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Re: [pakhtu] Music or faith, he stirs the soul (THE SUNDAY TIMES)

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  • Sam Durrani
    can anyone tell me where his wife fauzia is from? i know shes from central asia but is she afghani? Feroz Afridi wrote:CAT STEVENS was
    Message 1 of 2 , Sep 30, 2004
      can anyone tell me where his wife fauzia is from? i know shes from central asia but is she afghani?

      Feroz Afridi <feroz1@...> wrote:CAT STEVENS was drowning. As a strong tide threatened to sweep the pop star out to sea at Malibu, California, in 1976, he shouted: "Oh God! If you save me I will work for you." Suddenly a wave pushed him back to safety and within a year he had become Britain's most famous Muslim convert, Yusuf Islam.
      Last week he found himself out of his depth again and "totally shocked" when the FBI diverted his airliner's flight in mid-Atlantic and denied him entry to the United States before putting him on a plane back to London.
      Islam, it seems, had been on a "watch list" since his last visit to America in May and was detained on "national security grounds" as a possible accomplice to terrorists. He said he did not know whether to laugh or growl. The Muslim Council of Britain protested that his treatment was "a slap in the face of sanity".So complete was the self-effacement of Cat Stevens that it is hard to recall what a huge influence he was in the 1960s and 1970s. As a teenage pop idol and then a singer-songwriter, he had a distinctive voice and style that sold 50m albums.
      Like Buddy Holly, he possessed a talent for churning out brilliant, poignant hits that stayed in the charts for weeks, including Matthew and Son, Wild World and Moonshadow. His version of the hymn Morning Has Broken became almost compulsory at weddings.
      The serious, bearded figure with a pudding-basin fringe photographed at Heathrow last week was a far cry from the faddish, troubled youth who indulged in the traditional excesses of rock stars. He admitted taking drugs, including LSD.
      Now 56, he lives in Kilburn, north London, with his wife Fouzia Ali and his family. He has raised five children in the Muslim faith. His eldest daughter, 24, was married three years ago in an arranged union.
      Perhaps last week's drama was payback time for a singer who walked away from a glittering career to denounce his songs as akin to blasphemy. He became associated with a conservative outlook that transformed him from a dreamy bedsit songwriter, worshipped by teenage girls, into an increasingly humourless dogmatist.
      According to the Department of Homeland Security, the intelligence community "has come into possession of recent information that raises concerns against him". This probably meant someone had turned up Islam's old rap sheet, beginning in 1988 when he allegedly supported the fatwa against Salman Rushdie for writing The Satanic Verses.
      Fans and musicians responded angrily to tabloid headlines such as "Kill Rushdie, says Cat Stevens". In protest, the American band 10,000 Maniacs withdrew their cover version of his song Peace Train from their album.
      The artist formerly known as Cat Stevens later explained that he had simply been invited to endorse a letter campaign requesting the book's publisher to withdraw support. "They ignored the plea," he said. "Suddenly the media tried linking me to supporting the latest fatwa. The fact is I never supported the fatwa."
      He was forced into denial mode again four years ago when he was deported within hours of arriving in Israel amid claims that he had delivered funds to Hamas, the militant Islamic group, during a 1988 visit to the country. Islam declared that he had "never knowingly supported any group - past, present or future".
      Recently he admitted he had become too partisan, citing Muhammad Ali as another Muslim convert whose radicalism was tempered by time. "There's always a zealous period," he said. "I used to want to rebel against everything, and that was great. After that, you get back to the job of living."
      Indeed, he became a model of moderate Islam and something of a national treasure. Hence a rebuff from Jack Straw, the foreign secretary, to his American counterpart Colin Powell, that last week's action against Islam "should not have been taken".
      Islam was extremely vocal in his condemnation of the September 11 bombings in New York and Washington, affirming his duty to make clear that such acts of "incomprehensible carnage" had nothing to do with Islamic belief. He also spoke out against other recent terrorist outrages.
      Besides working tirelessly for Muslims, he has used the considerable proceeds from his music career to establish three single-faith Islamic schools in north London. In 1998 one of them, Islamia primary, became the first Islamic school to join the state sector. He denied that such schools were encouraging separatism. "They're building bridges because Islam has a better model than any other religion of being able to live with other cultures," he argued.
      He was born Steven Demetre Georgiou, the youngest of three children, in 1948. (He adopted the name Cat when a girlfriend told him his eyes were feline.) His Greek Cypriot father and Swedish mother ran a restaurant, the Moulin Rouge, in Soho and the family lived upstairs.
      The religious influences around him were confusing. His father was strict Greek Orthodox, his mother came from a Baptist background and he attended a Roman Catholic school in nearby Drury Lane.
      Growing up in the 1960s, his sister Anita's collection of Sinatra and Gershwin records vied for his attention with his brother David's discs by the Everly Brothers and Buddy Holly.
      At 15 he persuaded his father to buy him a guitar and, after failing to form a group, he embarked on a solo career, making his debut at a pub while still a student at Hammersmith art college in 1964.
      The following year he sold a song for �30 that was to become a massive hit for PP Arnold. It was called The First Cut is the Deepest, since recorded by countless performers, notably Rod Stewart. Another called Here Comes My Baby was a hit for the Tremeloes.
      His own recording career started in 1966 when he signed to Decca and produced I Love My Dog, which reached number 28 in the charts. The follow-up single, Matthew and Son, became a classic that launched his career, reaching number two in the charts.
      Just after his 19th birthday, a nagging cough that he attributed to his hedonistic lifestyle was diagnosed as tuberculosis and he spent three months in hospital. During a nine-week convalescence at home, he began to reflect on his life. "I became aware of my own mortality and the inevitability of death. A lot of important questions came into my mind," he recalled.
      He dabbled in Zen Buddhism, Taoism, numerology and astrology. He spoke of his belief in UFOs and began carrying a staff called Amberthwiddle. His songs, too, became deeper as he abandoned mainstream pop to produce a series of albums that reflected his troubled state of mind.
      Their phenomenal success pushed him into a year's tax exile in Brazil, where he donated the money he saved to Unesco. His real turning point came in 1976: shortly after his near-drowning experience in Malibu, his brother bought him a copy of the Holy Quran. Then, after a pilgrimage to Makkah, he renounced his former life and assumed a new name.
      He later admitted he had been "a bit hasty" in junking his music, believing mistakenly that music was forbidden in Islam. He also acknowledged his fans' feelings of betrayal. "There was a breaking of a connection between souls and that was the biggest sadness to me."
      Last year he made a comeback of sorts with a Greatest Hits album, a charity concert at the Albert Hall - his first for 25 years - and an appearance at Nelson Mandela's Aids benefit concert.
      Now there is talk of a West End musical based on his hits. "I'm very excited about it," he said earlier this year. "We aim to open in Germany in 2005 before hopefully bringing it to London." It will be more like the biographical Buddy than shows built around hits by Abba, Queen and Rod Stewart, he said.
      Perhaps, with a nod to Buddy Holly, the musical should be named after Cat Stevens's moment of epiphany - The Day the Music Died.

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