions are good, Oh Lord! Please don't let me be misunderstood.'
Over the years, since becoming a Muslim, I have been accused of saying and doing things I have neither said nor done. Stories spread from person to person, whether intentionally or not, the result is that some people are led into thinking I am connected to causes I don’t believe in or subscribe to.

Now that I’ve decided to sing again, I’m sure it will attract a whole new wave of articles and allegations to diminish my work for peace and better understanding. So to avoid relying on whispers or hearsay, here’s a chance to glance at what I have to say first-hand about some of those controversial issues people tried to tag me with “past and present“ as well as a chance to reprise some of my old lyrics.
Does Yusuf Feel He Can Help The World By Getting His Message Across Through Music?
Music can elevate our spirits when we are down. Right now the world is down and is in a serious rebuilding mode. This creates the conditions and climate for people to be more positive. The ongoing wars create a bitter taste in many people’s mouths. They want change. Some want it too fast.

Change is sometimes slow and it happens through multicultural interaction. World Music is no longer a distant mumble; high street record stores have racks dedicated to music from different lands and peoples. This is very healthy. Some years ago I did Jools’ Later program, it was a real delight to see African bands playing alongside American pop groups. And me, a little ol’British Muslim amidst it all, twanging my guitar.

This bodes well, I think, for a richer and more peaceful tomorrow – God Willing.
Why Has Yusuf Dropped Islam From His Stage Name?
“My name is still Yusuf Islam. The decision to use just Yusuf for my stage name was for many reasons; it makes the issue of identification personal, not political or religious. I felt it strange when journalists referred to me by my surname, Islam. Reading things like, “Islam says …” worried me. It was a huge responsibility, which I was not prepared to carry. Since I started making music again, it was feeling uncomfortable knowing that some Muslims still consider Music to be forbidden in Islam; although I follow a different school of thought, it was not appropriate for pop-journalists to write things like, “Islam’s new album”.

Anyway, I like known to be on first name terms, it’s more friendly by far. By the way, if anyone called me ‘Cat’ in the old days, it meant they weren’t in my close circle of friends.
Why Has He Stopped Wearing Muslim Robes?
It’s mostly to do with what I feel comfortable wearing. Early on, I needed to secure my identity as a Muslim and felt I needed to ‘look’ like others in the Mosque.

The turban was something the Prophet, peace and blessings on him, wore. However, there’s no requirement to do that, and any form of cultural dress is a part of the beauty of God’s creative power given to humans to exercise… beyond minimum fig leaf requirement.
Where Was He Born?
I was born July 21st, 1948, in London and named Steven Demetre Georgiou. I adopted the name Cat Stevens in 1965 and later changed it to Yusuf Islam on 4th July 1978. It’s interesting to note that, according to the Islamic Lunar calendar, I was born during the days of the full Moon on the 14th of Ramadan, 1367.
How Does He Feel About Cat?
I once wrote to the record companies asking them to stop selling my albums. But this was a radical reaction based on the harsh criticism I was experiencing at the time from the press and media in general. But I fully appreciate now how my songs and words have brought hope to many to see life in a positive light.

Today, my songs of the past represent a very important and dynamic period of my life and stand as a record of my innermost spiritual hopes and inspired dreams. Inspiration has always been a sublimely mysterious experience. My song, ‘The Wind’ makes reference to that mysterious form of inner-journey, which takes place beneath the surface of our conscious thoughts.

Not all my songs were spiritual, but so long as the words stay within moral limits and do not direct people towards harming themselves or others, there is nothing wrong with them per se. Much of my royalties from previous music was and still is distributed to charitable causes.

It’s also clear that my songs have helped many people over the years. I have received many emails and letters from people of all faiths, explaining how my songs and words have brought comfort and hope and the ability to see life in a positive light again, for that I am eternally grateful to the Power above:
“As for the blessings of your Lord, express them [aloud]” [1]

[1] The Qur’an: ‘The Morning Light’ (93), verse 11
Does Pop Music Make Sense To Him Any More?
Yes. There is a place for popular music and there always has been. Yesterday it was Folk music, natural, traditional, ethnic and attached to a particular locality or region; today you can pick up a recording of any tribes music in a record store, next to works of Bach, the Blues, Heavy Metal and beyond.

