Muhammad Ali, Famous Muslim Boxing Legend, Calls Out Donald Trump

The man once known as Cassius Clay famously changed his name to Muhammad Ali upon conversion to Islam. As such, it’s understandable and unsurprising that he’s bothered by calls from politicians like Donald Trump to issue a ban on Muslims entering the United States. Such statements continue to fan the flames of rampant Islamophobia in the United States, something that’s of great concern to Ali.

In response to Donald Trump’s “Muslim ban” statement on Wednesday, the Guardian reports the 73-year-old boxing champ issued a statement.

“I am a Muslim, and there is nothing Islamic about killing innocent people in Paris, San Bernardino, or anywhere else in the world.

“True Muslims know that the ruthless violence of so-called Islamic jihadists goes against the very tenets of our religion.”

Although Ali didn’t mention Trump by name, he did seem to be speaking directly to the billionaire turned Republican presidential front-runner.

“They have alienated many from learning about Islam. True Muslims know or should know that it goes against our religion to try and force Islam on anybody.”

The accusation from Muhammad is that politicians like Trump only ever speak of Muslims or Islam in the context of terrorism. They ignore the millions upon millions of non-violent people who practice this religion. More interestingly, they seem to forget that there were indeed famous sports figures who identified as Muslim long before the events of 9/11. One of those figures is boxer Muhammad Ali. Ali did stir up controversy decades ago when at the height of his boxing career he decided to convert to Islam and change his name. However, it wasn’t related to an association with extremist Islamic terrorism.

This history isn’t necessarily known to younger Americans or those who’ve failed to do the research. That might explain Donald Trump’s confused tweet in response to President Obama’s Sunday night presidential address, during which he reminded the nation that some of our greatest sports legends were Muslim. It could also explain why Muhammad Ali felt moved to speak out when Trump challenged Obama on this point.

After Donald Trump’s call for a ban on Muslim individuals and families entering the United States, Ali wasn’t the only major sports figure to speak out. Basketball great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar also responded to Donald Trump and his proposed ban. The Hall of Famer wrote an essay for Time on Wednesday, discussing what “Donald Trump And ISIS have in common.”

“While Trump is not slaughtering innocent people, he is exploiting such acts of violence to create terror here to coerce support. As I have written before, his acts could be interpreted as hate crimes. He sounds the shrill alarm of impending doomsday even though since 9/11, about 30 Americans a year have been killed in terrorist attacks worldwide — as The Atlantic pointed out, ‘roughly the same number as are crushed to death each year by collapsing furniture.’

“Trump’s irresponsible, inflammatory rhetoric and deliberate propagation of misinformation have created a frightened and hostile atmosphere that could embolden people to violence.”

Kareem made it clear that he felt Donald was something akin to a “Bond villain.” He wrote that like your typical Bond Villain, Donald Trump is “doomed to fail.”

The words by these men should be a reminder to many Americans that some of our most popular figures are appreciated not because of their religious backgrounds, but because of their contributions to society and ability to inspire others. By men and women like Muhammad Ali and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar speaking out against rampant Islamophobia — and the politicians who profit from it — it forces the conversation to maintain a logical tone, rather than descend into a state of fear, hate, and chaos.

What do you think of the decision by these famous athletes to speak up? Why do you think people forget about this famous figures when bashing Islam? Please share your thoughts on this topic below.

[Photo by Jeff Chiu/AP]