There's no mistaking the anxiety in Yusuf Islam's body language. Once the man formerly known as Cat Stevens has exchanged brisk, polite greetings, he paces over to a table where his manager is seated. The task of choosing a new publicity photo from a laptop seems to take a small eternity. But this, you suspect, isn't the primary source of anxiety. In five hours a plane will take him to South Africa, where he will record his parts for a forthcoming children's album. In five days, Brent Council will tell him whether his application to build an Islamic cultural centre on the grounds of an old church has been successful.
The timing is ironic. While, in other parts of the UK, Islamic jihadists have been linked with attempts to blow up buildings, the moderate Yusuf Islam's attempts to erect one have been met with local protest. Contrary to reports that he wants to build a 22-storey "tower of peace", the £4.5 million Maqam Community Building is "a cultural centre centred around the Islamic faith but accessible to all", including a gym, crèche, café and exhibition space. Its architect, Robert O'Hara, says it's designed to "get rid of the awful image that Islam has had put upon it".
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