Today there’s a whole new audience listening to my old recordings. It’s encouraging to see a whole new generation being inspired by some of the heart-searching themes of my songs. The success of recent compilations proves that they have lasted the test of time.

I once went through a stage where I turned my back on everything that I’d done before, but of course that was a radical and over zealous reaction to the spiritual happiness that I’d felt in Islam. Now, the Gold records are coming home again and I’ve picked up the guitar the piano is a little too heavy for me right now!

There are purists who believe that music corrupts and overly engrosses the God-conscious heart. On the other hand, a study of Islamic history also shows an acceptance for the more mundane aspects of life to be balanced with art, where music, murals, structures and such like play a natural and complementary role in decorating and harmonizing our spiritual lives.

This is evidenced universally in some of the great works of art and composition dedicated to God and worship whether it be poetry, song, music, architecture or some other form of artistic expression.
Is Islam Presented Badly By The Western Press?
Yes. I feel very fortunate that I got to know Islam before it became a major headline. That’s my luck. I just wish that more people had a chance to study Islam outside of the whirlwind of political torrents which rock our world.

It needs clear minded people to come through such a storm of misunderstanding to perceive the tranquillity of Faith that Islam represents, along with its connection to Christianity, Judaism and all who believe the Divine purpose for this universe.
Did Yusuf Help Jackson Become Muslim?
Contrary to persistent press rumours, I was not at any kind of conversion ceremony for Michael Jackson. Nor, I believe, was Dawud Wharnsby or any of the others mentioned in connection with the story. Granted, I was in Los Angeles at the time these rumours first appeared – but I was busy filming a video for a new song, Boots & Sand.

I have met Jermaine Jackson, Michael’s older brother, who became a Muslim some years ago. As for Michael himself, I hope that he finds inner peace and can return to making the kind of music that has inspired generations.
Tell Me More About His Charities?
Small Kindness is the charity I established with my wife in 2000 particularly to help in the Kosovan crisis. We are now looking after over a thousand orphans in Indonesia and Iraq as well as the Balkan countries.

Small Kindness is fully registered with the UK Charity Commissioners and produces annual accounts and reports. The name itself, Small Kindness comes from a chapter in the Qur’an of the same name, which says

Have you not seen the one who denies Faith?
Such is the one who repulses the orphan;
And who does not encourage the feeding of the poor and needy.
So woe to the worshippers, those who are neglectful of their prayers;
Those who would be seen but refuse even small kindnesses.[1]

[1] The Qur’an, Small Kindnesses (107)
How Did His Catholic Upbringing Affect Him?
My Catholic upbringing was important in that it laid down the parameters of right and wrong, which for a young kid growing up in the midst of London’s West End was fairly vital I’d say.

The Nuns at school were nice but they could also be really tough. There were a few givens which I delayed questioning till I was able to understand better.
Why Was He Turned Away From USA?
No reason was ever given, but being asked to repeat the spelling of my name again and again, made me think it was a fairly simple mistake of identity. Rumors which circulated after made me imagine otherwise. I'm now free to travel to the US, so whatever it was has been resolved.
How Can Christians, Muslims And Others Be Brought Together?
Strengthening human bonds of unity and removing injustice by speaking the truth was what the Prophets of God did; it’s the clearest path to peace that man will ever know. For those who truly believe in the message of the Prophets, promoting peace, human equality and kindness through closeness and obedience to God Most High is the best kind of life.

