Our Beacon Forum

Yusuf Islam sings for a noble cause
By:Abdul Wahid Osman
Date: Wednesday, 20 May 2009, 7:33 pm

Yusuf Islam Unites Muslims, West



"I think I've been given a position and place in this world which is quite unique," Yusuf Islam said.

LOS ANGELES — Renowned British Muslim singer Yusuf Islam sees his music and songs can be a bridge between the Muslims world and the West.
"I think I've been given a position and place in this world which is quite unique," Islam told CNN on Monday, May 18.
"The fact that I'm a Westerner by birth and I'm a Muslim at the same time -- and living in this time where there seems to be such a gravitational split in polarities -- there need to be bridges.
"I think music is one of the best ways to bridge all those gaps."
Islam, formerly known as Cat Stevens, performed his first concert in Los Angeles last week, his first in the United States in 33 years.

Playing new and old songs for over an hour, the 60-year-old musician has delighted a star-studded audience.

"You don't understand," teary-eyed US singer and songwriter Michelle Branch said.
"I learned how to play guitar with the Cat Stevens songbook!"

Yusuf Islam reverted to Islam in 1977 and has since become a leading voice in Britain's two million Muslims.

His UN-registered charity, Small Kindness, provides humanitarian relief, through direct aid as well as social and educational programs, to orphans and families in Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq and other regions of the world.

In 2003, Islam was awarded the "World Social Award" for his humanitarian relief work.
In November 2004, he was honored with the "Man for Peace" award by a committee of Nobel peace laureates.


Islam lamented that the Islamic faith is tarnished in Western media.

"I used to be prejudiced -- as prejudiced as anyone about Islam," he said.
The prominent singer recalled the moment when he decided to revert to Islam at the height of his fame.

"I was given the opportunity of reading the actual source, the Quran itself, without anybody forcing me or looking over my shoulder and saying, "What do you think?" It was just me in my space.
"The more I read the Quran, the more I realized that it was like an incredible matrix of connection with Christianity and Judaism," he said.

"I mean Jesus, Moses, the religion of Abraham in this book! And I said, "Wow, how come I didn't know this before?" It was kind of like a secret.
"So that was kind of my discovery, and a lot of people, I don't think, have gone through that process because they've seen Islam as a headline -- and you never learn anything about a headline. Because headlines, you know -- people make things up, to be honest."
Under the former Bush administration, Islam was denied access to the US and his name was put on a no-fly list.

"I felt chosen! I felt suddenly, I was given a halo. "This guy stands for peace, and they won't let him in.

"It was really kind of a joke, in a way, because the person I am and the kind of things they were kind of insinuating by putting me on this list with other people who were very dangerous."
But the situation took a new turn under the US administration of Barack Obama.
"I'm here now (in the United States), so things are kind of working themselves out. But there's a new administration, a new president, and it's a great new day."

Cat Stevens' transition to Yusuf Islam