Back in September the U.S. government decided the former Cat Stevens, now Yusuf Islam (which would be sort of like me changing my name to “Joe Christian”) had unacceptable links to terrorists and noisily barred him from the country by diverting and grounding a plane full of people.
As I said at the time, I do not believe the former Cat is a direct threat to the United States. I do not believe he and his daughter flew to America that Tuesday to inflict intentional harm upon the nation or its interests, nor was he a threat to the passengers on the plane that was to convey him to Washington.
And obviously, diverting that plane to Maine – as the closest ground once the plane was in the air – was a dramatic, wildly inconvenient gesture that was not specifically necessary to protect the safety of the craft or the nation in general. If Islam was on a goverment no-fly list, this should have been caught before he boarded the plane.
BUT, if in fact the government has good cause to believe that Islam (the former singer, not the religion) has contributed money to Hamas and to blind sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman (who was convicted for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing), then he is in fact a “terror threat” because terror is not possible without funding, and those who fund and thereby enable terror are just as guilty as those who carry out the actual acts.
I get the sense from the following press release on Islam’s website that he has decided charity work is his door back into music, which is certainly what he was best at in the first place. We just ate at Pizza Hut a couple of hours ago and the Cat’s classic “Father and Son” was playing on the jukebox – THAT guy I miss.
- Yusuf Islam travels to Indonesia this week to open a regional office for his humanitarian relief charity, Small Kindness, and will head a galaxy bill of local artists at a fundraising concert in Jakarta on 31st January to aid tsunami victims from the Aceh province.
Mr Islam – formerly Cat Stevens – has composed a new song entitled, Indian Ocean, in response to the disaster which he recorded recently in collaboration with fellow musicians including AR Rahman, the prolific Indian composer/producer, Magne Furuholmen of A-Ha fame, and Travis drummer Neil Primrose. The single will be released next month to raise money for children orphaned by the earthquake.
“Like everyone else, I was so shaken by the enormity of this human tragedy, and the song just came without effort. It is my contribution towards helping to rebuild the broken spirits of the victims of the disaster,” said Mr Islam.
Yusuf Islam accepted Islam in 1977, left the music industry behind and subsequently abstained from using musical instruments – an area of fervent debate in Islamic jurisprudence. Given that instruments are employed on the new track Mr Islam was quick to stress that: “It’s not a return to Cat Stevens, I see it more as a natural response to express my concern as a Muslim and as an artist; I believe both can exist side by side particularly when the cause is right.”
A contributing factor to this change in attitude has been the repeated encouragement from well known scholars and intellectuals from within the Muslim world and without, urging him to take up his musical profession again to promote peace and understanding.
“It has taken some time for me to accept this advice,” remarked Mr Islam. “After I embraced Islam many people told me to carry on composing and recording but at the time I was hesitant for fear that it might be for the wrong reasons. I felt unsure what the right course of action was. I guess it is only now after all these years that I’ve come to fully understand and appreciate what everyone has been asking of me. It’s as if I’ve come full circle – however, I have gathered a lot of knowledge on the subject in the meantime.”
A key turning point in Mr Islam’s outlook on music was the horrific genocide in the Balkans in 1992. “One of the things that changed me greatly was listening to the cassettes coming out of the Balkans at that time,” he said. “These were rich and highly charged songs inspiring the people with the religious spirit of faith and endurance.”
Today, many Muslim scholars consider spiritually motivational music and moralistic songs as a way to strengthen people’s faith during times of trial, and also as potential bridge-builders; something that can help close the gap and communicate shared concerns.
“The tsunami disaster has changed the world in an extraordinary way and it requires an extraordinary response from everyone. The disasters which befall man befall us all as one family. The greatest outcome of all from this tragedy has been the universal light of goodwill people have shone out with their charity and combined efforts in providing relief to the suffering. We are all duty bound to work towards establishing a better, more harmonious and tolerant world. I think I can do just that through my words and music,” said Mr Islam.
Sounds like the Cat may be back, sort of anyway.