We should be optimistic but realistic too. It is part of God’s plan to test everyone with what they have been blessed, and charity and good works are what can help us through such tests and also unite us. In the Qur’an it says, ‘And race with one another towards good deeds, wherever you are God will bring you together, verily God has Power over all things’.
How Many Children Does Yusuf Have?
The answer is that my wife and I have five children, our last child, a son (the sixth, Abd Al-Ahad Ahmad), died after thirteen days due to a fatal heart ailment. [1] Today I am the proud daddy of four girls, and one son (and now a granddaddy at last! Four granddaughters and two grandsons).

[1] According to Islam, children are born sinless, and if they die before the age of puberty are not responsible fully for their actions and go direct to Heaven.
He Won't Talk to Unveiled Women, Right?
The accusation that I do not speak or interact with ladies who are not veiled is an absurdity. Only misinformed or unenlightened people with heads buried for the last decade – missing a plethora of my TV and public appearances proving otherwise – would repeat such junk.

Reality is often different from the media’s lust for a good headline. It’s true that I have asked my manager to respectfully request lady presenters from embracing me when giving awards or during public appearances, but that has nothing to do with my feelings or respect for them. Islam simply requires me to honour the dignity of ladies or young girls who are not closely related to me, and avoid physical intimacy, however innocent it may be.

My own story with regard to women’s rights really began when I became a Muslim. Following my acceptance of Islam, I immediately returned to London to look after my mother. Soon after I married and within a year had the great news of a baby girl, we called her Hasanah (meaning, good or beautiful). God has blessed us with four daughters and two sons (one son died in infancy), and I have always been an advocate for girl’s education. My four daughters all follow the basic wearing of clothes which modestly cover their God-given beauty. They’re extremely well educated; they do not cover their faces and interact perfectly well with friends and society. My eldest, Hasanah, runs a record company in Dubai, my second eldest, Asmaa, is a qualified solicitor, and my youngest, Aminah, is training to be a shoe designer.

According to the Last Prophet, Women are the twin halves of men.”[1] He also said, “Heaven lies at the feet of your mother.” In the Qur’an, when we read the story of Adam and Eve, at no time do we read that blame is attached to a section of humanity, i.e. women, for the fall of man; the fact is that the responsibility was ultimately born by both, equally.

The reality is that my honour and respect for women has only increased with Islam and my acceptance of my wife’s rights. It was after all at my wife’s request that my manager was told to caution ladies, during TV appearances or gatherings, from kissing me or getting too close – veiled or not!

[1] Human Life began with the union of man and woman, together, as we read in the Qur’an (7:189): “It is He (God) who created you (all) from a single soul and made from it a partner of like nature in order to dwell together with her in love. When they are united, she bears a light burden and carries it about unnoticed. When she grows heavy, they both pray to God, their Lord, saying, ‘If Thou givest us a goodly child, we vow we shall ever be grateful.”
Did't He Say Music is Forbidden?
Never did I ever state that I believed music was objected to by God; or that I had given it up forever.

Interestingly, the word “music” is not to be found anywhere in the Qur’an and there is no such word ever used by the Prophet in his authentic sayings. [1] However, there are many different opinions, and valid ones at that, about music which indicates that it is not to be taken as a hard and fast question of faith, but is simply a matter of fiqh (juristic interpretations regarding rules of life) over which scholars may legitimately differ. [2]

When I embraced Islam on 23rd December, 1977, I was still making records. After informing the chief Imam at London’s Central Mosque of my work in music, he encouraged me to continue composing and recording.

Nevertheless, it didn’t take long to realise that apart from the creative side, there were many other aspects about the music industry which infringed negatively on the Islamic way of life so I simply decided to give up the music business. As a new Muslim this allowed me to concentrate fully on learning and practising Islam, getting married starting a family and returning back to look after my parents.

In the first interview I ever gave to a Muslim magazine back in 1980, I was asked about my thoughts on music, I said in reply:

“I have suspended my activities in music for fear that they may divert me from the true path, but I will not be dogmatic in saying that I will never make music again. You can’t say that without adding, Insha Allah (if God Wishes).” [3]

There were many Muslims offering me advice and telling me their opinions about all sorts of issues, some where very convincing. Nevertheless, legitimate variant opinions exist on all sides dealing with the subject of music. When closely studying the details of Prophetic evidences, there are many which point to the possibility of wide-ranging conclusions. Now, after having studied the subject for more than a quarter of a century, I can say that it is certainly not as black and white as some have tried to make it out to be.

