donderdag 21 februari 2008

INTERVIEW WITH jETRU TULL (Ian Anderson)about Yusuf Islam

contemporary of yours.Anderson: Ah yes! Well, you see Cat Stevens would be a much better Governor of California. We actually met, funny enough, just before the opening of the Olympic Games--I bumped into Cat Stevens in Athens. He and I were both doing a TV show for German television. I hadn’t seen him for years and I went over and we chatted for ten minutes on a variety of subjects. He seemed very pleasant, very nice, and I got the inkling that music was becoming a meaningful part of his life again. A musical performance was definitely in the cards. So I was quite pleased with that and he had to go to make-up because he was being interviewed on this TV show—not performing music, just interviewed--so I went my way. Well, after I’d done my performance, his son came rushing over and said, “Oh, did my dad find you?” And I said, “Nope. I didn’t know he was looking for me.” He said, “He’s searching everywhere for you--he’s so embarrassed that he wants to apologize because he didn’t recognize you.” And I said, “Wow! That’s amazing! You tell your dad that raises him even higher in my esteem, that he would be so nice and pleasant and give ten minutes of interesting and pleasing conversation to someone who he must have regarded as a complete stranger.” (laughs)One feels a little sorry for him having endured perhaps a degree of vilification, and certainly humiliation when he was denied entrance to the U.S. because we were told that the authorities had confused his name with another person who was on the terrorist list. I rather suspect there was more to it than that. My feeling is because of his pronunciations some years ago against Salmon Rushdie, when pressed on the issue, concurring with a fatwah put him in a pretty bad light, although Cat Stevens has always been a peaceful and inspiring person in regards to peace and tolerance and so-on. He is the benign face of Islam that unfortunately has been tainted by some assumption that he is aligned with the extremists. I really don’t believe for one second that he is or ever has been. I think we need more people like Yusef Islam who are going to stand up and show us the kind and caring and responsible and very human face of Islam. We need a lot more Yusef Islams, whether they call themselves that or Cat Stevens.Meth: A na├»ve notion of your religious viewpoint might be based solely on the flipside of the Aqualung album. In light of what you just said about Cat Stevens, how did you react to Bob Dylan’s “Born Again” phase, or Van Morrison’s spiritual material, or George Harrison’s Hare Krishna music?Anderson: I’ve never been anti-Christian. I wouldn’t call myself a Christian because I’m not an active, practicing one, but I believe in most of the tenets of Christianity. It’s very easy to go along with most of that as it’s equally easy to go along with most of Islam. It’s actually easy to go along with quite a lot of Hinduism, once you get over that big hurdle of slightly demystifying the pantheon of deities that litter the life of a Hindu (laughs). Hinduism is a tricky one, but you have to look at it more like you’re watching a Bollywood movie, or a sort of Walt Disney cartoon. It’s larger than life. It appears colorful and somewhat two-dimensional in the way that the many gods of Hinduism seem to operate. It is rather cartoon-like—however, behind it, it is essentially a monotheistic religion, and not a difficult one for us to go along with. Difficult probably for most westerners to think of practicing, but for me it would be difficult to be a practicing Christian because I can’t quite get my head around one or two things about Christianity that are fundamental, particularly regarding the degree to which Christ has become deified as a prophet and a symbol. So I have a problem with Christianity, but in terms of most of its teachings—most of it is practical and sensible moralities and codes for good living. I’m not anti-Christian; I’m actually quite pro-Christian, but I’m equally pro-Islam, as long as we don’t get into the car bombs. For the vast majority of practicing Muslims, the step from Islam to terrorism is a giant chasm they could not conceive of crossing. It’s just for some people, as always—Christianity and Islam alike—religion has been a means of whipping up hatred, bigotry, intolerance. Just look at the simple polarities in Belfast, in Northern Ireland, and that deep, undying hatred between Catholics and Protestants. It’s so hard for us to understand why those people still want to kill each other, and indeed on a Saturday night still do. Whether it’s a bottle fight down the road in Belfast or something more insidious, the hatred has not gone away. At the moment, the guns and the bombs are silent, but the deep divisions are still there with very little sign of being mended by the current and future generations.

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