Yusuf Islam Exclusion Alienates Moderate Muslims



Cat Stevens, the pop artist best known for his songs "Wild World" and
"Morning Has Broken" in the 1960s and 70s, was detained onboard a flight
from London to Washington when US transportation and immigration officials
flagged his Muslim name, Yusuf Islam, on a security watch list that tracks
known terrorist groups and their followers. He stands accused of
associating with one or more of the banned entities on that list, and of
providing funds to certain ones (Hamas allegedly among them) known to
support terrorism in the Middle East.

As an American-born Muslim of Pakistani heritage and a strong supporter of
the Bush administration's essential thesis that it is better to go after
the terrorists wherever they hide than to let them migrate to our shores
and attack us, I am outraged by the actions of our government in detaining
and deporting Mr. Islam. I do not and have never condoned the terrorist
activities of Hamas in Israel or anywhere else, nor have I ever supported
such groups with a penny of my money.

But Mr. Islam's expulsion from the US shows how ill-equipped the Bush
administration still is - three years after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 -
to ferret out the real terrorists from the quirkier followers of a religion
that is increasingly the target of Islamophobes. For Muslims like me who
have worked tirelessly to bring moderate voices forward as our religion is
seized by extremists from within and put under siege by Islam's detractors
from without, the Yusuf Islam episode is mostly counterproductive because
it not only increases the rage in rational segments of Muslim society, it
violates the fundamental principles by which America holds itself out as a
beacon of freedom and liberty to the rest of the world. We have to be
better if we are to hold others accountable for their misdeeds…

Few of Islam's adherents have done as much to portray the religion
positively as tolerant and dedicated to education and humanitarian causes
as Mr. Islam. He founded Islamia Primary School in London in 1983, and in
1998 made it the first Islamic school qualified to receive British
government support on the same basis as other sectarian schools, including
Christian ones. His friends in British political life are a Who's Who of
the British establishment, including Prime Minister Tony Blair and Prince
Charles. He has raised money for charitable groups in Europe and in the US.
Those charities have provided solace to the families and orphans of wars
from Kosovo to Bosnia to Iraq. His practice of Islam's basic tenets is
above reproach, and in fact sets a model for those who are born into the
faith

 


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