In Islam, as with religion and life generally, there always will be room for cultural and artistic expression. Some of the most beautiful works of art in human history have been lovingly dedicated in praise of the Divine. Their enjoyments are part of the gifts given to mankind by the Creator. As we read in the Qur’an itself:

“Say: Who has forbidden the beauteous (gifts) of God, which He has produced for His worshippers, and the pure and clean provisions? Say: They are, in the life of this world, for those who believe, and purely for them on the Day of Judgement. Thus do We explain the Signs in detail for those who understand.” [4]

Music is part of God’s universe. We need all sorts of nourishment and music fulfils and satisfies the hunger we all experience and the need for harmony and aesthetic beauty to decorate our daily lives, particularly when times are hard.

Sometimes songs are vital in keeping people’s spirits high in times of trial and hardship. This understanding was brought home to me when I listened to the inspiring cassettes coming out of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the early 1990’s after the onslaught of the genocide against Muslims; a turning point in my understanding of the need for music in certain conditions and times.

[1] There are some references to musical instruments in certain reported sayings, but the definition is not clear as to exactly what instruments the word, ma’azif (the word quoted in the Hadith) refers to in the most authentic source, Al-Bukhari. It is well known that the Prophet (peace be upon him) allowed the drum and even the flute to be played in his presence without ordering them to be broken or destroyed, so it leaves a question open. The Hadith referenced here also mentions silk as being amongst other prohibited articles, however, every scholar knows that silk is not completely forbidden and there are allowances for ladies to use it freely as well as for medical reasons; buying and selling silk and using certain amounts for ornament and decoration are also allowed.

[2] Fatwas are usually made and issued by scholars in cases like these where such issues are not clear cut and are ambiguous.

[3] The Muslim, May June, 1980

[4] The Qur’an: The Heights (7), verse 32
What is Longer Boats About?
In the late 60s, due to the successful landing of a man on the moon (which happened coincidently on my 21st birthday) there was a lot of talk and speculation about UFOs.

I wrote the song as a plea for human unity in face of external (possibly extra-terrestrial) threats. There was also a lyrical inference to say that we should look closer at the beautiful and mystical nature of the earth, and watch out for adopting inherited wisdoms from people who claimed to be masters of the high, moral ground.
I don’t want a god (statue or false image) on my lawn
Just a flower, I can help long
For the soul of nobody knows,
How a flower grows, how does a flower grow?

True, I gave interviews sometimes and talked about UFOs with passion, but that was partly due to my wish in making the interview more interesting. My apologies.

But in another way, the image of ‘longer boats’ in my mind reminds you of the Vikings and the ships they conquered Britain with. A hint of how we perceive aliens who have different customs to us thankfully, my mother was Scandinavian, so I never really shook listening to such stories.
Yusuf Islam Wants to See Salman Rushdie Burnt, Right?
Because of imaginary scenarios set by courthouse TV interviewers, in 1989 I was drawn into making stupid and offensive jokes about Rushdie on a program called, ‘Hypotheticals’; however they were meant to lighten the moment and raise a smile – as good ol’ British sense of humor occasionally is known to do unfortunately for me it didn’t.

In 1989, during the heat and height of the Satanic Verses controversy, I was silly enough to accept appearing on a program called ‘Hypotheticals’ which posed imaginary scenarios by a well-versed (what if?) barrister, Geoffrey Robertson QC. I foolishly made light of certain provocative questions. When asked what I’d do if Salman Rushdie entered a restaurant in which I was eating, I said, I would probably call up Ayatollah Khomeini, and, rather than go to a demonstration to burn an effigy of the author, I jokingly said I would have preferred that it’d be the real thing.

