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Cat Stevens, now going by the name of Yusuf Islam, faces problems spreading charity.
Looking for a Peace Train

Cat Stevens was denied entry into the United States in September 2004. His plane was diverted from its scheduled destination of Washington DC. The American Airlines flight 919 landed in Bangor, Maine, as instructed by government officials. He and his daughter, Maymana, were identified by US government agents, taken from the plane, and he was detained for questioning in Boston.

The name
"Y-U-S-U-F   I-S-L-A-M"
appears on a US governement no fly list.

Yusuf Islam is the name Stevens chose when he left the recording industry in 1978. Since then he has raised a family of five children, founded a school, and been active in the "Small Kindness" charity organization.

His "Majikat North American Tour," recorded at William and Mary College in Virginia in 1976, was recently mixed and mastered into DVD form. Yusuf Islam had scheduled appointments in Nashville and California, but was not allowed entry into the United States.

This British Muslim is not welcome in the United States. According to government sources Islam's chosen name is spelled similarly to an Arab name which appears on the "no fly list," developed by allegedly knowledgable government officials in positions of responsibility.

In a country which celebrates freedom of religion, freedom of expression, and freedom of movement, such actions are clearly wrong.

"My greatest concern was that I was separated from my daughter for 33 hours. . . I was unable to contact anyone, as my cell phone was taken from me. I am grateful that we were able to safely return home," Yusuf Islam commented after the ordeal.

The father and daughter did not arrive back in the UK on the same plane, as separation is the first step toward division, to paraphrase US government security policy. Ironically, he was not allowed into the country, but his daughter was.

Cat Stevens signed autographs and spoke of the "old days" with those who held him in detention. Although almost three decades have passed since his popularity as singer-songwriter Cat Stevens, many remember him and his peaceful, heartfelt, and thoughtful songs.

Despite assurances from government sources that the deportation was based solely on the "name mixup," Islam has not yet returned to complete his American music business.

Yusuf Islam is to be commended for the manner in which he has maintained his calm demeanor. He has spoken of the incident passionately, but with no ill word for the agents involved.

Investigation into Islam's situation, raises questions as to the qualifications of those who claim authority on behalf of the security of the United States. Who should apologize for mistakes? The United States raises alert status according to Internet buzz, but who maintains the dignity of those berated by the process of national security? Lessons should be learned from such errors, yet our government sits silently above this matter.

Government sources indicate that the deportation was based solely on the "name mixup."

The name, Yusuf Islam, lacks indication of this man's Anglo/European heritage. His international fame as Cat Stevens did not save him from intense scrutiny and persecution. This type of generic examination is undoubtedly inflicted on many Arabs who enter our country, making the United States a less friendly place for any non citizen who wishes to visit.

Arab names will appear on terrorist lists, and similar misunderstandings about alleged political affiliations will undoubtedly continue. This incident proves that people who have too much power, also have too little information.

It would seem that some individuals in the US government are jumping on a very wrong band wagon. These people didn't study life, much less history, or understand the necessity for Americans righting American wrongs.

"I am a man of peace, and I denounce all forms of terrorism and injustice; it is simply outrageous for anyone to suggest otherwise. The fact that I have sympathy for ordinary people in the world who are suffering from occupation, tyranny, poverty or war is human and has nothing to do with politics or terrorism." This is excerpted from a letter Yusuf Islam wrote to the "LA Times" after his return home.

Yusuf Islam was denied entry into Israel, also, for allegedly donating funds which arrived in the hands of members of the militant Palestinian group, Hamas. Yusuf Islam is a peaceful, non-violent, non-political man. Israel doesn't work and play well with Hamas, and likewise. Yusuf Islam has not been allowed in Israel since before 2002.

Yusuf Islam staged charity events to benefit the victims of the Bosian Sarajevo conflict. Where do the children of war ravaged countries play, and what do they have to play with? Across the ocean from the United States, Yusuf Islam continues to do what he can to help.

Children who suffer war are deprived of childhood, and emotionally scarred for life. For over thirty years, the man formerly known as Cat Stevens has pursued the calling of his heart and spirit, which are obvious in the lyrics of his popular songs, sung in the era before disco.

Names similar to that of Yusuf Islam undoubted will appear on many lists of suspicious terrorist types moving freely in the free world. The printing of one's name on a list does not make him a terrorist. To call one evil, does not make him so.

A great injustice has been done to one who has eloquently expressed thoughts of peace and love, since shortly after the end of the Vietnam Era.

