By N Oji Mzilikazi
29 June 2016
The Montreal Gazette, December 4, 2005, carried a lengthy piece on Muhammad Ali. Written by Daniel Pipes, a strident neocon. The article’s headline and drop head was: U.S. President George W. Bush was wrong to give draft-evader Muhammad Ali the U.S. Medal of Freedom. Award stings like a bee.
In seething anti-Islamic rage, Pipes does a hatchet job on Muhammad Ali, and describes the Nation of Islam as being “stridently anti-American and anti-white.”
Pipes dismisses the racial history of America and its racism by deliberately characterizing Ali’s refusal to fight in Vietnam as based upon “his allegiance to the Nation of Islam.”
Public recordings, radio, film and newsreels have Muhammad Ali refusal go to Vietnam as based upon the hypocrisy of going to fight to free a foreign people who never called him “nigger,” when in his own country, African Americans weren’t free.
In Islam, all members of the faith are brothers, regardless of colour. In Islam there are Muslims from more or less every ethnicity in the world. There are Muslims who are Black, white, Asian, South Asian and every shade and colour in between.
Islamic organisations tend to be anti anything that doesn’t subscribe to their religion. As such, Pipes’ statement of the Nation of Islam being anti-white has no standing.
It has always been fashionable for racists and opponents of Black Empowerment/Black Liberation Theology and astute and outspoken politicised Blacks to frame their position along the lines of “anti-Americanism.”
They deliberately invoke that emotional key-word phrase to raise the ire of the ignorant, to appeal to emotions, stir mob anger, and to elicit condemnation. After all, America is always spoken of as being the good guy as well as the pillar of democracy. Therefore, when one hears someone is “anti-American,” the immediate belief is he or she is against decency and goodness.
When Black Americans point their fingers and accuse America, it is from its failure to do the things it eschews as intrinsic to democracy, as well as upholding that Black Lives Matter. But racists make it out to be anything but…
I was never into boxing. Martial Arts is my thing. Ali’s successes and hype of upcoming fights did nothing for me. Ali’s bravado, Ali’s self-confidence/boldness/arrogance/courage and Ali’s politics drew me in.
That a Black man could boldly declare, “I am the greatest,” when being Black was equated to being sub-human, and engendered automatic discrimination and oppression was mind-blowing. Not to mention doing so in face of the “Self-praise is no praise/ Do not toot your own horn” adages, that were drummed into my head beginning in primary school.
Muhammed Ali gave me the confidence, courage and boldness to speak highly of myself when in ownership of undeniable skills.
A Black man standing up — daring to defy the most powerful government in the world was, to me, a child of colonialism and an acolyte of Black Power; Manhood personified, Truth speaking to power, and Black Power itself.
Muhammed Ali was a beam of steel implanted in my spinal column. Muhammed Ali facilitated my ability to walk with a bounce and with my shoulders still square. Muhammed Ali taught me to open my mouth; to unabashedly give voice. Muhammed Ali inspired me to be the best I can be and to do the best I can.
Muhammed Ali, born 17 January 1942; died 3 June 2016