Criticize me for my bad taste, in hindsight, I agree. But these comments were part of a well-known British national trait; a touch of dry humor on my part. Just watch British comedy programs like “Have I Got News For You” or Extras, they are full of occasionally grotesque and sardonic jokes if you want them! On one particular broadcast of Have I got News Ian Hislop, the editor of British satirical magazine Private Eye, personally called me a ‘Shia’ite’ (doesn’t take too long to work out with a twist of an English accent what he meant by that).

Certainly I regret giving those sorts of responses now. However, it must be noted that the final edit of the program was made to look extremely serious; hardly any laughs were left in and much common sense was savagely cut out. Most of the Muslim participants in the program wrote in and complained about the narrow and selective use of their comments, surreptitiously selected out of the 3-hour long recording of the debate. But the edit was not in our hands. Balanced arguments were cut out and the most sensational quotes, preserved.

Providentially, they kept in one important response to a final question posed directly to me by Geoffrey Robertson QC. At the end of the debate he asked me to imagine if Salman Rushdie was taken to court in Britain and the Jury found him not guilty of any crime – Blasphemy or otherwise – and dismissed the case, what I would do. I clearly stated that I would have to accept the decision and fully abide by the law! And that was no joke.

I know this may not put an end to certain questions and doubts in some people’s minds about the subject, but my hope is that it will provide a clearer insight for those who are unbiased now to be able to see the level of distortion which takes place in the reporting of my life and activities – and God Guides to paths of Peace whom He chooses.
Didn't He Support Hamas?
I have never knowingly supported Hamas or directed money to them; and use my charity worldwide to help victims of war and natural disasters, particularly children and orphans.

Although it has never been officially acknowledged, it has been reported that the reason I was not allowed entry into the USA in September, 2004, was because of reports via Israeli sources that I was a supporter of Hamas. The truth is I never knowingly supported the activities of any organization called Hamas, and would even find it impossible, even today, to say I personally know anyone who claims to be a member of it, let alone when I visited the Holy Land back in the late eighties.

The source of the accusation I presume must go back to my second visit to the Holy Land in 1988 as a member of a British Muslim delegation to investigate for ourselves what was being witnessed by the world on TV, and distribute small amounts of charity.

On the news, we’d all seen footage of the Israeli soldiers openly breaking the bones of young Palestinians and harshly beating women and children. The world looked on, outraged by these unforgettable images. As far as I and many like me were concerned, the Intifada was a generic name given to a resistance from the people of Palestine themselves. Hamas at that time was a name unknown to me! [1]

The trip was arranged by people in London who had contacts in Jerusalem and other Palestinian areas; I had no idea any of our guides had any links to any movement. But according to Israeli viewpoint, whenever a person feels sorry for the poor victims of occupation including orphans, the disabled, widows and medical cases, if you try to help give charity to them – be warned, you may be considered a terrorist!

I was at that time the Chairman of Muslim Aid, a UK registered charity. Our policy was to deliver humanitarian relief to the most deserving. Every charity worker knows what it’s like in a time of crisis, you certainly don’t have time nor ability to distinguish which needy child’s father or brother belongs to this or that affiliation – that would defeat the whole concept and motivation behind delivering humanitarian aid which drives charity work.

[1] I subsequently learnt that back in 1988 the Israeli government and authorities had not even defined Hamas as a terrorist Group, and in fact, they had been – even though indirectly – supporting that movement as an opposition to Arafat’s PLO Party. Also, it is important to mention that suicide bombers had not been even heard of at that time.
Does Yusuf Oppose Free Speech?
I believe the freedoms given by laws such as the First Amendment are incredibly compatible with Islam and its principles, if they’re not abused.

