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Ali responds to Trump’s call to ban Muslims from entering U.S.

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    In this March 24, 2007, photo, Donald Trump, left, accepts his Muhammad Ali award from Ali at Muhammad Ali’s Celebrity Fight Night XIII in Phoenix, Ariz.

Muhammad Ali, one of the most famous athletes in history and a convert to Islam, returned to the public spotlight Wednesday night to say that political leaders have a responsibility to foster understanding about his religion.

His comments came after Donald Trump, the leading Republican presidential candidate, stoked anti-Muslim sentiment in the United States by, among other things, suggesting that foreign Muslims be barred from traveling to the country. Trump has also questioned President Barack Obama’s affirmation that Muslim Americans are some of the nation’s sports heroes.

In a statement delivered to NBC, Ali did not speak about Trump directly but addressed his message to “Presidential Candidates Proposing to Ban Muslim Immigration to the United States.”

“We as Muslims have to stand up to those who use Islam to advance their own personal agenda,” he said in the statement. “They have alienated many from learning about Islam.”

Ali, a former heavyweight champion who once gave Trump an award at a celebrity event, has defended Islam on a national stage for decades. In February 1964, shortly after winning the title — and before fully converting and changing his name from Cassius Clay — Ali defended his choice to participate in the Black Muslim movement to reporters.

“I go to a Black Muslim meeting and what do I see? I see that there’s no smoking and no drinking and their women wear dresses down to the floor,” Ali said at the time. “And then I come out on the street and you tell me I shouldn’t go in there. Well, there must be something in there if you don’t want me to go in there.”

After the Sept. 11 attacks, Ali appeared on a celebrity telethon to defend his religion. He pleaded for acceptance and addressed the threat of terrorism, saying that terrorists killing in the name of Islam were wrong.

“People recognize me for being a boxer and a man of truth,” he said. “I wouldn’t be here to represent Islam if it was really like the terrorists make us look.”

Fourteen years later, Ali’s statement echoed his original comments.

“Speaking as someone who has never been accused of political correctness, I believe that our political leaders should use their position to bring understanding about the religion of Islam and clarify that these misguided murderers have perverted people’s views on what Islam really is,” he said in his statement.

In the days since Trump questioned Obama’s statement that Muslims were among America’s sporting heroes, people on the Internet responded by compiling lists of Muslim athletes. The list includes Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, a six-time NBA champion who on Wednesday suggested on Time.com that Trump’s comments were more in line with Islamic State rhetoric than with a leading presidential candidate.

“Thus,” Abdul-Jabbar wrote, “Trump is ISIS’ greatest triumph: the perfect Manchurian Candidate who, instead of offering specific and realistic policies, preys on the fears of the public, doing ISIS’ job for them.”

A poll released today by The New York Times and CBS News suggested that Trump was leading the Republican field, but that nearly two-thirds of voters were frightened by the prospect of him winning the presidency.

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  • I have respect for Ali and his choice to become a Muslim, but if I missed something, he did not make any statement about the Radical Muslims, who has hijacked his religion being banned from the United States.

    • Did you notice how long it took for the Republican candidates (only some of them) to make their half-hearted statements after a white, right-wing domestic terrorist committed multiple murders in Colorado Springs? Ted Cruz, notably, bragged about being endorsed by a man who says that abortion providers should be executed.

  • Why isn’t it Muslims’ responsibility to foster understanding of their religion, instead of non-Muslim political leaders? There goes Obama again defending Muslims, particularly Black Muslims. BTW, are Black Muslims practicing some different form of religion? It’s awfully violation and racist.

    • agree with your statement. the responsibility of trying to create acceptance and understanding of a religion belongs at the feet of the practitioners through personal and empirical example – NOT the victims of the radical fringe elements of that religion. those “good” practitioners should do more to eliminate the “bad” within their ranks.

  • Yes, Ali, you go to a Muslim country and what do you see? There’s no smoking and no drinking and their women wear dresses down to the ground. You also see women stoned to death for committing adultery while men who commit adultery are given a pass. You also find gays and lesbians are routinely killed with no punishment for the killers and that people are legally killed for saying anything negative about the prophet Muhammed. And you also find that women cannot drive, cannot leave their homes unless accompanied by an adult male family member, cannot go to school, cannot work, are forced into marriage at very young ages and men are permitted to beat their wives to keep them obedient. Oh, yes, you also will find that according to the Qur’an, a woman’s testimony is worth only half that of a man and in cases of rape, no conviction can occur in an Islamic court unless four male eyewitnesses testify to having seen the act. Yes, Ali, Muslim is a peaceful and wonderful religion which we desperately need in the US.

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