June 4, 2016
Muhammad Ali passed away yesterday.
He won the world heavyweight title in 1964. Before that he won the Gold medal at the 1960 Rome Summer Olympics. He converted to Islam and refused to fight in Vietnam on religious grounds.
“Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on Brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights? No I’m not going 10,000 miles from home to help murder and burn another poor nation simply to continue the domination of white slave masters of the darker people the world over. This is the day when such evils must come to an end. I have been warned that to take such a stand would cost me millions of dollars. But I have said it once and I will say it again. The real enemy of my people is here. I will not disgrace my religion, my people or myself by becoming a tool to enslave those who are fighting for their own justice, freedom and equality. If I thought the war was going to bring freedom and equality to 22 million of my people they wouldn’t have to draft me, I’d join tomorrow. I have nothing to lose by standing up for my beliefs. So I’ll go to jail, so what? We’ve been in jail for 400 years.”
He also once said “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong—no Viet Cong ever called me nigger.”
He was stripped of his title, banned from sport, and harassed by the FBI and NSA.
It is ironic now with the sheer number of current celebrities and politicians who dodged wartime service or who betrayed their country once they got to Vietnam, that Muhammad Ali was so severely punished. We can all guess the real reason.
The Supreme Court overturned the ruling in 1971.
Ali was originally a member of the Nation of Islam, but converted to Sunni Islam in 1975 and later became a Sufi in 2005.
In 1984 he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s syndrome, most likely brought on by so many boxing head injuries.
Ali became a spoken of many causes, and was even sent to Afghanistan in 2002 as a Peace Ambassador.
Along with various other books and articles, he wrote The Soul of a Butterfly with his daughter. It is a good read.