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.