I hope Muhammad Ali is resting in peace now. I admire his athleticism and talent and speed and brute strength. I also admire his courageous political stances and his unwavering conviction to his principles at times when public pressure mounted against him. Still, I ask myself, would he have made the same decisions if he reached his prime in the 21st century – the digital age?
I find it ironic that Ali called his birth-name – Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr. – “a slave name,” when he converted to Islam. This is a claim that social justice warriors have repeated many times since Ali’s death. It is preferable, in my view, to call someone by the name he chooses. If the boxer wanted to be called Adolf Hitler or Mohandas Gandhi or Jesus Christ or Nunya Business, well, that is his decision. I hold the view that anyone should be free to do as he pleases as long as doing so does not harm someone else.
This is partially why I admire Ali’s stance with regards to The Vietnam War. Though drafted, he refused to serve. He abhorred the conflict, not because he was a pacifist but because he found it to be an immoral 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,” he barked. So he converted to Islam and changed his name to that of a white man who dominated and enslaved black Africans. Herein lays the great problem. Ali was not a bad person, but he was misled.
Cassius Marcellus Clay was a famous abolitionist who went on a suicide mission to end slavery with Abraham Lincoln. He risked his life repeatedly and was once assaulted by a gang of brothers who nearly stabbed Clay to death after he delivered an anti-slavery speech in his desperate attempt to stop its western expansion.
Muhammad, meanwhile, was a white slaveholder. His son-in-law, Ali, was a slaveholder. Both had sex slaves. Both captured black Africans and kept them as slaves. Virtually every black African sold into slavery came through the hands of Islamic slave drivers. These facts are now easily accessible with quick scans of the Hadith.
Muhammad Ali, however, was made to believe that Cassius Clay was the name given to him by white society, which he viewed as an evil oppressor who kept him “in jail for 400 years.” He discarded the name of a man who ended slavery and adopted the name of one of the most notorious promulgators of slavery the world has ever known.
Perhaps Muhammad Ali would have honored his family’s wish to celebrate a great abolitionist hero if he were born in the digital era. He was instead misled by groups who sought to use his celebrity to enhance their own acceptance in the African-American community. Ali was misled by the same community that sold Africans into slavery and destroyed generations of black people. He was misled by the same groups who have continued to keep slaves into the 21st century, despite the efforts of the group Ali abhorred to eradicate the practice from the face of the Earth.