Muhamed Ali, boxing legend and voice for oppressed and humanitarian courses died on Friday, aged 74.
Ali was known for his ‘float like a butterfly, sting like a bee’ rhetoric which dominated his life outside the ring as well. He became a symbol for black liberation during the 1960s by standing up to the U.S. government and refusing to enlist to the army for religious reasons, famously saying: “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong. No Vietnamese ever called me a nigger.”
Muhamed Ali reverted to Islam in 1964 and this change in religious stance was mirrored in his political stance – he displayed a particular sympathy for Arab causes which made Jews a frequent target of his slick words.
On 8 March 1974, Muhammad Ali retired from the ring to spread the faith of Islam. He stated his views emphatically at a press conference in Beirut: “the United States is the stronghold of Zionism and imperialism.”
On a visit later to two Palestinian refugee camps in southern Lebanon, Ali was quoted as saying: “In my name and the name of all Muslims in America, I declare support for the Palestinian struggle to liberate their homeland and oust the Zionist invaders.”
Ali later visited Israel to “arrange for the freeing of the Muslim brothers imprisoned by Israel” in 1985, when approximately 700 Lebanese Shi’ites were detained in the Atlit camp, during the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon. However, Israel declined a meeting with Ali saying, “Israel does not intend to negotiate through boxing champion Muhammad Ali”.
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Ali was further quoted as saying, “Religion ain’t bad; it’s people who are bad.” He added, “You know the entire power structure is Zionist. They control America; they control the world. They are really against the Islam religion. So whenever a Muslim does something wrong, they blame the religion.”
The legend of Muhamed Ali will continue for generations as his words against any form of oppression ring true.
(PC, Islam21c, Haaretz)