Lots of People Think Muhammad Ali Was a Terrorist, According to Twitter
Muhammad Ali, famed boxing champion, activist and devout Muslim died on Friday at the age of 74 after 32 years of Parkinson's disease.
But while most Americans remember Ali, who was born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. in 1942 but later changed his name after joining the Nation of Islam, for his many accomplishments, others have seemingly dubbed him a "terrorist," apparently by virtue of having a highly recognizable Arabic name.
A cursory search of Twitter shows that many people either genuinely confuse the late boxer with a violent extremist or, perhaps more likely, feel comfortable cracking racist jokes at his expense.
A few others expressed their frustration, or even disbelief, someone could confuse the heavyweight boxing champion with a terrorist.
Anecdotal as the "Muhammad Ali was a terrorist" tweets might be, there's evidence many Americans possess only a fuzzy understanding of the Islamic world in general. A poll in 2015 concluded 30% of Republicans and 19% of Democrats support bombing Agrabah, the fictional nation from Disney's Aladdin.
While Ali was a member of the Nation of Islam, which the FBI targeted during the civil rights era for its connection to many prominent black radicals, Ali became a Sunni Muslim in 1975 and embraced Sufi Islam in the years prior to his death.
He abhorred violence, in his own words. In the 1960s, Ali claimed conscientious objector status to avoid having to kill people in Vietnam. Talking to reporters, he said his Islamic faith and "conscience won't let me go shoot my brother, or some darker people, or some poor, hungry people in the mud, for big powerful America, and shoot them for what? They never called me nigger, they never lynched me, they didn't put no dogs on me, they didn't rob me of my nationality, rape and kill my mother and father."
In December, the fighter released a statement to NBC News denouncing the rhetoric of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, writing "I am a Muslim and there is nothing Islamic about killing innocent people in Paris, San Bernardino, or anywhere else in the world. True Muslims know that the ruthless violence of so-called Islamic jihadists goes against the very tenets of our religion."
"We as Muslims have to stand up to those who use Islam to advance their own personal agenda," he added. "They have alienated many from learning about Islam. True Muslims know or should know that it goes against our religion to try and force Islam on anybody. ... these misguided murderers have perverted people's views on what Islam really is."