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The ITT List

Thursday, Sep 23, 2004, 10:52 am

Get Off the Peace Plane

By Emily Udell

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The artist formerly known as Cat Stevens was deported from the United States after his flight on Tuesday to Dulles International Airport was diverted to Bangor, Maine, and he was escorted off the plane by FBI agents. The man who brought the world songs like "Peace Train" and "If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out" during the '70s was barred from entering the U.S. after The Department of Homeland Security discovered his name on a "no fly" list.

In 1977, Cat Stevens became a Muslim, changed his name to Yusuf Islam and gave up his career as a musician. Since then, Islam has been involved in peace activism and charity work, and last year he re-released a recording of "Peace Train" to express opposition to the war in Iraq.

So, why was Islam sent back home to the U.K.? Government officials have provided a few hints that it has something to do with Islam's alleged contributions to Hamas (Islam was also prevented from traveling to Israel in 2000). Islam denies having given money to Hamas or any terrorist organization.

The executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations Nihad Awad told The Guardian that 'the denial of entry to internationally-respected Islamic figures "sends the disturbing message that even moderate and mainstream Muslims will now be treated like terrorists.'" The deputy general secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain Mohammad Abdul Bari said, "He is a very moderate man. We have absolutely no idea why this has happened. He is very well respected in the Muslim community. ...If prominent, well-known personalities are treated like this, then how can there be bridge-building?"

Islam's deportation occurs in the wake of the U.S. government's revocation of Muslim scholar Tariq Ramadan's visa. Ramadan, a moderate Muslim and well-respected academic, was prevented from coming to teach at the Notre Dame this fall at the request of the Department of Homeland Security.

The peace train, it seems, is moving rapidly in reverse.

Emily Udell is a writer for Angie’s List Magazine in Indianapolis. In 2009, she finished a stint drinking bourbon and covering breaking news for The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Ky. Her eclectic media career also includes time at the Associated Press, Punk Planet (R.I.P.), The Daily Southtown in southwest Chicago, and Radio Prague in the Czech Republic. She co-hosted and co-produced In These Times’ radio show “Fire on the Prairie” from 2003 to 2006.

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