WASHINGTON: “American media gave a hero’s coverage to the boxing icon Muhammad Ali who breathed his last on Friday, hailing him as “one of the most influential athletes in American history” and a “great heavyweight champion” who also had a great passion for humanitarian issues.
“In a career full of seemingly magical feats, Ali’s greatest trick may have been his transformation’ from one the nation’s most reviled characters to one of its most beloved” said the top news of the Wall Street Journal. “It was in that journey that the boxer left his marks, including welts, cuts and bruises’on American culture.”
The greatest boxer of all time was admitted to hospital earlier this week with respiratory problems and died on Friday in the Phoenix area. He had Parkinson’s disease for more than 30 years. His funeral will be held on Wednesday in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky.
An American who born as Cassius Clay, he converted to Islam and changed his name as Muhammad Ali, and became a sports icon for people of all faith, especially Muslims. For people in Pakistan, he was one of their own. Streets would become deserted during his boxing contests and his victory would be treated as a national feat.
“Time zone by time zone, the people of the world awoke Saturday to the cold realization that it would be the first day in 74 years without Muhammad Ali in their midst, “the top story of the Washington Post said in a glowing tributes to the boxing legend. His death left a “massive void” that would remain unfulfilled.
Ali won the Olympic gold medal in 1960 and the world heavyweight title four years later but was stripped off his title in 1967 when he refused to be drafted into the US military and join the American war in Vietnam, saying his religious beliefs did not allow it. He was arrested but his conviction was overturned in 1971. Ali’s action earned him the world fame.
A CNN report praised his passion for humanitarian issues, recalling his efforts for the release of Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian who was released after over a year of captivity in Iran. When his arrest was made public, Ali wrote directly to the Iranian authorities for his release, calling the journalist as a professional.
Ali’s is death also came at a time when the American Muslims are facing a tide of Islamophobia spurred by some of the Republican party candidates, including the now party’s candidate, Donald Trump who, after the terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, said that Muslims’ entry into the United States should be banned.
Reacting to Trump’s suggestion, Ali wrote in a statement that true Muslims know the violence perpetrated by militants is against the religion of Islam and, addressing Trump he wrote: “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”. NNI