Yusuf Islam, who scored several Top Ten hits in the Seventies as Cat Stevens before leaving the business to devote himself to Islam, was denied entry into the U.S. yesterday, because his name was on several border protection watch lists. Islam’s plane, en route to Washington from London, was rerouted to Bangor, Maine, where the artist was detained for questioning.
After recording rock classics like “Wild World” and “Moonshadow,” he quit the music industry in 1977, adopted a strict Muslim lifestyle and changed his name.
Controversy followed him: after a lecture in 1989, Islam was quoted as supporting the fatwa against Satanic Verses author Salman Rushdie, alienating many fans and causing 10,000 Maniacs to pull their cover of the Stevens’ hit “Peace Train” from their album In My Tribe. (Islam denied ever making the statement.) In 1990 and again in 2000, he was held at a Jerusalem airport and refused entry into Israel, accused of donating tens of thousands of dollars to Hamas on a visit to that country in 1988.
In the summer of 2000, eager to “reconnect” with his fans and in conjunction with the re-release of his catalog, Islam returned to the States on a speaking tour. “I enjoy visiting the U.S.,” he told Rolling Stone at the time. There is a sense of optimism and openness. I feel that Americans would like their lives to be more spiritual — I read somewhere that eighty-two percent believe in God – but . . . the pursuit of wealth and commercialism often ends up distracting them from their higher purpose.”
Regarding how popular perception of him had changed over the years, he added,
“I would like those who followed my music to know my lifestyle and to know me as I am today without the rumors and prejudices that were created about me.”
Islam will be put on a return flight to London today.