Muhammad Ali rebuked Donald Trump over his call to ban Muslims from entering the United States, news reports said, as the boxing icon became just the latest high-profile name to lay into the presidential hopeful.
Ali, a Muslim, did not mention the Republican frontrunner by name, but a statement by the former heavyweight champ – reported by NBC and ABC – appeared directed squarely at Trump.
“Speaking as someone who has never been accused of political correctness, 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,” said the statement, referring also to recent terror attacks.
Ali, 73, was somewhat thrust into the debate when President Barack Obama mentioned Muslims were US soldiers and citizens and sports heroes, and Trump challenged people to think of a Muslim sports hero.
“I am a Muslim and there is nothing Islamic about killing innocent people in Paris, San Bernardino, or anywhere else in the world,” the statement attributed to Ali said.
“True Muslims know that the ruthless violence of so-called Islamic jihadists goes against the very tenets of our religion.”
An outspoken champion in his youth, Ali won the world heavyweight crown only to be banned from boxing for nearly four years in his prime for refusing to fight in the Vietnam War on religious grounds.
He was found guilty of draft evasion but the Supreme Court overturned his conviction in 1971 and his fight made him an iconic figure well beyond the sports world.