Muhammad Ali Converts to Islam
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The day after winning his first heavyweight boxing championship in 1964, Kentucky-born Cassius Clay (1942-2016) made headlines again when he told reporters his new name would be Muhammad Ali and he had joined the Nation of Islam, a controversial African American Muslim group. His mentor was Malcolm X, a NOI leader who critics regarded as a radical black supremacist.

In 1967, during the Vietnam War, Ali refused to be drafted, citing his religious beliefs. He was convicted of draft evasion, a sentence that the Supreme Court overturned four years later. He went on to win two more heavyweight titles.

The boxing legend was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1984, though he continued his humanitarian work -- including convincing Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, a fellow Muslim, to release 15 American hostages and traveling to predominately Muslim Afghanistan on a peace mission. Some 14,000 people attended Ali’s jenazah -- Arabic for funeral -- in 2016.
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Race/Ethnicity and Religion
Religious Minorities (Non-Christian)
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Race/Ethnicity and Religion in American History
Religious Minorities (Non-Christian) in American History
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Timeline Entries for the same religious group Islamic

X, Malcolm
Black Muslim Movement

Muhammad Ali at Muslim service in Chicago- National Archives and Records Administration

Muhammad Ali portrait- Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-115435

Elijah Muhammad addresses followers, including Cassius Clay- Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-116383

Championship fight of Clay and Liston, 1964- Flickr- photo from Florida Memory

Muhammad Ali interviewed by Curt Anderson- photo by Marylandstater at the English Wikipedia project
Web Source(s)
History Channel
Web Page Contributor
Sandi Dolbee
Affliated with: Former Religion and Ethics Editor, The San Diego Union-Tribune

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