From Stephen Demetre Georgiou to Cat Stevens to Yusuf Islam

From Greek Orthodox to spiritual rock star to Muslim activist: the spiritual journey of a lifetime

HOUSTON (RNS) -- Way back before Yusuf Islam, long before Cat Stevens,there was a little boy named Stephen Demetre Georgiou.

When the other children at his Roman Catholic school went forward tomake their confessions or receive Holy Communion, Stephen did notparticipate. As the son of a Greek-Cypriot restaurateur and a Swedishmother, he was different from the other kids. He was Greek Orthodox. Heattended the Catholic school because it was the only parochial one inLondon's West End.

"I was sort of an oddity," the grown-up Stephen, now known as YusufIslam, said in a recent lecture to a mostly Muslim crowd of 1,500 at theUniversity of Houston.

Today, the word "distinctive" describes him more appropriately. Although his conversion to Islam prompted shock among his fans, thenovelty of the switch has lessened. Slight and bearded, this servant ofAllah exudes a quiet air of peace, whether he is lecturing to a group ortalking one-on-one.

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"The biggest instrument of change came with prayer. Because Islamteaches you not to wait a week until you sort of get religious. It saysevery day you should be keeping your connection with God throughout theday," Islam, now 51, said in an interview during his Houston visit.

Especially among fellow Muslims, he is widely respected for hislectures on behalf of the faith and for his work in Islamic education.

Millions were surprised when he left rock music after becoming aMuslim in 1977. To a generation of music fans, he was the lyricalminstrel of softer rock, a vocalist and guitarist known for such hits as"Moonshadow" and "Peace Train." But two years after his conversion, hechanged his name to Yusuf Islam and left behind Cat Stevens, the monikerhe used while a rock musician.

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