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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 September 2004, 13:10 GMT 14:10 UK
Yusuf's return to musical roots
The BBC News website profiles the singer formerly known as Cat Stevens, who is returning with an album of new songs 28 years after he left the music industry.

Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens)
The singer formerly known as Cat Stevens converted to Islam in 1977
As folk musician Cat Stevens he had a string of hits in the 1960s and 1970s, including such contemporary classics as Moon Shadow, Peace Train and Morning Has Broken.

But since his conversion to Islam in 1977, the artist now known as Yusuf Islam has taken a different path.

Born Steven Demetre Georgiou in July 1947, Stevens was the son of a Swedish mother and a Greek Cypriot father.

The youngest of three siblings, he grew up living above his parents' restaurant in London's West End.

A sensitive and introverted child, he was raised in the Greek Orthodox faith but was sent to a Roman Catholic school.

He became interested in rock music in his teens while attending Hammersmith College and began performing in 1965 under the name Steve Adams.

Signed to Decca Records under the name Cat Stevens, he had his first hit at the age of 18 with I Love My Dog.


His second single, Matthew And Son, nearly topped the UK chart, while his third, I'm Gonna Get Me A Gun, reached the top 10.

But his career was put on hold in 1968 when he contracted tuberculosis. The singer spent three months in hospital and another year recuperating.

Cat Stevens
Stevens' hits included Morning Has Broken and Moon Shadow
His comeback single, Where Are You, was a failure, leading him to change record labels and prompting disillusionment with the music business.

Writing more personal and introspective material, he became a star in the US with his self-penned song Wild World, initially recorded by Jimmy Cliff.

His success grew when he contributed several songs to the 1972 film Harold and Maude, a mordant black comedy that became a cult hit.

Stevens had eight consecutive gold albums and 10 hit singles in the UK, with another 14 in the USA.

But the strain of being a pop star began to tell, and Stevens would eventually abandon his music career in the late 1970s.


Embracing Islam, he changed his name to Yusuf Islam and entered into an arranged marriage that bore him five children.

Becoming a teacher and an advocate for his religion, he founded a Muslim school in London in 1983 and is now an active member of the British Islamic community.

David Blunkett meets Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens)
Islam, with former Home Secretary David Blunkett, is now a public figure
However, his dramatic change of lifestyle has not been without controversy.

In the late 1980s he shocked many of his former fans by supporting the fatwa ordered by the Ayatollah Khomeini against Salman Rushdie, which led to him being put under a death sentence by the Iranian government.

And in 2000 he was deported from Israel over allegations that he backed the militant Islamic group Hamas.

The former folk singer claims he has never given money to charities that support terrorism, though that did not prevent his name from appearing on an FBI watch list.

It was this that resulted in a mid-air alert in September 2004 when the singer was denied entry into the US "on national security grounds".

On his website, though, the former singer stated he has "consistently denounced the acts of terrorists as being directly contradictory to the peaceful teachings of Islam".

Charity work

In 2003 he released a new version of Peace Train to express his opposition to the war in Iraq.

The same year he won substantial damages from two UK newspapers which falsely claimed he supported terrorism.

The Sun and Sunday Times also published apologies after they made the false allegations in two articles in October that year.

The papers had suggested US authorities had been right to refuse his entry into the country.

Improve understanding

Islam is also involved in benevolent work. He founded the Small Kindness charity in 1999 to help famine victims in Africa, although it has grown to work in Iraq, Indonesia and the Balkans.

He has released several albums of religious music and spoken word on his Mountain of Light record label.

But he has now issued an album of new material for the first time in 28 years.

The singer says he hopes the album, titled An Other Cup and released by Polydor, will improve understanding between Islam and the West.

"It is important for me to be able to help bridge the cultural gaps others are sometimes frightened to cross."

Yusuf Islam returns to recording
17 May 06 |  Entertainment
Cat Stevens sparks US plane alert
22 Sep 04 |  Americas
Cat Stevens plays live concert
21 Oct 03 |  Entertainment
Cat Stevens back in studio
31 Mar 03 |  Entertainment

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