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Questions remain over Cat Stevens' connections to radical Muslims
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By Andrea Peyser
December 12, 2014

Questions remain over Cat Stevens' connections to radical Muslims

When it comes to the artist formerly known as Cat Stevens, all is ­forgiven. But I haven’t forgotten.

He’s back in our faces, rested and ready. The English-born folk singer/songwriter, who rocketed to fame in the 1960s and ’70s with mellow tunes including "Moon Shadow’’ and "Morning Has Broken,’’ is playing live shows again. The man who, at the zenith of his career, converted to Islam, changed his name to Yusuf Islam and played his last concert, for charity, in Britain in 1979 has tiptoed back to his musical roots.

He’s risking disapproval from Muslim leaders, who frown on the hedonistic rock-star lifestyle, with a North American concert tour in which the man now billed as Yusuf/Cat Stevens is playing his first dates in the United States since 1976.

But do we really want him here?

This is not about being a Muslim, the vast majority of whom are people of peace. This is about a man who sings "Peace Train’’ but fails to practice what he preaches.

Now 66, Yusuf/Stevens, who lives in London and Dubai, has demonstrated that he believes in radicalism and, allegedly, has given financial support to terrorists. But after listening to him speak on American TV this past weekend, you might think he was a victim of — what else? — the media.

"Yeah, I reckon the media has played kind of a nonpositive role in creating my image,” he said in a coming-out-again interview on "CBS Sunday Morning.’’

Before the married father of five’s foray into concert halls on his tour called "Peace Train . . . Late Again,’’ Yusuf/Stevens canceled a show scheduled to be staged last week at New York City’s Beacon Theatre, he said, to protest "extortionate’’ fees charged for tickets by scalpers. He promised to return to the city in the future. Yet I wonder how he would be received in a town brutalized by radical Islamic terrorists who flew airplanes into the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

He was born Steven Georgiou to a Greek-Cypriot father and a Swedish mother in 1948. When he was known as Cat Stevens, he nearly drowned, he has claimed, while swimming in the surf off Malibu, Calif., in 1976. He said he shouted, "Oh, God! If you save me I will work for you,’’ then was carried ashore by a wave. His brother gave him a copy of the Koran. In 1977, he became a Muslim.

But he provoked outrage when, appearing on a British TV show in 1989, he seemed to support the Iranian fatwa calling for the death of British author Salman Rushdie, whose novel "The Satanic Verses’’ is considered blasphemous by some Muslims.

Asked if he’d attend a demonstration in which Rushdie was burned in effigy, he said, "I would have hoped that it’d be the real thing.’’

In 2000, Islam was booted from Israel after, officials said, the philanthropist delivered tens of thousands of dollars to the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas during a visit in 1988. Then in 2004, his flight from London to Washington, DC, was diverted to Bangor, Maine, where he was questioned by US officials, then shipped back to England after it was determined he was on the government’s "no fly’’ terrorist watch list.

A US government official said Islam was believed to have made donations that wound up supporting not only Hamas but Omar Abdel-Rahman, the blind Egyptian sheik convicted of seditious conspiracy for plotting to bomb New York City landmarks. (Islam said he never "knowingly’’ funded terrorists.)

Two years later, he was allowed to fly into the United States to conduct radio interviews for a new album. Earlier this year at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and performed three songs.

What changed?

A spokesman for the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center would not confirm or deny whether any individual is forbidden from flying into the United States. A rep for Yusuf/Stevens did not return calls and e-mails seeking comment.

Until Yusuf/Cat Stevens proclaims his rejection of a fatwa and clears up accusations that he funded terrorists, I will not buy his albums or attend his shows. A pity.

The man is talented.

©2007-2021 Andrea Peyser and andreapeyser.com; No Reuse without permission.
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