WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The singer formerly known as Cat Stevens was making his way back to London Wednesday after being taken off a diverted trans-Atlantic flight by U.S. officials.
But U.S. Muslim leaders say they want the government to explain why the singer was on a "watch list" meant to keep terrorists out of the country.
Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge accused Yusuf Islam, the singer's Muslim name, of having some unspecified relationship with terrorist activity.
"Celebrity or unknown, our job is to act on information that others have given us," Ridge said. "And in this instance, there was some relationship between the name and the terrorists' activity with this individual's name being on that no-fly list, and appropriate action was taken."
United Airlines Flight 919 from London to Washington was diverted to Maine after Islam's name turned up on a list designed to keep terrorists or their supporters from boarding flights, U.S. officials said.
Islam, 56, took that name when he became a Muslim in the 1970s.
Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said his organization wants a better explanation for why the singer was denied entry into the country.
"We are getting a little tired of this kind of Kafkaesque treatment of people, where vague allegations are made and actions are taken against individuals and organizations," Hooper said.
He said American Muslim leaders "need to know where the allegations are coming from."
"I don't think we want to be in a situation where people are denounced by anonymous government officials and labeled as terrorists and that's it -- everybody says 'OK, we don't need any more information.' We need more information," he said.
Other officials said Islam was on the watch list because of reported associations and financial support for Muslim charities with terrorist connections.
But they would not disclose the names of those charities. Homeland Security spokesman Garrison Courtney would only say "the intelligence community has come into possession of additional information that further heightens our concerns of Yusuf Islam."
According to Islam's Web site, he is associated with three charities: Small Kindness for humanitarian relief; Islamia Schools' Trust for education; and Waqf al Birr Educational Trust for educational research and development and scientific and medical research.
Ridge said the intelligence that put the singer's name on the list came from outside the United States, but he would not reveal the source.
He questioned why United allowed him onto the flight at all. Government sources said Islam's name was added to the watch list only recently and had been misspelled -- which could explain why airline employees overlooked it.
While the plane was in flight, the Advanced Passenger Information System flagged Islam's name, a Department of Homeland Security official said.
Customs agents alerted the Transportation Security Administration, which then ordered the plane diverted to Bangor, Maine, and away from the northeast corridor of New York and Washington.
Islam, a British citizen, was held in Bangor before being taken Wednesday morning to Boston, where the Massachusetts Port Authority said he would be put aboard an afternoon flight to Washington. From there he will be sent back to London.
On his official Web site, Islam has posted numerous statements in opposition to terrorist attacks, most recently the school seizure in Beslan, Russia that ended with more than 300 people dead -- about half of them children.
Islam also criticized the September 11, 2001, attacks against the United States and donated a portion of the royalties from a four-disc set of his music to the families of the September 11th Fund.
Muslim groups in Britain also reacted with anger and surprise at Islam's detention. (Full story)
In Bangor, the rest of the passengers were screened and continued on to Washington's Dulles International Airport after Islam was taken off the flight.
The Boeing 747 had about 280 passengers and crew onboard when it took off from London's Heathrow Airport, United spokesman Jeff Green said.
As Cat Stevens, Islam had a string of folk-rock hits in the 1960s and early 1970s, including "Peace Train," "Morning Has Broken" and "Wild World."
He dropped out of the music business for more than a decade after converting to Islam but returned to the recording studio periodically during the 1990s.
Homeland Security Correspondent Jeanne Meserve contributed to this report.
What the Hell? Last I checked, being an alternative singer in the sixities doesn't qualify one to be a terrorist. This guy is probably the last possible person to contribute to all this bloodshed - I mean, look at him! As for the nonsense about donations of his getting in the hands of terrorists - stuff like that happens! Ever heard of fraud, Washington? There have been lots of cases where seemingly legit charities have turned out to be money-gathering fronts for sinister organizations - your donations to such charities may not go toward food for Nigerian children but rather new suits for the charity founders. C'mon, Ridge, what next? Are you gonna stop Santa Claus for giving tax-free presents at christmas?:rolleyes:
15th January 2004
This is getting SERIOUSLY out of hand.... Cat is the man.
The cream of the crop
19th August 2003
i really stopped readin after the bullshit began, " The singer formerly known as Cat Stevens was making his way back to London Wednesday after being taken off a diverted trans-Atlantic flight by U.S. officials."
for god sake! hes not a terrorist!
i hate George Bush, Tom Rige, Homeland "security" and the US goverment in general more and more by the minute.
 Yes, Chaka, Cat is good.[/edit]
hmm just shows how dumb some people can be,i guess they saw his name and panicked lol
Thinking about it.
Well, what annoys me is that they figured out that one of the guys on the plane was on the no-fly list, while the plane was in transit! Nice job, Tommy boy. You caught a peace activist halfway to his destination.
Takes about 15 minutes for your information to go to one agency, get checked out, then come back to the airport. The person in question could be on the plane already.
Yeah. But when did he buy the ticket?
Mad-Mitchhmm just shows how dumb some people can be,i guess they saw his name and panicked lol
Yeah... makes one wonder what goes on inside their organization... "Sir, we've got a list of three suspicious names on the plane to washington." "Alright, let's have 'em." "Okay, we've got the notorious Israeli drug-traffiker Yentil Katzensiten..." "HAHAHA! Don't worry, he won't be doing anything with a name like that." "Then we've got Connor "The Ripper" O'Reer, notorious Irish serial killer..." "Oh, he's a good old Irish-Catholic! He's off the hook." "Then we've got world-famous peace activist Yusuf Islam, formerly known as Cat..." " 'ISLAM?!' GOOD GOD! Battle stations, men! Get the women and children to the shelters!" "But sir..."
I laughed my ass off when I read your post, Fake Shemp. But yeah, this proves how prejudice and unresponsible our government is. We worry about Cat Stevens traveling to D.C., but yet we don't bother going after Osama bin Laden. Hmmm.....:)
Well, I do get scared whenever I see and Arab/muslim get on a plane. Don't ask me why, I think I'm just paranoid.