This article appeared in the Italian radio/TV magazine IL VENERDI
February 2001. Translated it means "The Friday". It was translated for
Majicat by Italian Cat Stevens Fan known as 'Froggy'. As you
read through it, you may notice a few discrepancies with in it. Many are caused by the
translation process, others are mistakes made by the author.
Il mio Islam non e un rock
He was a young Ulysses
looking for his Ithaca wandering through the flatteries of pop music. Steve Demitri
Georgiou, alias Cat Stevens, son of Greek-Cypriote people emigrated in London, was not 20
years old when, on 1966, recorded his first song. It was the beginning of a troubled
journey which took him touring with Jimi Hendrix through Great Britain. Today, aged 53,
Cat Stevens lives on his island, far from pop. Since 1977 his name is Yusuf Islam, he
became a Moslem, and manages several Islamic Schools, which have been visited by Prince
Charles on May 5th last. In the offices of the Mountain of Light, headquarter
of his activities, a number of employers is called five times a day for the prayers. Since
the day of his conversion he has been surrounded by controversies: when he agreed with the
sentence to death for Salman Rushdie ordered by Ayatollah; when he married a totally
veiled woman in Kensington mosque; when Israel refused to let him and his son Mohammed
enter the country; when he complained against the futility of MTV; when he released a
record for Bosnia (I have no cannons that roar) and presented it in the only capitalist
temple of the Islamic London, Mohammed Al Fayed Harrods.
Yusuf just finished to
travel around the world proposing his new religious CD, A is for Allah.
Yusuf Islam is a more
thoughtful and compliant Moslem now, different from the strict and unbending one who
four year ago wrote a long article on "Repubblica" stating the
irreconcilable between Islam and music. Hes convincing, he chooses the right words
to tell his story, before as a prophet of the swinging London, now as a defender of
"I discovered Islam in
a very slow and gradual way- he explains- It started when my brother gave me a copy of the
Koran as a present. It took me a long time to read it, as it is not a common book. After a
year of study, I understood that it was a very special book and that I could ignore
neither it, nor the challenges it was giving to me. Until the day my heart opened itself
to its message. I said to myself, well, I cant do anything but espouse the
- How did your life change after
- "I think I can say that the social
adaptation has been the hardest part. For example: stop drinking alcohol. Its easy
to stop drinking, but drinking isnt a personal pleasure only, its a social
habit; if you do not drink, people thinks you are not amusing anymore. For many people you
are an out-of-tune man. This has been the hardest problem, but I passed through different
stages: I stopped eating meat, I became vegetarian, I stopped smoking. Nothing unusual,
just a gradual and progressive social adaptation."
Did you ever
consider the idea to leave London after 77?
"As all the people who
live on an island do, we London people enclosed all dream to leave this holy
island to reach warmer and more comfortable lands. But life, you know, must be lived
together with other people. And there are many people here, and an hard work to do."
like a sort of challenge for you to live in a Country where Islamic laws are not always
"The hardest problem
to live in a country which is not Islamic are media. When I was Cat Stevens I wasnt
badgered by reporters as I am now. Now I am assaulted by any journalist who has something
to recriminate against Islam."
friends and fans stick to you when you became Moslem?
"I stopped my musical
career so suddenly that many had a shock, many thought I was crazy. The problem was that I
could not explain the whole thing. In those years I only wanted to disappear. I left an
empty place and many interrogation points. Some fans gave up, many kept on following me. I
wish people could understand that my career has been a long evolution process that kept me
to a point, now, where I can explain myself more clearly. Many of my ex fans I call
them mes amis are extremely happy about this now."
are the difficulties you had to face when you had children to lead into life?
"The first purpose of
Islamic education is to know and to faithfully serve the Creator. Schools must take care
of all the other aspects: spiritual, intellectual, creative, physical, of language,
individual and collective, in order to address to goodness and will of perfection. Our
text-books are full of false notions."
Is this the main
reason why of founding your schools?
