The singer formerly known as Cat Stevens is forbidden from flying into the United States because of his alleged association with possible terrorists, U.S. officials said yesterday (Sept. 22) in explai
The singer formerly known as Cat Stevens is forbidden from flying into the United States because of his alleged association with possible terrorists, U.S. officials said yesterday (Sept. 22) in explaining why a London-to-Washington flight carrying the peace activist was diverted.
The claim was disputed by the brother of the London-born singer, who changed his name to Yusuf Islam more than 25 years ago.
David Gordon said his brother has condemned terrorist acts and donates money to terrorism victims. "He just wants to be an ambassador for peace," said Gordon, who lives in Princeton, N.J., and serves as Islam's business manager.
Ironically, Islam, while in Washington last May, met with officials of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives "to talk about philanthropic work," according to White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan.
The office is located across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House. Buchan said that was before Islam was added to the no-fly list.
United Airlines Flight 919 was en route to Dulles International Airport on Tuesday when U.S. officials reviewing the passenger list discovered Islam was aboard. The aircraft was diverted to Maine's Bangor International Airport, where federal agents met the plane and interviewed Islam.
He was placed on a plane back to London yesterday. Gordon said Islam's 21-year-old daughter, Maymanah, was allowed to stay in the country.
U.S. authorities provided few details about Islam's alleged connection to terrorism.
Homeland Security spokesman Brian Doyle would only say that the intelligence community has recently obtained information that "further heightens concern" about Islam.
"Yusuf Islam has been placed on the watch lists because of activities that could potentially be related to terrorism," Doyle said. "It's a serious matter."
A second government official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said U.S. authorities think donations from Islam may have ended up helping to fund blind sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, convicted for a plot to bomb New York City landmarks, and Hamas, a Palestinian militant group considered a terrorist organization by the United States.
In July 2000, Islam was deported hours after arriving in Jerusalem. A local paper reported then that the government claimed he had delivered tens of thousands of dollars to Hamas during a visit in 1988. Islam denied ever knowingly supporting Islamic terrorists.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations at a news conference Wednesday said the deportation "sends a message to the Islamic world that even those who seek peace and condemn terror are not fit to enter the United States."
Islam, born Stephen Georgiou, took Cat Stevens as a stage name and had a string of hits in the 1960s and '70s, including "Wild World" and "Morning Has Broken." Last year he released two songs, including a re-recording of his hit "Peace Train," to express his opposition to the U.S.-led war in Iraq.
He abandoned his music career in the late 1970s and changed his name after being persuaded by orthodox Muslim teachers that his lifestyle was forbidden by Islamic law.
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