Cat Stevens is a folk music legend, humanitarian, and inductee to the Rock and Roll hall of fame. All these accomplishments don’t seem like they’d be the actions of an individual placed on the “No Fly” list, but strangely enough you can find Cat Stevens on that list. His musical accomplishments are vast as a songwriter and instrumental composer producing noteworthy songs like “The First Cut Is the Deepest”, “Wild World”, and “Peace Train”. He also has many accomplishments that are not musically driven like being awarded the “World Social Award” for Humanitarian relief in which includes helping children and victims of war. He seems like a pretty renowned individual so the question is why did America place him on the “No Fly” list?
In a way this “no fly” list dilemma begins with the change of his name from Cat Stevens to Yusuf Islam. A year before drowning in the ocean off of Malibu Cat Stevens had been hospitalized after contracting tuberculosis for many months where he spent much of his time bed ridden and reading about religions. After recovering Stevens had a near death experience off a beach in Malibu. Shortly after Stevens brother gifted him a copy of the Karan although they were both originally raised Christian. He began to study the scripture and later converted to the Muslim religion. The change in his spiritual beliefs was not done for attention like many prior celebrities, but rather a personal reflection of what he believed saved his life that day from dying. Stevens felt like that the Islamic religion was the “true religion”, but kept his beliefs private for nearly a year and a half before sharing them with the public. During this portion of he wrote in a journal and one of his entries said,
“I realized that everything belongs to God, that slumber does not overtake Him. He created everything. At this point I began to lose the pride in me, because I had thought the reason I was here was because of my own greatness. But I realized that I did not create myself, and the whole purpose of my being here was to submit to the teachings of Al-Islam.”
Soon after this written entry Stevens announced to the world, “I’m no longer seeking applause and fame,” and then preceded to auction off all his material belongings including his guitars. He donated all the proceeds to charity. Shortly after he had an arranged marriage and had a daughter named Yusuf Islam.
That same daughter 21 years later watched as her father was taken off a flight on its way to Washington and then Nashville. The pilot announced that there would be an emergency landing at Bangor, Maine’s Airport (a military airport). As soon as the plane stopped six uniform FBI agents entered the plane asking for, “Yusuf Islam”. They separated him from his daughter and isolated him where they interrogated him. Later on he was driven to Boston without his daughter and then sent back to London. After arriving back in London he turned on the television and to his surprise saw that a news report was saying he had been deported and put on the “Terrorist No Fly List”. The United States told him later on that he had been placed on this list because of information they had received from the intelligence community. Stevens has visited the United States since, but has to make sure to make a call to his personal FBI agent first. To emphasize on stupidity of what Americas intelligence agency considers dangerous I’d like to end with a quote by Jon Stewart,
“A flight from London carrying the artist we all used to know as Cat Stevens, now known as Yusuf Islam, was forced to make an emergency landing in Bangor, Maine after his name showed up on a terrorist no-fly list. I tell you, it’s a real success story in the war on terror. You know, we finally got the guy that wrote “Peace Train.”
Rolling Stone Mag: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/artists/cat-stevens