The actions of this singer songwriter of the 70's, and the religious music and chairity work he has performed since, demonstrate that this man thinks peace, and verbalizes optimistic viewpoints. This man has been too easily victimized by times where the fear of war by death creeps further in to daily life. He continues to sing that it need not be this way on his "Majikat" DVD, which is available for purchase at Amazon.com, and other locations.

In 1977 Stevens walked away from the glitz of being a pop rock singer, renounced his previous lifestyle and fame, and retired the "doing business as" name of Cat Stevens. His penchant for personal questioning, so beautifully shared in his lyrics, led him to read books of many religions. He began reading the Qur'an when it was given to him by his older brother, . He later became a Muslim in the Central London Mosque, and chose to be called Yusuf Islam. He took the name Yusuf because of his admiration for Joseph, of whom he had read in the Bible.

This name change is not unlike the change that re-educated Americans about referring to Cassius Clay as Mohammed Ali. During the 1960's, Ali also had issues with the United States government and his particular Islamic beliefs. Mohammed Ali is an American, while Mr. Islam is a citizen of the UK.

As a matter of note, Yusuf Islam is Cat Stevens' third name. He was born as Stephen Demetri Georgiou, to a Greek-Cypress father and a Swedish mother.

Raised in the London, Cat Stevens married the daughter of a family he met at the Central Mosque in London. Since leaving the recording industry, he has raised three daughters and a son, and devoted his work efforts to his religious community, education of the young, and other charitable efforts. Since leaving fame and fortune, he has devoted his time to making a positive difference, as if in answer to one of his early songs, "Where Do the Children Play?"

Children are not responsible for the hatreds of their parents. As the son of mixed marriage, he was educated in a Roman Catholic school in London. He has always been thoughtful and artistic through both art and music. He has lived brunette, and olive skinned, in both England and the country of the platinum blonde. He lived fitting in as wallpaper, and also as the altruisticly elegant flower on that same wall.

His evolution from popular recording artist into a more spiritual life, has been evident since his first recording in 1969, entitled "I Love My Dog." The albums "Teaser and the Firecat" and "Tea for the Tillerman" surely remain in many album collections. Tracks like "Moon Shadow" and "Peace Train" are still be heard on radio stations.

"Buddha and the Chocolate Box" is not the foodstuff of jihad. "Small Kindness," the charitable organization with which Yusuf Islam is so involved, is recognized by the United Nations. Is a small kindness too much to ask when our government pursues religious extremists in fear, which is the opposite of love (ACIM)?

Within the past few years, Yusuf Islam has met and coordinated events in the United States with people as diverse as Peter Gabriel and Senator Hillary Clinton. In October of 2004, Yusuf Islam's work with "Small Kindness" was acknowledged with a Humanitarian Award in Budapest Hungary, by the World Association of Non-Governmental Organizations (WANGO).

In November of 2004, Yusuf Islam was presented the "Man of Peace Award" by Mikhail Gorbachev, representative of a foundation of Nobel Peace laureates meeting this year in Rome.

Cat Stevens' unique voice, along with the picking and strumming of his acoustic guitar, has invited the listener to share his perspectives, including an inevitable optimism about life and love. His voice powerfully thundered his meaning, and his meaning was clearly peaceful and loving.

Yusuf Islam founded and has run a school in London for almost 20 years, promoting peace throughout the curriculum. His life works speak volumes of peace.

Who then decides who shall speak, and who will be silenced and excluded because they are called by a politically inappropriate sounding name? "What's in a name?" It would seem that Shakespeare's rose has turned to plastic scent in today's world.

Patriots are not only those who carry guns and fight wars on foreign soil. Patriots, in the United States in the winter of 2004, are those who still believe that to speak one's mind is a God given right, an inalienable constitutional right.

A new, and more frightening era of "McCarthyism" has arrived. One should not be considered unpatriotic when speaking of peace. Such discussion is not meant as dishonor to those who serve at the will of the President. Although elected by majority, this President's actions would seem to be unsanctioned by the 55 million Americans who did not vote for President George Bush.

To disagree with the status quo in order to make changes for the better, has been the American way. We have no good reason, no obligation, to forfeit that constitutional right. Freedom exists for a purpose, other than verbage over which to let blood.

To restrict freedom of movement, freedom to transact business, and freedom to participate as a citizen of the world, is not in the best interest of American freedom or basic fair play. Restriction shows little benevolence in freedom. Has the Patriot Act blindsided you yet?