"The four Islamic
schools I manage in London represent, somehow, the realization of hopes of Moslems living
in the UK The community is growing, as you know. They are English and they are Moslems: in
which schools should they go? There were Catholic schools, Jewish schools, and now Islamic
schools too, finally avowed and helped with subventions. It has been a 15-years-long
battle, and only with the new government we noticed something going different."
You do not agree
with media and said that MTV is extremely dangerous for young people.
"Media took attention
mind and heart of many young people. They have advertised a very appealing
and full of flatteries life style . Its not easy to escape from impact with media:
they are extremely powerful. Our young people are attracted by entertainment
magicians charisma. Their seductive power has grown up thank to the "syndrome
of absent parents". The lack of mediation of parents allows media to reign
undisturbed. Its important that our schools, beside offering teaching
acknowledgement, can help a creative and critical soul, an efficacious antidote against
the negative images of Islam and Islamic people spread by the occidental press and
Do you still
believe that pop music grows false illusions inside young people?
"Everybody can see how
fanaticism is growing in young people. And we all know how musical industry takes profit
from these "consumers" they call "fan". Beatlesmania was the beginning
of this crazy kind of adoration we notice during big concerts. Everybody was in love with
the Beatles. Everybody bought their discs first day they were realized. The product
quality was not important."
Teens are most
vulnerable. Society shows teens straggler generation.
" Teenage is a time of
change. Young need reasons why and models which nowadays are , unluckily, supplied only by
an industry starving of money. New modern society is suffering because of the pain of its
young people, who are lost any moral control, students killing other students. This is the
reason why media should reduce violence in movies, as children cannot distinguish reality
from fiction anymore."
The violence we
watch on TV isnt always a fiction. During your several journey through Bosnia you
saw massacres, yourself.
"The recent Bosnia
genocide represented a core moment for the Moslems in Europe: it let
the whole world know about the Islamic culture and civilization in Europe, a fact which
had been hidden before. The television images of the blonde, blue-eyed Moslem children
singing the greatness of God and praying the Koran between the smoke and the fury of the
war have opened new perspectives to the understanding of Islam in all the people who, like
me, was a witness. This terrible thing made me consider again my position about music and
its use in the social-political Islam life. The Bosnia war has been the worst violation of
the human rights and the most sordid conspiracy made by the International community
against European Moslems. We are still working to help thousands war orphans of Kosovo and
From time to
time you go back to music, even if far from pop. After the song for Bosnia you have made a
"Yes, a book and a CD
called A is for Allah. Its based on one of the first songs I wrote after having
become a Moslem, for my first daughter Hasanah, born in 1980. The idea was to teach my
little one that first of all the letter A means Allah, the Lord of the universe, and that
any other thing in the world, i.e. the Apple, starting with an A itself, has been given to
us as a present by Him. This latest project is important because it teaches children some
basic concepts in a very easy and funny way. Many abstract ideas are expressed and
illustrated to make them understand the meaning of the universe in which they are
- Written by
- Giuseppe Videtti
The musical history
of Yusuf Islam
- 1947 He was born in London
Soho from a Greek father and Cypriote mother
- 1967 - Matthew and Son He starts a
tour with Jimi Hendrix
- 1970 Mona Bone Jakon and Tea for the
- 1971 Teaser and the Firecat
- 1972 Catch bull at four, containing a
song in Greek language
- 1973 Foreigner
- 1974 Buddha and the Chocolate box
- 1977 He becomes Moslem and changes
- 1979 He gets married with Fouza Ali
- 1985 During Live Aid the organization
want to present him as "Cat Stevens" and he refuses to go on stage
- 1989 He agrees with the sentence to
death of Rushdie
- 1990 He goes to Iraq to negotiate the
release of English Moslems
- 1992 He refuses to Levis the
right to use one of his song for a tv spot
- 1995 The life of the Last Prophet
- 1998 He recorded a song for the ' I
Have No Cannons That Roar' CD. A CD recorded together with Bosnia musicians.
- 2000 A for Allah