Singer cat stevens plane diverted by homeland security
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Posted on Tue, Sep. 21, 2004
The Former Cat Stevens Gets Plane Diverted
WASHINGTON - A London-to-Washington flight was diverted to Maine on Tuesday when it was discovered passenger Yusuf Islam - formerly known as singer Cat Stevens - was on a government watch list and barred from entering the country, two federal officials said.
United Airlines Flight 919 was en route to Dulles International Airport when the match was made between a passenger and a name on the watch list, said Nico Melendez, a spokesman for the Transportation Security Administration. The plane was met by federal agents at Maine's Bangor International Airport around 3 p.m., Melendez said.
The two federal officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, identified the passenger as Islam. They said Islam was denied entry on national security grounds, but had no details about why the peace activist might be considered a risk to the United States.
One official said Islam, 56, was identified by the Advanced Passenger Information System, which requires airlines to send passenger information to Customs and Border Protection's National Targeting Center. The Transportation Security Administration then was contacted and requested that the plane land at the nearest airport, that official said.
The second official, who is in law enforcement and spoke anonymously because of agency policy, said Islam was questioned by FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials. After the interview, Customs officials decided to deny Islam entry into the United States.
He was expected to be returned early Wednesday to London, the official said.
Islam, who was 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 '70s 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. He later became a teacher and an advocate for his religion, founding a Muslim school in London in 1983.
He has criticized terrorist acts by Muslims, including the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and the school seizure in Beslan, Russia, earlier this month that left more than 300 dead, nearly half of them children.
In a statement on his Web site, he wrote, "Crimes against innocent bystanders taken hostage in any circumstance have no foundation whatsoever in the life of Islam and the model example of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him."
After the Sept. 11 attacks, Islam issued a statement saying: "No right thinking follower of Islam could possibly condone such an action: The Quran equates the murder of one innocent person with the murder of the whole of humanity."
ON THE NET
Yusuf Islam: http://www.yusufislam.org.uk/