Isolationism has passed because the world now communicates with instant satelite speak. Antiquated concepts such as blind loyalty, exacerbated by trumped up allegations designed to enstill fear, must not be the wave of the future.

George Orwell was only twenty years off, after all, it seems. To speak politically incorrectly is to suffer wrath and comdemnation. If you doubt this, catch Bill Maher, chunked by commercial networks, but in reruns on HBO.

Speak, while you still can. Every thinking individual has something worth hearing, listening to, and discussing. Public opinion must not fall further under the purview of government control.

The election may be over, but those of righteous indignation will not be silenced--because we must not be if America is truly to be free.

I will be writing to my newly re-elected congressional respresentative regarding this still unresolved matter. No governmental explanation has been given. Yusuf Islam is banned from entering the United States.

Something in the United States government has gone very wrong. Abu Grabe prison irregularities, the rising death toll in Iraq, and hand-to-hand, eye-to-eye contact street fighting in the urban and oil laden jungle known as Iraq cause American citizens increasing concern. The domestic economy seems to depend on the generosity allowed between the Gross National Product and ever increasing national debt.

Domestic, or world-wide, we need to give ourselves a chance at peace. Give peace a chance. Remember the words?

Our government officials send away a world honored humanitarian, and a part of the soul of the Boomer generation dies. How easily we forget the importance of charity and love.

Fear will not make America a better place to live and work.

Those who view the world in terms of 100% good, or 100% evil, are naive, confused, and wrong. This kind of wrong never should have happened.

Therefore, must Orwell's next phase begin?

Our government should at least offer a public apology. That's what we teach our children: "Say you're sorry, and don't do it again." This is simple civilized behavior, but it's not getting done. I don't want to play cowboys and Indians because we need the dead dinosaur dribble from the cradle of civilization to fuel our cumbersome vehicles, as destructive as "Imperial Hubrus."

This is bad use of world potential. We can do better on this. Give it a go, eh Mate?

Writer's note: More info on the life of Yusuf Islam is available at CatStevens.com (cut and paste the link).

Wanted to add these words, as a reviewer has sent them to me. . .

"I'll leave you with the lyrics of Peace Train because they are so pertinent and timely, just as when they were first written. And maybe if we play the song enough, people will start to listen again. And maybe it will save some lives."


Peace Train

Now I’ve been happy lately,
thinking about the good things to come
And I believe it could be,
something good has begun

Oh I’ve been smiling lately,
dreaming about the world as one
And I believe it could be,
some day it’s going to come

Cause out on the edge of darkness,
there rides a peace train
Oh peace train take this country,
come take me home again

Now I’ve been smiling lately,
thinking about the good things to come
And I believe it could be,
something good has begun

Oh peace train sounding louder
Glide on the peace train
Come on now peace train
Yes, peace train holy roller

Everyone jump upon the peace train
Come on now peace train

Get your bags together,
go bring your good friends too
Cause it’s getting nearer,
it soon will be with you

Now come and join the living,
it’s not so far from you
And it’s getting nearer,
soon it will all be true

Now I’ve been crying lately,
thinking about the world as it is
Why must we go on hating,
why can’t we live in bliss

Cause out on the edge of darkness,
there rides a peace train
Oh peace train take this country,
come take me home again

~Cat Stevens (Yusuf Islam)

Post Script, Summer 2010

Yusuf Islam has endured in his efforts to spread love through his music. His first new album in many decades has allowed him access to US musicians and fans. Those who keep love in their hearts do endure.

Article Update April 8, 2014

Since this old article still draws a few readers, I wanted to report that Yusuf is once again able to travel into and across the US without the problems her experienced when this article originally was written.

He was able to work on a new album in some in Nashville. "An Other Cup" was finally released from Germany in 2006. This was his first album release since 1978. Yusuf also was invited, and did perform at the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize ceremonies in 2006.

On this date (4/8/2014), Yusuf appeared on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. The Tea for the Tillerman album was in Fallen's hands, and our old Cat Stevens played a short medley featuring "Wild World." He's got short gray hair now, and he played acoustically while seated on a bar stool. No sight of the cane he's so often photographed with--but he didn't walk on camera either.

God bless Yusuf. He's still looking for a Peace Train, and I'm still with him. He does have a website associated with his original name, and he has a Facebook page under the name Yusuf Islam. I'm surprised he doesn't have five times the likes. But the page does offer links to his music.

Peace out.

© Copyright 2004 C D Xmas Tree (patrice at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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