The notion that faith and the issue of freedom of speech are incompatible is something people will continue to argue about. There is perhaps fairly good a reason due to a still rather unresolved paradox. It goes like this:

If, as citizens we are given freedom of speech, then why is freedom of speech considered unlawful or undemocratic when voiced by a [religious] believing citizen, where no crime has been committed? Put another way, if people are free to believe in an unseen God and His Divine message to mankind, providing no laws of state are broken, why should such freedom to express that be denied? Why, for instance, can’t we generously accept and follow the whole of the spirit of the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States which states:
‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.’

The historic First Amendment stated above was written because at America’s inception, citizens demanded a guarantee of their basic freedoms. People and generations who had been fleeing religious persecution in Europe, wanted to secure their rights to hold a belief other than whatever the future government of the country decide or hold to be true. Interestingly, it was also Morocco, a Muslim State, which historically became the first country to recognize the sovereignty of the United States in 1777.

The right of citizens to hold a belief in the Bible as well as the Qur’an, to uphold the Ten Commandments and to practice one’s faith in peace without harming others, is a hallmark of a true open, multi-cultural, multi-religious society. Indeed, this is the nature of an Islamic society – and not an exclusively Muslim one!

A cursory study of the golden age of Islam in Spain is example enough of how religious tolerance and co-existence was practiced in the past. In fact, we don’t have to look further than the original model of the Prophet’s city, Madinah, where Christians and Jews lived and played a full part in the society and were encouraged to live according to their own Scriptures and laws.

To safeguard the peace and security of the multi-religious society, Islam wisely prohibits the vilification of what people hold sacred, in order that people do not vilify or mock God the Almighty in return. There are also many examples in history where the Prophet Muhammad, like all of the Prophets did not respond to insults and mockery, but simply carried on calling people to peace and good deeds. That, I believe, is the right response in a country where Freedom of Speech is practiced and valued.

It is really up to Western-born Muslims to help more people understand the incredible tolerance and peaceful message this faith has to offer. This, in fact, is the actual policy I tried to adopt following the controversy about the place of censorship and blasphemy in the modern Western State; I decided to provide a truer and more accurate picture of the Prophet of Islam to balance the awful slurs made against him in books, on TV and the press and media generally.

One of the benefits – if we look at it as such, is the motivation the whole issue gave in inspiring me to go back into the recording studio again and reconnect and communicate directly with no third party or barrier between me and those who are willing to hear what I have to say.
Did He Have An Arranged Marriage?
I had two prospective girls I was interested in marrying, one a new convert from America and the other from a traditional Muslim family. I invited them to meet my mother and then asked her opinion. She told me her preference and I agreed.

I had no intimate relationship with either before marriage. Therefore, to Western standards and my own previous track record, this was a stark departure from the norm. Nevertheless, the old fashioned custom of respect and modesty between sexes has tremendous benefits in making marriages last.

The Prophet said there are four things a person marries for: Wealth, Beauty, Lineage or Faith, and the successful one is the one chosen for Faith (although the other qualities may already be present – of course). This wisdom is one I followed and the happiness and peace I found, incalculable. My wife’s name is Fauzia, which itself means, ‘success’.
What About 9/11 and Terrorism?
Like all right-minded people, I absolutely condemn all acts of terrorism, including the attacks of 9/11 and 7/7. The actions of the terrorists were completely un-Islamic and against the teachings and example of the Prophet. It’s everybody’s responsibility to make this world a safer, more peaceful place.

I do believe that some people in the West have a hard time today in decoding the spiritual message of peace which exists behind certain bloodcurdling events and headlines which are branded abroad in the name of Islam. There are obviously minority elements amongst certain quarters, both Muslim and non-Muslim, which actually go out to misinterpret the facts and pass by the true shining principles of this religion.

Out of one billion peace-loving Muslims, some vociferous extremists, unfortunately, have helped to confirm some people’s worst fears. I feel sorry for that. It’s grossly unfair for the vast majority of humankind who still have yet to benefit from what this wonderful spiritual code of life (Islam or entry to peace with God) can offer.

