Muhammad Ali: Boxing legend, social justice activist
After battling Parkinson’s for almost three decades, Muhammad Ali passed away on June 3rd.
Ali was a man that did not need an introduction. Ali was born Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr. and was arguably the greatest professional boxer in history. But his career was not the only aspect of his life that made him “The Greatest.”
Ali was inspirational, filled with wisdom and on the constant pursuit of social justice. He was an African American and a Muslim, who shook the status quo and worked toward opposing unjust racial, social, and political establishments. Unapologetically he embraced his identity as a Black Muslim man. Ali stood for what he believed and did not succumb to the pressures around him. He would ultimately become a symbol of black liberation in the 1960’s. One of most notable stances he took was when he resisted the draft for the Vietnam War.
“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,” Ali said at the time. “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.”
Ali did not only stand up for causes that directly impacted his society and country, but stood for justice globally. He was a supporter and activist for Palestinian human rights as well. Ali toured the Middle East, particularly Lebanon, where he recognized the stronghold of Zionism and imperialism in the U.S. He visited Palestinian refugee camps and even declared, “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.” In 1985, he even visited Palestine and tried to organize the release of “all 700 brothers” (Lebanese Shi’ites detained in the Atlit camp) from Israeli imprisonment during the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon.
He participated in rallies for Palestinian human rights in the U.S. such as the one he attended in Chicago in 1988. Ali stood firmly against Zionism and for the liberation of the Palestinian people; his thoughts and active engagement for the Palestinian cause will always be remembered. May he rest in peace and power.
“In your struggle for freedom, justice, and equality I am with you.” –Muhammad Ali