Former Cat Stevens Denies Hamas Aid

Monday, July 17th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LONDON (AP) — Yusuf Islam — formerly known as pop star Cat Stevens — criticized Israeli authorities on Friday for deporting him and denied that he had ever knowingly supported Islamic terrorists.

Islam, 51, who changed his name after becoming a Muslim in the late 1970s, was refused entry into Israel hours after arriving Wednesday. The former singer said he was told only that he was a ``threat to national security.''

Israeli Defense Ministry officials refused to comment on Islam's case other than to say that the Shin Bet, Israel's internal intelligence agency, had ordered him barred from the country. The Maariv Daily in Israel reported that the government claimed Islam had delivered tens of thousands of dollars to Hamas, a militant Islamic group, during his last visit in 1988.

``Upon my return to London, reports were already circulating that the Israeli authorities were trying to excuse their actions by linking me to terrorist groups,'' Islam said in a statement. ``I want to make sure that people are aware that I've never knowingly supported any terrorist groups — past, present or future. It's simply an attempt to cast doubt again on my character and good intentions.''

Islam — who as Cat Stevens who wrote such songs as ``Peace Train'' and ``Wild World'' — said that he is presently supporting orphans in Hebron, and all his donations in the past have been given to humanitarian causes.

Israel says that money designated for Hamas-backed charities often is diverted to the militant Islamic movement's guerrilla wing. Hebron is a Hamas stronghold.

The former singer said that he arrived in Israel on Wednesday with a film crew from VH1, traveling with him as part of a television special on his spiritual discovery, called ``Behind the Music.'' The crew had traveled with Islam to Bosnia, and were headed to Israel via Frankfurt, Germany.

Upon arrival, Islam said he was separated from the crew and detained by airport authorities when his name appeared on a list of people banned from Israel.

Islam had previously been barred from entering Israel in 1990, when he tried to get in along with his 8-year-old son.

The former singer, who was born Stephen Georgiou, took Cat Stevens as a stage name and had a string of hits in the early 1970s. He abandoned his music career in 1978 and changed his name after converting to Islam. He initially believed his former lifestyle was forbidden by Islamic law, but has since started writing songs again.

He later began teaching and actively spreading the word of his religion, founding a Muslim school in 1983.