Yusuf Islam (formerly Cat Stevens) has won apologies and substantial libel damages (which will go to charity) from WENN, a media news agency, and Contactmusic.com, an entertainment news website, over false allegations that he had refused to speak to women who did not wear a veil.

Statement in Open Court

Yusuf Islam and (1) World Entertainment News Network and (2) ContactMusic.com Limited

18 July 2008

Solicitor-Advocate for the Claimant
My Lord, in this action I appear for the Claimant, Mr Yusuf Islam. Mr Islam, who was formerly known as Cat Stevens, is a well-known singer and songwriter. Mr Islam is also an active and high-profile campaigner for peace and for the promotion of inter-community relations and various charitable causes. In November 2004 he was awarded a ‘Man for Peace’ award by a number of Nobel Laureates.

My friend, Marvin Simons, appears for the Defendants in this matter. The First Defendant, World Entertainment News Network, or “WENN”, is a news agency which provides entertainment stories to its media subscribers. The Second Defendant, Contactmusic.com Limited is the publisher of a website containing music, film and entertainment news, and is a subscriber to WENN’s service. Contactmusic.com apparently boasts some 2.2 million page views per month.

On 26 March 2007, WENN distributed to its subscribers, an article headlined “YUSUF ISLAM IGNORES BARE-HEADED WOMEN”. The article was reproduced on a number of other websites including Contactmusic.com, where it was published to a large number of readers within the jurisdiction and around the world.

The article suggested that Mr Islam, who is a Muslim, was so sexist and bigoted that he refused at an awards ceremony to speak to (or even acknowledge) any women who were not wearing a veil. It went on to suggest that Mr Islam’s manager had stated “Mr Islam doesn’t speak with women except his wife. Least of all if they don’t wear a headscarf. Things like that only happen via an intermediary.”

As the Defendants now accept, these allegations were entirely false. Mr Islam has never had any difficulties working with women, whether for religious or any other reasons. In his normal life, women feature among some of the most influential people in Mr Islam’s team. Furthermore, the statement attributed in the article to Mr Islam’s manager was simply never made.

Unsurprisingly, the article caused Mr Islam considerable embarrassment and distress, particularly given that it had the effect not only of creating an utterly false impression of his attitude to women, but because it cast serious aspersions, quite wrongly, on his religious faith, which is a matter of the utmost importance to him.

In recognition of the falsity of the allegations made against Mr Islam, the Defendants have already published apologies to him – in WENN’s case to its subscribers, and in Contactmusic.com’s case on its website. Further, the Defendants have agreed to pay Mr Islam substantial libel damages, to be donated at his request to charity, as well as his legal costs.

Solicitor for the Defendant
My Lord, on behalf of the Defendants, I confirm all that my friend has said. The Defendants apologise to Mr Islam for the distress and embarrassment he has suffered as a result of the publication of the false allegations contained in the article complained of.

Solicitor-Advocate for the Claimant
My Lord in all the circumstances, Mr Islam’s object in bringing these proceedings has been achieved.

Adam Tudor
on behalf of the Claimant

Marvin Simons
on behalf of the Defendants

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