Local Time

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Passenger Cat Stevens Gets Plane Diverted

London-To-Washington Flight Diverted After Passenger Cat Stevens Found
to Be on U.S. Watch List

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON Sept. 22, 2004 — A London-to-Washington flight was diverted
to Maine when it was discovered that passenger Yusuf Islam formerly
known as singer Cat Stevens was on a government watch list and barred from
entering the country.
United Airlines Flight 919 was en route to Dulles International Airport
when the match was made Tuesday 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.

Homeland Security Department spokesman Dennis Murphy identified the
passenger as Islam. "He was interviewed and denied admission to the United
States on national security grounds," Murphy said.

He said Islam would be put on the first available flight out of the
country Wednesday.

Officials had no details about why the peace activist might be
considered a risk to the United States. Islam had visited New York in May for a
charity event and to promote a DVD of his 1976 MajiKat tour.

One official, speaking on condition of anonymity, 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.

Melendez said Islam was questioned by FBI and Immigration and Customs
Enforcement officials.

Another federal official, who is in law enforcement and spoke
anonymously because of agency policy, said that after the interview, Customs
officials decided to deny Islam entry into the United States.

Flight 919 continued on to Dulles after Islam was removed from the
flight.

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.

Islam founded Islamia Primary school in London in 1983. In 1998, it
became the first Muslim school in Britain to receive government support,
on the same basis as Christian and other sectarian schools.

A statement posted on a fan-supported Web site where his music is
promoted said Islam being on a watch list "is certainly an error."

"It's also a very sad state of affairs when a man best known as a peace
loving pop star can be grouped into the same category Osama Bin Laden
just because of his chosen faith," the statement said.

Islam drew some negative attention in the late 1980s when he supported
the Ayatollah Khomeini's death sentence against Salman

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