The Nobel Peace Prize Concert will be held in Oslo on December 11 and broadcast around the world. The Norwegian Nobel Committee doesn't much care for Americans these days (except for 2002 laureate Jimmy Carter), but it knows who's an international draw and who isn't, and so the concert, as always, is top-loaded with American celebrities. The co-hosts are Sharon Stone and Angelica Huston, and the entertainers scheduled to appear include Lionel Ritchie and Wynonna. Also on the bill is a British singer who calls himself Yusuf.
Does that last name not sound familiar? Well, this is the same guy who used to be known as Yusuf Islam. Still confused? Well, before that he was Cat Stevens, and before that, just for the record, he was Steven Demetre Georgiou. For those who know a bit about Yusuf — who dropped his original name after converting to Islam in 1977 — the invitation from the Nobel Committee came as something of a surprise. Then again, for those who know a bit about the Nobel Committee's politics (this is the same crowd, after all, who publicly regretted giving their 1994 award to Shimon Peres, but not to that year's co-winner, Yasser Arafat), the decision to invite Yusuf to pay tribute in song to this year's prize winner, Muhammad Yunus, was not quite so astonishing.
There is reason to be dismayed by the Norwegian Nobel Committee's anointing of Yusuf. This is, after all, a man who's been denied entry into America and expelled from Israel. After the publication of the fatwa against Salman Rushdie, he was quoted in the New York Times as saying that if Mr. Rushdie came to his door for help, "I might ring somebody who might do more damage to him than he would like. I'd try to phone the Ayatollah Khomeini and tell him exactly where this man is." A Web site called the Jawa Report claims that Yusuf has performed at fund-raising events for charities with connections to terrorist organizations. On the same Web site you can also read claims that he is an intimate of the Islamist Omar Bakri Mohammed and of Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, who is now serving a life sentence for terrorist activities.
Perhaps the barring of Yusuf from America and his expulsion from Israel were based on misunderstandings; perhaps he was misquoted on Mr. Rushdie, and perhaps the Jawa Report is mistaken. But Yusuf's own statements on his own Web site are not so easily dismissed. On that Web site he claims that he "never called for the death of Salman Rushdie; nor backed the Fatwa issued by the Ayatollah Khomeini," even though he feels that Mr. Rushdie's book "The Satanic Verses" "destroyed the harmony between peoples and created an unnecessary international crisis." But then he adds the following: "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. 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." What does this mean? It means this: Yusuf is not against the idea of Mr. Rushdie being executed for writing a book. He is simply acknowledging that in Britain and other Western countries, the proper Islamic punishments do not apply. Yet.
What about women's rights — about burkas and such? Yusuf writes on his Web site that his wife and four daughters all wear clothes "which modestly cover their God-given beauty." He insists that "a woman's beauty and form" should not be viewed by "males who are not closely related." This view places him squarely in the mainstream of patriarchal Islamism, for whose adherents the covering of women is central to the theological principle that a family's honor is founded in its women's "modesty."
And what about free speech? Yusuf supports an Islam that "wisely prohibits the vilification of what people hold sacred, in order that people do not vilify or mock God the Almighty." In other words, he champions the same kind of Shariah-based censorship that obtains in Saudi Arabia and Iran and that was a way of life in Taliban-run Afghanistan. This is, in short, a man who opposes freedom of speech and women's equality — a man who would have cheered the execution of Salman Rushdie. The decision to invite him to perform at the Nobel Peace Prize Concert — which is supposed to be a celebration of civilization's highest values — sends a grim message about the values the Norwegian Nobel Committee exalts above all others.
Mr. Bawer is the author of "While Europe Slept" and lives in Oslo, Norway.