Watch-List Passenger ID'd as Cat Stevens
Tuesday, September 21, 2004
WASHINGTON — A plane bound for Washington from London was diverted to Maine on Tuesday after passenger Yusuf Islam -- formerly known as pop singer Cat Stevens (search) -- showed up on a U.S. watch list, federal officials said.
United Airlines Flight 919 had already taken off from London en route to Dulles International Airport (search) when the match was made between the passenger and 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 (search) around 3 p.m., Melendez said.
Federal officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, identified the individual as Islam.
One official said Islam, 56, was identified by the Advanced Passenger Information System, which requires airlines to send passenger information to U.S. Customs and Border Protection's National Targeting Center. TSA was then contacted and requested that the plane land at the nearest airport, the official said.
"He was interviewed and denied admission to the United States on national security grounds," said Homeland Security spokesman Dennis Murphy. He said the man would be put on the first available flight out of the country Wednesday.
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 recently condemned the school seizure by militants in Beslan, Russia, earlier this month that left more than 300 dead, nearly half of them children.
In a statement on his Web site, he wrote, "Crimes against innocent bystanders taken hostage in any circumstance have no foundation whatsoever in the life of Islam and the model example of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him."