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Author Topic: Muhammad Ali turns 65  (Read 2348 times)
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Great Rao
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« on: January 18, 2007, 03:28:37 AM »

I learned via the beeb that Muhammad Ali turns 65 on January 17, 2007.

As good a time as any to read Nighwing's Superman vs. Muhammad Ali article.

Through sheer coincidence, I finally saw the Will Smith 'Ali' movie last week.  Before seeing it, I had known nothing at all about Muhammad Ali.  But after seeing it, I did some research into the man's life.  I was amazed at how much the movie got right, but also how much it got wrong.  For instance, in the movie, Ali's protest of the Vietnam War seemed to be underplayed and was presented as a matter of stubbornness or a personal decision or something.  But in real life, he was not only incredibly opposed to it, but actively campaigned against it - going on tour and giving lectures against the war, speaking out against it to a degree that was completely missing from the movie.  Kind of an odd omission.
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"The bottom line involves choices.  Neither gods nor humans have ever stood calmly in a minefield forever.  Good or evil, they are bound to choose.  And when they do, you will see the truth of all that motivates us.  As a thinking being, you have the obligation to choose.  If the fate of all mankind were in your hands, what would your decision be?  As a writer and an artist, I've drawn my answer."   - Jack Kirby
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« Reply #1 on: January 18, 2007, 05:38:54 AM »

Despite being a boxing aficionado, the deification of this man in the States is a complete mystery to me.
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« Reply #2 on: January 24, 2007, 10:34:38 PM »

Here's an excerpt from the book Silent No More: Confronting America's False Images of Islam by Congressman Paul Findley:
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Muhammad Ali is the best known and most admired of the world's living Muslims.  The former boxing champion, named "Athlete of the Century" by USA Today, was high on the list of other centennial selections for athletic achievement.  But he is even better known for his calm courage under political pummeling.  Ali is widely revered for speaking out courageiously on public issues and standing by his convictions at great cost to his athletic career.

He converted to Islam initially through the Nation of Islam organization but later became a mainstream Muslim, rejecting the racial separatist doctrines then embraced by the Nation of Islam.  Long retired from the boxing ring, Ali spends most of his time and income supporting causes that promote human rights and world peace.  He is rated as having the best name and face recognition worldwide of any American, past or present, and has unique standing as a cultural hero of people throughout the developing world, and especially among African-Americans.

Biographer Max Wallace, writing in The New York Times, declares that Ali "literally changed the world of sports forever" by ending the sporting world's "condescending tolerance toward Blacks," a racist practice that became popular during the career of Joe Louis, an earlier African-American boxing champion.  Louis won praise from sports writers as "a credit to his race," because he maintained a public posture of uncomplaining docility and humility.  Wallace writes, "Ali was also determined to be a credit to his race.  But for him, those words had a very different meaning than they did for Joe Louis."  Sports sociologist Harry Edwards writes, "Before Ali, Black athletes were merely twentieth-century gladiators in the service of white society."

In February 1964, the day after he won his first heavyweight title, Ali startled the sports world by announcing his conversion to Islam.  At a news conference, he responded to hostile questions with an oft-quoted declaration: "I don't have to be what you want me to be."  Soon after, he changed his name from Cassius Clay—he called it a "slave name"—to Muhammad Ali, but many sports writers, upset that a boxer would dare to make a political statement, refused for months to acknowledge his name change.

In 1967, deeply opposed to the Vietnam War, Ali refused induction into the Army even though the Pentagon assured him that in uniform he, like Joe Louis in World War II, would never get near a battlefield.  He could keep his heavyweight title and, like Louis in the earlier war, simply entertain troops with boxing demonstrations.

He refused and explained, "I'd be just as guilty as the ones doing the killing."  Wallace notes that the New York Boxing Commision stripped Ali of his title, although it had granted licenses to more than two hundred convicted felons over the years.  "Ali's most serious offense was a traffic violation two years earlier."  He was convicted of draft evasion but never complained during a costly four-year legal battle that ended when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the conviction.  "My principles are more important than the money or my title....I knew I was right.  I had to make a stand."

He proclaims his religious faith: "If I hadn't become a Muslim, I wouldn't be who I am today." He told Playboy magazine in 1975 that he would like to be remembered as "a man who tried to unite his people through the faith of Islam."  Ramsey Clark, who served as U.S. Attorney-General when his staff prosecuted Ali for draft evasion, now views him as a worldwide beacon of hope.  "To everyone, he means that you can be both gentle and strong.... For all his physical strength, he always evoked gentleness and love.  The most important thing he communicates is his love and his desire to do good."

Except for the insulting remarks he routinely made about boxing opponents—comments that he dismisses as nothing more than "publicity hype" to sell tickets—Ali, responding to Muslim standards, avoids criticism of others.  Sports writer Jon Saraceno writes, "Over the years, many have taken advantage of Ali's loving nature.  They have conned him, ripped him off, abused him--even to this day.  Ali knows who they are, but never, ever will say a bad word about any of them."
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I am forced to admire and respect a man who has such deeply held convictions, strength, and integrity—especially that he stood true in the face of opposition that would have overwhelmed anyone else.  He is the greatest.

"I got nothing against no Viet Cong. No Vietnamese ever called me a nigger." (more quotes)
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"The bottom line involves choices.  Neither gods nor humans have ever stood calmly in a minefield forever.  Good or evil, they are bound to choose.  And when they do, you will see the truth of all that motivates us.  As a thinking being, you have the obligation to choose.  If the fate of all mankind were in your hands, what would your decision be?  As a writer and an artist, I've drawn my answer."   - Jack Kirby
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