I was among the first Muslims to publicly express my sorrow and objections to the atrocious attacks against innocent victims of 9/11 and 7/7. No right thinking follower of Islam could possibly condone such an action: the Qur’an, as with the Old Testament – equates the murder of one innocent person with the murder of “the whole of humanity. In my statement printed widely at the time, I said:
“We pray for the families of all those who lost their lives in this unthinkable act of violence as well as all those injured; I hope to reflect the feelings of all Muslims and people around the world whose sympathies go out to the victims at this sorrowful moment.”

Half of the royalties from my box set released in 2001 went to September 11 charities and I performed Peace Train projected live at a solidarity concert at New York’s Radio City Hall.

The real enemy we face is ignorance. We must all be careful not to join the ranks of that army. We must warn of the hazards that this terrifying event could produce as a tool for some dangerous ideologists to promote increased intolerance and hostility against more civilian bystanders; this would equal the mentality which caused two previously devastating world wars. Patience, therefore, is called for by all influential quarters, particularly politicians and media.
Does He Teach in an Islamic School?
Never have I taken a teaching post – nothing would petrify me more. I leave that very important job to the professionals.

After having three children within the first four years of my marriage, education was at the top of my agenda. So I helped establish three schools for Muslim pupils in London, the first being a Primary school which opened in 1983. This was followed by a girls then a boys secondary school, all of which teach the British National Curriculum. These days, our schools often top the National League Tables within the local Borough due to excellent exam results.

As founder and Patron over the years I have been involved with obtaining voluntary-aided status and grants from the British Government similar to other faiths, like Christian and Jewish denominations. Historically, our primary school was the first Muslim School to receive such status in Great Britain.
Didn't He Say "Kill Rushdie!"?
I never called for the death of Salman Rushdie; nor backed the Fatwa issued by the Ayatollah Khomeini – and still don’t. The book itself destroyed the harmony between peoples and created an unnecessary international crisis.

When asked about my opinion regarding blasphemy, I could not tell a lie and confirmed that – like both the Torah and the Gospel – the Qur’an considers it, without repentance, as a capital offense. The Bible is full of similar harsh laws if you’re looking for them.[1] However, the application of such Biblical and Qur’anic injunctions is not to be outside of due process of law, in a place or land where such law is accepted and applied by the society as a whole.

The accusation that I supported the Fatwa, therefore, is wholly false and misleading. It was due to my naivety in trying to answer a loaded question posed by a journalist, after a harmless biographical lecture I gave to students in Kingston University in 1989, which unleashed the infamous headline above.

To indicate my actual stance about this matter before this front-page controversy erupted, it’s useful to quote a letter of complaint I sent to Viking, a subsidiary of Penguin Books, the publishers, on 8th October, 1989. This was after I had been sent a preview of the text of Satanic Verses:

"I wish to express my deepest outrage at the insensitivity of Penguin Books in Publishing Salman Rushdie’s book, Satanic Verses, This book is clearly blasphemous in nature and so deeply offensive to the Muslim Community I urge you to give the contents of this letter your most urgent attention and take a responsible decision."

As can be seen from the above, my personal response before the heat-seeking media got involved was significantly different from the fables and myths which have been circulated.

Sad that no matter how many times I’ve repeatedly tried to explain my true position, journalists inevitably bring up this subject again and again; as if it was the only memorable thing I was reported to have done in my sixty-odd years living on this planet (yawn).

[1] In Exodus 20:7 the Third Commandment openly states, “You shall not take the name of The Lord in vain: for the Lord will not hold him guiltless.”

It also says in Leviticus 24:16, “And he who blasphemes the name of the Lord, he shall surely be put to death, and all the congregations shall surely stone him.”

Again, quoting Matthew, 12: 31-32, Jesus is reported to have said, “Every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit, shall not be forgiven.”

In addition regarding other crimes it says in Leviticus 20: 14,“And if a man take a wife and her mother he shall be burnt with fire“.

Also in Leviticus 20: 15, “if a man lies with a beast, he shall surely be put to death,” and in Exodus 21:17, “Anyone who curses his father and mother must be put to death.”