Friday, September 24, 2004

Paranoid Survives?

Thursday, September 23, 2004
San Francisco Chronicle

"The bearded musician once called Cat Stevens -- who was plucked from a United Airlines jet in Bangor, Maine, on Tuesday by federal officials because he's on the Department of Homeland Security's "no-fly'' list -- has nothing to do with terrorists, his brother said Wednesday.

"His only work, his only mind-set, is humanitarian causes,'' David Gordon, the singer's brother and manager, told the Associated Press. "He just wants to be an ambassador for peace.''

The former pop star, who changed his name to Yusuf Islam in 1977 after converting to Islam, was flying from London to Washington, D.C., on Tuesday when the plane was diverted to Bangor. He was detained and "denied admission to the United States on national security grounds,'' said Homeland Security Department spokesman Dennis Murphy. Government officials said the musician has given money to groups suspected of ties to terrorism.

....Before he converted to Islam, changed his name and spurned the music business, Stevens was one of the most successful pop performers of the 1970s. He made a string of hit records whose sweetly naive folk-rock sensibility helped usher in the era of the introspective singer-songwriter. Songs like "Tea for the Tillerman,'' "Morning Has Broken'' and "Peace Train'' topped the charts and made Stevens rich. He sold more than 25 million albums.

But after becoming a Muslim, he sold off material possessions, including his Ovation acoustic guitar (he was the guy who put Ovation on the map) and quit recording for nearly two decades. He dedicated himself to establishing Muslim schools and other charities in England.

....Islam began making mostly spoken-word, Muslim-themed records in 1995 and performed in Sarajevo in 1997. A major Muslim voice in Britain, he widely condemned the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, writing on his official Web site that "no right-thinking follower of Islam could possibly condone such an action.''

He contributed some of the royalties from the sale of a boxed set of his music to the September 11 Fund, and last year re-recorded his 1971 hit "Peace Train'' -- his first English-language music disc in 25 years -- for a star- studded CD to benefit children in war-torn Iraq."

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