Cat Stevens Victim of Typo?

My high school classmate Sally Donnelly, or someone with the same name employed by TIME magazine, writes in You Say Yusuf, I Say Youssouf… that,

The Yusuf Islam incident earlier this week, in which the former Cat Stevens was denied entry into the U.S. when federal officials determined he was on the government's “no-fly” antiterror list, started with a simple spelling error. According to aviation sources with access to the list, there is no Yusuf Islam on the no-fly registry, though there is a “Youssouf Islam.” The incorrect name was added to the register this summer, but because Islam's name is spelled “Yusuf” on his British passport, he was allowed to board a plane in London bound for the U.S.

Homeland Security Dept. at work. Feel safer yet?

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16 Responses to Cat Stevens Victim of Typo?

  1. He just thought that was a moonshadow trailing him….

  2. Mojo says:

    So we’re supposed to believe that the government was completely accurate in assessing Stevens to be a threat but just happened to foul up on the only thing the public could check – his name? (Maybe that’s why Teddy Kennedy keeps getting flagged; the no-fly list accidentally has a small typo in Zakariah Zubaidi’s name.) I wonder if we also got Yusuf’s name wrong when we advised our ally, England, of his “proven ties to terrorism”. That could explain why they’ve taken no action against him at all.

  3. Evidently the Shin Bet does have Cat Stevens barred from Israel, however. reports they claim he gave 10’s of thousands to Hamas in ’88, he says it was just to Hamas backed charities. Leads me to suspect we just bought the Israeli watchlist and inserted it into the No Fly list…oversight, please, anyone?

  4. Barry Freed says:

    And 1988, IIRC, was around when Israel was funding Hamas as an alternative to the PLO. So what’s the beef?

  5. Boy, are you askin the wrong guy.

  6. nigel says:

    As i understand it Stevens thought he was giving money to charity when he was actually funding terrorist. This is why I think we ought to put Jerry Lewis on the list too.

  7. Barry Freed says:

    nigel, is that some kind of a subtle anti-France snark?

  8. I thought it meant some of Jerry’s Kids are working on WMD’s now. Hey, its not far fetched, there’s just as much evidence for that theory as for Iraq’s WMD’s, apparently…

  9. Chris says:

    I feel safer from twinky folk music. Weapons of mass boredom, indeed. I’m glad Bush is all over this one.

  10. Brett Bellmore says:

    “there’s just as much evidence for that theory as for Iraq’s WMD’s, apparently…”

    In an alternate universe where Jerry’s kids gassed Kurds, and built dual use chemical factories for their high school science project, maybe.

  11. This is not a thoughtful critique IMHO. It’s a common practice to flag like-sounding names, as they are preferred aliases, and this is especially true when they are transliterations. To claim this is a “spelling error” is a gross oversimplification.

    I don’t have a problem with authorities taking an especially close look at those who have names that are similar to people who are potential threats to an airplane. The problem I have is that the followup investigations seem to be really poorly done. The idea of a “Do Not Fly” list is, to me, a really poor excuse for law enforcement. When a name raises a flag, you question them and search them, and use the excuse of an aircraft gate to get around those annoying 4th Am. problems. Those who are falsely flagged should be tracked so that they don’t continually run into a problem in the airports, perhaps by asking someone for personally identifying information that is gathered during the first incident, and made available to later investigators.

    The idea is that name checks are one tool in detecting threats to aircraft. That they should be used as a *proxy* for good law enforcement is a travesty. When I last got on an airplane at Schiphol the security officer asked a lot of pretty invasive questions about my luggage and my movements over the last few days. I didn’t like it, but I felt a lot safer getting on the airplane. TSA, by comparison, is frighteningly unprofessional.

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  13. Mojo says:

    Alex; The problem in this case is that Yusuf Islam is an Englishman, there’s no transliteration to do. (Unless they’re translating from the Hebrew.) And when they include alternate spellings, they include the primary spelling as one of the options. In this case, “Yusuf Islam” doesn’t appear on the list.
    I agree that the no-fly list is being poorly implemented with far to little real investigation. But I disagree on one major points. “Getting around” the Bill of Rights is a prescription for disaster.
    I’d also use a different approach to preventing repeated false hits. In my opinion it would be better to add “So and so ain’t this guy” (or words to that effect) to the entry with official identifying information for the innocent person such as passport number, driver’s license number, or the like. “Personally identifying information that is gathered during the first incident” requires invasion of privacy while not being nearly as secure.

  14. TomR says:


    For the benefit of the severely monolingual, Yusuf Islam or Youssouf Islam are different ways of spelling (transliterating)the same name, which would be anglicized as ‘Joseph Islam’. This is danged close to ‘John Smith’. I would expect that there might be *a lot* of people named ‘Yusuf Islam’.

    So, we are protecting our borders strictly on the basis of *names* ?

    It is really hard to believe that we cannot do better than this.


  15. Barry Freed says:

    Actually, strictly speaking it would be translated as Joseph. But Yusuf is anglicization already. There are a variety of systems in use by Arabists (of which I am one) to transliterate Arabic into Roman scripted languages. The most commonly used in the US is the Library of Congress system (also the Encyclopedia of Islam 2nd ed., modified). Transliterated the name would be Yûsuf [though note: I have had to use a circumflex instead of the prescribed macron, a straight horizontal bar over the letter, why the macron, very rarely found in any font, was chosen for this purpose instead of the commonly available circumflex has long been a source of frustration and a pet peeve of mine.]

  16. Blew-By-Ewe says:

    You people are pathethic. You take up too many pixels trying to type senseless drool.


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