Why Cat Stevens' Detention & Expulsion Matter

Mansoor Ijaz writes in today's Christian Science Monitor:
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.

Either Attorney General John Ashcroft and Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge should make the evidence against Mr. Islam public and detail it sufficiently that all can see his sins in an objective light, or they should issue an official apology to the peace activist and explain how American laws got hijacked in such a cavalier manner. The Patriot Act's provisions, it seems, have run amok.

He has also spoken out repeatedly against terrorism since Sept. 11. ... Oh, and he also so happened to re-record his 1970s hit, "Peace Train," last year to protest the Iraq war. Which is why Thursday's events reek of political retribution of the very worst kind.

Actions by US authorities in Bangor, Maine, where the United Airlines flight was diverted Tuesday, demonstrate the failure of American domestic and security policy, both tactically and strategically, to discern who the bad guys really are.

I have argued vigorously before on these pages and in other international media that our responsibility to stand up as citizens in a time of war and crisis takes precedence over enjoying the civil rights afforded us by the sacrifices of those who have given their lives so we can live free. But when the type of global citizenship displayed by Mr. Islam, which goes to the very heart of what humanity is about, is struck down by artificial and arbitrary implementation of US antiterrorism statutes, it's time to reexamine those laws, and to reexamine the license to practice of those who are charged with protecting our civil liberties.

Yusuf Islam is a beacon of light and hope in a sea of fear, chaos, and uncertainty that was extinguished this week out of fear and paranoia that seemingly have no end. If Mr. Ashcroft is willing to take Yusuf Islam off that plane, then next time he'd better be willing to take me off as well.

It is time to take back America's civil rights from those who would abuse it for their own narrow political agendas.