Accessibility links

Breaking News

Singer Denied US Entry Gets Peace Award

Nobel Peace Prize laureates have given a peace award to the singer once known as Cat Stevens at an annual meeting in Rome. The singer, now known as Yusuf Islam, was refused entry into the United States in September, when U.S. officials said they had information about an alleged unspecified relationship with terrorist activity either by him or someone with a similar name. But the Nobel Prize winners honored Mr. Islam for his charity work.

The World Summit of Nobel Peace laureates opened with the presentation of a peace prize to the 56-year-old British musician. The "Man for Peace" award is given annually by the Gorbachev Foundation, a socio-economic and political studies center run by the former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, which organizes the summit every year.

The motivations for the award to Yusuf Islam were read out at the summit.

Announcer: "For having dedicated the most part of his life in the promotion of peace and reconciliation among peoples and for having condemned terrorism."

The singer, who is chairman of the Small Kindness charity, was honored for alleviating the suffering of thousands of children in war-ravaged areas, including Kosovo, Bosnia and Iraq; for having given the majority of the royalties for his artistic activities to the victims of the September 11th attacks in the United States; and for his work in favor of the homeless, orphans and AIDS sufferers.

Receiving the award, Mr. Islam said he used music as a means to express his ideals for a better world. He says one must move away from selfishness to selflessness and that that is not easy in the rock music business.

"The Nobel peace laureates are examples of those who have contributed and influenced the course of history by their sacrifices, by their noble virtues for a better world and a more peaceful world," said Mr. Islam. "And, therefore, I am honored to be here today, not just as a rock-and-roller, but as someone sharing a platform with those noble examples."

In September, Mr. Islam was refused entry to the United States because his name was on a terrorist watch list. He says he was a victim of an "unjust and arbitrary system," and has denied any link to terrorism.

In 2000, the entertainer was deported from Israel following claims that he had given money to the Palestinian group Hamas 12 years earlier. He strongly denied the allegation saying he had "never knowingly supported any terrorist group."

Mr. Islam had converted to Islam in 1977 and retired from the music business. He founded a Muslim school near London.

He returned to the public eye in 1989 when he said Salman Rushdie's novel "The Satanic Verses" was a blasphemous book, and that under Islamic law, a person found guilty of blasphemy must be put to death.

The former Soviet leader, Mr. Gorbachev, alluded to the musician's troubles, as he presented the award.

Mr. Gorbachev said, "Every person who takes a critical stance to make the world a better place has a difficult life."

The Rome summit, which runs through Friday, will be focused on a variety of issues, including continuing violations of human rights, the economic gap between North and South and the issue of land rights for indigenous peoples.

The Iraqi situation will also be addressed. Both the Shiite and Sunni communities have been invited to present their positions.

Taking part in the summit are 25 Nobel peace laureates including Rigoberta Menchu, Lech Walesa and Kim Dae-Jung. In his opening speech, Mr. Gorbachev proposed establishing a "Charter of the Peaceful World" to be addressed to all peoples.