The boxing legend, symbol of Black pride and inspirational anti-racist, anti-imperialist and anti-war icon Muhammad Ali passed away on 4 June 2016 at the age of 74.
Born Cassius Clay, he took the name Muhammad Ali when he converted to Islam.
He will be remembered as one of the ‘greatest’ in the world of boxing. But above all, he will be loved and remembered all over the world for his bold stand, at the height of his sporting success, against racism, imperialism and war. He was stripped of his title and sentenced to jail for refusing to fight in Vietnam as an American soldier. He expressed solidarity with the Palestinian cause, and his opposition to Zionism and US imperialism. He was known as much for his punches in the boxing ring as for his anti-racist punches which he delivered to the racist and imperialist establishment in the USA. Asked by the media why he refused to fight in Vietnam, he retorted, ‘I ain’t got no quarrel with them VietCong – no VietCong ever called me nigger.’
In tribute to The Champ, we reproduce an excerpt from his statement explaining his refusal to fight in Vietnam – a statement which will always inspire as an expression of anti-racist internationalism and of anti-imperialist solidarity:
“Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go ten thousand miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?
No, I am not going ten thousand 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. This is the day when such evils must come to an end. I have been warned that to take such a stand would put my prestige in jeopardy and could cause me to lose millions of dollars which should accrue to me as the champion.
But I have said it once and I will say it again. The real enemy of my people is right 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…”