How Cat Stevens helped Nashville’s Muslims find a home

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Zainab Elberry remembers the day the check came.

Trying to build a congregation and raise money for a new Islamic center in the pre-Internet age of the late 1970s required some ingenuity. So the small group behind one of Nashville’s first mosques rented a PO Box and mailed invitations to every Muslim-sounding name in the phone book and hoped for the best, Elberry said.

They had no idea word of their efforts to start the Islamic Center of Nashville had reached Yusuf Islam, the famous British musician and Muslim convert also known as Cat Stevens, until his check arrived in the mail.

“I was thinking, ‘What a miracle,’” said Elberry, who was a Vanderbilt Universitygraduate student from Egypt at the time.

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