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Wednesday, 10 May, 2000, 17:32 GMT 18:32 UK
Prince goes pop to praise school
prince charles
The Prince speaks in favour of multi-faith communities
Prince Charles has declared himself a fan of the 70s pop idol Cat Stevens, who he met at the opening of Britain's first state-funded Muslim school.

The former pop star, now in his early 50s, turned his back on the music business more than 20 years ago, converting to the Muslim faith and taking the name Yusuf Islam.

The Prince also praised the former musician's new vocation as a Muslim educationalist when he visited the school he founded in North-West London.

The Prince told the children at the Islamia Primary School: "You are ambassadors for a sometimes much misunderstood faith.

"You are ambassadors for a sometimes much misunderstood faith.

Prince Charles
"I believe that Islam has much to teach increasingly secular societies like ours in Britain."

The pupils welcomed the Prince with a religious song written by the former pop star, before Yusuf Islam gave him a tour of the school.

He met pupils, saw displays of work and visited the computer room before taking off his shoes to join the school assembly for readings, prayers and speeches.

Yusuf Islam said: "The Prince's visit was important because it shows that Muslims are accepted in this country."

He added: "He told me he was a Cat Stevens fan. I think he has some of my albums."

The exclusively Muslim school is now so popular that it has a waiting list of 2,000 applicants.

It was awarded grant-maintained status in January 1998, opting to become voluntary aided in September 1999.

Dismayed fans

The former singer dismayed fans when he denounced his pop career in 1977, auctioning his guitars and gold records for Islamic charities and changing his name.

He was one of the most popular singers of his generation, with songs such as Where Do The Children Play?, Matthew and Son, Moonshadow and Tea for the Tillerman, enjoyed worldwide.

His "hard-line" attitude to his faith is said to have softened in recent years, and he has shown a renewed interest in singing and songwriting.

He joked about his earlier pop career and the royalty cheques that still help to fund his charity work, saying: "I'm part of royalty, mate, royalty is part of me."

During his tour, the Prince also visited the nearby London Inter Faith Centre which seeks to promote understanding between different faiths.

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