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Monday, June 4, 2012

Cat Stevens

Yusuf Islam, born Steven Demetre Georgiou, 21 July 1948, commonly known by his former stage name Cat Stevens, is an English singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, educator, philanthropist, and prominent convert to Islam.

His early 1970s record albums Tea for the Tillerman and Teaser and the Firecat were both certified triple platinum in the United States by the RIAA. His 1972 album Catch Bull at Four sold half a million copies in the first two weeks of release alone and was Billboard's number-one LP for three consecutive weeks He has also earned two ASCAP songwriting awards in consecutive years for "The First Cut Is the Deepest", which has been a hit single for four different artists.

Stevens converted to Islam in December 1977 and adopted the name Yusuf Islam the following year. In 1979, he auctioned all his guitars for charity and left his music career to devote himself to educational and philanthropic causes in the Muslim community. He has been given several awards for his work in promoting peace in the world, including the 2003 World Award, the 2004 Man for Peace Award, and the 2007 Mediterranean Prize for Peace. In 2006, he returned to pop music with his first album of new pop songs in 28 years, entitled An Other Cup. He now goes professionally by the single name Yusuf. His most recent album, Roadsinger, was released on 5 May 2009.

Salman Rushdie controversy

The singer attracted controversy in 1989, during an address to students at London's Kingston University, where he was asked about the fatwa calling for the death of author Salman Rushdie. The media interpreted his response as support for the fatwa. Yusuf released a statement the following day denying that he supported vigilantism, and claiming that he had merely recounted the legal Islamic punishment for blasphemy. In a BBC interview, he displayed a newspaper clipping from that period, with quotes from his statement. Subsequent comments made by him in 1989 on a British television programme were also seen as being in support of the fatwa. In a statement in the FAQ section of one of his Web sites, Yusuf asserted that while he regretted the comments, he was joking and that the show was improperly edited.[65] In the years since these comments, he has repeatedly denied ever calling for the death of Rushdie or supporting the fatwa.

 
11 September 2001 attacks

  I wish to express my heartfelt horror at the indiscriminate terrorist attacks committed against innocent people of the United States yesterday. While it is still not clear who carried out the attack, it must be stated that no right-thinking follower of Islam could possibly condone such an action. The Qur'an equates the murder of one innocent person with the murder of the whole of humanity. We pray for the families of all those who lost their lives in this unthinkable act of violence as well as all those injured; I hope to reflect the feelings of all Muslims and people around the world whose sympathies go out to the victims of this sorrowful moment.

He appeared on videotape on a VH1 pre-show for the October 2001 Concert for New York City, condemning the attacks and singing his song "Peace Train" for the first time in public in more than 20 years, as an a cappella version. He also donated a portion of his box-set royalties to the Fund for victims' families, and the rest to orphans in underdeveloped countries. During the same year, Yusuf Islam dedicated time and effort in joining the Forum Against Islamophobia and Racism, an organisation that worked towards battling misperceptions and acts against others because of their religious beliefs or their racial identity (or both), after many Muslims reported a backlash against them due in part to the grief caused by the events in the United States on 9-11.

 
Denial of entry into the United States

On 21 September 2004, Yusuf was on a United Airlines flight from London to Washington, travelling to a meeting with U.S. entertainer Dolly Parton, who had recorded "Peace Train" several years earlier and was planning to include another Cat Stevens song on an upcoming album.While the plane was in flight, his name was flagged as being on a no fly list. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers alerted the United States Transportation Security Administration, which then diverted his flight to Bangor, Maine, where he was detained by officers from the Department of Homeland Security.

The following day, Yusuf was denied entry and flown back to the United Kingdom. A spokesman for Homeland Security claimed there were "concerns of ties he may have to potential terrorist-related activities". The Israeli government had deported Yusuf in 2000 over allegations that he provided funding to the Palestinian organisation Hamas; he denied doing so knowingly. "I have never knowingly supported or given money to Hamas," says Yusuf, who repeatedly has condemned terrorism and Islamic extremism. "At the time I was reported to have done it, I didn't know such a group existed. Some people give a political interpretation to charity. We were horrified at how people were suffering in the Holy Land. However, the United States Department of Homeland Security added him to a "watch list". The US removal provoked a small international controversy, and led British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw to complain personally to US Secretary of State Colin Powell at the United Nations. Powell responded by stating that the watchlist was under review, adding, "I think we have that obligation to review these matters to see if we are right".

Yusuf believed his inclusion on a "watch list" may have simply been an error: a mistaken identification of him for a man with the same name, but different spelling. On 1 October 2004 Yusuf requested the removal of his name, "I remain bewildered by the decision of the US authorities to refuse me entry to the United States". According to a statement by Yusuf, the man on the list was named "Youssef Islam", indicating that Yusuf himself was not the suspected terrorism supporter. Romanization of Arabic names can easily result in different spellings: the transliteration of the Islamic name for Joseph (Yusuf's chosen name) lists a dozen spellings.

Two years later, in December 2006 Yusuf was admitted without incident into the United States for several radio concert performances and interviews to promote his new record. Yusuf said of the incident at the time, that, "No reason was ever given, but being asked to repeat the spelling of my name again and again, made me think it was a fairly simple mistake of identity. Rumors which circulated after made me imagine otherwise.

Yusuf has written a song about the 2004 exclusion from the U.S., entitled "Boots and Sand", recorded in the summer of 2008 and featuring Paul McCartney, Alison Krauss, Dolly Parton, and Terry Sylvester.


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