Entertainment behind the scenes
One of the many rumours that swirled around Michael Jackson in the final years of his life was that he had secretly converted to Islam and taken the name Mikaeel. The "King of Pop" does not seem to have spoken about this publicly himself, and that scene in Bahrain when he went shopping badly disguised in an Arab woman's abaya could be put down to his well-known penchant for dressing up. So unless there is some statement in his will or documentary evidence in his estate, his funeral expected this week may be the last time to test whether this rumour has any basis in fact. (Photo: Veiled Jackson greets security guard as he enters shopping mall in Manama, Bahrain with veiled child, 25 Jan 2006/Hamad Mohammed)
The Jacksons are Jehovah's Witnesses and could be expected to bury Michael in the tradition of that faith. When he announced the death, his brother Jermaine -- a Muslim -- ended with the words: “May Allah be with you, Michael, always.” Jermaine said in 2007 he was trying to convince Michael to convert.
The post-mortem period hasn't looked very Muslim so far. Traditions vary, but in Islamic funeral practices in general, autopsies and cremation are out and the body should be buried quickly, usually in a day or two. Jackson is reported to have asked for cremation in his will and his family has asked for a second autopsy after the first one failed to pinpoint the cause of death without long toxicology tests.
Jehovah's Witnesses prefer short and simple funerals, usually with a Scripture reading, and warn adherents against funerals with emotional outbursts ranging "from frantic wailing and shouting in the presence of the corpse to joyous festivities after the burial. Unrestrained feasting, drunkenness, and dancing to loud music often characterize such funeral celebrations."
Yusuf Islam, the British folk singer formerly known as Cat Stevens, has largely shunned the pop-music grind since he converted to Islam in the 1977 and devoted his life to his family and his faith.
But he is starting to dip his toe back in the waters, releasing his first mainstream album in almost 30 years in 2006 and playing his first concert in 28 years in 2007. He returns to stores next week with a new album, “Roadsinger,” and will play a handful of intimate shows around the world to promote the release.
First up is a May 3 stop at the Highline Ballroom in New York City, followed by a May 3 show at the El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles. Each venue holds about 700 people.
Islam, now 60, last toured in 1976. After converting to Islam, he slowly withdrew from his pop-star life, and finally hung up his guitar after a London show in 1979.
In a 2006 interview with Reuters, he said he planned to perform occasional concerts although his songs such as “Peace Train” and “Moonshadow” often lose their intimacy in big concert venues.
“Even though you’re singing in front of people live, you’re actually distanced by the stage and the whole presentation of music,” he said.
When John Lennon said in 1966 that the Beatles were "more popular than Jesus," there was a furious reaction in the United States. Dozens of radio stations in the South and Midwest banned Beatles music and some concert venues cancelled scheduled appearances by the band. Their manager Brian Epstein quickly flew to the U.S. to try to quell the storm. Soon afterward, Lennon told a news conference in Chicago that he was sorry for making the comparison, although he added he still thought it was true. The Vatican, as far as I can see from online archives, stayed silent and aloof even thought it could hardly agree with or approve Lennon's message. (Photo: Japanese band performs in Lennon's memory, 8 Dec 2005/Toshiyuki Aizawa)
When the Vatican daily L'Osservatore Romano came out with a nostalgic look back at the Beatles on the 40th anniversary of their 1968 White Album on Saturday, it lead off the article with Lennon's famous quote and promptly shrugged it off. "The remark by John Lennon, which triggered deep indignation mainly in the United States, after many years sounds only like a 'boast' by a young working-class Englishman faced with unexpected success, after growing up with the legend of Elvis and rock and roll," it wrote. The Beatles' music was creative and original, even more so than their haircuts and clothes, and has stood the test of time, it said. The Italian-language original has now been overtaken on the OR website by the latest edition, but an English translation will certainly pop up somewhere (on Zenit?).