Yusuf Islam (aka Cat Stevens) and his anti-war and pro-peace protest songs: from hippy peace to Islamic peace

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In the 1970s Yusuf Islam (aka Cat Stevens) inspired a generation with his songs on anti-materialism, finding self and peace in such classic albums as Tea for the Tillerman (1970, US 3x platinum) and Teaser and the Firecat (1971, US 3x platinum). In December 1977 he converted to Islam, gave up popular music and focussed on humanitarian and educational work, until he returned to popular music in 2006. Meanwhile, Muslims became associated in the West as intolerant and violent. Yusuf has emerged in the last decade as a voice for progressive Muslims. This article explores the continuities in his music from his Cat Stevens days to his comeback and how he has reconciled popular music and his Cat Stevens past with his understanding of Islam. The focus is on his anti-war and pro-peace songs. It argues that his earlier songs are similar in their messages of world peace through love and unity, though less dark than his post-2006 songs. Additionally, his recent songs have a new message that the world must be more inclusive to achieve world peace. This is connected to him being a Muslim in the West and his feeling of exclusion, in an age when many in the West portray all Muslims as extremists. Consequently, in his recent music he reflects his experience as a Muslim, in the same way as his earlier music reflected the counter-culture of that period. Thus he has gone back to his earlier self after adopting a progressive understanding of Islam.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)548-572
Number of pages25
JournalContemporary British History
Issue number4
Early online date3 Oct 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • anti-war songs
  • internal-exclusion
  • Islam (religion)
  • peace songs
  • popular culture
  • protest songs
  • Yusuf Islam (aka Cat Stevens)


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