As I write these lines, brother Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens) is probably sitting in a small, stinking prison cell somewhere in Bangor, Maine with his hands and legs tied. That is how potential deportees are treated nowadays. He has been there for more than 12 hours and he may remain there until he is deported.
But since he is on a US Terrorist Watch List, which probably means he will not be able to return to the UK on a passenger plane, I don't know what US authorities will do to him.
Yusuf Islam is probably the most well-known convert to Islam alive today. The 56-year-old Briton became Muslim in the late 1970s after success as a pop star. Since his conversion, he has been actively involved in charitable works, and in the last decade, restarted his career as a singer.
I feel for this brother who sang "Peace Train" in 1971. After becoming Muslim, Yusuf was reluctant to sing again. But people like me kept pushing him until he did. The September 11 terrorist attacks motivated Yusuf to re-record this song that ends like this:
Now I've been crying lately, thinking about the world as it is
Why must we go on hating, why can't we live in bliss
Cause out on the edge of darkness, there rides a peace train
Oh peace train take this country, come take me home again
I hope Yusuf can use this time in that stinking prison cell to plant some flowers of peace, sprinkled with dews of sympathy for every oppressed person in the world.
I hope he can also write a few songs about my adopted country, the United States, something about the need to save it from the people who are destroying it. I'm not talking about the terrorists whose hands I hope will never reach America again. Terrorists, strangely, are making America stronger because their craziness gives us a resolve to fight for freedom. But the neocons who have occupied our country are dismantling our constitution, freedom and liberty, brick by brick.
I know Yusuf Islam welcomes my suggestions about songs. I know that my email cannot reach him although I wrote to him this morning. But if I could, I would also suggest a song for those hundreds and thousands of Americans whose hearts are bleeding for America. These are people who stand with all peace- and justice-loving people of the world who want America to rise again towards its highest ideals: justice and liberty for all.
While Yusuf is at it, he can compose a song about the thousands in America and the millions worldwide who are sitting in filthy prisons for the crime of wanting freedom. These are people who can cry but no one listens to them. I hope Yusuf will not only write these songs, but he will travel the world singing for peace, justice and freedom for all.
Islamophobia has reached new heights and humanity has fallen to a new low. I don't know what has happened to Yusuf Islam's daughter who was traveling with him. But I do know what happened to one of his daughters in a London bank where Yusuf and his family had been banking for 25 years. This bank, which has benefited from his accounts, last year called the police on Yusuf's daughter. She was detained because one page on her passport, which she was using for ID purposes, was slightly damaged. She was humiliated. She had done nothing wrong. This was the cost of being a Hijabi in the UK.
When discussing this incident with Yusuf, I suggested he file a lawsuit against the bank. But being the humble person that he is, he simply attributed the incident to a silly bureaucratic error although the bank fully knew who his daughter was. I wonder if her humiliation played a role in his decision to move his residence and business to Dubai instead of the Islamophobic UK.
This is what I was discussing early this week in Washington, DC in a meeting of social scientists and Muslim leaders. One Irish-American professor who also attended said she wants to just move away from America until it comes to its senses. Two other Muslim leaders dwelled on this thought as well, questioning whether this country is suitable for those Muslims seeking freedom, since their religion and skin color fail the litmus test of acceptability today.
There are thousands of American citizens and permanent residents who have made that choice, moving to Canada or other countries in the hope that when America comes to its senses they will be back. I met several of them in Dubai recently. I was also told about a mosque near Sharjah, all of whose attendees are American Muslims who have chosen to live there. They feel more like equal citizens in the monarchy of the United Arab Emirates than in the democracy of America.
But isn't leaving just an escape route? Who will make America better if not those who feel so strongly about it? Neither Jannah nor freedom on earth can be achieved without a price. America has the constitution and the rights it offers its citizens because of the blood, sweat and tears of those who struggled before us.
As a tribute to these people, just yesterday, I watched thousands of Native Americans in the inauguration of the National Museum of the American Indian. There were six million Native Americans here when Christopher Columbus landed. By the time the European colonizers were through dealing with them, only 250,000 were left. However, they survived and today they number four million, including 500 tribes, many of whom still speak their own language. These people, although defeated, contributed to what America has become.
Then African-Americans through their blood, sweat and tears not only helped build America but also achieved the height of civil rights for people of color. Thanks to their struggle, people of color like me are in America today.
Yusuf Islam should write a song about these people as well so that Muslims remember those who have fought for freedom before us. American Muslims need to develop all the right alliances to make this country better in its ideals and safer from neocons at home and maniacs abroad.
If you would like Yusuf Islam to sing again, let's try to gain his freedom, first from possibly a filthy, stinking prison cell in Maine, and then from the US Terrorist Watch List.
In the US call the Secretary of State office: 202-647-4000
You can send a message via Internet on this page:
Ask them to get him off the Terrorist Watch List
Ask them to get him released
If you are in the UK, fax the Prime Minister's Office at 0207-925-0918
Their website is http://www.number-10.gov.uk/output/page3.asp:
And if you decide to post comments here, do let him know what songs you want him to write. We will try to forward those to him.