No Peace Train For Cat Stevens
Defense Ministry officials refused to comment on Yusuf Islam’s case other than to say that the Shin Bet, Israel’s internal intelligence agency, had ordered the man who wrote such songs as “Peace Train” and “Wild World” barred from the country.
Islam, 51, who changed his name after becoming a Muslim in the late 1970s, last visited Israel in 1988. The government claims that during that trip he delivered tens of thousands of dollars to Hamas, a militant Islamic group, the Maariv daily reported.
Two years later, in 1990, he tried to enter again along with his 8-year-old son but was barred.
This time, the former singer arrived at 2:30 a.m. on June 12 and was detained by airport authorities when his name appeared on a list of people banned from Israel, Maariv reported. It quoted him as telling an Israeli entertainment show, “They locked me in a 2-meter-by-2-meter cell without water or a bathroom, and then deported me. I don’t see any reason for this to happen in a time of peace.”
Airport authorities denied that the former singer was mistreated, Maariv said. They said he was kept in the departure lounge until the plane he arrived on returned to Germany. From there, Islam traveled to London.
Islam issued a statement denying terrorist links, saying, “This is an unfortunate accusation. Upon my return to London, I heard reports that try to link me to terrorist groups. At present I am supporting orphans in Hebron and all my donations in the past were given to humanitarian causes.
“I want to make sure that people are aware that I’ve never knowingly supported any terrorist groups – past, present or future.” Islam has been recently making the rounds of American talk shows, and cable music network VH1 has scheduled “Cat Stevens: Behind The Music” for air October 1.
VH1 has issued a statement explaining that Islam traveled to Israel to film a segment for that program.
“Yusuf Islam had gone to Jerusalem with a VH1 TV crew to shoot scenes for the season premiere episode of VH1’s ‘Behind The Music’ series on October 1. The trip was arranged by VH1 weeks in advance for a documentary about the former singer’s personal journey from childhood in London to rock stardom in the 1970s to his decision to renounce fame and follow the teachings of Islam,” the statement read.
“VH1 suggested the trip to Jerusalem and Yusuf agreed. All proper permissions were requested and issued. On arriving in Israel from Frankfurt, Yusuf was separated from the VH1 crew, questioned by Israeli authorities, and told he was being sent back to Frankfurt on the next flight.”
The former singer, who was born Stephen Georgiou, took Cat Stevens as a stage name and had a string of hits in the early 1970s. He abandoned his music career in 1977 and changed his name after being persuaded by orthodox Muslim teachers that his lifestyle was forbidden by Islamic law.
He later began teaching and actively spreading the word of his religion, founding a Muslim school in 1983. He made headlines when he supported the death sentence issued by Iran against author Salman Rushdie.