From Pop to Prayer – How Cat Stevens Caught his Peace Train

Musician-turned Muslim convert Cat Stevens was born in London to a Greek Cypriot father and Swedish mother.

The singer’s real name is Stephen Demetre Georgiou which he changed as his music career took off with a string of hits in the 1960s and 70s.

He abandoned his music career in the late 1970s and changed his name to Yusuf Islam after being persuaded by orthodox Muslim teachers that his lifestyle was forbidden by Islamic law.

The 56-year-old married father of five grew up living above his parents’ restaurant in the West End.

The youngest of three siblings, he was raised in the Greek Orthodox faith but was sent to a Roman Catholic school.

On the website CatStevens.com, he describes himself as a sensitive and introverted child, forever deep in thought.

He had his first hit aged 18, with a song called I Love My Dog.

A year later, he contracted tuberculosis, an experience which was to be life-changing, sowing the seeds of his interest in Islam.

Since abandoning the music business, he is said to give money from royalties to charity and is an active member of the British Islamic community.

He later became a teacher and an advocate for his religion, founding a Muslim school in London in 1983.

The day after the September 11 attacks on the United States three years ago, Stevens denounced the act of terrorism in a statement.

In it, he said: “While it is still not clear who carried out the attacks, it must be stated that no right thinking follower of Islam could possibly condone such an action: the Koran equates the murder of one innocent person with the murder of the whole of humanity.”

According to the website, he has never given money to charities that support terrorism.

Reacting to the horrific Russian school siege at Beslan, he said earlier this month: “Nothing is more precious to a parent than the love of their offspring, but for the parents of Beslan we can only share the tears and convey our deepest sympathies, though no words or effort could ever bring those children back into the violent world they so tragically left behind.

“There is no vocabulary fit to describe the gruesome cruelty of this event; watching helplessly as hundreds of children were mercilessly utilised as negotiating tokens in a political game, which they had absolutely nothing to do with, makes us ponder what kind of inhumane mentality the perpetrators had.”

Last year he released two songs, including a re-recording of his 1970s hit Peace Train, to express his opposition to the war in Iraq.

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