In the late 1970s, Nashville’s first mosque was desperately in need of a new space when they received a donation of two-thousand dollars in the mail which went towards purchasing a modest house and thus starting what is now called the Islamic Center of Nashville. The mysterious donor was Yusuf Islam, the famous British musician and Muslim convert who is also known as Cat Stevens.
Recently, Yusuf paid a visit to the Islamic center he helped establish and “found a great openness to share message of unity, love and peace” and is “proud that the Centre in Nashville has become a beacon for understanding and sharing spiritual values.”
In 2006, after a long musical absence, Yusuf started to tour and play music again. In an interview with Rolling Stone, he said that part of his decision to return to music was the desire for the world to see “one non-violent Muslim on TV.” “There was so much antagonism in the world,” says the musician. “Many Muslims have come up to me, shook my hand and said, ‘Thank you! Thank you.’ I’m representing the way they want to be seen. So much of the middle ground gets forgotten in the extremities we witness around the world.”
The Tennessean notes that “despite its humble beginnings, the Islamic Center of Nashville would eventually emerge as a welcoming guide for Middle Tennessee’s growing Muslim community, as well as a key driver of the city’s interfaith efforts.” And as Yusuf comments, “It was obviously money well spent.”