The British Muslim singer Yusuf Islam has lost the chance to sing "Peace Train", the hit he made world-famous as Cat Stevens, in Israel after his planned visit to the country was cancelled by the hosts who originally invited him.
Islam was to perform at the high-profile 10th anniversary celebrations in Tel Aviv of The Peres Centre for Peace, a leading organisation founded by Israel's present President, Shimon Peres, and devoted to improving Israeli-Palestinian relations. But the centre confirmed yesterday that the star – who was refused entry to Israel on security grounds eight years ago – would not now be coming after a "re-evaluation".
The terse statement added no details but it was issued after a report in Israel's largest circulation newspaper Yedhiot Ahronot which said that Islam, 60, had been enthusiastic about the trip and had asked to add words to his 1971 hit –covered among others by Dolly Parton—in support of peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
The paper quoted the centre director, Uri Savir as saying: "The idea to bring Stevens to Israel sparked a huge row the moment it was made public, and we sent his passport number to a conventional security check. We took the matter into consideration and decided to cancel this idea. Cat Stevens will not arrive in Israel at the moment."
The singer, philanthropist and chairman of the Islamia Schools Trust, has criticised as being against the Islamic faith "crimes against innocent bystanders" committed by Muslims, including the 9/11 attacks and the 2004 school seizure in Beslan which left more than 300 dead. In 2000, the Interior Ministry had said Islam, who became a Muslim in 1977, had been "transferring donations and funds to Islamic elements hostile to Israel".